Hot on the heels of the controversial Go To Travel campaign, which launched in mid-2020 despite a countrywide surge in COVID-19 infections, comes the Go To Eat campaign. Kicking off in October 2020, Go To Eat is a similar initiative by the Japanese government to boost consumer spending and help the economy recover from losses caused by the pandemic.
Important: Go To Travel has been temporarily suspended from December 28, 2020 until further notice due to the COVID-19 situation. In addition, the sale of Go To Eat premium vouchers has been suspended in a number of prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka. If you plan to use the Go To Eat campaign for discounted dining in regions where it is still available, you are urged to take every precaution.
Go To Eat is part of the government’s broader “Go To” campaign, a name that has been found to lend itself to fiery collocations on Japanese Twitter.
Events (Go To Event) and shopping streets (Go To Shoutengai) are other areas that the government plans to boost in the coming months.
What is Go To Eat?
The campaign has two components: discount vouchers (premium meal tickets), and point-based rewards.
Go To Eat encourages people to dine out by offering them “discounts” (or savings) of up to 25%. To make that happen, a number of restaurants are being subsidized by the Japanese government. They had to apply to be part of the campaign—it does not apply to all eateries.
The 25% discount/savings are available in the form of vouchers. One voucher covers a group of eateries in a given area. As an example, you might be able to buy a voucher booklet for ¥10,000 for Neighborhood X: this would give you ¥12,500 in spending money at the participating restaurants. The discount is built in, if you see what we mean.
Travel agencies like JTB, Japan Travel and Tobu Top Tours are authorized sellers of the discount vouchers, but you can order them online too. You can do this on the dedicated Go To Eat Campaign website for the prefecture you are interested in. Each prefecture has its own micro site for the campaign, and shows you which restaurants are participating. You can pay for and print out your discount vouchers from FamiPort ticket machines at participating Family Mart convenience stores.
May 14, 2021 update: Due to the temporary suspension of Go To Eat in many parts of the country, the sales period for premium vouchers has been extended (with different sales periods for different regions), with the validity period running until the end of December, 2021, at the latest.
In December, 2020, it was reported that from mid-March 2021, a set of new premium vouchers would be available, offering 20%, instead of 25%, in savings. These vouchers were to be on sale until mid-May, and valid for use until the end of June. However, we are waiting for further updates on this.
Check the official Go To Eat campaign website for up-to-date information and announcements.
May 14, 2021 update: As the budget for this part of the Go To Eat campaign has been nearly 100% used up, diners may no longer be able to get new points in the category described below. However, they will still be able to use points they have already accumulated, until the date specified by the restaurant. By making reservations up to December, diners may be able to redeem their points until the end of March, 2021. You are advised to check each restaurant for specific conditions.
The premium vouchers mentioned above will continue to be available.
A different way that customers can save money on eating out is by booking certain restaurants online, which will give them ¥500 (from lunches) to ¥1,000 (from dinners) in points when they pay after their meal. From what we understand, these can then be redeemed at the same restaurant when the customer visits again.
This part of the Go To Eat campaign started from October 1, 2020.
There are more than 10 websites you can use to make the reservations, including:
For a full list, you can check the Japanese site Travelers Navi.
Conditions of the Go To Eat campaign
Conditions include the following (updated December 15, 2020):
- No change will be given for partially-used vouchers
- 25% savings vouchers will be on sale until the end of February, 2021; thereafter 20% savings vouchers will be on sale from mid-March until mid-May
- 25% savings vouchers will be valid until the end of March, 2021, extended until the end of December in some prefectures; 20% savings vouchers will be valid until the end of June
- The number of vouchers and points that can be used by one person will be limited.
Where does Go To Eat apply?
The Go To Eat campaign will run nationwide. As of the end of August, 2020, 35 eateries (including chains) across 33 prefectures had been registered as part of the Go To Eat campaign. More prefectures may participate in the coming months.
Note: There’s a possibility that the Go To Eat campaign could be postponed or suspended again, regionally or nationally, if cases spike.
Is the Go To Eat campaign a good idea right now?
We’ll have to let you be the judge of that. Eating out, especially in indoor spaces with poor ventilation, does come with risks. See how to reduce those risks. Dining outdoors or opting for takeout may be your best bet.
November 16 update: Due to a countrywide spike in coronavirus cases, the national government announced that it would be calling on prefectural governors to consider limiting the use of vouchers and points to groups of four people or fewer. In addition, some areas and restaurants may ask diners to refrain from redeeming points until COVID-19 case numbers come down, extending the validity period to make things easier.
Restaurants need to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to participate in the Go To Eat campaign. Looking at the official Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Go To Eat campaign page, preventative measures will need to be taken in accordance with industry guidelines, and include things like appropriate social distancing between diners.
Will Go To Eat apply to takeout?
It looks like it does apply to some takeout and delivery options at some of the participating restaurants—you’ll need to check with each one, though.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published on July 22, 2020. Last updated on May 14, 2021.