Information as of March 24th 2020. Updates will be added to this article.
UPDATED March 24th 2020
The coronavirus or COVID-19, as it is known in the science community, has led to an unprecedented lockdown of many Chinese cities, followed by safety measures undertaken in Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, South Korea and now Japan. Outside of Asia, Italy has enacted a quarantine, and many other European countries are taking measures like closing schools, remote work, curtailing the working hours of restaurants etc. The USA has cancelled sports games indefinitely, Broadway theaters go dark, and most travel from Europe to the US is currently suspended.
Learn more about the virus and how to protect yourself from reliable sources like the World Health Organization
Among other things, they have a dedicated section to travel advice amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
In the meantime, Japan is slowly following suit and scrambling to contain or at least slow down the coronavirus outbreak. A difficult task for a densely populated country, especially so for Tokyo and its notoriously crowded trains and jam-packed tourists attractions. This cannot come at a worse time for Japan too, as we are on the threshold of starting cherry blossom season and the Olympic and Paralympic Games scheduled in the coming summer.(read on for the state of the Olympics as of now)
However, the Japanese government has started urging companies and their employees to work from home, and whoever needs to go to work to be allowed flexible start times to avoid rush hour trains. Many international companies had already started just that, with big Japanese companies like Dentsu and Shiseido following the government recommendations. JR East trains as of now have in-train announcements with that same message. Sadly, this is still a recommendation, and not a ban.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announcing closing down of all schools for 1 month, graduation ceremonies cancelled or shortened, and all large gatherings need to be limited if not completely stopped. In order to stop the virus spreading in this vital phase, many major tourists attractions in Tokyo have started closing down, and events are being cancelled.
A lot of plum blossom and cherry blossom festivals are cancelled, the Meguro Cherry Blossom Festival being one of the most popular ones. The government has asked people to avoid doing hanami picnics and gatherings. Sadly, social media is showing the warnings are not being heeded.
No national emergency, no quarantine, no lockdown, no social distancing in Tokyo. I’m confused??? Hanami was in full effect as usual 🌸 pic.twitter.com/tSD7dzA6xa
— ✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ* 𝖊𝖇𝖚𝖓𝖓𝖞𝖇𝖊𝖊 *:･ﾟ✧*･ﾟ✧ (@ebunnybee) March 21, 2020
In order to avoid becoming an infection cluster, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Meguro has decided to close from March 20th to March 29th. The Roastery has a great view of the riverbank lined with cherry blossom trees, and being the biggest and most beautiful Starbucks in Japan it is generally crowded. It was a difficult decision for them, but they decided to err on the side of caution.
You want more insight into how big the virus is in Japan? Tokyo Disneyland is closing. This is the first time for such an extended closure since the 3/11 earthquake. pic.twitter.com/464QEMuIZe
— Gearoid Reidy (@GearoidReidy) February 28, 2020
Most theme parks started closing down temporarily at the end of February, but now they are announcing they will stay closed indefinitely, until further notice.
(click on the name of the place to go see the official announcement)
Disney Resort Japan – Disneyland and DisneySea extended their closure until April and said they will monitor the situation to decide on the reopening. A new section of Disneyland that was supposed to have a Grand Opening on April 14th will either be opened mid-May 2020 or later, depending on the situation.
Universal Studios Osaka – extended closure until March 29th for now.
Hello Kitty Land or Sanrio Puroland will stay closed until aerly April 2020, per latest information. Tickets will be refunded.
Yomiuri Land re-opened from March 23, 2020 (Monday) but only operate 28 outdoor attractions such as roller coasters.
– Indoor attractions, workshops, sea lion shows, and stage shows will be suspended and canceled
– Jewellumination will be open as planned.
– Special prices for various passes will be set due to limited operating attractions. For refund information, email email@example.com
Moomin Valley Park resumed business, but ask visitors to refrain from coming if feeling sick. Body temperature will be measured on the entrance, and if 37.7 degrees or higher, entrance will be refused. They also say that there might be times where they will limit the number of visitors to avoid congestion.
Tokyo Skytree extended its closure indefinitely and will refund all tickets. The shopping complex Solamachi is still open though.
Tokyo Tower has reopened, BUT they now measure visitors’ body temperature, refusing admission to those with fever 37.5 degrees or higher. They also halved the number of people allowed in an elevator, all staff wears mask, there are more handsanitizers available, and the facility is being cleaned more often than usual.
TOKYO ONE PIECE TOWER is still closed indefinitely. For now, they are refunding all tickets valid through March 31st. Refund procedure must be done by April 1st 2020. For details go to this website
All Tokyo ZOOs (Ueno Zoo, Tama Zoo, Inokashira Zoo, Kasai Rinkai Aquarium) have either closures or stopped events. Ueno Zoo and Kasai Rinkai Aquarium extended their closure until March 31st 2020 as of now. Inokashira Zoo and Tama Zoo are open but they stopped all events like animal feeding performances, petting zoo, workshops and so on. (announcement is Japanese only)
Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo Spring 2020 scheduled for the end of March was cancelled as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus. They instead doing online shows/presentations of the planned collections.
The Robot Restaurant has also cancelled its shows until March 8th and had now reopened. Their website does not state anything about measures taken to stop the spread of the virus.
Comedy clubs, live music shows and other small events around the city are now being closed and cancelled, following cancellations of big concerts and shows. It is all voluntary though, and no government ban had been issued. These are considered one of the most dangerous places for spreading the virus, and currently an Osaka cluster of infected people has been tracked to a live music show.
O AnimeJapan 2020 vai decorrer de 21 a 24 de março no Tokyo Big Sight, mas recentemente a organização avisou que devido ao coronavírus o evento poderá ser cancelado dependendo da situação em que o Japão se encontrará naquele momento.
— AnimeSpace (@AnimeSpace050) February 17, 2020
Among the more notable cancellations or postponements are:
– Anime Japan 2020, supposed to take place from March 21-24 at Tokyo Big Sight was cancelled;
– KNOTFEST 2020, music festival supposed to take place March 20th and 21st at Makuhari Messe, was postponed indefinitely;
Another tourist favourite decided to temporarily close its doors. Both teamLab Planets and Borderless museums decided to close between February 29th and March 15th 2020, to thwart coronavirus spreading.
That has now been extended indefinitely.
Museums are also closing down –
The National Museum of Nature and Science and The National Museum in Ueno in Tokyo was closed from February 29th to March 16th, and now that is extended indefinitely.
The National Museum of Western Art in Ueno also extended its closure indefinitely.
21_21 Design Sight extended closure until March 31st 2020, with possible future extensions. They also announce that when they reopen they might restrict the number of visitors.
Mori Art Museum extended its closure INDEFINITELY as well as the Mori gallery and the Skyview on top of Mori Building in Roppongi.
Other museums keep announcing closures, so be sure to check before going.
— 東京都庁広報課 (@tocho_koho) February 26, 2020
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is taking responsibility and stopping many events they sponsor, or at least postponing them or limiting the capacity of people. They are cancelling seminars, sports games, workshops, seasonal festivals and so on. There’s a list here https://www.seisakukikaku.metro.tokyo.lg.jp/information/event02.html that is being updated from time to time. (Japanese only)
The modern Olympics, have been canceled only due to war and Tokyo has lost them once already. The 1940 Tokyo Olympics were called off because of Japan’s war with China and World War II.
Right now, nothing is certain, with the International Olympic Committee saying they will consider the possibility of cancellation as well the possibility of postponement. The Tokyo Governor was adamantly against both, wanting to go ahead with the Olympics. Only recently have Japanese officials started hinting that they will consider postponement. This comes after weeks of criticism by international athletes, and a poll saying over 70% of Japanese people think the Olympics won’t go ahead as planned.
There have been many rumours, informal offers of other cities to take over (resulting in the Tokyo Governor taking offence), and even American President Donald Trump stating that he recommends postponement of the Olympics.
On Monday, March 23, Canada and Australia announced their decision to withdraw from the games, accelerating the expected postponement.
And on Monday 24th, an IOC Member Says Olympics Will Be Postponed Until 2021.
One of the first impacts of the coronavirus outbreak was the announcement that the Tokyo Marathon would be cancelled for General participants. This isn’t a total cancellation, as about 200 elite runners would be allowed to participate, but there are 39,000 people who were set to run and will now not be allowed to. However, they’ll be allowed to participate in 2021 as long as they pay the required fees for the 2021 event.
For more details about Tokyo Marathon and IOC check out our article Coronavirus: What Does the Tokyo Marathon’s Cancellation Mean For the Olympics?
The J-League Japan’s football (soccer) competition was among the first to cancel their matches up until March 15th (almost 100 matches total). This is huge, and it was followed by other sports – basketball, rugby, sumo. The basketball association has now cancelled all games until March 11th. The baseball matches will take place BUT the stadiums will have no audience as a precaution. Some rugby matches have been cancelled, with possibly more on the way. Same with tennis, volleyball, golf and other sport events.
The Sumo association decided to go ahead with its Spring Grand Tournament in Osaka scheduled for March 8th to 22nd 2020, but without spectators. This is a first in sumo’s long history.
As time passes more events might be cancelled, or if things get better some closures might get cut short. It would be best to always check the website or social media of the places you are planning to visit, so you don’t possibly end up going and wasting your day. Current closures get extended, or rules change.
And if worse comes to worst, Tokyo might go into lockdown.
Above all, stay safe, stay informed, and don’t panic.
: AC photo/