TOKYO -- Department stores and restaurants started getting back into gear on May 26, a day after the state of emergency that remained for Tokyo and four other prefectures in Japan was lifted, with establishments taking measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The state of emergency was first declared for seven prefectures on April 7, and after being extended across the whole nation, was gradually lifted according to the state of infections in each prefecture. The northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido and the eastern Japan prefectures of Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba were the last ones to see the state of emergency lifted on May 25.
On May 26, Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores Co. resumed full operation of its Daimaru Tokyo store and Matsuzakaya Ueno store in the capital, while Odakyu Department Store Co. also reopened its Shinjuku and Machida outlets, also in the capital. Tobu Department Store Co. reopened its main Ikebukuro store in Tokyo and its Funabashi store in Chiba Prefecture, east of the capital, on May 27. As a measure to prevent the spread of the virus, it said staff would speak to customers in quieter voices, standing diagonally in front of them at a distance.
McDonald's Japan Co. planned to start reopening seating areas at restaurants in Tokyo, Hokkaido and three other prefectures in succession from May 26, spacing out tables and chairs to enable customers to maintain a distance from each other.
On the evening of May 26, there were fewer people in front of JR Tokyo Station compared to the period before the state of emergency was declared, and there was no crowding. Kotaro Inoue, a 35-year-old worker from the Chiba Prefecture city of Kashiwa, commented, "I was expecting it to be crowded, but it wasn't as bad as I thought. It will be good if the way of working utilizing telecommuting continues for a while."
According to analysis by major carrier NTT Docomo, based on mobile phone location data and other information, as of 3 p.m. on May 26, the number of people going out had increased across Japan by between 0.1 and 47.8% at 52 of 94 monitored locations across the country compared to the previous day. In the five prefectures that saw the lifting of the state of emergency on May 25, the increase ranged between 0.2 and 10.4% at 17 of 23 locations.
Compared with before the spread of the coronavirus, the number of people out and about was down by at least 50% at 17 locations. The only area to see an increase was the Okute area of Tottori Prefecture in western Japan, up 18.6%, but there were five locations where only single-digit percentage falls were recorded, along with 20 locations that saw decreases in the 10-19% range, and 27 where the number of people going out was down by 20-29%, indicating that activity in public in these locations is gradually returning.
(Japanese original by Yuki Machino, Business News Department, Hironori Takechi, Political News Department, and Buntaro Saito, City News Department)