Are restaurants and bars in Japan open?
Some were never fully closed. While bars were asked to close by many prefectural governments such as Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka, restaurants and izakayas could stay open, with limited operating hours. While many of these establishments did voluntarily close or were sadly forced to close permanently for financial reasons, most people in Japan still had the choice of dining out if they wanted to during the emergency declaration.
Since the emergency declaration has been rescinded, we have noticed that most bars, restaurants, cafes and izakayas have returned to normal operating hours and are seeing a rise again in customers as patrons head back to their favourite sushi, okonomiyaki, yakitori, yakiniku, nabe, tempura, and teppanyaki establishments.
What safety mesaures are in place?
On our Japan coronavirus news page we discuss the large regional variations in the spread of coronavirus in the country, and thus the length and severity of emergency declaration measures implemented by different prefectures in April and May. We are seeing a similarly wide range of approaches to safety measures and precautions in eating and drinking establishments not just regionally but also within towns and cities. Neighbouring establishments can often have different measures and requirements in place.
Many establishments have taken the threat of coronavirus seriously when returning to business and have introduced a host of measures to keep their patrons safe. We have seen a number of restaurants implementing at least some (but not usually all) of the measures below:
- Using hand sanitizer upon entering and leaving
- Spacing patrons out in order to maintain social distancing
- Wiping down all surfaces including chairs and tables between sittings
- Ventilating the establishment as much as possible, by keeping windows and doors open (even when it's raining!)
- Using plastic sheeting to separate patrons from staff - and sometimes from each other!
- Plastic face shields have also been given out by some establishments
What can I do to keep myself safe?
Following the government guidelines for good health and hygiene is a good start point. Wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently, and avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth.
Consider a takeout. In order to stay open or viable during the emergency declaration, many businesses in towns and cities moved to takeout or delivery options and have continued to do so even after re-opening fully. If you like the look of the menu but feel uncomfortable eating in, why not ask if you can take your meal as mochi-kaeri (take-away)? Japan has some excellent parks and gardens, even in the busiest parts of Tokyo, so if it's nice weather you could turn your lunch or dinner into an enjoyable picnic. If you just want something simple for a picnic, then convenience stores are also an excellent option, offering everything from sandwiches, to rice balls, to meals that can be heated up in store for you.
Keep an eye out for establishments with outdoor seating. The government has recently announced that terrace-style eating on the streets will be allowed, at least until the end of November (TimeOut Tokyo). While already common in many other countries, this is a big change in Japan, and we're certainly looking forward to having more meals outside!
Pay cashless (if possible). While cashless payment is still uncommon in Japan, particularly in rural areas, the coronavirus pandemic has led to a rise in services that offer payment by card or contactless devices.
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