Three Ways to Support Local Japanese Businesses From Abroad During Covid-19

Japan, like many other countries, has been greatly impacted by the devastating effects of the coronavirus. Forced to contend not only with a local population that is no longer venturing out as usual, businesses that once relied on a steady stream of tourism have needed to tighten the belt even more. With the 2020 Olympics officially postponed and the country’s borders still closed to travel from most countries, these local businesses are in need of help if they are to survive. Thanks to technology’s ability to bring people together like never before, people around the world who love Japan and its culture have the opportunity to support these businesses from afar and get something in return for doing so.

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If You Love Japan, Here Are Some Ways You Can Help

Very few people have managed to remain unaffected in the face of the coronavirus. With many business owners being forced to suspend operations and even more individuals out of work, planning future vacations or developing new skills during quarantine may be the last thing on people's minds. That being said, if you are in a position to help and want to make your next trip to Japan even more special, we've put together a few ways you can do just that.

Support Local Walking Tours and Get Something in Return!

As any experienced traveler knows, the best way to get to know a city is through the guidance of a local. Under normal circumstances, Japan Localized offers free walking tours for visitors in Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka and Hiroshima. These in-depth tours run by English-speaking local residents aim to show guests a more “authentic” side of the city outside of the major tourist attractions.


As with any privately run free tour, Japan Localized’s guides depend on tips to earn money, with some even doing the tours as their full-time job. With tourists currently unable to enter the country, tour guides who relied on this regular income have been left without anything to replace it. Furthermore, local businesses that were frequently visited as part of the tours are feeling the effects as well. In particular, small shops that produce handmade traditional Japanese crafts are facing an uncertain future.

Though the date is uncertain, travel restrictions will eventually be lifted and tourists will once again be able to enter Japan. In anticipation of this time, the founder of Japan Localized, Dai Miyamoto, has created a crowdfunding campaign. With several tiers of rewards available, donors can receive vouchers for special experiences not found in their free tours such as a “Tokyo Old Quarter Walking Tour,” or a private tour for yourself and up to five guests in Tokyo or Kyoto. These tour vouchers also make a great gift for anyone planning a trip to Japan and can be redeemed any time through the end of 2022.

As an additional bonus, donors will receive a thank-you note from one of Japan Localized’s guides written on washi. This traditional Japanese paper is purchased directly from craftsmen in Kyoto, meaning your single donation will go towards helping multiple local businesses.

Book Your Hotel Early and Save

While travel to Japan will not return to its pre-corona peak for some time, it is becoming easier to imagine that some number of visitors may be able to visit before the end of the year, now that the state of emergency has been lifted and major businesses have implemented a range of infection-prevention measures.

Some hotels, including Q Stay and Lounge in the well-connected neighborhood of Ueno, are offering substantial discounts for travelers willing to book their stay in advance. As part of their “See You Soon” campaign, visitors who book a room for any time in 2020 can save up to 40% on shared dormitory rooms and 54% on private rooms. Located just a few minutes on foot from Ueno Station and the beautiful nearby park and zoo, it’s the perfect location for seeing the best that Tokyo has to offer.

For those who prefer to experience a more traditional side of Japan, the city of Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture, with its traditional crafts and architecture, is tough to beat. The Kaname Inn in Kanazawa was one of the first hotels to open their doors to foreign visitors stranded in Japan during the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. They provided free rooms to anyone whose flight was canceled leaving them unable to return home.

Of course, this incredibly generous gesture came at no small cost to the hotel. With rooms understandably vacant for the foreseeable future, the Kaname Inn is seeking help through a crowdfunding campaign. With several tiers of donations available to choose from, donors can receive thank you gifts ranging from a free drink in the bar during your next visit, to a stay at the hotel with meals and a private tour of the city all included.

Have an Online Experience

With many businesses suddenly unable to operate by standard means, they have been forced to find modern, alternative solutions to stay afloat. Many retail stores have transitioned to online-only shopping, and restaurants have shifted to exclusively offering takeout for the sake of social distancing. For businesses that require in-person interactions however, the transition often requires more “outside the box” thinking.

In Japan, some businesses have begun offering online experiences in English. Rather than spending this quarantine rewatching your favorite sitcom for the hundredth time, why not call up your friends and family and see if you can escape from an online Japanese escape room? Or, if something a little more relaxing sounds better, how about an online painting class from a Japanese instructor? Artbar Tokyo is a trendy little space where visitors can take part in an instructor-led painting class while enjoying wine and cheese.

While you should absolutely enjoy this experience in-person during your next visit to Tokyo, there is no need to wait in the meantime. You can now enjoy one of their English-language painting courses from the comfort of your own home! Simply fire up your webcam, pour a glass of your favorite wine, and get ready to create a masterpiece.

Of course, not all of us are natural artists. If the wine-drinking portion mentioned above is what sounded most enticing, you may be more interested in an online cocktail course. The one-hour Cocktail Connections course from Arigato Japan Food Tours not only teaches viewers cocktail recipes that invoke a very Tokyo vibe, but provides the opportunity for open conversation about life in Japan, travel tips, and more. A similar experience can also be had while learning to cook Japanese food in an online cooking class with a Japanese local on the website Airkitchen. If you've ever wanted to learn how to make homemade ramen or sushi, it's never been easier!

Conclusion

Even if your vacation to Japan was canceled, it's only a matter of time before the borders reopen and people are once again able to visit. If you want to ensure that the independent businesses that add to Japan's charm and culture are still around when you return, please consider supporting them however possible.

For more information about the current situation in Japan, see our page about Traveling Safely In Japan.

 

Title Image: TAW4 / Shutterstock.com

 

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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