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Tokyo's drinkers drown frustrations over virus limits, Games

Tokyo's drinkers drown frustrations over virus limits, Games

On the eve of the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony, the government’s attempts to curb a coronavirus surge by targeting drinkers is drowning in liquor, frustration and indifferenceBy KANTARO KOMIYA Associated PressJuly 21, 2021, 4:08 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleTOKYO — On the eve of the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony, the government’s attempts to curb a coronavirus surge by targeting drinkers is drowning in liquor, frustration and indifference.Japan has asked the city’s restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m., if not entirely, to keep people from socializing in close contact with strangers and spreading the virus, but the state of emergency hasn’t deterred many. Instead, drinkers moved outdoors, and many bars in Tokyo’s famed nightlife districts are bustling with defiant customers.“Nobody is convinced when (the government) victimizes people who are drinking alcohol without showing decent scientific evidence, even while going ahead with the Olympics,” said Mio Maruyama, a 28-year-old real estate industry worker who was chatting with her colleagues on the street in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.She says she’s interested in watching the Games, especially new sports like skateboarding and Japan’s Rui Hachimura, an NBA star, “but when I think of how politicians are playing around with this, I’m not quite rooting for this event from my heart.”“It’s not that we are breaking the rules just because we’re against the inconsistency between politicians’ words and actions,” she said, referring to a 40-person reception for International Olympic Committee members on Sunday that included the prime minister and the governor of Tokyo. “But when you see such things, you might think that rulebreakers were right in doing what they’re doing.”The IOC reception happened at a time when the public is barred from going to parties or even attending most Olympic events. Many Japanese are frustrated by that contrast — but are hardly staying home.At around 9:30 p.m. in Shinjuku, people crisscrossed in front of the world’s busiest train terminal. Nighttime turnout was modest compared to before the pandemic, but bar districts like Kabukicho were still illuminated with neon lights from a few food establishments that were still open after 8 p.m.Exempted from the emergency state mandate, 24/7-open convenience stores were busy with shoppers. Near one of the shops, some drinkers were talking with city workers wearing green Tokyo Metropolitan Government vests who were asking people to refrain from drinking and chatting outside.On a quiet street in east Shinjuku, Naoto Suga picked up a can of lemon-flavored liquor that his friend had just brought him. They sat on a curbside, along with around a dozen others who were also drinking on the street.“We’ve been here every night for the past three days or so,” said Suga, 25, who works in a nearby apparel shop.“I don’t think the Olympics itself made this (situation), but even before the Games, things like the state of emergency have remained half measures, and I think that’s making things worse,” he said. “People are all used to the state of emergency, so it’s getting less meaningful now.”Suga, who hasn’t received the COVID-19 vaccine yet, also lamented the slower rollout in Japan, especially for younger people. Everyone 12 and older is eligible to be vaccinated, but younger people are last in line. Only 22% of Japan’s population has been fully vaccinated so far.“To be honest, I’m for hosting the Olympics; it’s better than not doing so given the debt of venue buildings,” he said. “But I don’t quite have a particular sport I want to watch. I’ve lost interest.”

Japan's leader pushes rescue after deadly mudslide hits town

Japan's leader pushes rescue after deadly mudslide hits town

More than 1,000 soldiers, firefighters and police have joined rescue efforts after a giant mudslide ripped through a resort town southwest of Tokyo, killing at least two people and leaving about 20 missingBy KANTARO KOMIYA Associated PressJuly 4, 2021, 8:08 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleATAMI, Japan — More than 1,000 soldiers, firefighters and police on Sunday waded through a giant mudslide that ripped through a resort town southwest of Tokyo, killing at least two people and leaving about 20 missing as it swept away houses and cars.Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters 19 people had been rescued, and 130 homes and other buildings were damaged in Atami.Two people were dead, but more were feared missing, he said speaking after an emergency Cabinet meeting. Earlier, disaster officials said 20 were unaccounted for, but warned the number may rise. Shizuoka prefecture officials said three people had been injured.“The area is still having heavy rainfall, but arduous rescue efforts will continue,” Suga said, warning residents to watch out for more landslides. “Please act as quickly as you can to stay safe.”Troops, firefighters and other rescue workers, backed by three coast guard ships, were working to clear the mud from the streets of Atami and reach those believed to be trapped or carried away. They were barely visible in the rainfall and thick fog except for the their hard hats. Six military drones were being flown to help in the search.The mudslide early Saturday crashed down a mountainside into rows of houses following heavy rains that began several days ago. Bystanders, their gasps of horror audible, caught the scene on cell phone video.Witnesses said they heard a giant roar and then watched helplessly as homes got gobbled up by the muddy waves.Like many others, Mariko Hattori, an interpreter who lives a short walk away from where the tsunami-like torrent of mud struck, at first didn’t know what happened.“The first things I noticed were lots of emergency vehicles. I didn’t know what happened at first,” she said. “Then I was frightened when I saw the footage.”The area of Atami where the mudslide struck, Izusan, is a seaside resort about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Tokyo. It’s known for hot springs, a shrine and shopping streets.———Associated Press videographer Haruka Nuga contributed to this report.———Kantaro Komiya is on Twitter https://twitter.com/KantaroKomiaHaruka Nuga is on Twitter https://twitter.com/HarukaNuga