‘Model’ customers keep Tokyo diners at social distance

TOKYO (AFP) – The coronavirus pandemic might have left many restaurants empty, but one establishment in Tokyo is relying on some model customers to enforce social distancing: life-like mannequins keeping diners from getting too close.

Masato Takemine’s Chinese restaurant looks busy even as many businesses in the city deal with a dearth of clientele, with ladies in ornate Chinese-style dresses and a girl in a kimono among those seated at his tables. But the 16 customers are actually mannequins he has placed randomly at tables to keep diners from getting too close.

“At first I removed some of the tables to have more space in between, but it then looked so lonely, as if the restaurant was under renovation,” Takemine told AFP. “With these mannequins, the restaurant looks busy from the outside, and I can make sure customers are distancing themselves.

“It’s also fun, giving us a jolly feeling,” he giggled.

While Japan has avoided the devastating tolls since in places hit hardest by the coronavirus, many restaurants shut their doors during a state of emergency and even after it was lifted in May, the industry has seen customers shun eating out.