It's peak summer holiday season in the ancient city of Kyoto, when throngs of international tourists would usually be flocking to its famous temples and spending in the city's hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops.

Instead, streets are empty, shops are closed and hotels are struggling to survive as the novel coronavirus pandemic shuts off the supply of visitors and ravages the economy.

"This is far worse than during the Lehman crisis," said an 80-year-old taxi driver, referring to the financial crash of 2008. "Some days I will earn just ¥2,000 ($20). I don't make any money once I buy lunch and pay my gas bill."