Empty streets at Sensoji and Shinjuku have us seeing the capital in a very different light. 

With travel restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, the tourism sector in Japan has taken a severe blow. According to figures put out by the Japan National Tourism Organisation, tourist numbers have plummeted from 3 million at the start of the year to around 3,800 in July, amounting to a 99.9-percent drop in foreign visitors.

So what do the big tourist sites in Tokyo look like now, given they were overflowing with millions of international tourists at the start of the year? Here to answer that question is local resident Shinichi from YouTube channel Shinichi’s World, who last month took viewers on a journey into Shinjuku and Sensoji Temple at Asakusa, two places that are usually bustling with overseas visitors.

In the first video, Shinichi can be seen walking through Asakusa’s world-famous Sensoji Temple at around 2 p.m on Wednesday 5 August. On a weekday afternoon like this, the shop-lined path leading to the temple is usually so crowded with visitors it can be hard to see a spare patch of pavement. However, on this day, there’s pavement as far as the eye can see, and even Shinichi, who’s been to the temple countless times before, is shocked at how few visitors there are, saying he’s never seen it like this.

Take a look at what Sensoji Temple looks like below:

The 30-minute journey into Asakusa above shows just how different the temple looks without the hustle and bustle of tourists. Two minutes into the video, we can tell straight away that the atmosphere around the temple is different as the area in front of the Kaminarimon Gate holding the huge red lantern is usually packed shoulder-to-shoulder with visitors and tour groups all trying to snap a souvenir photo. On this day, there isn’t a foreign tourist in sight.

▼ It’s usually impossible to see the gate without an adoring crowd in front of it on a sunny day like this, even in the heat of summer.

Just past the gate is another incredible sight: a scattering of people, shuttered-up shops, and stores without any customers.

This water purification fountain is usually so crowded people have to wait behind others to use it, and the steps leading up to the main building beyond are also surprisingly devoid of people.

The shopping areas near the main building are even more quiet, making us wonder how, or if, these businesses are managing to survive.

The video ends with the sad revelation that some of the hotels have closed temporarily due to COVID-19.

A few days after shooting this video, Shinichi uploaded another clip, this time from Shinjuku, another big tourist hotspot. Shinjuku is a large ward with shopping areas, entertainment quarters and business districts, but this video concentrates on the area around Kabukicho, including the famous Golden Gai bar enclave, which is usually popular with tourists.

Take a look at Shinjuku below:

What’s probably most surprising about this clip is the area around the giant Godzilla head, which is noticeably less crowded than usual.

▼ Godzilla peers out at the top of the screen.

It’s interesting to see Golden Gai also looking quiet. While this place generally comes to life at night, tourists also come here during the day to walk through the narrow maze of alleyways.

▼ Now, though, there’s nobody here.

▼ Nearby Hanazono Shrine is also surprisingly quiet.

The videos leave viewers with mixed feelings of interest, due to the rare sight of Tokyo without tourists, and sadness, also due to the rare sight of Tokyo without tourists, as it reminds us of all the businesses doing it tough right now.

While a lot of people are unable to travel to Japan at the moment, hopefully it won’t be too long until Japan is able to welcome foreign tourists back to its shores in future. Until then, you can stay up to date with what’s happening in the city via Shinichi’s YouTube channel, where he regularly uploads videos along with useful insider tips and information.

If this look at Tokyo has inspired you to start planning your future itinerary, you might want to take a look at the hidden gems in the backstreets of Harajuku and Kagurazaka, the city’s French Quarter. There’s so much waiting for you to discover on your next visit!

Source: YouTube/Shinichi’s World
Featured image: YouTube/Shinichi’s World
Insert images: YouTube/Shinichi’s World (1, 2)
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