While the state of emergency continues in Japan’s major cities, the nation’s independent, tourism, and hospitality businesses still find themselves in a state of great economic uncertainty.
As a way to find some respite, some businesses and larger organizations are coming up with new ways to ensure that small- and medium-size companies—the ones that employ 70% of the working population and stand as the economic and cultural backbone of the nation—don’t get left behind.
From online crowdfunding channels to booking holidays in advance, there are a few easy ways you can do your bit to help businesses bounce back faster (while nabbing yourself a bargain too).
Book a tour with Japan Localized
Tour company Japan Localized runs predominantly free walking tours across Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo, with Hiroshima on the horizon. The company was founded by former full-time financial sector salaryman, now hands-on guide himself Dai Miyamoto. For the past three years, Dai had been running tours in his free time, but in 2019 he decided to focus on the business full time. While the tours are technically free, most of them run on an honesty basis with guests paying in tips at the end of the tour. While it usually works incredibly well, many of the guides are now stuck with no guests to guide.
Through a crowdfunding page, Dai is raising money to keep paying his tour guiding staff and also help support the local businesses frequented during the tours. Supporters can receive letters handwritten by Japan Localized staff on authentic Japanese washi paper or private group tours, which can be booked in advance.
Subscribe to The Big Issue
The Big Issue magazine has been a valuable source of journalism and a lifeline for those across the globe. The concept is simple but effective: give those who might be in difficult financial spot the chance to be self-sustaining. It doesn’t just give vendors a chance to make money, but also a chance to connect with the community.
Right now, many vendors are unable to continue their work selling copies on the street, so the magazine is selling issues online. If you sign up, you’ll receive six magazines posted to your door over three months, with half of the sales revenue going to sellers who can’t work right now.
Browse the Corona Support Facebook group
If you’d like to ensure your money is going direct to the local producers that need it most, then join the Facebook group コロナ支援・訳あり商品情報グループ (translation: Corona Support and Translation Product Information Group). This page has become an online marketplace for producers looking to offload excess stock at discount prices. In this group, you’ll find all sorts of goodies, from pickles made in Gifu, prosciutto from Oyama, soy sauce, soba, rice, and sake all advertised by the producers themselves. While the page is all in Japanese, if you’re browsing the page on Google Chrome, it should automatically translate.
Check out the Rakuten COVID relief page
While ordering products you might need from local producers would be the best most direct way to help Japanese farmers and makers, sometimes working with big companies is an inevitability. But luckily, some larger companies are trying to do their bit when it comes to supplying COVID relief.
Rakuten has set up a support page where customers can order a huge variety of foods like baked goods, sushi bowls and fresh produce. If you buy from this page, then Rakuten will donate 100 yen to the fund for infectious disease control support. Sure, it’s not a lot but every little bit counts.
Order craft beer from Setouchi
The explosion of the craft beer scene in Japan has been a little slower than many other Western nations. But local brewers are making up for lost time, producing delicious and ambitious microbrews all across the map.
In preparation for the spring Fukuyama Beer Festa, the team at Setouchi-based brewery Craft Heart were working their little hearts out, producing world-class brews that combine the nation’s love of artisanal craftsmanship with salt from the seas and excellent fresh fruits (like blackberry and strawberry).
With the arrival of COVID-19, the festival was canceled, which meant that the brewery had been left with a surplus of unconsumed salty fruit beer. To offload the product and showcase their talent for creating unique but tasty blends, the company is selling the beers online via Campfire, so you can get tipsy and feel good at the same time.
Join the Koenji fan club
Koenji is one of Tokyo’s most authentic and exciting neighborhoods. Overflowing with live houses, smoky izakayas, deep dark dive bars, creative locals, and the best-stocked thrift stores, it deserves a position in Tokyo Cheapo’s neighborhood hall of fame.
Much of the suburb’s economy is focused on human-to-human interaction (live shows, drinking and dining) and family-run independent businesses. With little opportunity to continue working at the moment, so much of the area is suffering, so the team behind live music venue Sound Studio Dom has set up a campaign to help fund the local businesses and share a little of the Koenji love. Supporters can buy Koenji tour passport sets, Koenji merch packs and other goodies.