APJ-Japan Focus’s Jeff Kingston on PM Abe and postponement of 2020 Tokyo Olympics; plus the inhumanity of the Japanese Govt


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Hi Blog.  I hope all Debito.org Readers and their loved ones are safe and well during this time of pandemic.

It’s time to talk about the politics of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and how Prime Minister Abe has put Japan at risk for the sake of a sports meet.

Dr. Jeff Kingston of Temple University Japan has posted a salient article today about the politicking between Abe’s minions and and the International Olympic Committee, and how Abe may exploit any crisis he exacerbated for his own political benefit.  It’s very much worth a read:


Kingston Abstract: Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has been widely criticized for ineptitude in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Keen to host the Olympics in 2020, he put public health at risk. Strong international criticism finally forced the IOC and Abe to accept the inevitable and defer the Olympics until 2021. Now both parties are now trying to claim credit for making this decision. The Japanese policy of limiting testing kept policymakers and citizens in the dark and handicapped responses to the outbreak. As the number of infections surges, the government is playing catch up. The combination of an accelerating COVID-19 outbreak in Japan and imminent global economic recession will hit Japan hard and could lead to Abe’s ouster. For now, there are growing concerns that he may exploit this crisis to advance his political agenda of constitutional revision.

Read the whole article at:



COMMENT:  It bears articulating here that Japan (despite a number of premature “rosy” reports bordering on the typical “Japan is unique, special, and immune to world trends“) is now probably going to see its infected cases ramp up and people die.  For much the same reason that Trump initially called the pandemic a “hoax” (buying some time for him and his buddies to sell off their stock before the market crashed), Abe forewent systemic and widespread infection testing to make sure case numbers stayed low (even excluding the infected Diamond Princess cruise ship passengers, who were largely Japanese, from the national tally).  All because the people who have money would rather risk the lives of the elderly and immunocompromised (as happened in the 1980s with Japan’s Health Ministry and HIV-tainted blood) than let any economic impacts of postponing an Olympics reduce their political power or their already-stuffed wallets.

If the rich and powerful are so concerned about the economic well-being of the people who actually man and power national economies, they should re-seed much of their money back into subsidizing the incomes of people who can’t work during lockdown (while governments should pass national policies to temporarily suspend rents, mortgages, and rents on commercial properties).  So that people can all get through this crisis faster by hunkering down in place.  Not make things worse by being forced to work, contaminating each other in clusters, getting sick all at once and dying of insufficient care after overloading hospitals.  Tycoons could also drop a few hundred million on scientific research facilities and production of various PPEs to keep our health-care professions functional on the front lines.  (I’m sure they can get along just fine with their remaining few hundred millions.)

The short-sightedness and greed of people richer than God who won’t subsidize consumers and taxpayers (who have long subsidized THEIR lives) is astonishing.  Especially since a dead consumer/taxpayer and their remaining resentful kith and kin is of no use to them either.  This should be pointed out at every opportunity.

Instead (and this where the Debito.org subject matter comes in), we have Japanese media trying to blame foreigners again.  We’ve already seen the regular knee-jerk reaction (seen in health scares ere: e.g., “NJ have AIDS” (1986), “NJ have SARS” (2003)) of treating it as a “Chinese virus” (singling out Yokohama’s Chinatown).  Or even just portraying it as a general “foreign virus” and shutting out all “foreign” customers (including NJ residents who haven’t been abroad, but not Wajin who have).  But since we can’t blame foreign tourists anymore (world tourism has screeched to a halt), we’re now seeing regular media portraying it as a “returnee” virus (where Japanese returning from infected gaikoku are stigmatized).

Anything but blame the government for their political decision not embarrass or disrupt by testing widely and bringing on the lockdown. People will die for this.  Again, all for the sake of a sports meet.  Read Kingston above for more.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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27 comments on “APJ-Japan Focus’s Jeff Kingston on PM Abe and postponement of 2020 Tokyo Olympics; plus the inhumanity of the Japanese Govt

  • Baudrillard says:

    Abe’s 80s nostalgia = (as happened in the 1980s with Japan’s Health Ministry and HIV-tainted blood) , e.g., “NJ have AIDS” (1986), “NJ have SARS” (2003)) of treating it as a “Chinese virus” (singling out Yokohama’s Chinatown). Or even just portraying it as a general “foreign virus” and shutting out all “foreign” customers (including NJ residents who haven’t been abroad, but not Wajin who have). a “returnee” virus (where Japanese returning from infected gaikoku are stigmatized).

    I recall there was (is?) a belief in the 80s that returnees, Japanese who have been overseas for more than 5 years are no longer “real” Japanese!

    Is this because it takes that time to shake off Nihonjiron BS brainwashing? I do recall coming back to Japan after long holidays and spending a couple of weeks laughing at preposterous stuff we had to do a t work, before inevitably being taken to task for being “fumajime” etc

    • Andrew in Saitama says:

      I remember the idea going around in the late 80s – early 90s that “We Japanese don’t have AIDS because we are so clean and hygienic”, and I’m seeing a continuation of this in the current pandemic. This hubris is going to cost the community big time.

  • I wonder if it wouldn’t make sense that Japan’s elected bourgeoisie would believe loosing 100,000+ sick and elderly a few years prematurely, while simultaneously throwing wool over the market’s eyes and denying COVID-19’s already-rampant spread, would only serve to bolster their country’s economic status into perpetuity. I’d hate to think they would be that inhumane, but there’s all the evidence to suggest they are after reading this article.

    • Jim Di Griz says:

      Of course they would.
      Abe lost his olympics, he’s not going to let a US style shutdown be the final nail in the Abenomics coffin.
      Why would he? He can deny there’s a serious problem by restricting testing. He can deny the number of deaths by limited autopsy simply saying pneumonia. He can deny a ‘bump’ in pneumonia deaths because figures are only compiled and released every three years (and any figures could easily get shredded under this regime).
      And Abe gets to squawk about how he ‘kept up his guard’ and was ‘vigilant’. Roll on next snap election…

      Big business in Japan literally cannot function without bodies in offices. The high tech Japan myth is dead. LDP does what dinosaur big business wants. That’s it.

      • Jim Di Griz says:

        And right on cue, here it is;

        That Coronavirus could destroy the fiction of Abenomics ‘amazing’ rehabilitation of the Japanese economy is the real reason why Abe won’t declare a state of emergency, won’t do widespread testing, and is handing out masks expecting people to continue packing themselves into 150% over-capacity rush-hour trains.
        Economy above all? That is fascism, right?
        If all j-inc’s workers and customers are sick or dead, there won’t be much of an economy anyway.

        • David Markle says:

          This is a culling on a world wide scale. Get rid of the old, the feeble, the sick, the worthless eaters, the excess humans, so the planet can be ruled by the billionaire elite in a world government setup with one world digital currency controlled by them. At the click of a mouse you can be shut off and cease to exist if you don’t tow the line. Abe is just one of their errand boys who is allowed to play until his usefulness expires.

        • Jim Di Griz says:

          Need more proof?
          This guy is responsible for health policy, but he’s arguing that protecting the economy is a priority;
          ‘ Nobuhiko Okabe, director general of the Kawasaki City Institute for Public Health, said judging the timing for declaring a state of emergency was tough.

          If issued too soon, it would have a big economic impact and have a serious effect on society, but if too late, the number of infected patients would rise, he said.

          “This is not merely a question of numbers,” he told Reuters in an interview. “A balance of merits and demerits must be considered.”’


          I guess if your go-to health experts are yes-men, they’re going to ignore the responsibilities of their job title.

    • “I’d hate to think they would be that inhumane, but there’s all the evidence to suggest they are after reading this article.”

      And lets not forget that Mr. can’t-read-kanji and goosestepping nazi Taro Aso has said it out loud before that he sees the elderly as liabilities to society and publicly told them to off themselves.



      And to top it off, the vice-fuhrer also suggests that Japan should follow Wiemar Germany’s path to Nazism. So lets not forget that:


      The last time Japan took this route was in the 1920s, The Kanto Earthquake in 1930, and the market crash of 1929 gave opportunity to the far-right to rise to power.

      Given the social-political situation now in Japan, I get the feeling that the coronavirus compounded by a very likely recession might just be the perfect catalyst and express train ticket that the Nippon Kaigi and the LDP is waiting for to move forward with constitutional revision and changing and or removing any post-war laws that they don’t agree with.

      Lets all not forget the election of 2012 when and how Abe got into power by exploiting the geopolitics of the time to his his advantage. Given how toxic the 2012 election was, the LDP is the last of folks I would expect to get any sort of compassion or empathy from. And we can expect more or same of the toxicity we saw in 2012 from the LDP as time goes on.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Interesting, the very day after CNN website lead with an article about Japan doing nothing about the virus, English language Japan news is covered in articles about ‘how quiet’ Japan is whilst everyone stays home by some kind of magical ‘group consensus’ thus negating the need for Abe to declare a stare of emergency. (Journalist pro-tip; go to the parks! They are crowded with cherry blossom viewing parties!).





  • Jim Di Griz says:

    US Government sounds the alarm, advises US nationals to leave Japan due to;
    ‘ The Japanese Government’s decision to not test broadly makes it difficult to accurately assess the COVID-19 prevalence rate,’ which ‘ makes it difficult to predict how the system will be functioning in the coming weeks.’

    I guess that the reason this isn’t on the Japanese TV news is because it’s too embarrassing for Abe. It is, however, the first time anyone has publicly said that Japan’s policy towards the Covid-19 crisis officially is to not carry out widespread testing. Herd immunity of the type the UK government was forced to backtrack on in March after the public understood it meant letting people die.


    Ask yourself what the odds are that any NJ is going to get a ventilator in Japan if there’s any Japanese in the ER younger than you who needs one. You’re toast.

  • realitycheck says:

    And while other developed countries take real steps to assist their tax paying citizens and residents as well as the financially/socially disadvantaged – Australia seems to be leading the way here – yet again Japan behaves like a miser.
    Where is the basic assistance payment for everybody who can prove they have paid taxes as well as for members of society who already have enough financial and social disadvantages before we fadctor the new virus into it?
    I’m not saying taxpayers deserve more than others but if paying tax is used as the criterion then foreigners for example cannot be discriminated against.
    Thankfully I don’t work in eikaiwa – many English teachers are freelancers not because they want to be but because in big cities in Japan especially the nation’s capital, wages and conditions have been driven mercilessly down for more than a decade.
    Some of this is because of fresh graduates coming to Japan but many among them as well as more qualified/experienced teachers care about what they are doing for a living yet are earning substantially lower monthly ‘salaries’ than what was normal 20 plus years ago.
    The worst employers are showing their true colors – from what I’ve heard the only honorable employer of freelancers is Gaba in this crisis. They closed their schools maybe a month ago and paid a basic sum to their teachers to not come in.
    Others like a school that has cheap lessons at a number of branches is also cheap to its freelancers. No basic pay for them, the school has stayed open instead of protecting its workers. This is a no work no pay school.
    There are others. Damn – these schools need to be hammered by the authorities but does the Japanese govt at any level care? Nope. These freelancers just like freelancers both foreign and Japanese have seen their working hours killed by the new virus and by the old virus that is right wing politics in Japan.
    They are taxpayers.
    I want to encourage all these people to leave behind all their lowlife employers but it’s not easy for so many of them because this is what happens when they are freelancers in Japan – underpaid, exploited and in the case of foreigners, no protection by the law. And English teachers have it much better than other foreign workers.
    Now ‘The State of Emergency’ is going to shaft many underpaid freelancers even more while not giving one yen to assist them though they have paid taxes and continue to deny virus tests for the overwhelming majority here who have paid more than their fair share of taxes.

  • realitycheck says:

    Just saw now on twitter, uyoku representative, I mean Jiminto politician Mio Sugita, previously known from dismissing the LGBT community as human beings, is saying foreigners should not expect any help from Japan in this crisis. I haven’t read the racist trash, I mean tweet, properly but she seems to be telling us to go back home if we expect any assistance.
    Sure, foreigners who pay National Health Insurance which is just about all of us have no right to get any benefit from it….
    There has been relatively little response from foreigners who represent their communities and activists. This needs to publicised, thanks.

    — Please send us a link to the tweet as a comment, or a screen capture of it to debito@debito.org. Thanks.

    UPDATED: Just blogged on it. Thanks much.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    I would be even more damning of the J-Govt on this matter.
    On the same day it is announced that Japan’s laughable ‘mockdown’ is having no effect on reducing the rate of infection, the J-govt blames people for going out;


    But in the same breath as blaming the spread on people not self-isolating, the J-Govt claims that hair salons, beauticians and izakayas are ‘essential business’ (economy uber alles);


    And with foreign governments noticing that J-Inc has conspired with the J-Govt to conceal the true extent of the danger from the J-public, the Abe regime is expounding more effort on controlling the international narrative of his heartless prioritization of business over life than it is on taking action against the pandemic;


  • Jim Di Griz says:

    I read this earlier today:

    In which a Japanese journalists attacks the lack of freedom of the press in Japan, which prevents them from directly criticizing or attacking the failure of the Japanese government’s response to the corona virus outbreak in Japan, but instead leaves Japanese media feebly reporting that ‘foreign news criticized Japan’s handling of the situation’ (which is problematic in that it is how the Soviet Union, China and Iran- for example- report on the failings of their own government as a way escapes responsibility for reporting uncomfortable facts whilst at the same time implying that ‘foreigners’ are bullying the state.

    And then I read this;

    Wherein it is argued that Tokyo Governor Koike’s use of ‘foreign’ words such as ‘lockdown’ and ‘cluster’ are required to convey a ‘sense of crisis’ (gee, even NJ loan words are enough to panic the Japanese now! You can’t even talk about Covid-19 without stoking the fear of foreignness- or rather, that fear is being exploited).

    That article goes on to explain the linguistic gymnastics required in the Japanese language to obfuscate the seriousness of the Fukushima disaster to such an extant that the Japanese language terms used by the government were essentially meaningless gibberish that in no meaningful way related any useful information.

    This reminded me of something I read in Max Hastings’ excellent analysis of the final year of the Pacific War, Nemesis, in which he relates several firsthand accounts of Japanese leaders being totally detached from the reality that they were losing the war (and losing disastrously) due to the fact that the lowly radio and telephone operators were simply not able (linguistically and culturally) to convey directly in clear terms the shocking realities of defeats that commanders in the field were reporting, to their superiors. And we know how WWII and Fukushima worked out: ordinary Japanese got screwed over by the ‘erai hito’.

    • The most disgusting aspect of the article is the active, deliberate attempt to impart good will to Koike. Why should we believe a priori that she has good intentions? Referring to her diction as “carefully selected vocabulary” cannot be honestly regarded as objective reporting, and absolutely flies in the face of the media’s role as a watchdog for the people.

      If we apply Occam’s razor, it’s far easier to assume that either A) she is so ignorant and incompetent that she doesn’t realize that her “I know English, teehee!” grandiose showboating results in the message she is conveying being obscured to most audiences, or B) she is deliberately using obscure terms to obfuscate the conversation, a tactic politicians are well known for employing.

      Of course, the total absence of critical thought throughout the article is the most egregious offense. Why is there absolutely no attempt to analyze Reizei’s claims? Are we to believe that his claim that 外来語 convey a “sense of crisis” is completely above reproach? Why does the writer feel entitled to make excuses for Koike’s use of language by asserting that 集団感染 is associated with the seasonal flu and thus inappropriate for describing the same phenomenon as it applies to the corona virus? This is presented as if it were a fact, when it is in reality merely the writer’s speculation, clearly presented to justify a politician’s misleading speech. Further, the writer continues to make excuses for Koike, asserting with no evidence or proof whatsoever that Koike’s misuse of “overshoot” is a new, Japanese language-exclusive definition of the term, as compared to マンション. Again, isn’t it far more likely that she is simply incompetent or actively engaging in deceit?

      He jumps through these ridiculous hoops to protect an obviously malicious far-right politician and arrives at the conclusion that the problem is merely that said politician didn’t adequately “provide the proper context.” That Koike might be either incompetent or up to no good is never even allowed to enter the realm of debate. This is not journalism; it is propaganda.

      To be fair, he did ultimately arrive at the correct conclusion by stating, “Governments and those in positions of power are notorious for controlling dialogue through euphemism and indirection (‘comfort women,’ ‘collateral damage’), which means it’s up to the media to explain situations honestly and plainly.” If he understands this, why did he completely and utterly fail to abide by it?

      It was interesting to read that Kōno actually advocated for more understandable language in all this. I would have never imagined him proposing honesty towards the people.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Shinzo Abe gets a roasting on Twitter for moaning that he can’t meet his friends or go to drinking parties, but had to stay at home (relaxing with dog), but ‘supposes’ he will save many lives and reduce the burden on healthcare professionals.
    Naturally, the internet mocks him for doing nothing for the last 2 months and not supporting those who have no source of income if they don’t go out to work.


    • Jim Di Griz says:

      In fact, if you can read Japanese, I’d urge you to read the replies to Abe’s tweet. If anyone has been thinking that the government of Japan has succeeded in keeping the Japanese people in the dark over its attempt to downplay the seriousness of the coronavirus situation and the government’s appallingly inept response, then the replies will give you hope; I’ve been reading them for hours, and have yet to find one that didn’t slam Abe for his handling of the situation. He is posting videos of himself sipping tea whilst kindergarten teachers and nurses are asking who is protecting them when they are at max capacity, and how are they supposed to pay their bills if they stay at home,
      It’s highly therapeutic; TV news won’t tell you this is how people feel. I guess Abe’s ‘narrative management team’ (see The Daily Beast link I posted above) will be working overtime deleting/hiding these tomorrow when they get into the office (and you know that these internet police will be going into the office tomorrow instead of working from home because TIJ).
      This anger at Abe is the news the TV won’t tell you.

    • Jim, that was beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I felt quite moved to see so many people openly criticizing him, as well as the huge amount of “likes” that their comments garnered.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Ha! I can’t resist. I posted this a couple of weeks ago to say that Japan isn’t as high tech as it thinks it is, and remote working wasn’t going to happen;

    And what do I see here? An IT (!) worker saying she has to go to the office to hanko and fax documents!

    An IT worker! SMH.

    Part of the reason for this is that now (just as always), the Japanese government offers absolutely no help whatsoever for small business and startups (and therefore makes no investment in innovation), whilst ensuring that suicidal failing dinosaurs like Nissan have endless credit. And these dinosaur zombie companies then think ‘hey, we *dont have to change*, we can get through anything’.

    • The tired old bit about “Japanese are hard workers” at the end really puts the icing on the cake. Who cares how “hard” you work if you’re inefficient on purpose for the sake of “tradition”?

      As an aside, the Japanese school system actively teaches fourth graders in social studies classes that the introduction of modern technology “makes people lazy,” as if it’s impossible that there are better ways to use one’s time than doing housework that can be handled by machines. It’s as if people forgot that busting your chops is a means to an end, not the goal itself.

      • Jim Di Griz says:

        I agree; you have to be alive to get paid.
        But if I recall correctly, Ivan Morris wrote a book about Japanese cinema one of the central themes of which was that stubbornly working yourself too hard irrespective of likelihood for success (ah, the double-down on failure ‘ganbaru’), was more important that success in any endeavor.

        ‘Working smarter, not harder’ is tantamount to heresy in Japan.

        Meanwhile, a company in Abe’s electoral district has the contract to manufacture Abe’s promised ‘2 masks for every household’ (hey, never let a good crisis go to waste, am I right?), and despite having the first case of Coronavirus outside China three months ago, zero preparation has been done and Osaka city is asking people to hand in unused raincoats in lieu of Personal Protective Equipment for doctors and nurses. Third world kleptocracy SMH.


    • David Markle says:

      My son works in IT and he CAN’T telework because of “security issues” even though he would and could do most of his job from home.

      The boss says be here or die, it’s your choice.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    This is priceless! Pure comedy gold!

    Abe’s big plan is this;
    1. Issue non-enforceable requests for businesses to close.
    2. Accept no responsibility (financially) for any company that goes bust or employee who loses their job (unless J-inc dinosaur).
    3. Pay farmers even more subsidies to enable them to recruit now unemployed Japanese to do farm labor!

    It’s brilliantly hilarious! Japanese are being coerced out of the cities and back to the inaka because all the NJ labor isn’t coming. Sure, those Japanese in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka are going to agree to do that and take the humiliation of filling in for NJ blue collar labor.


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