The four-panel manga was shared on Twitter by the Kyoto City Information Center on Feb 12. Photo: City of Kyoto
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Kyoto slammed for manga telling people not to talk at restaurants

35 Comments
By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

Ever since the pandemic began, Japan has been targeting restaurants as one of the primary risk spots for infection, with the main reason being that people inevitably have to remove their masks to eat.

And while some local governments have been asking restaurants to close their doors early at 8 p.m., to prevent diners from overdoing it on booze which tends to lead to loud talking without masks, the coronavirus doesn’t just come out at night, so people are now being asked to practice mokushoku, or “silent eating”, no matter what time they eat out at a restaurant.

While this seems to make sense, seeing as COVID-19 is an airborne virus, some people have been pushing back against the idea, even in Kyoto, where the city has now introduced a four-panel manga to help promote silent eating.

In the first panel, a character called Isamu enters a ramen restaurant and notices it’s quiet inside, even though a family is eating there. On the wall beside them is a blue poster, with mokushoku written on it in kanji, which asks people to eat in silence. These blue posters are being used a lot these days in restaurants and they’ve been widely shared on social media.

Kyoto-silent-eating-mokushoku-manga-comic-1.jpg

While Isamu waits for his order to arrive, he sees the family communicating to each other via smiles and hand gestures to express their thoughts on how good the meal is. Two of them give each other the thumbs-up sign while the other family member puts their hands above their head to form a maru circle, a gesture used to mean “good” in Japan. Isamu thinks to himself, “So this must be silent eating. This is great!”

Kyoto-silent-eating-mokushoku-manga-comic-2.jpg

When Isamu eats his ramen, he follows the example shown to him by the family, giving the staff a thumbs up while thinking “It’s delicious!” The staff smile in return and he feels that the meal enjoyed silently is really tasty.

Kyoto-silent-eating-mokushoku-manga-comic-3.jpg

Isamu sees the family leave the restaurant and it’s only then, when they’re outside with their masks covering their faces that they talk to each other, saying that the meal was delicious and they’d like to come back again. This last panel encourages everyone to “Do what you can when you can, bit by bit”.

Kyoto-silent-eating-mokushoku-manga-comic-4.jpg

The panel makes things pretty straightforward, laying out step-by-step alternatives to speaking for anyone confused by what mokushoku means, and Kyoto is keen for everyone to follow these guidelines when dining out.

However, what sounds good in theory might not be so great in practice, as a surprisingly large number of people were quick to criticize the idea online, saying:

“Wow, this doesn’t sit well with me.”

“I’m honestly surprised that the city’s PR team is sending out this kind of thing.”

“Seeing Kyoto send out messages like this makes me not want to go there.”

“I feel sorry for restaurants in Kyoto. It must be hard for them to have to go along with this because the city is promoting it.”

“So our vocal cords are going to degenerate now?”

“Who wants to eat out if you can’t talk? I don’t want to go to a place where I’d feel afraid to talk.”

While some people were put off by the city’s requests for silent eating, others were put off by the opposition to it, saying:

“I don’t understand why this is getting so much criticism. Isn’t the city just trying to protect everybody?”

“This is the best way to save both the economy and the medical system right now.”

“Once you get used to mokushoku, even children can do it–it’s really not that difficult.” 

“There’s too much anti self-restraint going on right now.”

“There are a lot of idiots who don’t understand that talking without a mask can spread the virus. No wonder it’s still spreading.”

It’s sad to see the city’s efforts to reach out to people and educate them on an important issue is falling on a lot of deaf ears, especially when they went to the trouble of creating a lighthearted manga to make the heavy topic more approachable. 

Hopefully more people than not will be willing to abide by Kyoto’s requests for silent eating though, because, as they say, doing what we can when we can will go a long way towards making a big difference. And if silent eating is going to help other customers feel safer when dining out, that’ll lead to more diners and better business for owners, which is particularly important when so many longstanding businesses are sadly being forced to close their doors.

Source: City of Kyoto via Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

35 Comments
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There’s too much anti self-restraint going on right now.

Bingo. My sentiments exactly.

This commentator hit the nail on the head. Which is usually not welcome in Japan, but in this case is spot on.

I am supportive of the economy, but rather than going out to eat, I get carryout to support restaurants in and around my area.

At least two of the clusters of infections have been specifically linked to eating establishments where patrons ate, drank and talked there way into getting infected.

13 ( +21 / -8 )

How about silent walking too? Then, they will have completely succeeded in another step towards total control of people by using the virus. After all, robots don’t talk either.

-9 ( +15 / -24 )

How about full packed meetings at work?

Also with gestures?

I really want to see that!

I hope that the vaccine will bring all this BS to an end!

2 ( +16 / -14 )

Children are going to grow up without social skills.

Bit late for that already.

23 ( +27 / -4 )

I hope that the vaccine will bring all this BS to an end!

@Monty, totally agree.

-2 ( +9 / -11 )

How about full packed meetings at work? 

Also with gestures?

J govt is working on that. Women make up 50% of the population so banning them from speaking in meetings will reduce the virus by, 50%.

26 ( +28 / -2 )

Its cold in Kyoto these days so I won’t bother going anyway...

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Glad I went there years ago, before they got too full of themselves.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

While this seems to make sense, seeing as COVID-19 is an airborne virus, some people have been pushing back against the idea

COVID-19 is not exclusively an airborne virus, it survives on surfaces (transferred after one touches their mask, for example), as pointed out by the WHO itself. There is inherent 'risk' of transmission to almost all facets of daily life.

Luckily your chances to succumb to the virus are miniscule. Cancer and heart disease are still more of a threat to you. This means that you can spend many more years virtue signalling and bullying people in a variety of social settings to your heart's content...

-3 ( +9 / -12 )

Good time to practice sign language.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

If love to practice sign-language with the author of this article btw...

1 ( +5 / -4 )

How dare you @kuripisu! First, you attack Osaka and, now you are putting down Kyoto.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

If people are scared of the one talking in restaurants, they should not go to restaurants. That’s as simple as that. Asking people to refrain talking, and JR East does it is BS, like these face shields for non medical workers.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

A few months back, in a restaurant, my wife and I were asked to eat in front of each other with a plastic sheet between us. We could not seat next to each other though it would not have been this sheet.

I strongly complained and left the restaurant straight. Some of the corona measures are pure BS fed by the media fear mongering.

Take it easy, simple measures and it is ok.

13 ( +20 / -7 )

It's a tricky one. I went to McDonalds yesterday and the tables around me had young teens chatting in groups. Admit I was very uncomfortable, and put my mask on and got the hell out as soon as I finished. Most times I do takeaway, but that wasn't an option yesterday.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

I reckon 80% of restaurants have food that is so meh that I wouldn't bother going if I had to pay to eat it in silence. Restaurants in Kyoto included (former Kansai resident).

I'm happy to pay to eat at restaurants I like, but not that often because we are a family of five. I rarely went to restaurants with my family as a child, and I don't see it as some indispensable part of life. It's certainly not one that should be celebrated on TV every single day.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

In the first panel, a character called Isamu enters a ramen restaurant and notices it’s quiet inside, 

No it's not. As he enters, the staff are shouting いらっしゃいませ at the top of their voices. As usual.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

I have a confession to make. I have given in to my better judgment on a few occasions and gone to a few of my favorite eating establishments before this awful pandemic began. I do it for a couple of reasons. One, I just want to get out and do something normal again. Two, out of a sense of loyalty, I want to support my favorite spots so that they will have enough business to enable them to stay in business. However, I try to avoid the most crowded times & days and try to go when there are fewer people.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Once upon a time, we did one thing at a time. When it was time to eat, we ate, only ate, no talking. When it was time to watch TV, that's what we did, no talking. Many rural communities still follow this, they concentrate on eating, no talking.

I don't see what's wrong in what Kyoto is promoting, especially in a pandemic. Talking is so overrated.

-10 ( +4 / -14 )

I have a confession to make. I have given in to my better judgment on a few occasions and gone to a few of my favorite eating establishments before this awful pandemic began

Nothing wrong with that. You aren't breaking any law or even any guideline.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

A few months back, in a restaurant, my wife and I were asked to eat in front of each other with a plastic sheet between us. We could not seat next to each other though it would not have been this sheet.

Yeh I've seen couples driven away in disappointment because of idiotic inflexible seating arrangements. Meanwhile a group of friends are shouting at each other across the separated seats. Pointless.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Its cold in Kyoto these days so I won’t bother going anyway...

My kids and I are in Kyoto today wearing short sleeves. There have been a lot of really warm days in Kansai recently. Will get cold again in a couple of days though.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So it’s a case of “we want your money but don’t want you to enjoy being here and talking?”

I think it’s very Japanese. “We want your money. We don’t want you though.” Am I wrong?

Also, about kids lacking skills here. Are they taught them? @burningbush

0 ( +4 / -4 )

There are people who eat with louder sound than the people who talk in low voice. Picture 3 is right for them, eating with mouth closed and give thumbs up and down.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Is this the stepping stone for social sign language-ing? Lol.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Comment: "I think it’s very Japanese. “We want your money. We don’t want you though.” Am I wrong?" Not if you add, "And when you leave, please say good comments about us!"

In any case, I bet the people who designed this poster then went out and had an enkai to celebrate it -- a very much talking enkai, to boot. Government representatives have shown time and again they don't follow their own advice and suggestions, I'm not going to go meeting friends at restaurants and be silent while we dine. Sorry. Make it law, and I'll obey, but asking me to go out and spend but telling me not to enjoy myself while doing it, no thanks. I'm all for a strict lockdown to end this plague, but they don't want to do that, and will make no laws to ensure people follow guidelines, so I'll do the same as they do.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I’ll find a restaurant that allows talking.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

By the way, absolute silence and not speaking at the table during the meals was normal education standard when I was a child. When talking too much or in the wrong moment, moving around instead of silently sitting still or the worst, playing with something unrelated for instance a little toy or figure , there was strict punishment immediately and right at the table, a cut in pocket money or even a real physical slap into the face. Yes, even for not sitting vertically, playing with tablecloth or tableware etc. , sitting a little bit relaxed leaning over the table....lol So as for me, I don’t know what that talking and complaining is all about. I still feel imaginary punishment when hearing or trying myself that slurping of Japanese ramen. Yes, we had hard times, but also good times without such a virus lifestyle. Just everything or most things different from today. Maybe I would have been slaughtered, if there already were smartphones and I had that taken to the table and looked at it or even played, like everyone does today....lol

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

But, but..... a few months ago TV said that Japanese is the language that did not spread airborne particles and viruses. Do you remember the "これはペンです/this is a pen" ridiculous TV demonstration? Therefore, it is ok to talk in restaurants!

Rather, it is better to make panels to teach customers about to properly wash their hands (especially after going to the toilet). In restaurants, in malls, in workplaces, I almost saw people that just wash the tips of their fingers with few drops of water.

Properly wash hands is surely a better and effective way to prevent the virus.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

instead of talking make sure you keep customers from emitting digestive gases from the anus, especially with accompanying sound lol what can be worse? Aye?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Do they put those posters in izakayas also?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not a lot of talking to be had among families in the first place. So many families are glued to their smart phones.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sven AsaiToday  06:07 pm JST

By the way, absolute silence and not speaking at the table during the meals was normal education standard when I was a child. When talking too much or in the wrong moment, moving around instead of silently sitting still or the worst, playing with something unrelated for instance a little toy or figure , there was strict punishment immediately and right at the table, a cut in pocket money or even a real physical slap into the face. Yes, even for not sitting vertically, playing with tablecloth or tableware etc. , sitting a little bit relaxed leaning over the table....lol So as for me, I don’t know what that talking and complaining is all about. I still feel imaginary punishment when hearing or trying myself that slurping of Japanese ramen. Yes, we had hard times, but also good times without such a virus lifestyle. Just everything or most things different from today. Maybe I would have been slaughtered, if there already were smartphones and I had that taken to the table and looked at it or even played, like everyone does today....lol

That explains a lot.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Tokyo-m. A small voice says the simpler いらっしゃい 'irasshai' from behind the glass shield as Osamu enters.

In Andrea Camilleri's excellent Inspector Montalbano crime series, Montalbano loves to eat good Sicilian food in silence with full concentration, despising those that speak during meals. (Not reflected in the screen versions, sadly.)

So a case can be made either way, but the popular mood in Japan today is definitely for watching your mouth when eating out. It's not easy, but I guess it's all in a good cause, confounding the cunning propagation plans of the virions, and incidentally helping restaurants to stay in business.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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