Streets are empty, shops are closed and hotels are struggling to survive as the coronavirus pandemic shuts off the provide of guests and ravages the economy. “This is far worse than during the Lehman crisis,” stated an 80-year-old taxi driver, referring to the monetary crash of 2008. “Some days I would earn just 2,000 yen ($20). I won’t make any money once I buy lunch and pay my gas bill.”
The plight of Kyoto and other cities in the western Kansai area has exposed the vulnerability of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s tactic that sought to revive neighborhood economies with an influx of foreign vacationers – amongst important pillars of his “Abenomics” stimulus policy. Abe’s administration set a target to lure 40 million overseas guests per year and encouraged regional cities to open new ports, improve international flights and approve new hotel building to accommodate the influx.