In Tokyo, as many health protocols… as there are restaurants

You can’t miss the sign, it’s over a meter high at the entrance to the Pasela Resorts restaurant. These are the health instructions in front of the Covid-19: wearing of the mask to the table, compulsory temperature measurement, hand disinfection. It also explains the protocol followed by the staff. In this restaurant and entertainment complex in the chic Ginza district of Tokyo, the client is forced to present his face in front of a tablet that illuminates and captures his face, checks the wearing of the mask and takes the temperature. “Above 37.5 degrees, we refuse entry. The average body temperature of the Japanese is around 36.7 ”, explains to Point Masaya Kiyohara, boss of Pasela Resorts where restaurants number in the hundreds.

Here, we put the karaoke on mute, but reopened the private rooms for drinking or dinner. “The inhabitants of Tokyo or the region do not invite home and when they dine with friends in the restaurant they appreciate a private space”, specifies the manager. These small dining rooms are very common. It is not easy, however, to bring customers back when the authorities explain that the places where the contagion is strongest correspond almost to the description of the restaurants: it is closed, there are many of us, we remove the mask, we talk a lot. “We have installed air purifiers in all private rooms (sometimes without windows),” says Kiyohara.

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Nothing has really changed

From boui-boui with three counter covers to large 3-star tables, passing by taverns (izakaya) or real gastronomic complexes, the 160,000 restaurants in Tokyo do not all follow the same rules. The municipality has, of course, drawn up a “guide to good practice”, but implementing them is up to everyone. In the restaurant area of ​​a department store, where there are long narrow tables in which several couples or groups can sit opposite, small Plexiglas panels have been placed to separate customers. Efficiency does not appear guaranteed, but it reassures nonetheless. Other establishments are fortunate to be originally designed to accommodate single people (“ohitori-sama”), a type of pampered client. He or she usually wants peace; facing his plate in a sort of cabin closed on three sides, sometimes with a “pass-through hole” in front. This slightly disturbing configuration before coronavirus now appears almost ideal. Finally, some people have posted a sort of certificate of good antiviral health behavior on their door, a document whose veracity is not guaranteed.

Temperature measurement at the entrance of a restaurant
© Karyn Nishimura-Doll

The fact remains that many places have not changed their habits enormously. The very small neighborhood restaurants, which have sometimes remained open at reduced hours during the almost two months of state of emergency, are content to install a bottle of hydroalcoholic liquid at the entrance and to put on masks for the staff. . The big chains, they have defined a stricter protocol which also serves as a communication argument to attract customers while the turnover of the restaurant industry plummeted by 40% in April. Then, in between, there are medium-sized establishments that try to find the right compromise. “It is difficult for us to know how we are going to reconfigure our room, but we cannot keep the same number of places,” admits Takashi Imanari, owner of Relais Sakura, a restaurant with around 30 covers, Western style, in a residential area. He opted for it while waiting for the “takeout”.

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