• Kyodo

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Restaurants, hotels and even wedding venues have begun offering discounts to customers who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as part of efforts to jump-start the economy following the pandemic.

While the efforts may encourage more people to get vaccinated, some warn such discounts could lead to people who are reluctant to receive the vaccine experiencing peer pressure.

“I want things to return to the pre-pandemic days as quickly as possible,” said Toshiyuki Fujimura, the 54-year-old deputy manager of a yakiniku grilled meat restaurant in Nagoya, which is giving up to ¥3,000 ($27) off set meals to customers who show proof of vaccination.

Yuka Torii, a 47-year-old midwife, was happy to use the discount, saying the initiative will act as an incentive for more people to get vaccinated and “make the world a little better.”

The tourist federation of Fujikawaguchiko, a town in Yamanashi Prefecture near Mount Fuji, also started offering discounts at 30 of its member stores for fully vaccinated individuals. The offers include 10% off entry fees as well as food and beverage expenses.

“Our aim is to encourage more people to come for sightseeing and to get vaccinated,” a staff member said.

Unzen Onsen Azumaen, a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in Nagasaki Prefecture, has been distributing coupons for use at its on-site shop to those who have been vaccinated.

The discounts have helped gradually increase reservations after the establishment had to be temporarily closed at one point following the outbreak of the virus, it said.

A grilled meat restaurant in Nagoya is giving discounts to customers who can prove they have been vaccinated. | KYODO
A grilled meat restaurant in Nagoya is giving discounts to customers who can prove they have been vaccinated. | KYODO

Meanwhile, the Garden Place Kobayashiro, a wedding venue in Niigata Prefecture, has launched a cashback program where newlyweds can receive ¥3,000 back for each attending guest who has been vaccinated.

Yusuke Nakada and Saki Inozume, who plan to hold their wedding in September, said that about a third of their invitation list would be eligible for the money.

“We have a lot of older relatives, so this will give us peace of mind,” the couple, both 26, said.

Meanwhile, some people remain reluctant to take the vaccine due to wariness over possible side effects and risks, and concerns have arisen that such discounts may lead to some people feeling they are being forced to get vaccinated.

Goodluck Promotion Co., a concert planning company based in Okayama Prefecture, said it does not openly advertise its cashback program for those vaccinated due to the “various opinions” around the issue.

In late July, local governments began accepting applications for so-called vaccine passports certifying that people traveling abroad are inoculated against COVID-19, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato has maintained a cautious stance about using them within Japan due to concerns they will cause “unfair discrimination.”

“Vaccination is based on an individual’s free will,” said Kenta Yamada, a professor of media law and journalism at Senshu University. “We must not create a society where those who do not get vaccinated feel guilty or lose out. We need to be careful not to encourage peer pressure through vaccine discount programs.”

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