Avoid the trains during the Tokyo Olympics

Chris Gallagher for Reuters:

In a Reuters poll, 83% of Japanese companies said they don’t currently allow employees to work from home. And 73% of firms surveyed said they aren’t considering allowing what Japan often refers to as ‘telework’, or telecommuting, during this summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games, according to the survey conducted from Jan. 30 to Feb. 12.

… The aversion to allowing work from home is unwelcome news for the government, which wants companies to let their employees telecommute during the Olympics to make travel easier for Games participants and spectators on Tokyo’s notoriously packed trains and roadways.

It also points to a potential headache amid growing concern about the coronavirus epidemic that had killed nearly 1,800 in mainland China as of Monday and has spread to a number of countries in Asia including Japan. While companies elsewhere are drawing up contingency plans with large portions of staff working from home in a bid to contain the virus, most Japanese firms would have to implement radical change to follow suit.

Tokyo’s trains are already crowded enough at all times of the day, even without the Olympics. That’s because almost everyone converges from Saitama in the north, Chiba in the west, Yokohama in the south, and Musashino-shi in the west to work along or inside the Yamanote Line. You can see this visualized in a map NHK made for a documentary last year:

NHK, June 29, 2019. This doesn’t include the two Tokyo subway systems or the JR East network!

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, 10 million tourists from around Japan and abroad will converge in Tokyo to watch Olympic Games. So there will be no place to stay, and no trains to get around. The solution? Just don’t go to Tokyo this summer.

To compare, a list of shame containing companies and law firms in Hong Kong that aren’t allowing its employees to work from home during the coronavirus outbreak is making the rounds around WhatsApp and Telegram. Is the concept of black kigyo taking hold?