Yasuyuki Shimahara, owner of an "izakaya" or Japanese-style dining bar specializing in tuna dishes, prepares to close his shop until the end of the state of emergency, in Tokyo on Friday. Photo: REUTERS/Akira Tomoshige
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Izakaya stagger under blow of 2nd coronavirus state of emergency

41 Comments
By Akira Tomoshige and Akiko Okamoto

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41 Comments
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I’m understanding this in a very Cinderella-esque way, where 8pm is the magic moment when the virus, shut away and sleeping previously, jumps out of the cupboard again and infects. So beware of the night !

0 ( +12 / -12 )

The answer is not to end the SOE and have infections rise as this would prolong the economic hardships. The answer is to support those businesses that are in danger of going under during the SOE no matter how long it is, and ensure that they are able to be back in business when all of this is over.

14 ( +19 / -5 )

I support my Mom and Pops Izakaya in my neighborhood. Me and other people are regular guests since many years, and we will support them by visit before 8pm or Take Out.

Me and all other regular guests know these 2 old folks since many years and we always have a very nice time there with good food, good Sake and nice conversations.

Me and all other regular guests will never let them go down by loosing their business.

We are like a family and we will do everything we can that this Izakaya will survive.

-1 ( +18 / -19 )

Monty,

I don't usually agree with you on anything to do with the coronavirus epidemic but I thought your post was very evocative and big-hearted. I hope your neighborhood izakaya comes through this OK with the loyalty of its customers, and you too.

15 ( +21 / -6 )

So beware of the night !

Definitely! Unfortunately, and especially in izakayas, it's when the masks come off and covid droplets prowl.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

@BigYen

Thank you!

If I remember well, you are planing your next trip to Japan right? You are in Australia, if my memory is correct.

During the new years holiday, I met an american in a Starbucks close to Tokyo Station, and he told me, he just arrived from the US for a 3 weeks holiday in Japan.

But I dont know if he had a 2 weeks quarantine at the airport, but he told me he is so happy to be in Japan, because it is much more safer than the US.

And he asked me if he has to use a mask or if he can walk around without mask.

I recommed him to wear the mask.

-6 ( +10 / -16 )

People impacted by coronavirus emergency restriction measures deserve support and compensation.

Yet many of these "mom and pop" izakayas are operating businesses out of their domiciles with paid off mortagages and pay no rent and have few if any staff. The larger chains have access to a conglomerate's worth of capital to ride out the SOE.

They are being well compensated while the high rent payers with little access to capital are left with zero.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

I had a similar experience to Monty. I was in Starbucks and met a man from Nigeria. I didn’t know the quarantine situation and the topic wasn’t mentioned. He had an incredibly decorative mask. You could almost describe it as regal.

Anyway, he also said he was glad to be in safe Japan.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Landlords of the establishments where these people rent are part of the problem. Greedy can't begin to describe it.

Rent is far too high in big cities in Japan, and in Tokyo, the audacity to ask for thank you money. Thank you for what? Living/running a business from a poorly insulated building made from usually cheap materials.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

 I was in Starbucks and met a man from Nigeria.

Did he invite you for a drink by any chance?

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Did he invite you for a drink by any chance?

No, but he did tell me he’d seen lots of non-Japanese without masks.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

While eating and drinking businesses are facing hardships, computer related businesses are thriving. Pandemic is not pandemic.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

@Jimizo

he did tell me he’d seen lots of non-Japanese without masks

Posters here dont want to hear that!

-5 ( +8 / -13 )

I closed down my office and handed the keys back in December -glad I did...

7 ( +7 / -0 )

With Covid-19 affecting many sectors in the economy, this obsession on bars is baffling. I note that the press are interviewing small proprietors who are the better ones, but Japan also has lots of franchised Izakayas that are nothing special and easily replaceable when demand recovers.

Giving this story top billing says a few bars closing is more important than record numbers of cases, record numbers of deaths, and the current state of the health system in Japan.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

It's the government's responsibility to help business during a SOE. They need to compensate or force landlords to freeze rents.

It is the customers responsibility to follow instructions and stay home unless essential and stop spreading the virus.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

If I remember well, you are planing your next trip to Japan right? You are in Australia, if my memory is correct.

Like so many would-be visitors to Japan, neither I nor a few million others will be planning trips anywhere in the world until conditions are right, which at best guess won't be until late 2021 at the very earliest. For the good of its wider economy, Japan really needs to get this situation under control now. From where I sit, it looks like the J-Govt has been sleepwalking into this crisis, and the heartbreaking thing about that is it's not that long since Japan appeared to be in a good position. People were talking about Japan being part of a "travel bubble" with Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and South Korea. Well that's gone, and if it takes a short sharp lockdown to get Japan out of trouble I would've thought most people would support that. Of course that needs government support financially, both for businesses and workers. Other countries have done those things, including mine. I know Japan's not the only country in this position, but as things stand now the vaccine is still a way off, its ability to turn the whole thing around is still unproven, and in the meantime hospitals and health workers are under severe pressure, a situation which is only going to get worse if case numbers are allowed to increase without serious government intervention.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Pretty simple solution, each bar submits their income for the last two January's, the government pays in full the medium of the two.

How else do they expect restaurants to keep accepting these closures?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

@Monty

Good on you to support local businesses.

I do the same choosing the take out option or food delivery.

This is the time to avoid eating inside where it is proven to spread easily.

Hospitals are struggling and we all need to do our part as good citizens avoiding unnecessary close contacts.

Regarding foreigners not wearing masks... I agree, I see a few without it outdoors, however indoors 99% complies. Most people do not put in properly on their face but thats another story... shoganai if people can’t wear a mask properly after 1 year of this!

People continue with this obsession with masks, however that is only part of the recipe: without proper social distancing masks mean close to nothing. People are still struggling with that concept - observe in any queue.

Lastly indoors are the last place people should be now as there are studies showing that the smaller droplets stay in the air for hours and only medical N95 masks can filter those.

Wear masks yes, but do not believe they will save you because they won’t if you do not comply with social distancing and avoiding unnecessarily going indoors with other people.

Last but not the least: open the windows as soon as you walk inside any train in order to reduce the risk you will be exposed to as, unfortunately trains are still next level jam packed everyday.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This is a critical situation for all restaurants. However, there are still restaurants that are still making money even in this emergency. Great tips exist in these winning companies and stores. Covid is revealing the real ability of every single stores...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In Tokyo I see very few foreigners not wearing masks but because there are so few of them they stand out. I see many more middle aged and older Japanese men not wearing masks and looking at me in my mask for a reaction of sorts. In any case, masks are all we have at this point.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Another article on the plight of bars and restaurants, but nothing about all the other businesses who are impacted by the coronavirus and by people staying home after 8pm?

No shade on the restaurant owners, I hope they get the help they need to survive, but they already had Go To Eat and Go To Travel (which supported them indirectly) and I think they get subsidies if they close at 8pm.

Other businesses didn't get Go To Eat and are getting nothing now.

I'm not saying the government doesn't need to take some measures such as a lockdown, but they need to support everyone impacted when they do so, like other countries are doing, not only support restaurants.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

The Live Event, Exhibition, Concert and Meetings industry has been impacted since February 2020, with virtually everything cancelled. Many specialist freelancers worked on them, and they have seen virtually no income for 10-11 months. A few have been able to transition to virtual conferences and work, but only a few. Construction, design and carpentry, reception, AVL, creative, artists and performers have all seen their work dry up.

At least bars and restaurants have been open for some of the time, allowing some income.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This "government" will crash the economy. Terrible.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

@BigYen

which at best guess won't be until late 2021

I think same.

Probably late autumn, early winter things arr probably back to normal.

But just In case the vaccine will be implemented latest this summer.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

It occurs to me that if the government wanted to get the economy back on track asap, it would find a way to innoculate the residents with the covid vaccines that other countries started delivering 2 weeks ago.... and since capitalism works by siphoning money upwards from those who work and spend to those who own the means of production to those who lend to those who speculate, why not simply declare a moratorium on debts, rents, etc until the economy is stable again, and hand out vouchers for food and necessary services?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

and the heartbreaking thing about that is it's not that long since Japan appeared to be in a good position.

I thought so too. Either the government is lying about the numbers or the mutated super-covid virus from England that someone brought to Japan is very contagious.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The picture gets clearer. They want to keep you hard working fully , but cancel all leisure and recreation activities completely on the other side. That is simply extremely unbalanced and won’t help against the pandemic, only their bank accounts and stock portfolios. Of course the virus and its new variants are very dangerous and personally I am even for a full and strict limited lockdown for 70 days, the time span that virus can at maximum survive in living materials, for example us. But only striking and hitting the small businesses and all people in their time outside 9 to 5 will do no good, not for the health and not against the coronavirus. Don’t weaken your body with continued hard work, don’t commute daily in crowded trains and buses...they don’t say that, and you should be worried why they don’t!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

owner of an "izakaya" or Japanese-style dining bar 

In English we'd call it a pub!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Unfortunately, the izakayas are one of the reasons for the second surge. Economically, I understand the impact, but a lot of those establishments did not do enough to reduce the possibility of keeping the businesses open while reducing infections.

Some of the Mom and Pop establishments will make more money with the government assistance at less work than before the pandemic.

Closing at 8PM stops the average salaryman from going out eating and drinking after finishing their 8AM-10PM shift at the office.

A compromise would be to make all establishments compliant with a strict guidelines for operating their business. Many places including my neighborhood never did, and everyone is paying the price for it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

expat: and since capitalism works by siphoning money upwards from those who work and spend to those who own the means of production to those who lend to those who speculate, why not simply declare a moratorium on debts, rents, etc until the economy is stable again, and hand out vouchers for food and necessary services?

That’s a ridiculous idea. You can’t just stop the financial system for some duration in time. The world doesn’t stop for a crisis to pass. The problem is that a large number of first world nations are already buried under a huge debt burden - Japan included. The government cannot fund the living expenses for all working people so that everyone can live sequestered for the next 6 months or longer. The money has to be borrowed.

This is what happens with Socialist systems. They are unsustainable and eventually collapse. You cannot plan for every future unknown crisis - natural or man made. No one predicted and planned for the Tech Bust, the 2008 recession and the current pandemic. Even without these crisis, the socialized social safety net was costing more than the economy provided for. Something has to give - there will inevitably be another crisis that an already broken system cannot provide for. People seem to actually believe that a free lunch is possible. It isn’t.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Think of all the teenagers who just lost their jobs for a month. I don’t think Tokyo is fully aware or prepared for the financial hardship this will create besides businesses struggling.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

This is what happens with Socialist systems. They are unsustainable and eventually collapse. You cannot plan for every future unknown crisis - natural or man made. No one predicted and planned for the Tech Bust, the 2008 recession and the current pandemic. Even without these crisis, the socialized social safety net was costing more than the economy provided for.

Yet in the wake of these crises vast sums are always somehow found to bail out financials and big corps that would have provided a trickle up safety net for the public. Notwithstanding the additional fact these crises(with the possible exception of the virus) are the result of neo-liberal policymaking.

And this fact is always conveniently forgotten by corporatists on the right who trot out the same excuse again and again to deny substantial relief to the public, as in this case once again.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If businesses want to stay open past 8PM, they all need to do more to comply with following safety guidelines. Many of the restaurants have not, and they have to pay the price like the one in the picture.

Anyone looking at that photo knows that more could be done to make that place safer!

Some fault needs to be placed on the establishments!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Yasuyuki Shimahara, who owns a central Tokyo izakaya specializing in fresh tuna, will close until the state of emergency ends. Though he has applied for government subsidies, he expects losses to run to around 2 million yen for the month.

The state of emergency is supposed to be until February 7, but it is likely to be extended because people are less nervous than at the time of the last state of emergency.

In addition, according to the simulation submitted by Professor Hiroshi Nishiura to the meeting on January 6, the effective number of reproductions in Tokyo will decrease from the current 1.1 to 0.99, which is a maximum of 10% decrease, due to measures such as shortened business hours at restaurants. However, the number of infected people expected at the end of February was almost flat at about 1,300.

Izakaya owners in the metropolitan area will be suffering from extensions.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

One of my friends here in the UK has a ladies hair dressing salon, as she says that the land lord still wants his £xxx amount of rent each month wether if she's open or closed, and its crippling her, its a shame that there is so many greedy people, or lack of compassion in these difficult times, I would guess that cafe, restaurant, shop and a hole host of shop owners in Japan face the same dilemma.

I predicted early last year when we had the first total lock down where office workers were asked to work from home, that if the idea caught on that employers might not return to the big office in town, one of the main reasons was he could save on office space rent, heating, lighting, water fountain, and this is happening as big companies can now see that that office staff can work from home, so there is no need for a large office! staff are happy as they dont have to commute every day sitting in traffic, thus saving fuel, ware and tare on a car, no office back stabbing, extra time at home. some of the companies have down sized offices by 50-70%

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Landlords of the establishments where these people rent are part of the problem. Greedy can't begin to describe it.

It's not "greedy", it's life. Landlords usually have mortgages to pay, do you think the banks will let them off? Then I guess the banks are greedy. I'm wondering if you could open up your wallet and pay their mortgage for them?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I feel bad for restaurant owners, but keep a few things in mind. When you do business, there's risk involved and also potential reward. Any business owner takes risks. The restaurant business is notoriously difficult even in good times. This is simply bad luck for these people, it happens in business. It sucks. The fact is, farmers deal with this kind of thing every year, they have no clue how the weather will treat them.

The only solution to this problem is the vaccine, period. This thing will never end until 70% of the population has either caught it or had the vaccine. If they want the olympics, businesses to come back, the economy to recover, etc, they had better get off their duffs and get that rolling. The sooner, the better. Israel now has nearly 20% of it's population vaccinated, no one here in Japan has received the shot yet.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Travelled to 35+ countries lived in 7 and never before have I seen so many bars and restaurants. Let Darwin deal with it and yes I have a bar.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Brian WhewayJan. 10  06:39 pm JST

One of my friends here in the UK has a ladies hair dressing salon, as she says that the land lord still wants his £xxx amount of rent each month wether if she's open or closed, and its crippling her, its a shame that there is so many greedy people, or lack of compassion in these difficult times, I would guess that cafe, restaurant, shop and a hole host of shop owners in Japan face the same dilemma.

I know people in the same position, and also a landlord that is afraid he will be foreclosed on if he does not pay the mortgage.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

KevinJan. 10 08:33 pm JST

I feel bad for restaurant owners, but keep a few things in mind. When you do business, there's risk involved and also potential reward. Any business owner takes risks. The restaurant business is notoriously difficult even in good times. This is simply bad luck for these people, it happens in business. It sucks. The fact is, farmers deal with this kind of thing every year, they have no clue how the weather will treat them.

Yep, that’s right. Farmers also deal with insect infestations that is some years, depending on environmental conditions, can wipe out their entire crop.  Even if it does not wipe it out, they can’t sell it out of the area because non infested areas don’t want the pest potentially coming to their area. The same with mad cow disease and other animal diseases.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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