When the Japanese media observes omertà on how Japan’s policymakers engage in racist politics, it’s sometimes up to overseas media to expose it. Debito.org Reader Maximilian Doe offers a full report from German media: How even Japan’s scientists (particularly a Dr. Oshitani Hitoshi, professor of virology at Tohoku University, and leader of the health advisors to the Japanese government) couched COVID as an overseas contagion, not something also brought into Japan by Japanese (such as the cruise ship Diamond Princess). This led to policies that reflectively exclude all “foreigners” (including NJ Residents with valid visas) from entry or even quarantine.
OSHITANI: Spread of COVID-19 in Japan had two major waves so far. The first wave was originated by people with travel history to Wuhan and other places in China. From January to early February, the number of cases from China found in Japan was 11. Of course, there were considered to be more imported cases from China in reality, but it was likely somewhere around several tens to about a hundred. These people traveled to Japan for sightseeing or other purposes, and later, through places where people congregate, such as sports gyms and small concert houses, transmissions spread across the country including Hokkaido, Tokyo, Aichi, and Osaka. This first wave had come under control by mid March with number of cases relatively low, but the second wave came as the first wave was calming down. Second wave was originated by infected people from a wide range of countries, such as Europe, US, Southeast Asia, and Egypt. We confirmed about 300 cases who had entered Japan from such countries, so the actual number of cases who entered Japan is estimated to be around 1,000 ~ 2,000. Although local transmissions of the second wave in Japan began in early February, infected people from abroad were coming to Japan and able to move around the country almost without any restriction, until the government put restrictions on travel at the end of March. This resulted in a large outbreak.
SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Virologist and government advisor Hitoshi Oshitani says: “The data clearly shows that Japan’s measures were more effective than those of Western countries.” No G7 country has so few Covid-19 fatalities as Japan. The high standard of hygiene of the Japanese is also claimed as an additional reason for this. Now the government of the right-wing conservative Prime Minister Shinzō Abe wants to make sure that foreigners will not cause the next wave.
COMMENT FROM DOE: These German articles are not hard proof whether Dr. Oshitani is actively okay with shutting out even legal residents or not, but in combination with the Japanese and English articles published on the website of Oshitani’s lab I get the impression that he and his team of other advisors had a very strong influence, if not the most critical influence, on the government implementing this current entry ban. I also think that it’s enough evidence that he at least doesn’t care about the problem for stranded NJ residents. A curious behavior for an academic or one of Japan’s national apex universities, since universities are those “businesses” disproportionately affected by this. Besides this he’s clearly responsible for the – let’s say – special testing policy Japan has implemented. I’d like to hear your thoughts about this.
COMMENT FROM DEBITO: My thoughts are there is a pattern here. Foreigners, as we’ve seen from the days of AIDS, SARS, and even the Otaru Onsens Case, are more likely to be seen as riddled with contagion, and treated as such by policymakers either with benign neglect or overt reactionary policies. However, instead of having a government and civil society that rightfully points out that associating disease with citizenship leads to racism, in Japan we get blanket exclusion. And it’s even backed up by Japan’s scientists.