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Downtown Tokyo bustles on after hours amid priority measures


Emergency-level priority measures to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus infections went into effect in Tokyo on Monday, requiring restaurants and bars to shorten their business hours to 8 p.m. until May 11. Amid another uptick in new infections, the metropolitan government has urged people to postpone travel and refrain from going out and about in the capital.

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After the priority measures went into effect in Tokyo’s 23 wards and the six cities of Hachioji, Tachikawa, Musashino, Fuchu, Chofu, and Machida, the iconic scramble crossing in front of Shibuya Station was still crowded with mask-wearing pedestrians on Monday night.

“A lot of people were going out even during the state of emergency, so I honestly don’t know what’s supposed to be different [under the priority measures],” said a university student living in Shibuya Ward who was meeting two friends in front of the Hachiko statue. “But I think they decided to do it because they can’t issue another state of emergency, right after the last one ended. Most of my classes have been online the past year, so it’s been hard to make new friends. We’re just going to go have a quick drink today,” he added, as the group headed off toward a restaurant.

An office worker from Setagaya Ward who was on her way home from work expressed puzzlement: “If restaurants shorten their hours again, there will be fewer places to eat. I feel that Tokyoites have become more desensitized to the coronavirus than people in other parts of Japan; no matter how much they tell us to prevent the spread of infections, I don’t think it will have much effect. The only thing we can do is to look out for ourselves,” she said.

According to a Yomiuri Shimbun review of data from Agoop Corp., an IT company affiliated with Softbank, since the state of emergency ended, the average daily foot traffic on Sundays around Shibuya and Shinjuku stations increased by more than 10% compared to March 21, the last Sunday with the declaration in effect. On March 28, the first Sunday after the state of emergency ended, the number of people around Ginza Station increased by 26.8% and by 19% at Ueno Station.

When the state of emergency ended, restaurants were asked to close by 9 p.m. instead of 8 p.m., resulting in a significant increase in the number of people observed out at night in this hourlong window. Foot traffic between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on April 11 increased by 68.6% at Ginza Station, by 55.1% at Shibuya Station, and by 40.8% at Shinjuku Station.

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Tokyo has been on the rise and exceeded the 500 mark on April 7 for the first time in nearly two months. Tokyo logged 306 new infections on Monday, 57 more than the previous week.

At a press conference, Gov. Yuriko Koike called for even more telework and postponement of travel during the upcoming holiday season while priority measures remain in effect until May 11, saying, “The most important task now is to curb the flow of people more thoroughly than before.”

Published : April 14, 2021

By : The Japan News/ANN