Fewer tourists on first state-of-emergency weekend

The number of tourists at sightseeing spots in Japan declined markedly on the first weekend since the current state-of-emergency was declared for Tokyo and its three surrounding prefectures.

Few people visited the country's tallest tower, Tokyo Skytree, in the Japanese capital on Saturday, a stark contrast to bustling scenes usually observed there.

Anti-infection measures had already been in place at the tower before the state-of-emergency was declared on Thursday. They include replacing indoor air roughly every 20 minutes and limiting numbers of elevator users and observation deck entrants.

The tower's closing time has also been brought forward by one hour in response to a request from Tokyo officials. It now opens between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Outside Tokyo, the hot spring resort of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of the capital, was nearly deserted. The state-of-emergency declaration is also in effect in the prefecture.

At a gateway station to Hakone, only a few passengers arrived on an express train from Tokyo. The stationmaster said the number of tourists had fallen to about the same level seen during the previous state of emergency. He said he felt sad to see the thinner crowds compared with normally busy days.

Some souvenir shops suspended business. The manager of one retail operator was also considering a possible temporary closure. A confectionary shop manager was worried about how to keep employees on the payroll.

A downtown district in the western prefecture of Osaka also drew much fewer people than usual.

The manager of a takoyaki pancake shop said pedestrian traffic had plunged following the emergency declaration for the Tokyo area and fallen further after the governors of Osaka and its two neighboring prefectures decided to request the measures be expanded to cover their areas.

An airport in Kochi Prefecture, where the declaration does not apply, had fewer passengers from Tokyo and Osaka despite the start of the three-day holiday period on Saturday.

Airlines have reduced flights to and from the airport in a bid to curb infections. They say flight reservations for the holidays were less than half normal levels.