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Two men walk past empty tables at restaurants at Miyashita Park at Shibuya in Tokyo on March 9. Image: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Japan's malls and restaurants brace for Olympics without foreign visitors

By Daniel Leussink and Mayu Yoshida

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This is so stupid! Just cancel the Olympics and give Japan the next available games in 2024 or 2028. The COVID crisis should be over and the infrastructure is already there.

19 ( +23 / -4 )

Japan doesn’t welcome foreigners, it welcomes their money. Tell me something I don’t know.

38 ( +40 / -2 )

How do you "brace" for something that isnt coming?

31 ( +34 / -3 )

i do feel sorry that Japan will be faced with the Worse Olympics to be historically documented and yet Japan still insists on not waiting until the pandemic is contained and eradicated. Let them have a ball and knock yourself out.

17 ( +17 / -0 )

As others have said..just halt the Olympics. Hold them FULLY in a few years so the benefits can be completely reaped by everyone! This pandemic is NOT going to be like this forever, so just be patient and wait it out....but nooooo the J-Gov't wants to hold them half arsed because even then they will make a fortune, all while offering restraunts ¥48,000 a day...

7 ( +10 / -3 )

But the number of foreign visitors has dropped from nearly 32 million in 2019 to almost zero, 

Not almost zero, but zero. Visitors have not been allowed to enter Japan since April. Or maybe they are still lumping in foreign residents with tourists.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Over-reliance on international visitors is also a risk. During the high time, some businesses were giving preferential treatment solely to visiting foreigners, which turned off many local Japanese. Malicious ones ripped off, sold goods and services for unreasonably high prices. They now have good time to be reflective and return to basics.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

I’m making the call now. Japan will surprise on the upside with allowing visitors into the country. Earlier than currently anticipated (before fall/winter 2021), and with less restrictions than predicted (e.g. tests, quarantines, location trackers, etc.

maybe just to some of the world population. But when the US, UK, Israel and some of Europe are mostly vaccinated by July, and wandering what the hell happened in Japan, do you really think they will turn away their money and admit they were behind the curve through all of this? No they won’t.

5 ( +8 / -3 )


It won’t be much of a ‘brace’!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

... give Japan the next available games in 2024 or 2028. 

Then what about Paris and Los Angeles? It makes less sense and will cause more pain to continue kicking the bucket down the road. Corona is not Tokyo's fault, but life is not always fair. Just cancel it.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

It's a shame, but necessary.

Still, was looking forward to protests, the Olympics are great for highlighting injustices across the world.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Vaccine production is bottlenecked, so it is difficult to see international tourism picking up before the Autumn, and then only with a confusing mix of bilateral agreements.

We will need global co-ordination of vaccine passports, which will dispense with the deal-breaking need for quarantine. The airlines need to work together on that. Vaccine-based herd immunity amongst the majority should protect those who cannot take the vaccine, and allow them to travel too.

Governments should be building more vaccine production plants, globally. They should be in every county in the UK, every department in France and every prefecture in Japan. The facilities should be replicating all viable vaccines under licence at the fastest possible rate, to globalise herd immunity. It is no good just doing it here and there. An unvaccinated population group will promote an increase in variants. However bumpy the ride, with some appalling 'vaccine politics' going on, we should get there. Our politicians have not covered themselves in glory, repeatedly failing to work together for the common good.

And we need accommodation. AirBnB/villa style lodgings may be the best option for initial travel, giving you the extra insurance of a bubble environment. Herd immunity should open up the hotels again.

Some countries are desperate for tourism to restart as the industry alleviates poverty. It is one of the few industries that directly injects foreign cash into the domestic economy at a grass roots level, supporting some of the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers. For some nations, especially in South America, tourism normalises areas otherwise destabilised by paramilitaries and gang warfare. In the developing world it keeps people alive and pays for environmental conservation.

Some in Japan don't like tourism and would be happy if it did not restart, but the losses you are starting to see would then increase. Shops would vanish, eateries that are clinging on would close. Economic damage on such a level spreads like a virus. A return to a simpler way of life, pre-international tourism, with only atheletes, celebrities and senior business folk jetting about, at high cost, would unpick the economic supply chains throughout retail and hospitality. Be careful what you wish for. You might not like what you get.

Shibuya is one of my favourite places. I was shacked up in the love hotel district slowly mapping the newly redeveloped labyrinth of Shibuya station when the pandemic really kicked off. Shibuya Scramble Square was an impressive addition. The underground expansion of Shibuya station is also worth mastering, as at some times of the day you can avoid the more crowded streets, once you embrace your inner mole and nail the routes.

I fear for some of my regular haunts, particularly in tourist hotspots like Harajuku. The Soup Stock eaterie that made Omotesando station smell so delicious, and the bagel store on the concourse. Kinokuniya's international supermarket. The vegan food shops at Meiji-jingumae station, and Nishiasakusa. Even Akiba and Shinjuku, where so many establishments operate on thin margins. Square footage in Japan is expensive, so most businesses depend upon consistent and quite high levels of footfall to stay afloat.

I know some people would be glad to see all of this, and all the foreign tourists go for good. But without them, they may be surprised to discover just how much of the retail and service sector that they are used to, struggles and fails.

People have been complaining about tourism since the Middle Ages, when pilgrims annoyed the locals by thronging to popular sites made famous by saints. In return, they sold them souvenirs. And travel really does broaden the mind. Humanity has always either traded with and visited other nations, or made war on them. If our nations become our prisons, wars will inevitably follow. Annoying tourists are a small price to pay for peace.

The Olympics really needs limited/tested or vaccinated audiences (whether Japanese or foreign) and that may not be viable unless it is delayed until late 2021, 2022 or 2024. Economically, it may be better to focus upon speeding the global vaccine roll-out in the spring, summer and autumn of this year. If the Olympics is staged too early to safely accommodate spectators, we can all watch it on TV and online.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Masaka is a great little place with accommodating staff and healthy, tasty dishes! The timing of its opening was unfortunate.

These places and their staff deserve all the support overwhelmingly going to JTB, Dentsu and the financial industries.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Flashback ro March 2020.Japan should've cancelled it to 2024 n Paris if can compromise to 2028 n so on..it is a missed opportunity but so what ?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The construction companies got their money and then some after increasing the price of the bids. Not All is Lost, there are still mountains to pave. The only people that lose are the common people and their service establishments. Hopefully the insurance companies will take a hit too.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I think it is better to cancel the 2020 Olympic that was moved this year due to COVID-19. It would be no fun without a cheering crowd from around the world. May the Olympic committee consider moving it to 2024. When everyone is ready and healthy.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

With few to no foreign visitors, the mayor of Kyoto will have nothing to complain about.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

If, as has been suggested, the 2020 Olympics gets pushed back to 2024, Paris will not opt out of hosting the Olympics; but will protest mightily.

When the IOC debated between Los Angeles and Paris (the only two cities who bid for 2024), they asked Paris to move to 2028. Paris pointed out that the Parisian people voted between hosting the 2024 Olympics or not. They voted 2024. The IOC then gave Los Angeles a billion dollars to move to 2028, which they did. More recently, I believe the IOC is leaning toward Brisbane for 2032.

Where does that leave Tokyo? a) 2021 or b) fold or c) 2036

As all the construction companies (aka LDP supporters), all the politicians (LDP), and all the advertising executives (aka LDP friends) have profited off the so-far non-existent Olympics, the only financial losers will be the TV broadcasters who spent a fortune, the Japanese taxpayer (including small businesses), and the athletes.

I fully expect the 2020 Olympics to be either scaled down to a pitiful glorified sports day or cancelled.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This article confuses me. The inbound tourist economy has likely lost 40 million visitors since late February 2020. The article wants to claim that there was lots of development and investment staked not on this huge number of year-round tourists, but on the three-week blowout of the Olympics. Even if the Olympics were to bring say 300,000 visitors, that's only 10% of the number coming in every single month. For the international tourism sector, the Olympics was merely a bit of expensive and probably unneeded promotion of Japan. Even a fully operational Olympics held now would make very little dent in the losses over the past year.

As for opening up again, the Japan government has placed the country in a huge bind in that any cooperation on vaccine passports, the most hopeful route out of this, will show up the government's own pathetic vaccine rollout. Its hard to imagine the government cooperating on a scheme that will disadvantage or exlude Japanese themselves.

The leak the other day about no foreign spectators included the Paralympics too. They are held in September, still six months away. Anyone relying on inbound tourism will be struggling for a while yet.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Blame the IOC and the Japan Government

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Isn't the official Meeting about Overseas Spectators today? How are you guys already saying "without foreign 

Visitors" When it hasn't been made official yet.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Spectators are an essential part of creating an atmosphere to hype up competitors and get them motivated to perform their best. so only Japanese competitors will have a limited number of fans to support them during an event... it seems Japan is attempting to stack the medals in their favor.

What a Joke of an olympics.

Boycott 2020/21 Talk To Much Olympigs.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Shopping malls and restaurants in Japan will miss out on a business boom, as Tokyo expects to hold the Olympics without overseas spectators, dealing another blow to industries already on the ropes from the coronavirus."

Not to worry... to try and counter the extremely racist policy of not allowing in foreign visitors while allowing back Japanese nationals, they'll introduce a GoTo Shop/eat campaign with the aim of packing such places to make up for the loss in revenue of denying foreigners entry due to... you know... risk of infection.

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

All this could've been avoided had they just postponed until 2022.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

So many companies invested big to prepare for what was supposed to be a few million foreign visitors to the games. I personally know of a few who have already declared bankruptcy due to not being able to repay loans they took out to expand their businesses. There must be hundreds, possibly thousands more including all the start-ups wanting to cash in on the influx of visitors. Tough times for many.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Let all these malls and shops ask Dentsu for a piece of that 30+ billions they raised.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

My neighborhood still has "Tokyo 2020" banners all across town fluttering impotently in the wind. It's as if the locals think so long as they don't take them down, no one will notice what year it is now...

"Tokyo 2021: The Olympics Without The World!"

Anybody up for buying one or two, or how about 50, "collectors" Tokyo 2020 pins, badges and shirts, to celebrate 2021? Me neither. Oh, and Africa called: they're still not done handing out all those "Kansas City Chiefs 2021 Super Bowl Champions" memorabilia yet, and they really don't need any more cheap, ugly Olympic "accessory bling", thanks...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You would have to be next level thick to be making preparations for foreign visitors during the olympics at this point.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

At least the old "Japanese Only" signs don't have to be put back up again.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The vaccine is the only way out of this mess, it's not rocket science. If Japan had got with the program, accepting those who were vaccinated, it could have still had it's olympics. But no, no foreign visitors, vaccinated or not, and even you're a permanent resident and you want to go abroad to get the vaccine, you will have to quarantine for 14 days upon return and install location monitoring apps on your phone so they can verify that you're not leaving your quarantine location. According to Japanese government supplied info I read today, those in Japan aged 16-64 are not expected to get the COVID vaccine here until SEPTEMBER!

Everyone I know back in the USA has finished their vaccines already. The vaccine response of this country has been utterly and completely pitiful.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

This is either extreme short term thinking or reactionism.

You don’t plough how ever many billions or trillions of yen into developments just for the 4-8 weeks the Olympics and Paralympics are in town, because all those developments are still there after they’ve packed up and gone.

If they did max out their proverbial credit cards solely on the basis that the Olympics and Paralympics tourism would pay most of it off, then that is stupid. In reality, they built stuff to continue consuming after the games are over. This virus has meant businesses have had to adapt and find solutions to keep trading, and this means those who went all in on the Olympics must too.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It will end up in a financial disaster...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

so basically all of the costs, and none of the benefits! what a disaster.

With insurance from stopping the games at least a fund could have cut their losses

Japan just wants to fail as hard as possible, it's a real head scratcher

2 ( +2 / -0 )

With the rest of the world way ahead now on vaccine vaccinations. Would not be a good idea to use a Vaccine passport type admittance of foreigners as they will be 100% vaccinated. Japan should speed up thier vaccination program as they are 6 months behind the world!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The olympics was never going to have a big direct impact on the economy. The number of people coming to watch an event that only lasts for a few weeks pales in comparison to the number of people who come any month anyway.

Before the pandemic, Japan had seen a massive boom in the number of inbound tourists, which was great for the economy. But even before that, the faith that the Japanese government and people put in a 2-4 week event to somehow boost the entire nation's economy was nuts.

The main economic benefit of the olympics has already been felt... all the money invested in construction projects and the like. But that money comes from inside Japan, not from overseas.

32M+ foreign tourists anyway. Maybe 450,000 olympic visitors. That's 1.4% max.

Most countries that hold the olympics experience a dip in visitor numbers in the month they are held, as non-olympic visitors avoid that month.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Isn't tourism 7% of GDP?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Foreigners esp Westeners don't really spend in SouthEast Asia, then how come they will spend in Japan. They just roam around and complete the free bucket list. Even Koreans do the same in Japan. I think they are taught secretly in theit country Not to spend outside.

Japan should just Welcome the Big Spenders Chinese.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Postponing to 2022 0r 2024 were not options. So that is why they were not moved to these dates. Moving to 2021 or cancel completely were the choices. The Full roll out of events WILL be held with Japanese resident spectators in the stands ( probably limited). For those watching on TV there will be very little difference. It will be declared a great success by the Japan organizers regardless of how it really went.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It will end up in a financial disaster...

Yes, just like every single Olympics ever held. But bigger.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan doesn't need an Olympics in the middle of a pandemic (courtesy of communist China).

Stay home. Stay safe.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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