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Tokyo residents shrug off measures to curb COVID as Olympics begin

Tokyo: boozy indifference

On the eve of the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony, the government’s attempts to curb a coronavirus surge by targeting drinkers is drowning in liquor, frustration and indifference.

Japan has asked the city’s restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m., if not entirely, to deter people from socializing in close contact with strangers and spreading the virus. But instead, drinkers moved outdoors and Tokyo bars were bustling with defiant customers.

Those enjoying a drink on a recent weekday evening were hardly celebrating the Olympics. But the long emergency situation and the inconsistency of officials' words and actions isn't making Tokyo residents stay home.

“Nobody is convinced when (the government) victimizes people who are drinking alcohol without showing decent scientific evidence, even while going ahead with the Olympics,” said Mio Maruyama, a 28-year-old real estate industry worker who was chatting with her colleagues on the street in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.

She says she’s interested in watching the Games, especially new sports like skateboarding and Japan’s Rui Hachimura, an NBA star, “but when I think of how politicians are playing around with this, I’m not quite rooting for this event from my heart.”

On a quiet street in east Shinjuku, Naoto Suga picked up a can of lemon-flavoured liquor that his friend had just brought him. They sat on a curbside, along with around a dozen others who were also drinking on the street.

“We’ve been here every night for the past three days or so,” said Suga, 25, who works in a nearby apparel shop.

“I don’t think the Olympics itself made this (situation), but even before the Games, things like the state of emergency have remained half measures, and I think that’s making things worse,” he said. “People are all used to the state of emergency, so it’s getting less meaningful now.”



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