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Japanese Restaurants Rebel Against Olympic-COVID Alcohol Curfew
A chef inside a small restaurant in Shinjuku is seen serving his costumers
Meike Eijsberg

Walking past a restaurant in Tokyo this week, you might spot the following sign: "Saké, ok!" Nothing out of the ordinary, it would seem, but these days it has another meaning: that restaurant is part of a growing rebellion against the government's directives not to serve alcohol after 7 p.m, reports Le Monde.

Tokyo, and its three bordering departments (Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama), have been placed in a state of emergency since August 2 following a surge in COVID cases. Establishments that serve alcohol have been required to close at 7, while those that don't can stay open an additional hour, according to Kyodo news. But not everyone is sticking to these rules.

The last time we stopped serving alcohol, one customer scolded us.

Smaller owner-operated pubs with few employees prefer to cash in on government compensation for closing down. Bigger restaurants and chains, however, are defying the bans. Kozo Hasegawa, president of Global Dining, which runs about 30 cafes and restaurants in Tokyo and surrounding areas, says he intends to "conduct business as usual," Le Monde reports. The manager of an izakaya (a popular Japanese cuisine) right next to the great Senso-ji temple, explains that, for people like him, the fine (300,000 yen, or 2,500 euros) is just an "additional tax… We pay the fine and continue."


A sign depicting the 8 p.m. closure of a restaurant — Photo: Yoshio Tsunoda/AFLO/ZUMA Press

The restaurants are responding to an unusual level of consumer demand. Although millions are adhering to Japan's restrictions, and staying home, plenty of others are going out. "Since the Olympics are being held, many people might be thinking that it is fine to go out," said Narumi Sakai, a 54-year-old woman quoted by Kyodo News.

There seems to be a general thirst for alcohol as well. When the ban was just announced, Masahiko Yamashina, owner of a yakitori chicken skewer restaurant in the Shimbashi district said: "The last time we stopped serving alcohol, one customer scolded us," reports the Japan Times. "There's much to lose from obeying the ban."

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Society

How India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

A woman walking through dense fog in New Delhi

*Saumya Kalia

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

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