11 July 2024

A truck laden with kitchen sinks, cutlery, pots and pans pulls up to a warehouse in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, and workers begin to unload the goods taken from shuttered restaurants – victims of the COVID-19 pandemic-driven slump.

The facility, run by second-hand kitchen equipment supplier Tenpos Busters, is so full that a sink has to be left outside. “We are buying more items, so our centres for maintenance across the country are operating at a full capacity to clean and repair them,” Takahito Tooyama, sales division director at Tenpos Busters, told Reuters.

The amount of equipment the company has bought from restaurants has doubled compared to a year earlier, Tooyama said. Former ramen noodle shop owner Yashiro Haga is one of those who has sold his kitchen goods to the company.

Five days after he closed his 15-year-old ramen shop, Shirohachi, in a Tokyo business district, the firm picked up his chairs, cooking pots and ramen bowls.

“Now that my stuff is gone and the shop is bare, it makes me sad,” said Haga somberly, standing in his kitchen and looking at the empty dining counter.

Haga earned around 16,000 yen ($165) from selling his kitchen goods, which will be cleaned at a maintenance centre before being resold.

Around 800 Japanese businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic have gone bankrupt from February to mid-December, according to credit research firm Teikoku Databank.

Restaurants and bars were the hardest-hit, with 126 companies going under.

Pain for the restaurant industry will continue while social distancing measures remain in place, business analyst Shogo Maruyama said, suggesting owners of restaurants located in central Tokyo should consider opening outlets in suburban areas.