Kabukicho host clubs under fire for spreading coronavirus

Japan Times -- Aug 02
Kabukicho, a 1-kilometer square commercial area on the northern side of Tokyo’s JR Shinjuku Station, is reputed to be Asia’s largest adult entertainment zone, with an estimated nighttime working population of 23,000 (based on 2014 figures).

The adventurous, bored and curious are drawn by the thousands each evening to the neighborhood’s bars, cabarets, karaoke establishments, pachinko parlors, cinemas, retail outlets, hotels and an impressive variety of Japanese and international restaurants. This exotic mix also includes some 250 host clubs, where female customers can relax in the company of young men.

Many of Kabukicho’s businesses permit or encourage closeness, or even intimacy, between customers and their employees, so perhaps, not surprisingly, the district has been identified as a hot spot for COVID-19 cluster infections.

Weekly Playboy (Aug. 10) notes that the nearby National Center for Global Health and Medicine, which conducts PCR tests for Shinjuku Ward, recorded nine positive cases in April, 37 in May and 226 in June. Then, in the first eight days of July, the figure soared to 249.

“One cause of the spread was host clubs,” an employee of Shinjuku’s Public Health Office told the magazine. “Several people tested positive, but when we conducted tests on all their colleagues, only 3.7 percent tested positive. By contrast, more than 30 percent of workers at the restaurants where the hosts and their customers go to eat tested positive.

“From July, more cases have been found among salaried workers, students and unemployed people, so infection has now spread among the general population.”

Even more than local hospitals, it’s Shinjuku’s Public Health Office that’s said to be staggering under a heavy workload.

“Every time a person tests positive, it requires a mountain of paperwork,” the public health employee said. “The work had been manageable with around 20 or 30 staff, but, from July onward, on some days we have been getting 100 positives a day. Things here are getting desperate.”

- Japan Times