Japan's cuddly bear character Rilakkuma, who has captured the hearts of children and adults alike with his laid-back demeanor, sits on the shelves of a swanky department store in the capital, flanked by Hello Kitty and other plush toys.

With the Lunar New Year that began Friday, they are taking the place of home appliances, from rice cookers to electric toilet seats, normally favored by Chinese tourists who are absent this year because of coronavirus restrictions.

"Due to the current travel bans, it's impossible for them to come to Japan," said Jin Xuezhu, head of the inbound sales division at the Laox duty-free retail chain, which runs the store in Tokyo's district of Akihabara.