Japan's COVID-19 situation hasn't improved, and a state of emergency has been called, but life goes on, and we still have to eat.
The many Japanese supermarket shelves completely empty of instant ramen, and other clear necessities (like melon bread), are a sure sign: people are worried about coronavirus, and especially now that Prime Minister Abe has called a state of emergency, they're staying home. But not everyone can cook, and instant ramen for every meal isn't a great plan either, which is why a number of eateries are still open around Japan. While people are hungry, however, most of them are trying not to be foolish. The public is looking for ways to avoid both infection and starvation, which is why restaurants have been taking on some interesting projects, to keep the people of Japan safe and satiated!
Protections for Self-Service Eaters
It turns out that a surprising number of restaurants, cafes, and supermarkets in Japan employ self-service systems, where diners take their own tray and a pair of tongs, and choose their meal from a selection... all completely open to the surrounding air. In retrospect, this seems like it might not be a great idea at any time, but when fears about coronavirus "droplets" are spreading quickly, establishments of all kinds are doing their best to make sure their goods don't get contaminated.
Hotels around Japan, like Osaka View Hotel, have temporarily switched from a buffet-style breakfast to trays brought to the table. Supermarkets, which often have an open area containing a selection of prepared grilled and fried foods, have started pre-wrapping each item individually. And since places that sell baked goods in Japan almost always have open racks of food, pastry shops like Mister Donut have started putting thick, protective sheets of plastic over their displays, and taking extra steps to sanitize the tongs and trays.
Pizza Delivery - From 2 Meters Away
Pizza is the perfect food when you're stressed about staying home, and can't quite get it together enough to cook dinner, but customers have recently been hesitant even to order delivery. What if that one delivery person becomes a vector for disease? Well major pizza chains have taken the situation into their own hands, and instituted new policies to keep people feeling safe enough to keep ordering pizza.
At Domino's it's called the Zero Contact Drop-Off service (あんしん受取サービス
), and at Pizza Hut it's called the Oki Pizza Service (置きピザ)
, but the protocol is essentially the same. Notify your delivery person that you'd like to participate in the service as you place your order, and when the pizza arrives, they'll place it in front of your door before backing 2 meters (about 6') away, often touted as a "safe distance."
Once they confirm from afar that you've received your order, the delivery person goes on their way. At no point do the customer and the delivery person have to come in close contact! Together with thorough disinfecting and excellent hygiene from the pizza places, we can only hope this is enough to any viral spread caused by pizza delivery!
Takeout Only! (Japanese Bento Style)
Quite a few restaurants in Japan that previously offered both eat-in and takeout options are shifting to shorter business hours and concentrating on takeout and delivery, and some are really shifting their target customer base. Japanese pubs, called izakaya, are generally where you might go for a night out. They're the bars and eateries where people gather at the end of the day for a good drink, and maybe a bite to eat. And now, apparently, they're where you get your lunchbox as well!
Kushikatsu Tanaka is a chain of izakaya specializing in kushikatsu (串カツ, put simply: fried things on skewers), and they are one of many pubs to put renewed efforts into lunchtime bento boxes for people to take with them and eat while still practicing social distancing. Instead of sitting at a bar, or a table in a crowded room, ordering fried skewers one by one, diners can just drop in and grab their box of kushikatsu to go. In this strange time when we're all switching to Skype-based dates and dinner parties over Zoom, picking up a bento and a beer to enjoy with friends - while still staying home - might be just the thing to bring us through to the light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel.
So, What's for Dinner?
Have you heard about any other interesting ways that companies in Japan are trying to make things safer during this coronavirus outbreak? We'd love to hear what you think, and any interesting news you've picked up, on the Japankuru twitter
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