Imposing scene has some people now fearing the authorities. 

This weekend was the first since Prime Minister Abe declared a month-long state of emergency across seven of the country’s prefectures, including Tokyo, on 7 April. It was also the first weekend since Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike asked a number of businesses to close, including: night clubs, bars, cabaret clubs, karaoke joints, Internet cafeslive music venues, game arcades and mah-jongg and pachinko parlours.

With the government targeting drinking establishments and nightlife districts as high-risk places for coronavirus infections, Koike initially wanted izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) to close as well, but she eventually agreed to a compromise after pushback from Prime Minister Abe’s administration. Restaurants in the city are now being asked to limit their hours to 5 a.m.-8 p.m., with places that serve alcoholic drinks asked to close by 7 p.m.

Ahead of the weekend, Koike strongly urged people of the metropolis to protect lives by staying home during the next month, and before the business closures came into effect at midnight on Friday, the police were already out on the streets to ensure that the public were acting in line with the governor’s wishes.

Twitter user @sento1025 captured this video of three policemen in Kabukicho, Tokyo’s infamous red light district.

“Police have started parading about in Kabukicho, pressuring passersby to refrain from going out.”

The video, which has already received over 6 million views, shows the trio of policemen speaking to a group of men in suits who appear to have been out drinking in the area. Surrounded by cameras, the police officers strike a menacing pose with their batons out as a cop car drives by, blaring out a message for people to “stay home”.

According to reports, the police officers, from Shinjuku Police Station, were patrolling the streets of Kabukicho from 9 p.m. on Friday, keeping an eye out for people who may have been going out for one final hurrah before the closures came into effect at midnight.

Though the police have no legal powers to enforce the government’s requests for the public to stay home, due to civil liberties protected by the constitution, the police presence is an obvious attempt to drive the message to “stay home” home and make people aware of the seriousness of the situation.

Still, people who viewed the video were mostly unsettled by what they saw, leaving comments like:

“I don’t like seeing police officers with batons out like this — it makes me feel like we’re living under a police state.”
“It’s fine for them to tell people to go home, but they don’t need to have their batons out.”
“Police officers often have their batons in hand when they patrol downtown areas where there’s a lot of drinking because the risk of brawls are higher than usual.”
“This is usual for Kabukicho police.”
“I don’t know what people are complaining about. In other countries they have lockdowns where police can arrest you for going out.”

It’s true that in Japan, the police have no authority to arrest or fine people for simply going out in the midst of the current health crisis. That doesn’t mean they won’t be cutting an imposing presence out on the streets, though, especially in red-light districts like Kabukicho, which is home to a large number of bars and restaurants that usually remain open until the sun rises.

With the business closures and shortened operating hours in place until at least 6 May, we can expect to see more police patrolling the streets like this for a while. And considering that at least one man thought it was perfectly fine to visit a bar after testing positive for coronavirus, the police presence may be necessary to help protect people from themselves and those around them.

Source: Jin 
Featured image: Flickr/Dick Thomas Johnson 
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