Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, and the island of Hokkaido have eased restrictions
A quiet, but not empty, Shibuya Scramble on May 1 (Photo: Daryl Harding)
After the cancelling of the State of Emergency in the Kansai region last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced at a press conference on May 25 that the Japanese government, on the advice of the advisory council and the special coronavirus taskforce, that the last of the State of Emergency declarations are now lifted in the Tokyo Capital Region (which includes Tokyo Metropolis, Chiba, Kanagawa, and Saitama prefectures) and the island of Hokkaido. The State of Emergency was originally extended to May 31, making this an early lifting.
Tokyo had already planned to partially re-open on May 25, with some department stores opening up and some businesses resuming work – under new conditions. Tokyo governor, Yuriko Koike announced a three-stage roadmap of easing restrictions in the Japanese capital, with the first step, now in effect, which will see libraries and museums reopening if they have safety measures in place, restaurants asked now to close at 10 PM, rather than 8 PM, and that events will be allowed, as long as they're capped at 50 people, including staff members. Schools run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government are also scheduled to resume classes, albeit with staggering attendance throughout the day and class sizes limited.
A new system for Tokyo will be set up to combat the virus called 'Tokyo Alert' where if numbers of new confirmed coronavirus infections go past 50, or if half of all new confirmed infections are untraceable, restrictions and requests from the metropolitan government may be declared again.
Shinzo Abe on May 25 announcing the lifting of the State of Emergency (NHK)
In Hokkaido, governor Naomichi Suzuki told reporters that "even if the declaration is lifted, the infection rate won't be zero. The [current] route of infection is unknown." Suzuki asked that though the declarations are lifted, that bars, gyms, and travel between cities to continue to be restricted, as to not cause a third wave on the island prefecture.
Gyms in the Kanto region announced that they would remain closed until the "request for leave" by the Tokyo governor is lifted. In Kanagawa, south of Tokyo, late-night businesses are preparing for a full reopening, even those which may break the “Three C’s”, closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings.
During the special advisory council meeting today, the Japanese government outlined a plan to reopen to the country and ease requested restrictions while "sustainably preventing the spread of infection and maintaining socio-economic activities." The government asked people to refrain from inter-prefectural travel until the end of the month and to refrain from domestic tourism promotion until mid-July. Shinzo Abe confirmed in the press conference that a new 2 trillion yen (US$18.5 billion) benefit will be enacted for "regional revitalization" and domestic tourism.
Events will be eased back in based on prefecture levels, with indoor events to be capped at a much lower rate than that of outdoor events. While small events are now allowed in Tokyo, large-scale events that bring people in from all around Japan will continue to be requested to cancel until at least June 19, where they'll re-evaluate the situation. The Japanese professional baseball league is scheduled to return on June 19, without spectators.
"Stay Home" sign in Akihabara Station (Photo: Daryl Harding)
Tokyo saw 8 new confirmed infections on Monday, bringing the total number on infections in the capital to 5,160. Japan in total has topped 16,623 confirmed infections of the coronavirus (COVID-19), with 843 deaths, including 2 new deaths today in Hokkaido.
If you or someone who know is living in Japan, coronavirus-based English resources are available at NHK World Japan.
Daryl Harding is a Japan Correspondent for Crunchyroll News. He also runs a YouTube channel about Japan stuff called TheDoctorDazza, tweets at @DoctorDazza, and posts photos of his travels on Instagram.