The head of a group of nightlife entertainment businesses urged the government on Monday to be more realistic in helping their industry weather the coronavirus pandemic, as Japan grapples with a rising number of infections with many clusters traced back to their sector.
"Neither the central government nor the Tokyo metropolitan government are making efforts to come up with a fundamental solution (as in virus countermeasures)," Kaori Koga, representative director of the Nightlife Business Association, told a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.
Referring to the negative perception on their businesses during the outbreak of the virus, Koga said, "Nothing will change if you only criticize us as the villains here," and she urged the governments to see the realities of their industry.
Tokyo's daily infection cases have sharply increased, with recent tallies in triple digits, since the capital lifted business suspension requests last month.
Many clusters of COVID-19 infection cases have been found to be related to nightlife entertainment districts, mostly concentrated in Shinjuku's Kabukicho district, home to host clubs and hostess bars.
These establishments have drawn public and political ire for being what is perceived as a hotbed for infections, as they seem to fit all the conditions set out by the government -- confined and crowded places, and close contact with people.
In Japan's hostess bars, women entertain male customers over drinks and flirtatiously chat with them, while in host clubs, men do the same for their female customers.
Koga said social distancing, as requested by the government, is unrealistic for their businesses, as many clubs are small, and compliance may mean only two customers can be entertained at one time. As it is, wearing masks makes chatting and toasting hard for clients and hosts, she added.
The head of the group, aimed at supporting operators of nighttime entertainment businesses and female workers, warned that such unrealistic guidelines will lead to noncompliance by some.
She called for more flexibility, in which establishments publicly report the virus countermeasures they have taken.
She also suggested setting up an online certification system for nightlife workers to prove their understanding of hygiene and disease prevention. The idea is that the more the workers are certified, the more it would boost their establishments' reputation.