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Real Life Stories from Japan’s Coronavirus Economy

SNA (Tokyo) — The arrival of the Covid-19 coronavirus on Japanese shores is having dramatic effect on people’s lives, as it is in most of the world. But beyond the macro trends and economic statistics are ordinary people struggling with fears for the future and trying to make ends meet. Through no fault of their own, their livelihoods have suddenly been threatened. Here we let them briefly tell their stories in their own words.

April 8, 2020

“I’m a student in Japan, I’ve been working in a sushi restaurant as a part timer since December. I live in Chiba and since Abe’s declaration, my restaurant decided to close from tomorrow until the beginning of May. I of course understand the reasons for the closing, but as a student this job is necessary. The company didn’t announce any compensation for the workers, and is forcing those who can to take paid leave.”

–Student worker in Chiba

April 5, 2020

“Healthwise, my family and I are doing well. However, I have been very hard-hit financially in two ways. As a per lesson instructor at [a language school], I am currently only getting two or three lessons a week, and I suspect I may even get no lessons at all in the coming weeks. My manager is supportive, and has been doing his best to allocate me lessons where possible. However, there are just not enough lessons to go around, even for the full-time instructors. Hence, my salary from [the language school] for this coming pay period will be virtually zero. I also teach part-time at [a university]. The semester was originally slated to start mid-April, but has been postponed till May 11, which means I will only get my paycheck from there in mid-June. Therefore, currently, I am looking at a situation with virtually zero income for the months of April and May, and am at a complete loss of what to do.”

–Language instructor in Tokyo

April 4, 2020

“I work in retail, and since last week after Governor Koike’s request that people avoid going out on weekends the department store where my store is located is shutting down on Saturday and Sunday. We were totally unprepared for this scenario, even though it’s just a repetition of everything that is happening everywhere else in the world. My company is taking those days from my paid holidays, and the same goes for all of my colleagues. Working in retail doesn’t allow for a work-from-home policy, and I realize for companies we end up being a massive costs to handle. But with the elite delaying the state of emergency, and hence trying their best to have a quarantine that will inevitably be needed to be the longest ever, I wonder what will happen when my ten days of paid holiday a year will be gone.”

–Retail worker in Tokyo

April 3, 2020

“I’m doing everything I can to keep us in business, so although there are no customers, still working really hard. To say we’ve been hit is not the word at all, believe me. Try run over by stampeding buffalo. I don’t know if there will be anything left of it at the end. Been two months of almost no customers, and we still have around $15,000 a month in bills, so not only no money left but debt growing at an unmanageable rate. We have to pay our bills whether there are customers there or not. Even if we closed down, the bills would not be that much different. So, if this continues much longer and the government does not have a significant relief plan, I will have to close it down and go back to California. They need to suspend taxes overall for like six months or something, not just consumption taxes. But I think they need to follow some of the things the United States is doing like suspending loan and mortgage/rent payments and encouraging landlords to negotiate rent rates for some time. If tons of people have to vacate their offices/business spaces/homes because they lost their jobs, the landlords will end up with nothing anyway. My friend said they are doing that very actively in Sydney now.”

–Traci Consoli, Owner of The Pink Cow – Restaurant, Art Bar & Funky Space in Akasaka, Tokyo

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