Chopin’s piano music is playing comfortably through the large speakers in the restaurant, and the sun is shining through the window, which is hard to believe on a December morning, but the wind outside is blowing hard enough to shake the leaves off the trees. As a woman takes her seat,
“I see you are a new customer,” the soft-spoken waiter says bringing a menu and a cup of water. “Are you a college student? Where are you from?”
“Yes,” she says, “I’m from Okayama.” They talked until her food was served.
The old ladies sitting next to her are chatting.
“Hey, listen! It’s going to snow tomorrow morning.”
“Oh my! It’s very rare to get snow in Kochi, but anyway winter has finally come to here!”
They were happily chatting and drinking their coffee. This is a Kissaten in Kochi City. A Kissaten is a restaurant that serves coffee and other beverages and sweets. And this is the perfect place to chat for a long time with friends and significant other, having a delicious meal. Though it is not a well-known fact, Kochi Prefecture has the largest number of coffee shops relative to the population in Japan. Of course, there are many coffee shops around Kochi University, and most of them offer morning service. A morning meal is a breakfast served at a coffee shop, often consisting of toast, salad, hard-boiled eggs, and coffee. However, since Kochi Prefecture has a strong morning culture, there are many other types of mornings as well.
Many restaurants are also located in the area. Many students often live alone and often eat out when they are busy with studying. However, three years ago, the coronavirus spread in Japan, and although face-to-face classes are now the main method of teaching, Kochi University also offered online classes most of the time. As people leave their homes less often, they eat at home more often, and as a result, business conditions at restaurants have become more difficult than before the spreading of the coronavirus.
Under these circumstances, Kochi Prefecture launched a system in August 2021 called “Kochi-ke Anshin Kaisyoku Shokudo”. This system certifies restaurants that work on infection control measures with the aim of providing an environment where users can eat and drink safely, even while the risk of infection from the coronavirus continues. By being certified, restaurants will receive a sticker and can appeal that they are safe to use, which will lead to increased sales. There is a process for certification. According to the Kochi-ke website, there are 53 criteria for certification. For example, the restaurant must have a disinfection facility at the entrance to the restaurant, and tables and partitions must be set up so that different groups have at least one meter of interpersonal distance from each other. The restaurant confirms these items and submits the application documents to Kochi Prefecture. After that, an inspector from the secretariat visits the restaurant and conducts an on-site inspection to ensure that infection control measures are in place. If the restaurant is certified, it receives a sticker and 100,000 yen in support money.
“Oshokuji-no-mise King,” which is located near Kochi University. This restaurant is certified. The restaurant was filled with warmth as the sun shone comfortably inside. This restaurant mainly serves “teishoku” (set meals). The most popular menu is the Chicken Nanban set meal, which consists of fried chicken with sweet vinegar sauce.
“We want to provide college students with inexpensive and plentiful food,” said Mr. Yamaoka, the restaurant’s owner.
He first learned of “Kochi-ke Anshin Kaisyoku no Mise” through a TV commercial.
“I decided to join the program because I thought that if my restaurant was certified, my customers would feel safe using my restaurant,” he said.
He then underwent an examination and was successfully certified. After the certification, he received comments from customers such as,
“I was able to dine with peace of mind.”
As a countermeasure against infection, the restaurant has installed two large air purifiers, fans for air circulation, partitions, disinfectors, and a thermometer. These were purchased with 100,000 yen in support money.
According to the official website of the “Kochi-ke Anshin Kaiyoku Suisinn no Mise”, 3,442 restaurants have already been certified and are known to many people. In fact, 17 out of 20 people surveyed were aware of the program.
One of them said, “I actively try to choose restaurants with this sticker.”
She was born and grew up in Kochi Prefecture, and now goes to Kochi University from her parents’ house, so if she contracted corona, it would be a problem for her family. For this reason, she chooses restaurants that have thorough infection control measures in place, even when dining out with friends. Kochi Prefectural Department of Health Policy, Food and Pharmaceutical Safety Division said,
“We did not collect information related to management, such as sales and its growth rate. However, being a certified restaurant was a requirement for participation in the “Go to Eat” and “Eat and Drink Campaigns”, so we think we may have contributed somewhat.”
They added, “We are very happy to have been able to contribute to the campaign.”
“GO TO EAT” is a campaign run by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to support restaurants that operate while working on infection control measures and the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries that provide foodstuffs. It is also a campaign to encourage people to “Eat! Drink! Kochi Family Support Campaign” is a campaign run by Kochi Prefecture to stimulate consumption among Kochi residents and support restaurants and related businesses that have been affected by the spread of the new coronavirus and soaring prices to help revitalize the prefectural economy. The combination of these two campaigns is expected to attract more customers. However, he said that he has received some negative comments about the “Kochi-ke Anshin Kaiyoku Suisin no Mise. For example, several times they were asked,
“Does it make sense to comply with the criteria as an infection control measure?”
“How long will it continue?”
To the first comment, they replied,
“The criteria for certification itself was established in accordance with the standards set forth by the government, so there are certain consequences.”
The second was,
“We are not thinking of relaxing the standards or abolishing the system while the infection of the new coronavirus has not ended.”
No one knows what the coronavirus will be like or how our lives will change in the future. However, if there is a system such as the “Kochi-ke Anshin Kaiyoku Suisin no Mise,” restaurants can receive support and get out of their difficult business situation, and of course, customers can enjoy their meals with peace of mind while taking precautions against infection. Recently, the Japanese government announced that it would abolish the mandatory wearing of masks that had been in place to combat the new coronavirus infection and change the treatment to a level equivalent to that of influenza, one of the most pandemic diseases. If these measures are truly implemented, people’s lives would change dramatically, and they would be able to go out and live their lives as they did before the spreading of the coronavirus. And restaurants will be even busier than they are now, with more customers coming in. Such a bright future must be waiting for us.
Osyokuji no Mise King
I’ve seen the stickers in many restaurants yet never knew what that means. Nice sharing!
I didn’t know that it is needed 53 criteria for certification for this. It seems really difficult. From now on, I would look for this sticker in some restaurant.
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I don’t have to worry about coronavirus when in a restaurant with this system, it lets me feel comfortable while I have a meal.
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