Japan shut down an entire island’s schools, restaurants, and stadiums after an uptick in coronavirus cases. Here’s what it looks like.

A composite image showing a closed restaurant and empty baseball stadium in Hokkaido.

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A composite image showing a closed restaurant and empty baseball stadium in Hokkaido.
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  • The northern Japanese island of Hokkaido has become a hotbed for the coronavirus after recording dozens of cases.
  • So far, there have been 77 confirmed cases on the island, making it the most infected prefecture in Japan. Experts fear the number of cases on Hokkaido could actually be much higher.
  • Hokkaido’s governor declared a state of emergency on February 28, prompting schools, malls, restaurants, and stadiums on the popular tourist island to shut down.
  • Here’s what life under lockdown looks like in Hokkaido.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Japan’s second-largest island and popular tourist destination, Hokkaido, has become a hotbed for the novel coronavirus after authorities recorded 77 cases there alone.

Amid fears that the virus will spread further, the island’s governor, Naomichi Suzuki, declared a state of emergency on February 28, prompting schools, malls, restaurants, and entire stadiums to shut down.

Here’s what daily life looks like for Hokkaido’s residents now.


Hokkaido, Japan’s second-biggest island, currently has 77 recorded cases of coronavirus.

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Men in protective gear disinfecting a bus in Aibetsu, Hokkaido, on February 25, 2020.
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But according to a Japanese scientist, the number of people infected on the island may have reached 940 last month – more than 10 times the official figure.

“The difference from the reported cases is about 10-fold, so it’s likely there are people who only have minor symptoms or have not developed any,” said Hiroshi Nishiura, who studies statistical models of infectious diseases at Hokkaido University, according to Bloomberg.

“My guess is that many of them are younger people.”

As of Tuesday, three people have died on the island, according to an updated tracker by Japanese news agency Nippon.


Hokkaido’s 77 cases have made it the most infected prefecture in Japan. The second most infected prefecture is Tokyo, which has recorded 39 cases.

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Google Maps/Business Insider

It’s worth noting that Japan’s prefectures vary in size, and Hokkaido is the largest. Hokkaido is more than 35 times larger than Tokyo in terms of size.

Source: Nippon


On February 28, Hokkaido’s governor, Naomichi Suzuki, declared a state of emergency and asked residents and tourists to remain indoors.

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Suzuki wearing a face mask while speaking to reporters in Tokyo on February 29, 2020.
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“If nothing is done, the coronavirus will spread rapidly,” Governor Suzuki told Japanese broadcaster NHK World.

“This is a crucial moment. We must take unprecedented measures.”

Source: Japan Times


The declaration came after Japan’s prime minister ordered all the country’s schools to shut down until the end of March. Hokkaido’s 1,600 schools — like this elementary school — have also closed.

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Shinzo Abe’s order will affect 12.8 million students at 34,847 schools nationwide, the Japanese education ministry said.

Source: Japan Times, Business Insider


Hokkaido, one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations, usually sees more than 130 million visitors a year and at least 2 million in February alone. But the airport looked much emptier than ususal this weekend.

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Hokkaido’s New Chitose Airport pictured after the governor declared a state of emergency on February 29, 2020.
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The island’s ski resorts are very popular, and the Sapporo Snow Festival – which runs in the first two weeks of February – attracted two million in 2019 alone, The Independent reported.

This year visitor numbers to the festival plunged by about 710,000, according to the Japan Times.

Most visitors to Japan are from South Korea and China, two of the worst-hit countries by the coronavirus.

Source: Hokkaido Bureau of Tourism (2014)


Those still traveling through Hokkaido’s New Chitose Airport were also seen wearing masks.

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An empty shopping area in the New Chitose Airport on February 29, 2020.
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The state of emergency is also taking a visible toll on the island’s businesses. Department stores in the major cities of Sapporo and Hakodate closed down, and malls look almost deserted.

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An underground shopping mall in Sapporo on February 29, 2020.
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Not many crowds were seen in the Susukino district in Sapporo, usually a popular neighborhood for nightlife.

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“This is supposed to be the busiest time of year. The virus has been a huge blow to business,” an owner of a barbecue restaurant in the Kitami district told Japanese media.

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An empty shopping street in Kitami on February 29, 2020.
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Source: NHK World


Many businesses across the country, including in Hokkaido, have started urging employees to work from home and minimize contact with others.

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A restaurant in Hokkaido on February 29, 2020.
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Governor Suzuki also asked those who feel unwell to refrain from going to work, adding that even people with mild symptoms can spread the virus while traveling, according to NHK World.


One of Hokkaido’s most popular tourist attractions — its fresh seafood markets — have also been deserted as tourists cancel their trips to the island.

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Hakodate Morning Market in Hokkaido, Japan on Feb. 29, 2020.
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At least 147,000 guests have canceled accommodation in Sapporo and other cities in Hokkaido, the Japan Times reported, citing Hokkaido Prefectural Government.

The prefecture estimates a loss of over 20 billion yen ($185 billion) in tourism revenue if there are no tour groups from China until next month, the newspaper reported.


Even Japan’s favorite pastime — baseball — has been put on pause. Preseason games across the country have been played in empty stadiums, including those in Hokkaido.

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A baseball preseason game between the Nippon Ham Fighters and the Orix Buffaloes at the Sapporo Dome in Hokkaido on February 29, 2020.
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Japan’s professional baseball league announced on February 26 that it will play its 72 remaining preseason games in empty stadiums because of coronavirus fears, according to Sports Illustrated.

The regular season is expected to open on March 20.

Soccer players in Italy, the worst-infected country outside Asia, have also been playing games in empty stadiums because of the outbreak.


The Health Ministry has since sent personnel to the island to help tackle the rise in infections.

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Members of the Hokkaido regional assembly on February 27, 2020.
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Source: Bloomberg


Hokkaido isn’t alone. Dozens of other towns and cities around the world — like San Fiorano, Italy — have been locked down due to the coronavirus. Once-bustling businesses have been emptied out.

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A closed bar in San Fiorano on February 22, 2020.
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Marzio Toniolo / Reuters