By Hiroshi SAKURAI, May 2021
Recently, I've been thinking about this and over the next couple of days, I'll be discussing the specifics of what I'm going to do with the people I consider to be my allies in this endeavor.
If you are interested in signing the petition, I would appreciate your cooperation.
We have been facing surges of coronavirus infections, back and forth, mainly in the urban areas of Kanto and Kansai (i.e. Tokyo, Osaka). Although the government has declared a state of emergency, as recommended by experts, medical associations, and prefectural governors, we observe that the crowds in Tokyo and other areas have not decreased much this time. This is not because people are tired of living with the virus, but rather because many do not believe in the effectiveness of this time’s emergency declaration (especially the restrictions that can be said to target only food-service businesses).
After all, the fact that of the local officials or even official from the Ministry of Health, who are the ones imposing these restrictions, themselves continued to meet and eat late into the night, is an inexcusable breach of trust. This fact only came to light because there were infected people, but it seems that there were quite a few other "rule-breaking" activities going on.
Oh, and the same goes for the politicians. At the end of the day, no one believes in the effectiveness of these restrictions. Even though they don't believe in it, they still impose restrictions on restaurants, like bullies.
However, as a result of these repeated restrictions on business hours or on prohibiting serving alcohol, many restaurants across the country seem to be exhausted and many are on the verge of bankruptcy.
In fact, I am told that some of them plan to wait until they get the subsidies coming in June before closing their business. Some of them would rather go bankrupt before having to start paying back the subsidies.
Naturally, the bankruptcy or insolvency of restaurants will lead to the chain bankruptcy of its food and drink suppliers, which in turn will have a tremendous impact on the rice farmers, vegetable producers, fish and meat producers who supply them. Of course, it would have a significant impact on sake producers such as us.
Right now, Japan needs to run its economy while preventing infections. However, if nothing is done, we will witness the huge impact on local economies.
But as far as local authorities and the relevant agencies are concerned, it seems they only care about hiding under the banner of virus spread prevention measures. They seem to not care about looking at what restaurants have to sacrifice and the resulting exhaustion of the local economy.
There has not been a lot of public outcry from restaurants. The nature of the industry is such that there are only a few large companies: it is difficult for them to have a unified opinion and it is a disadvantage. However, this does not mean that politicians can impose their policies on them because they are quiet.
It would be unbearable to see these restaurants go out of business, those who have been conveying the charm of Japanese food culture to the world.
Therefore, I would like to propose to review the restrictions on restaurant operating hours. Right now, they are closing at 8 p.m. and stopping serving alcohol at 7 p.m.: this causes too much damage to them. Moreover, this restriction also creates dense conditions inside restaurants and on the way home at specific times.
How about allowing restaurants able to maximize table rotation to open if they limit the seats capacity to 50%, just like in the United States of America?
For example: 17:00 to 18:30, 19:00 to 20:30, 21:00 to 22:30… etc.
In the case of French restaurants, the opening hours could be longer if they open less, maybe twice a day?
The purpose is to normalize the management of restaurants by extending business hours.
The food and beverage industry is a large part of the local economy, which is said to account for 80% of employment in Japan. As a consequence, it is necessary to take measures to prevent the virus spread while protecting the restaurant industry jobs and management.
I want to somehow prevent the increase in the number of people in need due to business failure and unemployment caused by the coronavirus spread. I also believe that the Japanese economy cannot be supported by the global economy alone, which is carried by large corporations. It is important for Japan that the food and beverage industry remains healthy and continues to be a source of employment.
We should proceed on countermeasures such as efficient management of hospital beds, a calm risk-assessment of vaccines approval and their (efficient) vaccination, and thorough PCR testing (In Hiroshima, the number of cases is low compared to the size of the population as a result of drastic PCR testing. That’s thanks to Governor Yuzaki!).
What we must not forget is the respect for the medical professionals who are struggling in the field, and the will and unity as a society that will never allow slander against them or their families.
Jacques Attali from France is said to be Europe's foremost contemporary intellect, and Markus Gabriel from Germany, is said to be the most notable philosopher in the world today, unexpectedly expressed the same opinion in their respective latest books, saying that it is dangerous to make policy decisions based solely on the opinions of infectious disease scholars. Although France and Germany seem to have slightly different infection control measures and situations, both intellectuals seem to agree that we should not be hurting the economy beyond a certain point, as it would certainly lead to misery.
As a matter of fact, I am happy to report here that overseas exports of Dassai are doing well, especially in Asia. As long as we can find containers, which are in tight supply and demand worldwide, we are expecting more growth in our exports: the situation in the US and Europe is not as bad as in Japan.
In other words, the economic landscape of each country that we, sake producers see through the orders we receive, comparatively makes Japan look like a "lone loser in the world”.
As a matter of fact, one of my acquaintances advised me that if I insist on proposing to review the restrictions on restaurants, I will be attacked and slandered by certain people.
But it seems to me that every one of us will have to pay the price for this poor management of the virus spread. And that's why I have to raise the voice.
“Without a revival of the local economy, Japan will not be able to recover.”
In modern Japan, after seeing globalization and the digital revolution, even if global companies like the GAFAs would appear, we cannot expect them to create significant employment.
On the other hand, 80% of people work in the local economy, and if we can create a society where they are treated well, Japan will regain its wealth.
“New L-economy” (Shin L-gata Keizai): Co-authored by Kazuhiko Tomiyama and Soichiro Tahara