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SPORTS

Tokyo’s drinkers drown frustrations over limits

OLYMPICS By Associated Press | July 22nd 2021
People walk around before getting into a restaurant/bar in Tokyo on Friday, July 9, 2021. [AP Photo/Hiro Komae]

On the eve of the Tokyo Olympics, the government’s attempt 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 8pm, if not entirely, to keep people from socialising in close contact with strangers and spreading the virus, but the state of emergency hasn’t deterred many. Instead, drinkers moved outdoors, and many bars in Tokyo’s famed nightlife districts are bustling with defiant customers.

“Nobody is convinced when (the government) victimises 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.”

A woman wearing a protective mask poses in front of a Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games countdown clock one day ahead of their start, in Tokyo, Japan, July 22, 2021. [REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon]

“It’s not that we are breaking the rules just because we’re against the inconsistency between politicians’ words and actions,” she said, referring to a 40-person reception for International Olympic Committee members on Sunday that included the prime minister and the governor of Tokyo. “But when you see such things, you might think that rulebreakers were right in doing what they’re doing.”

The IOC reception happened at a time when the public is barred from going to parties or even attending most Olympic events. Many Japanese are frustrated by that contrast — but are hardly staying home.

At around 9:30pm in Shinjuku, people crisscrossed in front of the world’s busiest train terminal. Nighttime turnout was modest compared to before the pandemic, but bar districts like Kabukicho were still illuminated with neon lights from a few food establishments.

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