OSAKA (TR) – As the novel coronavirus pandemic began to unfold in earnest in February, some overseas media used the word “obedient” to describe Japanese people in attempting to explain why the penetration of the virus across the nation had been relatively moderate.
Whether such a descriptor is accurate or not is debatable, but this much is certain: It sure doesn’t apply to a lot of the nation’s pachinko parlor operators.
According to evening tabloid Nikkan Gendai (May 9), about 100 parlors in Tokyo and Osaka, Aichi, Kanagawa and other prefectures have reopened since the conclusion of the Golden Week holiday this week despite the ongoing state of emergency.
There are about 780 pachinko parlors in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Osaka Prefecture boasts around 700.
“We have already had more than 10 member parlors withdraw,” says the head of the Osaka Pachinko and Pachislot Cooperative Union, which has 604 member parlors. “They are saying they can’t comply with the request [that they remain closed].”
On Thursday, there were about 10 parlors in Tokyo that were open. That figure ballooned to around 50 the following day. In Osaka, the figure is around 30.
Standing a meter or so apart
In television footage shot on Thursday morning, dozens of patrons — standing a meter or so apart from one another — were shown lined up outside a parlor in Osaka Prefecture’s Sakai City before it opened.
At a parlor in Osaka City’s Asahi Ward, customers were instructed to use hand sanitizer, wear breathing masks and wash their hands. Their temperatures were taken upon entry.
The head of the union goes on to say that seeing such images on television only encourage operators to reopen.
“When seeing such a line on television, I think [operators] watching must be thinking that they can earn quite a profit if they open up,” the union head says.
Closed last month
After various measures were taken by prefectural governments last month, most parlors were closed as of April 30.
The initial state of emergency was due to conclude on Wednesday. However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe extended it until May 31.
Over the past few weeks, data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has shown the number of infections has dropped to about one third of its peak last month.
Earlier this week, Osaka Prefectural Governor Yoshimura Hirofumi announced a three-step exit strategy. One step includes the number of new cases with unclear infection routes dropping to below 10 each day.
The head of the pachinko union says that the union would like to wait until the exit strategy takes shape. “If we do our best, we can to the [three-step] exit,” the head says.