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Pachinko players leave Tokyo for Ibaraki after coronavirus shutdown

TOKYO (TR) – On April 7, Prime Minster Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and six prefectures due to the coronavirus pandemic. This week, the Chiba Prefectural Government followed suit.

For players of the upright pinball game pachinko, the mandates have encouraged the closure of parlors. However, some players are leaving the capital and Chiba for neighboring Ibaraki Prefecture, where the parlors remain open, reports Nippon News Network (Apr. 14).

On Tuesday, a crew with the network saw a number of vehicles with license plates from Tokyo and Chiba parked in lots for a parlor in Ibaraki.

“With no outlet, stress builds up to an unbelievable degree,” one female player told the network. “If a parlor is open, I want to go.”

Pachinko players from Tokyo and Chiba Prefecture are going to Ibaraki Prefecture to play (Twitter)

Contain the spread of the coronavirus

For its part, Maruhan Co., Japan’s largest pachinko operator, initially closed 16 parlors in the capital over the weekend of April 4 and 5. However, business resumed as usual on April 6. Maruhan parlors in Kanagawa and Chiba operated as usual over that period.

Things changed following Abe’s declaration on April 7. The following day, Maruhan shuttered 101 parlors in Tokyo the six prefectures in the declaration, including Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka prefectures. The figure is roughly one third of Maruhan’s 317 outlets nationwide.

On April 10, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike upped the pressure, revealing a list of businesses, including pachinko parlors, that would be asked to shut to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“I want all Tokyo residents to come together as one so we can overcome this national difficulty,” Koike said at a press conference, according to the Nikkei Shimbun.

Female pachinko player from Kashiwa City: “I heard that the parlors are open in Ibaraki”

“I heard that the parlors are open in Ibaraki”

The migration of pachinko players to get around the closures was observed before this week. According to the program “Asachan,” as broadcast on TBS, there was a line in front of a pachinko parlor in Moriya City, Ibaraki Prefecture before it opened on April 9.

Though “social distancing” of two meters is generally recommended, persons in line didn’t appear to be adhering to the suggestion. As well, the program found vehicles from Chiba’s Kashiwa and Noda cities, Saitama’s Kasukabe City and Tokyo’s Adachi Ward in the parking lot.

“The pachinko parlor I usually hit in Kashiwa is closed,” a female player told the program. “So when I heard that the parlors are open in Ibaraki, I came to a parlor here.”

At least one local resident wasn’t pleased with the development. “It’s scary,” the resident was quoted by the program. “I don’t want them moving around. I don’t know what to do.”

“Come in droves to Chiba”

Prior to issuing the state of emergency, Chiba Prefectural Governor Kensaku Morita anticipated a problem regarding similar migration into Chiba — a concern that forced his hand.

“It is expected that people will come in droves to Chiba [from neighboring Tokyo and Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures],” the governor told reporters on April 11, according to Jiji Press.