Politician wants people to know which businesses in one high-risk industry are ignoring warnings during the state of emergency.

Because of the way the Japanese legal system is structured, the government can’t actually order businesses to close or people to stay in their homes, and so there are still a surprising number of people out and about enjoying their normal leisure activities like there isn’t a deadly coronavirus pandemic going on.

While the people hanging out together in parks, playgrounds, and shopping centers are concerning enough, the even more unsettling business-as-usual sites are pachinko parlors. Poorly ventilated and sealed tight at their entrances/exits to prevent their constant blaring music and clouds of cigarette smoke from leaking out into the outside world, pachinko parlors’ entire business model is built on strangers sitting shoulder to shoulder for hours on end, manipulating sets of machine controls that countless other people have since the last time they were wiped down.

If those sound to you like the sort of conditions the coronavirus absolutely loves, Japanese politician Yasutoshi Nishimura shares your opinion. A member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, Nishimura spoke at a press conference on Tuesday about his frustration at how many pachinko parlors have ignore a government request to close down during the health crisis.

However, as mentioned above, Nishimura (whose positions include Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy and Minister in charge Economic Revitalization) can only ask pachinko parlors to shut down, not force them. But something else he can do, he says, is publish a list of all pachinko parlors that are operating as normal, in hopes of shaming them into closing.

According to Nishimura, the same legislation that allows the government to request closures, the New Influenza Special Measures Law, includes a clause that grants officials the authority to publicly announce the names of businesses that, without a legitimate reason, are not complying with the closure request, and that he is looking into the procedure to do so. “Unfortunately, we are seeing cases of [pachinko parlors] not complying with the closure request, and of people coming from other cities/prefectures and gathering at [parlors] which remain open,” said Nishimura at the press conference.

On one hand, in a society where concepts of social obligation and good citizenship often exert as strong an influence on people’s behavior as the threat of fines or incarceration, the threat of being put on a list of shame for all to see could very well convince some pachinko parlors that it’s time to take a break until the health climate improves. On the other hand, though, making such information a matter of public record simultaneously creates a list of the remaining places where gamblers can still go to get their fix right now. Since some people have already shown they’re more worried about missing a jackpot than getting infected with the coronavirus can get their fix, that could create even bigger crowds at those parlors which stubbornly choose to stay open, so in the end there really is no easy answer, except for people to take it upon themselves to stay home.

Sources: Livedoor News/Tele Asa News via Jin, Mainichi Shimbun
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Wikipedia/MichaelMaggs,
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