The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the nation's food truck industry, as more people are working from home and many events have been canceled.
Local governments have also placed restrictions on where food trucks can operate due to the state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and other prefectures.
"We've seen a drop in the number of places where we're allowed to operate," said Atsushi Oshima, the operator of Potage-Ya, a food truck specializing in vegetable soup.
Potage-Ya has not been able to operate in Tokyo's bustling Marunouchi business district since late April, when the capital was placed under a third COVID-19 state of emergency, as the local government has asked administrators of office buildings and other facilities to ban food trucks. As a result, Potage-Ya's sales have dropped by more than 20%.
Oshima, 40, questions the local government's decision. Banning food trucks "only means that customers will flock to restaurants indoors, creating crowded places," he said.
Miku Akimoto, who owns Smappy Cafe, a food truck that sells crepes, has also seen her business hit hard.
COVID-19 began spreading in Japan shortly after Akimoto, 38, purchased a new truck in January 2020, as her husband decided to help her with her business.
Smappy Cafe previously operated around 65 days a year at festivals and fireworks displays, but most of these events were canceled due to the coronavirus.
After paying for operating expenses such as ingredients and gasoline, Akimoto is left with only a small amount of cash, and the burden of the cost of the new truck and repayment of outstanding loans weigh heavily.
While eating and drinking establishments that comply with the local governments' request to shorten operating hours receive financial assistance, food trucks are, in principle, not eligible for such aid. Many food truck operators want the local governments to make up for lost sales, even if it's only a small amount.
Meanwhile, some are pursuing new business opportunities to overcome the crisis.
"We've received inquiries from nursing care facilities and company dormitories about accepting our food trucks," said Toru Shimada, a senior official of a Tokyo-based industry group for food truck owners. "We hope to develop new markets by making use of our food trucks' mobility."
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