There are places that no one would have ever expected to see as empty but COVID-19 has really proven that even the busiest places on Earth can be turned into a ghost town.
These photos taken by Filipino-Japanese photographer, Akira Harigae documenting life in a COVID19-hit Tokyo.
COVID-19 first made impact in Japan in the latter half January when a resident of the Kanagawa Prefecture who had a recent visit to Wuhan, China started developing symptoms and later tested positive for the coronavirus. As a response, the Japanese government put into action certain measures to minimize and hinder the transmission of the virus. Provisions included restrictions of entry for foreign tourists coming from countries notably hit by the virus which were mostly China and Korea at the time.
Throughout the months of February and March, there was a continuous rise of cases of the virus in Japan involving both people with and without any travel history. On April 7th, a state of emergency was put in place. However, the situation in Japan did not involve any form of hard restrictions but instead, came from a unanimous response from the people to avoid crowded places and social gatherings. As an effect, while many industries are still operational and people still are able to go to work, the usually busy streets of Tokyo have turned into a colorful ghost town.
Shinjuku and Shibuya are two of the most commonly crowded areas in Tokyo. While photographs of Japan outside of Tokyo may show serene and peaceful scenes, photographs of the city life in Tokyo are the extreme opposite.
These photos taken by Harigae show the massive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on what was the norm in the city. As of 26th April, Japan has a total of 13,261 confirmed cases with 327 deaths. However, these photos show just how effective the efforts of the government are in simply reminding their people to take preventive measures to avoid getting infected.
Harigae mentioned that while there is a state of emergency that will span an entire month, citizens are allowed to go outside either to go to work or get supplies. Instead of a full lockdown and forcing closure of businesses, the government encouraged companies to allow working from home, and staggering of shifts for essential businesses to lessen the number of people in offices at any given time. As a response to the stay-at-home request, it was taken upon by most of the population to suspend and avoid any gathering or social activities.
Public transportation in Japan is mostly functional and no curfew has been enforced, however, it is from the public’s general consensus to lessen activity and consequently the risk of harboring the disease that lead to this drastic change in Tokyo’s city life.
Akira Harigae is a freelance photographer and cinematographer based in Yokohama, Japan. These photographs of the streets of the empty city were taken during his commute to run work related errands. Armed with his Sony a7RI II, he chose to document these unusual images of life in what is known to be one of the busiest cities in the world.
All images used with the permission of Akira Harigae