Starting with the State of Emergency that went into effect for Tokyo and surrounding areas at the beginning of April, many restaurants went into a “takeout and delivery only” mode along with drastic cuts in hours and menus. Now that Japan has started reopening, many are in a hurry to head back to their favorite dining spots especially in the Metropolis, known for having one of the highest concentrations of restaurants in the world. Eating out is OK again, but you are going to be in for a world of changes upon entering your favorite eatery.
The biggest noticeable change will be all the new procedures in the establishments themselves to prevent any transmission of coronavirus. Social distancing measures are in full effect, and that means you may not even be able to get into your gnosh-spot without first making a reservation. My little hole-in-the-wall ramen joint in my corner of Tokyo has cut their seating area capacity in half; so that means the already tiny dining area that could seat 20 is slashed to 10 people only. There’s a QR code on the door that lets you access their reservations app that will place you into a queue without standing in a line outside…which would create the same conditions they’re trying to avoid indoors. Win-win?
You will also likely find plastic and acrylic barriers in addition to many seats left empty between dining parties in order to cut down on the probability of airborne transmissions.
Some places may not even be open for indoor seating partially or fully. Still, others have gotten creative and made outdoor seating areas wherever possible. If nothing else, the coronavirus has encouraged many bistros to consider outdoor dining as a thing, something from my hometown that
In some cases, its impossible to keep the same items on the menu due to supply chain issues stemming from the pandemic, reduced business hours, and/or staffing shortages. In any case, be prepared for ingredient substitutions to dish omissions at your eatery of choice.
As stated above, some places have had to adjust their opening hours as well. My favorite Indian cafe in my area is now only open three days a week because of staff being caught outside the country when the pandemic hit. Make sure to check those hours of operation before going.
It’s the “new normal” for us here in Tokyo and beyond as we do battle with COVID-19 in the interim before a vaccine is created, but with a lot of preparation and a little luck, the hope is that we can stay safe and still socialize. And remember, there are a few other ways to get the most sought after vittles without setting foot outside if needed.