Japan is entering its end-of-year party season with most COVID-19 restrictions lifted based on low numbers of cases, but concerns about the emergence of the omicron coronavirus variant are likely to keep the festive mood restrained once again.

Rising material costs, sparked by high crude oil prices, and a change in people's attitudes toward after-work drinking and dining with colleagues has put an additional burden on restaurant and bar operators in Japan, which otherwise would be welcoming their busiest time of the year.

In Tokyo's Shimbashi business district, some restaurants and bars are seeing customers gradually returning but voice concerns about the recent arrival of the new variant in Japan.