One Tokyo restaurant is using lifelike mannequins to help diners keep social distance and stop the business feeling empty Photo: AFP/File
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'Model' customers keep Tokyo diners at social distance

37 Comments
By Philip Fong

The coronavirus pandemic might have left many restaurants empty, but one establishment in Tokyo is relying on some model customers to enforce social distancing: life-like mannequins keeping diners from getting too close.

Masato Takemine's Chinese restaurant looks busy even as many businesses in the city deal with a dearth of clientele, with ladies in ornate Chinese-style dresses and a girl in a kimono among those seated at his tables.

But the 16 customers are actually mannequins he has placed randomly at tables to keep diners from getting too close.

"At first I removed some of the tables to have more space in between, but it then looked so lonely, as if the restaurant was under renovation," Takemine told AFP. "With these mannequins, the restaurant looks busy from the outside, and I can make sure customers are distancing themselves.

"It's also fun, giving us a jolly feeling," he giggled.

While Japan has avoided the devastating tolls since in places hit hardest by the coronavirus, many restaurants shut their doors during a state of emergency and even after it was lifted in May, the industry has seen customers shun eating out.

Takemine's restaurant Kirin Saikan reopened in late May but sees about half the number the customers it did before the virus, he said.

Among those returning was 51-year-old Tetsuya Kimura, who said he was startled when he walked through the entrance curtains for the first time after the reopening and saw the mannequins.

"These dolls look so real that I need some time to get used to them," he said, tucking into a bowl of noodles at a table he was sharing with a child mannequin.

Takeichi Otomo, 82, another frequent customer at the restaurant, said he struggled to not look too shocked at the beginning.

"I still get startled when I come here," he said with a straight face. "This is a crazy idea!"

While the mannequins keep the restaurant from feeling too empty, Takemine said he often thinks with longing about when his customers could visit with family and friends and enjoy carefree laughs and chats over platters to share.

"I don't think we can go back to those times for many months," he said. "I am just hoping we will return to normal while creating an environment where people can eat and drink safely."

© 2020 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.


37 Comments
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It is good to see people eating out and having the money to do so!

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Just separate diners accordingly. No need for ridiculous ideas like this.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

creepy

14 ( +18 / -4 )

This is a great idea, because nothing stirs the hunger more than being surrounded by a bunch of cold staring mannequins

11 ( +15 / -4 )

I like it. For those who don't, there is always a McDonald's nearby.

-6 ( +6 / -12 )

why are these models made to look like foreigners?

5 ( +10 / -5 )

Soon. all Japanese companies will be full of models to hide bankrupts.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Kraftwerk for muzak?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

nostromoToday  07:17 am JST

why are these models made to look like foreigners?

Japanese does not like them-self. simply

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Ive never understood the practice of sitting people next to each other in empty restaurants. Anybody have an idea why Japanese do this?

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Ive never understood the practice of sitting people next to each other in empty restaurants. Anybody have an idea why Japanese do this?

Drives me up the wall too. If I can't sit where I choose I walk out.

I also won't be going into a restaurant that's creepy like this one thank you.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Well in Japan, restaurants and stores that look crowded attract more people to check it out, so in theory it may work on Japanese customers. Half empty places are not considered desirable.

However, it is easier and cheaper to remove the chairs for every other table to enforce social distancing. That is what some of the places in my area are doing who want families to eat there.

The small private owned eateries that are popular with young adults and middle age salary workers have not done much in my area to make it safe.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I’m torn on this. On one hand, I understand the idea, and yeah, it makes the restaurant look busier than it is. Which helps him get more business, and also helps people feel more comfortable going in. But that’s where it stops basically, going in. Because after a while, it’s a very eerie feeling. And yes, as some of you said, it’s quite creepy as well. At least after a while anyways.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Its all fun and games until some poor schmucks wife gets emailed a grainy photo of her hubby out on a date with a hot 'model'

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The world has gone stark raving mad.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Dolls are now called “ladies”?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Didn't we have a near similar article a few weeks ago?

I am no expert but as far as I have seen the restaurants and bars in the area I live have been quite full.

Ok I do not live in or frequent areas like Shibuya, Shinjuku, etc...

But the Shitamachi areas local establishments and family restaurants are fairly well packed.

The really sad part is that so many small places are now gone.

They could not survive the stay home and business closure time, could not pay their rents or employee, etc...

Now all that is left near stations are chain restaurants.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Dude in the beanie cap looks almost real! ;)

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@TokyoJoe

I am not sure where you are from but such practices are normal in many countries.

Restaurants tend to try and sit people in the same area so service staff for not have to run from one side to the other.

In larger restaurants staff are usually assigned a section and then place people evenly in each section.

If only one service staff is working, one client in one corner and one client at the other end means that this person has to run back and forth back and forth, so by placing people in the same area they can serve them better or at least that's the thinking.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Takeichi Otomo, 82, another frequent customer at the restaurant, said he struggled to not look too shocked at the beginning.

"I still get startled when I come here," he said with a straight face. "This is a crazy idea!"

I'm with Takeichi.

why are these models made to look like foreigners?

"International" look.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Why aren't they wearing masks?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I swear I saw something similar on the Twilight Zone when I was a kid.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Serrano

The simple answer is that they are more abundant and cheaper.

Most Asian countries do not really like using life like mannequin especially those that resemble the local population.

If you notice most stores use ones with no heads and no life like features.

If they do use life like ones they are almost always non Asian.

I guess this is their way of making something exotic or fashionable.

It is similar in comics/anime. Japanese find it strange even a bit disturbing to have characters looking like real people, thus the exaggerated eyes, large heads and other exaggerated features.

Now I learned this working in retail here in Japan finding an Asian mannequin that is exactly like a real person is extremely hard and most places don't want them.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Weird, just weird.....

4 ( +4 / -0 )

 If I can't sit where I choose I walk out.

In my restaurant, we generally would let such people walk out. There is a lot more to seating than the average customer knows. Aside from waiter stations, the best tables may be reserved, for example. A first time customer who walks in a demands the best table in the house is generally not going to be a great customer, will almost certainly be demanding and cheap, will upset the staff, and may even disturb the ambience for other customers. So, better to let them walk away.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The world has gone stark raving mad.

That's a big 10-4.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Who would have thought it..the Japanese being weird.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

On reflection, at first I thought this was weird, but Europe has doll brothels and the Canadian govt recommends glory holes.

my grandmother would turn in her grave.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

can we stop the ridiculousness and do something productive?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why couldn’t they just put signs on the table instead of these creepy things?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kraftwerk for muzak?

They need a mannequin that looks like Grace Slick. God bless the 1980s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wxyN3z9PL4

1 ( +1 / -0 )

'Model' customers keep Tokyo diners at social distance

Yup. Those 'Model' customers make me want to social distance from that restaurant for sure.

Good luck.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

She stupidity becomes reality, this is what it looks like!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Looks like they bought them from a Korean soccer league team.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm still waiting for the Fembots to become a reality.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I meant "When sheer stupidity becomes a reality, this is what it looks like!"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This approach is far less creepy.

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/balham-teddy-bears-tagine-a4514276.html

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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