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Hi Blog. I’ve been writing about Japan’s racialized attitude towards Covid for well over a year now (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), which is, essentially: Japanese have been treated as less infectious than foreigners traveling under the same conditions. This was seen most clearly in the racist border policies that have refused all foreigners re-entry (including those with valid visas) but let in all Japanese.
I suspected that this poor science would play a part in the Japan Olympic Committee’s recent decision to ban all “overseas spectators” (their wording: “kaigai no kankyaku“) from attending the Olympics. And I suspected that this would only apply to foreigners.
Well, the Japan Times reported today that this has precisely come to pass: “According to the Japanese organizing committee, foreign nationals made up roughly 10% of a total of 80,000 volunteers before the pandemic forced the one-year postponement of the games. Japanese citizens living abroad are expected to be allowed to volunteer, according to the officials.” [emphasis added]
So to recap: Japanese citizens living overseas are not counted as “overseas spectators”. They have that immunity to Covid by dint of their passport.
This is despite:
- The rest of the developed world vaccinating at far higher rates than Japan is at the moment.
- The fact that those “overseas spectators” bearing proof of vaccination are less likely to spread Covid than the (almost all unvaccinated) Japanese.
- The fact that, again, any gathering during a pandemic is potentially a superspreader event. The danger being posed to the Japanese public by holding these Olympics with spectators keeps getting ignored in the GOJ’s singleminded attempt at recouping their investment.
No. It’s the first Olympics without “foreign” spectators. Overseas spectators are okay if they’re Japanese.
So as predicted, welcome to Japan’s first “Japanese Only” Olympics. As long as you have a Japanese passport, you are immune to Covid and have privileged access to Our Games. SITYS. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
PS: I know the article says that Japanese “volunteers” living abroad will get in, not “spectators”. But do you really think the Japanese government is going to make that distinction? It’s already not making a distinction between Japanese in Japan and Japanese living abroad for re-entry. You think officials are going to say, “Oh, you’re not going to actually watch the games? Just come in to the event as a volunteer? Oh, well, that’s okay, then! Come right on in!”
Similar is the distinction that has NOT been made between NJ Residents and foreign tourists. I’ve talked about that here. And that distinction is still not being officially made now. So for those thinking, “Well, I live in Japan, I’ve got tickets, I’ll get in!”, I say wait and see. My read, based upon decades of study of how the government treats NJ Residents (and reaffirmed by its blanket border bans of NJ over the past year), is that I’ll be very surprised if any distinction is finally made. D.
UPDATE MARCH 24: Debito.org Reader RO points out that according to the IACE Travel Agency (which is legally liable for their information), even overseas “Japanese” who NO LONGER HAVE JAPANESE CITIZENSHIP (because they gave it up and took another nationality) can still re-enter Japan. In other words, what constitutes “overseas Japanese” is a matter of having Japanese blood, even without having Japanese legal status. These are racialized paradigms for what constitutes a “Japanese”, and that is related to this blog entry because they will factor into border controls concerning the Olympics.
RO says: Apparently former Japanese nationals who have renounced their Japanese citizenship are still allowed to enter Japan, if they can show proof of their former Japanese citizenship. See the below post from someone else.
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