Asia Minute: Japan Fights COVID-19 from Vacations to Pachinko

Apr 27, 2020

This could be a crucial week when it comes to fighting the spread of the coronavirus in Japan. The country will soon launch into “Golden Week” — a series of holidays which is usually one of the biggest travel periods in the country. But of course, this year is different.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is urging residents to stay home during the coming series of holidays known as “Golden Week.” Abe says “It is now an extremely important period for bringing the state of emergency to a swift close.”

It’s also a test for the government’s powers of persuasion.

Abe declared a state of emergency in seven urban areas on April 8th — only extending it to the entire country about a week later. But there are no enforcement elements, which has complicated actions that may seem relatively simple – like asking pachinko parlors to stay closed.

Pachinko is a loud, lively kind of vertical pinball, with steel balls clattering down through pins and wheels with beeps, buzzes, and other noises.

No social distancing in this game, stools are wedged together tightly enough to choke on your neighbor’s cigarette smoke – unless you’re in the newly installed no smoking sections.

Some pachinko parlors have closed under the state of emergency, many others have not — much to the annoyance of government officials.

The Osaka Prefectural government took further steps Friday, releasing the names of half a dozen parlors that have stayed open – hoping that where fines cannot be imposed, naming and shaming just might work.