When people stay away, the rats come out to play. 

Up until these past two weeks, the Japanese government has been handling the coronavirus outbreak with a relatively light hand. For a while, the only advice being given to the public was that they should refrain from congregating in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces where people converse in close proximity, which meant day-to-day life has been proceeding pretty much as normal.

However, now that cases are rising steadily, particularly in the nation’s capital, the Prime Minster declared a month-long state of emergency for seven of the country’s worst-hit areas on 7 April, and the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, is now firmly pushing for businesses to close and for everyone to stay home.

While these requests can’t be enforced due to the civil liberties preserved in the Japanese Constitution, images from some of Tokyo’s busiest areas show a vast majority of people appear to be following the governor’s calls to stay indoors.

Live cam footage from the Shibuya Scramble Crossing, famous for being the world’s busiest intersection, shows just how few people there are in Shibuya right now.

Shibuya is usually heaving with crowds of people day and night, but now that there’s less human activity in the area, another type of activity has been spotted emerging from the cracks and crevices of the streets.

Twitter user @fields81113, who posted the above photos, included this message with the tweet:

“I saw a rat in Centre Gai [one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares located off the Scramble Crossing] just now. Isn’t it really bad if rats are scuttling about while it’s bright outside? Because Shibuya is so deserted now, if the downtown area continues to remain quiet for days due to the lockdown, it’ll become a rat paradise, restaurants will be destroyed, and we’ll have to sterilise for other diseases along with the coronavirus.”

The points brought up by @fields81113 resonated with a number of people online, who shared their own photos of recently spotted rats, including this one in a residential area during the daytime…

▼ And these, seen during the dark hours of the morning in Shibuya.

The topic was even covered by TV Asahi’s Morning Show programme, where their reporter commented on the large numbers of rats seen in Shibuya and Shinjuku lately.


This person says the sightings don’t necessarily mean rat numbers are increasing, as it’s more likely they’re simply coming out to look for food; the drop in restaurant businesses means their usual food-foraging opportunities have dropped as well.

People weren’t happy to see rats out and about in the city, leaving comments like:

Wild animals are full of life when no people are around.”
“The streets of Shibuya are far dirtier than many people realise.”
“They need to release a bunch of cats into the area to clean it up!”

“Seeing them out in the middle of the day is definitely disconcerting.”
“Shibuya has been a rat paradise for a while now — they even took over a convenience store there last year.”

It’s true that rats were seen running around on shelves and fridges at a Family Mart in Shibuya, forcing them to close temporarily after videos of the rodents went viral on social media.

It’s not the only time the area’s furry residents have been seen running amok on the streets of Shibuya, as a number of them came out to play when the streets were deserted in the wake of Typhoon Hagibis in October last year.

▼ Top video shows Centre Gai during the coronavirus, while the bottom video shows the same area after Typhoon Hagibis.

Now that there are less humans out and about in Shibuya, there’s more room for the wild animals to move. Here’s hoping they keep away from restaurants and stores like fashion retail chainstore H&M, or else the city may have to call on the Cat Man from Kyushu to come to the rescue with his pram full of felines in tow.

Source: Hachima Kiko
 image: Twitter/@Balse13jp
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