Economic Crisis Hits Restaurants

Restaurant Falls Victim to Virus


Maniaryal Chandra moved to Japan to live his dream of owning a restaurant.

Maniaryal Chandra moved from Nepal with his wife and young child to Japan to live his dream of running his own restaurant. Twelve years later, he saw his hard work bear fruit. Then the virus hit. 

“Now, most of my customers are those who are worried about me,” said Chandra, who also works as the restaurant’s only chef. Now, his 24 seats in Namaste Himal sit mostly empty. And he had to lay off his single waitress. While the state of emergency has been lifted, Chandra is not optimistic about business returning.  

“Everyone thought this year would prosper with the Olympics,” Chandra said. But the coronavirus spread brutally and rapidly. Namaste Himal, an Indian restaurant in Koto-ku, remained closed for all of April and reopened on May 7 with reduced business hours. But the damage was already done. 

All 24 seats in the restaurant are empty even with the emergency lifted.

Most restaurants in Japan suffered tremendous losses because of the pandemic. According to TableCheck, a restaurant management tool that allows real-time restaurant reservations, the number of customers dining at restaurants dropped by a whopping 90.5% during Golden Week compared to last year. 

Chandra’s Namaste Himal took a major hit and he had to look for new ways to make money. Take-out orders trickled in. Desperate, Chandra added obento boxes for ¥500 each. But it was not enough. With profits down by over 60%, he was in trouble. He drained his savings to pay the rent on his restaurant. Repeated requests to his landlord to reduce the rent for June went unheeded.                   

Rent isn’t the only thing Chandra worries about. Getting proper health care has been another burden on him. “I’m scared to go to the hospital to get a medical checkup because I don’t want to risk getting coronavirus,” he said. On top of that, he is not able to get the masks and sanitizers he needs in order to serve his customers. 

 “This is worse than the earthquake in 2011,” said Chandra. Back then, he only closed his restaurant for a few weeks and was able to come back with the same number of customers. This time, it’s different. 

Chandra desperately wants to go back to Nepal to see his family but the situation over there is no different than in Japan. On top of that, affordable flight tickets are nowhere to be found. 

Even with the state of emergency lifted, Chandra hasn’t seen a dramatic increase in the number of customers. Still, in this unpredictable situation, the only thing he can be certain of is that he will keep his restaurant open. Chandra sits there every day with his wife, waiting for the customers. “Everyone’s having the same anxieties,” he says.