Does this mean young people are heeding the government’s advice to stay at home? 

Japan is currently standing at a critical juncture in its fight to contain the growing coronavirus pandemic, with Prime Minister Abe saying the country is “on the brink” of declaring a national emergency as the number of new cases continue to rise each day.

While a growing sense of uncertainty is being felt around the country, nowhere is the threat more great than in the nation’s capital of Tokyo. Just this past week, Tokyo has seen its number of new coronavirus cases double, reaching numbers greater than anywhere else in the country with a frighteningly high 97 new cases recorded in the city on 2 April. 

The steep rise in the curve has prompted Tokyo Governor, Yuriko Koike, to urge people to avoid going out at night, stay home as much as possible, and avoid all non-urgent and non-essential travel. While previous requests for restraint on outdoor activities did little to stop people from meeting up for hanami cherry blossom-viewing parties in parks, there’s now an increased sense of urgency to the message. This prompted our reporter P.K. Sanjun to wonder: Are young people now heeding the government’s advice to stay indoors?

If you want to see what the city’s young people are up to, the place to go is Harajuku, so P.K. took a walk to the area, stopping first at the shiny, new, recently opened Harajuku Station.

▼ The station at noon on Friday.

The footpath outside the station is usually packed with all sorts of people every day of the week — ordinarily you’d see international tourists stopping to take photographs, locals waiting to meet friends, and groups gathering at the crossings as they wait for the lights to change. Today, though, there was just a scattering of people around, and they all seemed to be individuals simply going about their business.

Crossing the street to the area’s famous Takeshita Dori, P.K. stopped for a moment to take it all in, as he’d never seen the usually crowded thoroughfare this quiet before.

▼ For a comparison, this is what Takeshita Dori usually looks like.

Normally crowded with people shoulder-to-shoulder, Takeshita Dori was now a shadow of its usual self. With school closures extended through April in Tokyo, P.K. had expected to see quite a few young people browsing the hip, youth-oriented stores and taking advantage of the holiday, but they just weren’t here.

▼ Most people appeared to be walking through the area to get to somewhere else.

As P.K. ventured further down the street, the stark contrast between the open stores and lack of customers made him wonder how much money these businesses stood to lose during the outbreak.

▼ No customers were to be found, even at the area’s most popular stores.

Just around the corner, at the Laforet Harajuku shopping complex, 90 percent of the people inside were store clerks. Given that recent interviews on television with young people at Shibuya Station revealed a number of them weren’t too concerned about the pandemic, P.K. was pleasantly surprised to see that young Harajuku lovers appeared to be putting a hold on their shopping trips to the area.

Despite his initial scepticism towards the attitude of millennials during the outbreak, P.K. left Harajuku feeling a glimmer of hope for the future. If people young and old continue to take the government’s advice to stay indoors seriously, Tokyoites stand a much better chance of flattening the rising curve that’s playing on everyone’s minds right now.

Here’s hoping the public stays vigilant in the long and drawn out fight that lies ahead, so we can get back to life as usual and avoid a possible lockdown in the capital.

Photos © SoraNews24
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