Japan traffic volume short of government plea for 70% reduction

Linda J. Dodson

TOKYO — Human traffic volume in Nagoya and a key area of the city of Fukuoka decreased just by 40% on Monday, despite the government’s declaration of a nation-wide state of emergency last week.

The Japanese government had called for business to take measures — such as encouraging teleworking — to reduce commuter numbers by 70%. However, on the first Monday after the state of emergency extended beyond the capital Tokyo and six other prefectures, data showed that the goal is far from being achieved as businesses struggle to implement remote work.

Mobile phone company Docomo InsightMarketing, a subsidiary of telecommunications giant NTT Docomo, compared populations in various cities per 500 meter-by- 500 meter area as of about 8am on Monday to the same time on Jan. 20.

In Tokyo’s Marunouchi business district, which includes Tokyo Station, traffic decreased by 57% while it dropped by 51% around Osaka Station in the western city of Osaka.

But in urban areas where the state of emergency took effect from Thursday, traffic dropped by only 42% around Nagoya Station in Aichi Prefecture, by 30% around Hokkaido’s Sapporo Station in Sapporo and by 41% and 30% around Kanazawa and Fukui stations, respectively, in west central Japan.

Allowing workers to stay home is even more difficult for small- and medium-sized manufacturers. “Component (production) cannot be halted unless OEMs such as Toyota Motor take action,” said a manager of a parts maker in Aichi, where Toyota and many of its suppliers are located.

Most component manufacturers in Aichi are continuing factory operations. In one part of Tokyo’s Ota Ward, a hub for small- and medium-sized businesses making key products including metal processors for semiconductors, the movement of people actually increased by 8% on Monday morning.

“There are many small- and medium-sized companies that cannot suspend their business because of financial concerns.” said travel medicine expert Yoshiaki Katsuda, a professor at Kansai University of Social Welfare. “Movement restrictions will not be effective without measures combined with leave compensation,” Katsuda said.

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