COVID-19 in Tokyo: restrictions and postponed Olympics

Mayo Harry | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, is where the Olympic Games were meant to be held in August 2020.  Unfortunately, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on our lives and is currently disrupting all activities. As a result, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has announced that the Olympics will be postponed until the summer of 2021 and that tickets bought for the Games this year will be valid in 2021 where possible. The ticket holders who cannot attend in 2021 will be reimbursed. 

Tokyo usually attracts many visitors due to the co-existence of its ultra-modern culture with the traditional Japanese elements. Many visitors often get impressed by the kindness of Japanese people and by how the social order is maintained. Now, Tokyo, the city that never sleeps, is under restrictions, like most places, due to COVID-19. The pandemic hit Japan later than it was predicted, and then the Japanese government announced an emergency declaration to prevent the number of infected people from increasing.   Through the statement, the government asked the residents to refrain from going out unless it is necessary, to suspend business other than those essential for maintaining citizens' lives, and to stop using facilities where many people gather. However, there is no provision for lockdown with penalties in the Act on Special Measures.

©Maiko Yoshinari

Masks, masks, masks


Wearing a mask has always been a part of the Japanese culture, even before this pandemic started. Children during lunch at school wear masks. People using public transport wear masks, especially in winter. Japanese people believe that masks do not only help to protect but also to avoid the spreading of the virus - especially if you are a carrier. So it is not unusual to have some mask stocks at home; however, this pandemic caused such panic that masks disappeared from all over Japan for a while. The stock of masks is apparently slowly coming back to shops; however, there is still a shortage, and the prices have increased dramatically. There were people still out and about, with masks on, in March and early April when the Sa[kura cherry trees]( were blossoming around Japan. However, since the declaration of emergency and the concern over the collapse of the medical system, people are now responding to self-restraint requests seriously.

Missing the lively bustle

©Maiko Yoshinari

Before COVID-19 started to be an issue, there is no doubt that non-Tokyo residents, both Japanese or visitors from overseas, got shocked by how crazily packed Tokyo trains were, especially during the peak hours. Now, you do not see that anywhere. A lot of businesses are temporarily closed or only open under restrictions and for a limited time. You cannot feel Tokyo’s typical lively energy anywhere. It has disappeared almost completely at that moment. People avoid going out. People avoid getting together. Under this restriction, people’s frustration and worry have been increased: we strongly wish that the lively bustle comes back.

Business survival in the virtual world


The economy in Japan has been affected by this pandemic, as happened everywhere around the world. Especially tourism and restaurants have been suffering, but many interesting new attempts have been popping up online to help us survive. There is a virtual onsen (hot spring) service where people can feel the onsen atmosphere at home or virtual amusement parks for people to enjoy the different rides online. Many restaurants have changed the way they run the business and shifted to takeaway orientated service. Currently, the restriction in non-capital cities has been loosening, and life is slowly coming back. Tokyo’s businesses, including tourism, entertainment, and restaurant industries, are still under strict regulations.

©Maiko Yoshinari

This unexpected pandemic has impacted Tokyo’s lively energy. However, people are patiently hanging in there, waiting for the recovery. There is no doubt that Tokyo’s metropolitan energetic super unique culture will be back in action very soon: in the meantime, we will be getting ready for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

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