The Japanese government recently announced that Tokyo has been included in its Go to Travel campaign: A governmental scheme designed to subsidize potential tourists, for a gradual regain in domestic visitor numbers. Discounts of up to 50% in landmarks, attractions, accommodation, restaurants, transportation and shopping all around Japan. A golden ticket, if you’ve spent lockdown confined inside the metropolis with a penchant for travel and a need for fresh air.
Although July saw a rise in infection cases, Tokyo has been doing much better in September, and was added to the discount list last Thursday. Two days later, airports and railway stations were packed with travellers from the capital visiting popular destinations such as Okinawa and Hokkaido. Naha Airport (Okinawa), New Chitose Airport (Hokkaido) and the train stations of Shizouka and Aichi Prefectures welcomed domestic tourists in dire need of a break from the big city life to sightsee, unwind and visit family members. Nobuyuki Hosoi, who was heading toward Shizouka Prefecture from Chiyoda Train Station (Tokyo) with two family members said: “It’s the first time I’ve left Tokyo since the virus was at its height… I want to use the money the campaign is saving us on our trip.”
Both health and safety are being continuously monitored in public spaces with temperature checks and mask enforcement, however, Tokyo has around 14 million inhabitants: Even a fraction of this population fleeing the capital towards peripheral Prefectures on the same festive days will impact in more ways than the intended economic gain. The situation, therefore, raises some concerns and questions among local inhabitants, on whether a resurgence in virus cases is now more likely if domestic travel of this magnitude continues.