Tokyo tour bus operation restarts as state of emergency lifted

Akira Tomoshige and Hideto Sakai
·2-min read
A child wearing a face mask poses for a picture as passengers enjoy an open-top sightseeing bus tour, operated by Hato Bus Co., as the tour service resumed after Japan's government lifted the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) state of emergency in the Tokyo

By Akira Tomoshige and Hideto Sakai

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's major tour bus firm Hato Bus Co. resumed its operations on Monday following the lifting of a coronavirus state of emergency for the Tokyo area, allowing passengers to enjoy fresh air and cherry blossoms in full bloom from an open top bus.

The Japanese government on Sunday lifted the state of emergency for Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures, where restrictions had remained since early January, as the availability of hospital beds had improved in the region.

"I have been working from home for a long time and had no chance to go out. So, (cherry blossoms) cheered me up very much," Masumi Ishii, a passenger, told Reuters after the tour.

On Hato Bus's open-top sightseeing bus that departed Tokyo station on Monday, all the 25 seats available on the upper deck were filled with passengers.

They enjoyed taking pictures and reached out for cherry blossom petals along the roads.

"Frankly, I am very happy that we could resume this course," said Satomi Yoshizuka, a tour conductor. "We are taking measures and preparations so that our customers can attend without anxiety."

Passengers are required to put face masks on and undergo temperature checks.

Although the government, eager to jumpstart the economy, lifted the state of emergency, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week noted infections were creeping up and pleaded with citizens not to let down their guard.

Pedestrians walking outside Tokyo station on Monday morning welcomed the end of the state of emergency and said its effect has been fading.

Natsuki Kawakami, a 20-year-old university student visiting Tokyo from her home in Kyoto, said the prolonged state of emergency made people tired of self-restraint and less cautious.

"I think it is good to make an end for now, and take another measure (in the future), which makes people brace themselves again," Kawakami said.

As of Sunday, COVID-19 cases have totalled about 457,000 in Japan, with 8,836 fatalities, according to public broadcaster NHK.

(Reporting by Akira Tomoshige, Hideto Sakai; writing by Kiyoshi Takenaka)