Host and hostess bars in Japan scramble to adjust to COVID-19 reality

On a recent Friday night in the red light district of Kabuki Cho, Tokyo, loud music and flashing disco lights signaled the opening hours of Cruise, one of the many host clubs dotted in the surrounding area.

Once the customer arrived, her temperature was taken and she was taken straight to the bathroom, where she was asked to wash her hands and gargle, before being allowed to enjoy the company of her favorite host.

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But then the surveillance against the new Coronavirus faded, the two began huddling on a leather sofa in apparent disregard for social distancing and evoking a gentle reminder from one of the managers overseeing the floor that they should sit further apart.

“Alcohol sometimes leads to moments of intimacy, causing hosts and customers to approach or forget to re-wear masks,” said Cruise’s director, who calls the stage Ibuki. “It’s times like these when we managers get involved and make sure they stay seated and keep a safe distance from each other.”

The industry is now preparing to fully lift its Tokyo business shutdown requests on Friday, which should pave the way for host clubs and hostess bars in the capital to officially reopen for the first time in months.

In fact, many nightclubs have already resumed their activities to protect employees’ livelihood. But the official reopening on Friday is expected to breathe new life into the strip, and many salons have challenged new safety guidelines issued by the government on how to deal with the pandemic.

Even as an official easing of the restrictions approaches, the industry is facing a growing public backlash after reports emerged that the recent spike in Tokyo cases was largely due to what is widely referred to as Yoru no. Machi (night entertainment areas) in the Shinjuku district of the capital.

The increase is primarily the result of extensive testing by officials who have focused on a host club in Shinjuku where an injured employee was found.

To curb the spread of COVID-19 in the industry, the government issued non-binding guidelines over the weekend.

Recommendations include both clients and salon workers maintaining a personal distance of up to two meters – or “at least one meter” – and preserving customer contact information so that if they are there they can be tracked and discover lumps later. Date.

The guidelines also state that employees and beneficiaries wear masks and refrain from singing karaoke and dancing together.

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