Prepared by Riku Ode.

National Overview

The Japanese government declared a state of emergency on 7 April  which currently applies to Tokyo and its neighbouring prefectures (Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba) as well as the prefectures of Osaka, Hyogo, and Fukuoka, and is provisionally set to last until 6 May.

Since the declaration, officials have reiterated calls to individuals to stay at home and reduce physical contact with other people by 80%, and to employers to implement remote working solutions and reduce the number of employees physically present in workplaces by 70%.

The state of emergency accords the governors of the abovementioned prefectures the legal authority to request closures or other restrictions on the use of various establishments and facilities. At the time of writing, Tokyo has had in place the measures outlined below since 10 April, while Hyogo (including the port city of Kobe) and Chiba (including Narita Airport, Japan's main port of entry,) both announced on 12 April their intention to implement similar measures within the week.

At the time of writing, the government is considering extending the state of emergency to Aichi prefecture, after its governor unilaterally declared a prefecture-level state of emergency on 10 April, along with its neighbouring prefectures of Gifu and Mie (which together comprise the metropolitan area of Greater Nagoya). Separately, the island of Hokkaido, along with its capital city, Sapporo, declared a joint state of emergency on 12 April. Officials have also indicated that the national-level state of emergency could potentially be extended to other prefectures witnessing significant increases in COVID-19 cases such as Kyoto, Ishikawa and Fukui.

One key difference with Europe and the United States is that the powers accorded to prefectural governors under the state of emergency are largely non-binding legally. They cannot prohibit individuals from venturing outside their homes, or impose any legal sanctions on businesses which do not heed requests to close down or facilitate remote working solutions. Governor Koike of Tokyo has stated that Japanese law does not allow for more coercive legal measures of the kind seen in jurisdictions such as France, and it appears that Japan's containment strategy will be largely reliant upon social pressure brought to bear on individuals and businesses to heed public health advice.



On 10 April, Governor Koike of Tokyo invoked the powers accorded to her by the state of emergency to request closures of:

  • Schools;
  • Higher education establishments (both universities and vocational schools) ;*
  • Driving schools;*
  • Extracurricular cram schools;*
  • Gymnasia;
  • Swimming pools;
  • Bowling alleys;
  • Sports clubs;
  • Live performance theatres;
  • Cinemas;
  • Live music venues;
  • Exhibition halls;
  • Museums;*
  • Libraries;*
  • Conference venues within hotels and 'ryokan'-type accommodation;*
  • Shops selling goods and services other than daily necessities;*
  • Nightlife venues including bars;
  • Gaming arcades; and
  • 'Pachinko' type gambling parlours.

*Applicable only where total floor space exceeds 1000m2

Governor Koike also requested the following to take appropriate preventative disease control measures:

  • Nurseries;
  • Youth clubs; and
  • Adult day-care centres and other non-residential care facilities

Aside from the abovementioned requests pursuant to the state of emergency, Governor Koike called upon the following facilities, institutions and businesses with a total floor space of less than 1000m2 to cooperate with the authorities by taking ''appropriate measures'';

  • Higher education establishments (both universities and vocational schools);*
  • Driving schools;*
  • Extracurricular cram schools;*
  • Museums;
  • Libraries;
  • Conference venues within hotels and 'ryokan' type accommodation; and
  • Shops selling goods and services other than daily necessities*

*Appropriate preventative disease control measures should be taken where total floor space is less than 100m2.

Restaurants and 'Izakaya'-type pubs are permitted to continue operating (but are requested to cease serving alcohol by 7:00 p.m. and close by 8:00 p.m.), as are department stores (albeit with shortened opening hours), supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies, hotels, hair-dressers, and hardware stores. Hospitals, clinics, financial institutions, government offices, veterinary clinics, 'Sento'-type communal baths, 'Ryokan' type inns, laundromats and funeral halls are likewise allowed to continue  to operate. . Public ground transport, including trains, buses, taxis and ferries will not be subject to any restrictions.