Lockdown or no lockdown? Voluntary restraint or #juststayhome? Tokyo is teetering on the edge of uncertainty. We’re urged to avoid bars and nightclubs, live houses and pachinko parlors. But where does that leave restaurants? Two words: In crisis.
Even without a formal announcement, so far, of a coronavirus state of emergency, most of the Japanese public has been heeding the warnings to avoid central Tokyo, especially in the evenings. This can only be a good thing for the overburdened medical system. But it is a calamity for chefs.
With some serious belt-tightening, some restaurants may stagger through. But many others are likely to find it impossible to survive the financial hit of staying closed for a month or more.
This is not a problem unique to Japan. But some countries, such as Denmark, have governments that care about chefs and other small business owners, who together play such a vital role in the overall economy.
One who is not prepared to sit back and watch the collapse of his industry is Osaka-based chef Hajime Yoneda. His self-named, three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Hajime, depends heavily on visiting gastronomes as well as local clientele.
At the end of March, he launched a petition — already with more than 90,000 signatures at the time of writing — calling for special government support for fixed costs (such as rent and utilities), as well as subsidies to cover the salaries of workers who are laid off. He is asking everyone who enjoys eating out, both in and outside Japan, to raise their voices and sign.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.
Your news needs your support
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.