• Jiji


With authorities’ business suspension requests related to the coronavirus pandemic lifted in some parts of Japan on Thursday, some customers are returning to restaurants, bars and other shops in night entertainment districts that resumed operations while some shops remained cautious about the risk of infection.

In the downtown district at the heart of Sendai, eateries, including izakaya dining bars, saw customers gather from around 5:30 p.m., although many others opted to stay closed.

“During the business closure, I had bento (boxed meals) from convenience stores every day,” a 57-year-old male company employee who was eating at an izakaya mainly serving yakitori chicken skewers after work said. “It was hell finishing work and finding no stores open.”

However, around half of the stores that reopened put up signs, such as “no first-time customers” and “reservation only,” and only a few stores were crowded.

The number of customers was also limited in city’s Kokubuncho district, one of the biggest nightlife areas in the Tohoku northeastern region.

“We’ve been told that it’s now OK to reopen your stores, but damage would be huge if someone is infected (with the coronavirus) here,” Ryoko Kashiwazaki, 45, the owner of Buwa Ichijo, a bar in the district, said. She carefully made sure to ventilate the bar, which reopened after a two-week suspension.

Closure requests were lifted for most businesses, excluding cabaret nightclubs and some others, in Kagoshima Prefecture. However, the popular Tenmonkan downtown district in the city of Kagoshima was largely quiet.

“I thought there would be more people (around the area) since pachinko pinball parlors reopened,” an eatery worker trying to solicit customers on a major street said.

An izakaya serving local dishes that can seat around 70 people had only two groups of customers around 8 p.m., which is usually the busiest time for the dining bar.

“(I came here because) I can’t stand that the bar I am familiar with is still shut down,” although some people called jishuku keisatsu, literally meaning “self-restraint police,” are bashing those who go out for drinking or other purposes amid the pandemic, a male customer eating at the izakaya said.

When asked about his profession and other personal information, the man said, “If my name is revealed to the media, my company may fire me.”

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