With the hospitality industry reeling under the impact of COVID-19, the government hastily cobbled together a rescue plan. It’s called Go To Eat, and went into effect Oct 1. Diners making restaurant reservations through designated websites win points equivalent to cash towards future meals at any participating establishment. Everybody wins. Restaurants fill, customers save, and one sector of the economy gets back on track, hopefully fueling revivals elsewhere. As for rising government debt, we can worry about that later.
This would seem beneath the yakuza’s notice. It’s not, says Shukan Post (Oct 30). Organized crime is no longer what it was in its postwar heyday. Special laws and strict enforcement have hemmed it in. Once, nothing was too big for it. Now, it seems, nothing is too small.
Shukan Post’s reporter finds his yakuza sources closed-mouthed. There’s nothing heroic about preying on Go To Eat. It’s pocket money, nothing more. The less said, the better. But journalists know the value of tenacity. Somebody, eventually, will yield to persuasion, if you refuse to take no for an answer. So it plays out in this case. “Make a reservation for five,” the source instructs the reporter, “at such-and-such a (Tokyo) yakiniku restaurant. You’ll see how it works.”
Why five, the reporter wonders. Maybe the source is bringing his girlfriend, his bodyguard – whoever.
The reservation made, the reporter shows up at the appointed time. The source, 10 minutes late, is alone. “Never mind,” he says. The waiter approaches, smiling. The source orders a lavish spread. “Instead of cheap fare for five,” he says, “we’ll enjoy the expensive course for two.” A peculiar feature of Go To Eat is that the number of points hinges not on how much you spend (beyond a minimum of 500 yen for lunch and 1,000 yen for dinner, imposed after early participants in the program ordered the very cheapest items on the menu) but on the number of people in your party.
“I know this restaurant,” the source explains – meaning the restaurant knows him, and agreed in advance to cooperate. A “party of five” earns points worth 5,000 yen – 3,000 yen beyond their actual entitlement as a party of two. “No big deal,” the source admits, “but I get a free meal and free drinks and the fact that you owe me a favor, and the only loser is the government.” Who cares about it?
“Look,” the source says, “we broke yakuza punks have to do this sort of thing. And you – you want to show your readers what dodges the yakuza are up to, with the cops and corona closing in on them, right? And you too want to poke your finger in the government’s eye, right? Well, for a lousy 3,000 yen you get a practical lesson in how to milk this Go To Eats program, so full of holes. If you wanna know how crooks operate, you gotta be a bit of a crook yourself!”© Japan Today