Five looks back at the way things were in Japan in rotten old 2020:

  • The capital’s restaurant scene saw plenty of culinary highlights that helped bring notes of optimism and positivity to a difficult year, writes Robbie Swinnerton in his year-end Tokyo Food File. Among them was the spread of the neo-yokochō — cheerful, bustling floors of closely clustered restaurants and bars that, unfortunately, fly in the face of social-distancing wisdom.
  • Drinking culture changed in a lot of ways in 2020. On one hand, we drink alone more. On the other, we don’t have to worry about the last train as much. But how can we discuss all of this flux over a socially distanced/online tipple with our Japanese drinking buds? Kaori Shoji shows you how in her latest Bilingual column.
A typical drinking party in 2020 | GETTY IMAGES
A typical drinking party in 2020 | GETTY IMAGES
  • In what has become an annual tradition itself, Mark Schreiber looks at 2020’s hit products in Japan according to the respected Nikkei Marketing Journal, which lays out the winners every year in a traditional sumo-style banzuke (ranking sheet). We use “products” here in its widest sense. The overall winner this year was no surprise, slaying the opposition in terms of its economic and cultural footprint over the course of 2020 — and no, it’s not the coronavirus.
  • What will a young child of today remember about 2020, looking back from 15 years hence? Michael Hoffman dares to imagine in his latest Big in Japan column, which also wanders off into musings on the practice of “earthing” as a form of digital detox and the generational divide over the tragic/refreshing absence of year-end work parties.
  • As the year comes to a close, many questions are hanging in the air about vaccines, COVID-19 mutations and what life will look like post-pandemic. Luckily, this year’s 20 Questions pieces have provided nothing but answers. We may not know what 2021 will bring, but for now, take solace in the wise words of professors, journalists, activists and even a private eye, all lovingly curated by Tadasu Takahashi.