Japan’s Golden Week faded and quiet amidst COVID-19 pandemic

    Tokyo, May 3 (Xinhua) – Japan’s “golden week”, an important holiday in early May for both Japanese people and businesses, was clouded and quiet this year amid the COVID-19 epidemic.

    A popular noodle shop on Tokyo’s Meiji Street posted a notice regarding the suspension of business due to renovations ahead of Japan’s May Day golden week this year. Although renewal shutdown is not rare for the operation of Japan’s catering services business amid the epidemic, it is still an unusual thing to close during the golden week.

    The trade generated during the golden week is the most important in a year in Japan. During the golden week falling in spring, people often hang out and travel with their relatives and friends.

    Due to the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Japan declared a state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo Prefectures on 23 April. This is the third time Japan has declared a state of emergency due to the epidemic, and the ban will last until May 11.

    As per the order, large commercial facilities are closed, sports and other major events will not get any spectators, catering services must be closed at 8 pm, and no alcohol will be served throughout the day. The government has also asked people to stay indoors.

    “More than half of our business is from alcoholic beverages,” said the owner of a bar near Tokyo’s Shibuya station. “When there is no permission to sell liquor, there is no point in opening a shop. We can also close it.”

    Local media reported that not only restaurants, but also wholesale enterprises of liquor and foodstuffs were greatly affected. Kirin, Suntory, Sapporo and other beer companies have said that refunds have become commonplace, and enterprises will focus on the regional market.

    Electrical chains Yamada Denki and Kojima, as well as general department stores Istin Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya, have responded to the government’s call to reduce operating hours in some areas and close some stores or floors and counters. But before the government declared a third state of emergency, stock prices of department stores and clothing retailers fell.

    Surveys have shown that about 80 percent of respondents believe the worsening epidemic will affect the system of this year’s golden week, and 70 percent said they will not visit or visit relatives back home.

    Due to the national emergency during the golden week of the previous year, flight booking for this year’s golden week is much easier than in the previous year. Data from Japan’s major airlines showed that domestic flight bookings for this year’s golden week would be around 60 percent in 2019, while international flight bookings would be less than 10 percent of 2019 levels.

    Takeshi Minami, a researcher at the Norinchukin Research Institute, said Japan had lifted its second emergency in March, but the epidemic has become worse rather than easier. As the epidemic continues, there is a concern about prolonged stagnation in service-focused economic activities.

    Toshihiro Nagahama, an economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, said that the scope of the emergency could be expanded and extended, which would inevitably affect the country’s economic recovery.


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