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90% of Japanese firms plan to avoid year-end, New Year parties amid pandemic: poll

A sticker that calls for customers to dine while wearing their masks is seen at the Shinjuku establishment of beer hall chain Ginza Lion in Tokyo on Nov. 20, 2020. (Mainichi/Nobuyuki Shimada)

TOKYO -- Nearly 90% of companies in Japan polled by a Tokyo-based research firm do not plan to hold office parties this coming year-end and New Year holiday amid a resurgence of coronavirus infections, survey results show.

    The survey, conducted by credit research firm Tokyo Shoko Research Ltd., targeted 10,059 firms across Japan. Nearly 90% answered that they do not plan on holding either year-end or New Year parties.

    Meanwhile, in a questionnaire conducted by Japan Food Delivery Co., a Tokyo-based firm that makes deliveries to corporate bodies, 61.5% of 852 respondents answered that they "do not want to attend year-end parties," or would "rather not attend year-end parties." A representative of the delivery firm commented, "Nearly 90% of people who answered that they don't want to attend cited fears of infection as a reason. There has been a change in the style of year-end parties."

    The restaurant industry has continued to sustain severe blows from the virus outbreak. Sapporo Lion Co., which operates beer hall chain Ginza Lion, said that although large rooms that can fit about 100 people normally become booked from around November, there have not been any reservations made this year. The company has mainly served customers that hold drinking parties in small numbers, as year-end parties by major firms and school reunions have been called off.

    Sapporo Lion has been offering food on individual dishes rather than shared food plates since May. It also introduced a new 90-minute party plan that is shorter than the regular courses that last for two or 2.5 hours. Despite such measures, 10 pubs in the chain have already closed down. A representative said, "Although we saw signs of recovery entering the fall season, the outlook has started to look bleak amid the resurgence of infections. Continuing to reinforce countermeasures against the coronavirus is the only thing we can do."

    According to corporate credit research firm Teikoku Databank Ltd., there have been 723 coronavirus-related bankruptcy cases as of Nov. 20. Among these, eateries accounted for the largest number, at 110. This was about 1.7 times the number of failed hotels and inns, which formed the second-worst affected group. The firm commented, "Companies have managed to endure this situation during the last six months due to emergency loans and assistance from the national government. If a downturn is seen in year-end sales, it will only be natural to see business owners losing hope. It is possible that there will be a sharp increase in bankruptcies."

    (Japanese original by Nobuyuki Shimada, City News Department)

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