Tokyo ward blocks access to square to deter street drinkers

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A worker fences off a square in front of Takadanobaba station in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, on Wednesday.

The Shinjuku ward government erected fences around a square in front of Takadanobaba station on Wednesday to deter people in the area from drinking outside.

According to the ward government, students and other young people often congregate and drink alcohol in the square, which is near Waseda University.

After calls were issued for eateries to close or shorten their business hours following the latest state of emergency declaration, the municipality said the number of people who have been eating and drinking on the streets has increased, especially young people. People have also been seen drinking in the square’s smoking area.

Drinking on the streets is considered to pose a high risk of infection with the novel coronavirus.

The municipality had been conducting patrols and issuing warnings to the young people who have been congregating in the area but as there was no improvement it decided to block access to the square, which was fenced off Wednesday morning.

The ward government said it will remain fenced off for as long as businesses are being asked to close early, even if the state of emergency has ended.

The popular meeting spot for students is about 350 square meters and has a small stage. It used to be under the jurisdiction of the Tokyo metropolitan government, but since the 1980s it has been managed by the Shinjuku ward government.

“We had no choice but to close it because patrols and warnings were not effective in stopping street drinking,” a ward official said.