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How You Can Support Local Businesses in Japan During COVID-19

Do your part to help Japan's local economy all from your computer.

By 6 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be an economic marathon for those small businesses and independent companies who have seen their customer base plummet.

With so much happening right now, and hints at the nation beginning to get a little back to normal, we still need to remain diligent and to avoid potentially facing a second wave outbreak.

If you’re looking for a way to continue to shop safely and help local businesses, there are some pretty easy ways to chip in, help locals get back on track, and get a few goodies for yourself too.

Buy a local produce box

A farmer’s market in Shimo-takaido, Tokyo.

If this current time isn’t the absolute pinnacle moment for online shopping, I don’t know what is. Rather than going straight to Amazon, make your online spending a little more ethical by shopping locally.

While you’re trapped inside with extra time and a rediscovered passion for cooking—or at least flexing your culinary skills on Instagram—a locally sourced produce box is a win-win all around. You get fresh fruit and veggies, you don’t have to leave the house, and you’re supporting farmers directly.

With a majority of restaurants running on a low capacity model or just offering take out, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get the cream of the crop as many producers are stuck with an excess of product.

Where to buy

Help local farmers and get more delicious produce while doing it.

Couple Atsue and Cameron run Base Side Farm out near Fussa Yokota Air Base. They’re selling a variety of seasonal vegetables, including plenty of greens, all of which you can see on their Facebook page. Customers can order mixed or single variety boxes and can opt for pick up or local delivery. Ordering in English or Japanese is fine. 

The team at Aoyama’s Farmers Market @UNU has put together a comprehensive list of their eclectic vendors from whom you can order direct. If you’re looking for organic options, produce from across Japan, or something a little more niche, you’ll be able to find what you’re chasing through this listing.

Tabechoku is an online platform that sells produce boxes from across the map. If you sign up for their concierge service, they’ll send you a package filled with goods from a different prefecture each week. The website is in Japanese.

There’s also the Facebook Group コロナ支援・訳あり商品情報グループ which has become like an online marketplace for producers wanting to sell excess stock. It is all in Japanese, but it’s worth battling Google Translate because the sheer variety and deals on this page are staggering.

Book a private (future) tour of Kyoto

Sannen Zaka Street in Kyoto.

There’s no question that tourism is one of Japan’s most important industries. It’s essential not only to travel organizations, but to countless small businesses, like restaurants, and gift shops that service the economy. But when we’re not even supposed to leave the house, how can you help those whose job depends on us traveling?

Japan Localized, a free walking tour company based in Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, and Hiroshima, is on the horizon. The company usually runs tours for “free” or on a tip basis, which means after the tour, guests pay the guide how much they feel the tour was worth. 

The money will also help support the local businesses that Japan Localized frequents during tours.  

With no tourists to guide, there’s no money coming in. Company founder Dai has set up a crowdfunding page where you can book a tour in advance for when travel is an option again. You can also buy a handwritten letter by Japan Localized staff on authentic Japanese washi (traditional Japanese paper). 

All the money will go to paying his staff, some of whom run the tip tours as a full-time income source. The money will also help support the local businesses that Japan Localized frequents during tours. 

Their Tokyo tours are listed as one of Trip Advisor’s #3 inbound experiences to try in Japan, and Kyoto tours are very popular so get in early and book a private visit

Subscribe to The Big Issue

The Big Issue offers Japan’s homeless and at risk people a means to earn an income.

For many who have struggled to find stable income, The Big Issue has been a lifeline. Established in 2003, The Big Issue is a monthly lifestyle, news, and current affairs magazine. The magazine is sold through vendors who may currently be facing tough personal, or economic situations, such as homelessness. By selling The Big Issue, vendors can earn an income independently.  

It provides the opportunity for sellers to make money autonomously, but it’s also an excellent bridge between vendors and customers. Selling the magazine on the street gets people interacting, and genuine human connection can be just as valuable as money. 

…genuine human connection can be just as valuable as money.

With the state of emergency limiting foot traffic, and the virus jeopardizing The Big Issue vendors, COVID-19 has made life much harder for those who didn’t have it so easy in the first place. 

The magazine has started selling online issues, so if you subscribe to The Big Issue now, you’ll get six magazines posted to your door over three months, and half of the sales revenue will be paid to sellers who can’t work right now given the situation.

Book a hotel room in advance

Start planning your next trip to Japan today.

Despite entry bans, we can still dream about and even plan our next adventure in Japan. If you’re looking for a deal, it’s a great time to save money by booking a room in advance. You’ll also do some good at the same time.

Hostel Q Stay in Tokyo is offering guests a 54% “see you soon” discount on any rooms booked right now for use anytime during 2020. Its central location near Ameyokocho in Ueno Park is about as convenient as it gets and has some of the best museums you can find in Tokyo.  

A little further out of Tokyo, in the picturesque Kanazawa, is Kaname Inn. Since April, the hotel has run an initiative called “Room for Rescue,” where it opened its doors to foreign guests who found themselves stranded in Japan. It gave them a place to stay while they figured out their next moves. 

Together, we can ensure that local businesses and organizations in Japan stay afloat.

Now, as a way to recoup costs and encourage travel once again, they’re asking for those planning to visit in the future to make a booking now so they can stay running. 

This list is only a small example of ways you can help. Together, we can ensure that local businesses and organizations in Japan stay afloat. If you can’t afford to contribute, simply sharing worthy causes helps raise awareness. For those struggling financially, be sure to check out our guide on how to fill out the ¥100,000 subsidy payment. 

Do you know any fundraising efforts you think are worth our attention? Share in the comments below!

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