Calling Debito.org Readers: How is life for you in COVID Japan?

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Hi Blog.  Instead of me writing an essay, this time I’d like to hear how life during pandemic is going in Japan from you.

After all, I can talk all I like about what officialdom is up to, but in the end, we are a community, and hearing about how government policy and civil society affects Debito.org Readers is just as important.

Let me open the floor for discussion in the Comments Section by asking a few prompt questions:

1) Have you witnessed the effects of Japanese Government policy, especially when compared with what’s being put into effect in other countries (such as official calls at the local level for social distancing, the state of emergency in several prefectures, etc.)?  How would you gauge their effectiveness?

2) Have you been or do you know of anyone who has been sick with COVID? Has anyone you know been tested yet?  How were they processed by officials and treated by their peers/neighbors?

3) How is your workplace reacting to this pandemic?  Are your bosses giving you space to distance, or is it still basically business as usual with rudimentary PPE (i.e., masks etc.)?  Is there any resistance to working from home?  If so, what and why?

4) Is there still panic buying of products, and if so, what are there currently shortages of?  Any pet theories as to why?

5) Do you see much difference in your treatment by Japanese society or media for being NJ (or a Visible Minority) due to the pandemic?  Are things better, worse, or basically the same?

6) What (national and local) media messages are you seeing about NJ in Japan?

Again, these are just prompts.  Answer as many questions as you like.  Or tell us something else about COVID Life in Japan if you’re inspired.  And if you’re not in Japan, please tell us where you are and what’s going on around you, too (and if you can, compare it with Japan).  Of course, in all cases, be comfortably vague about your whereabouts.

Thanks.  We’re looking forward to your stories.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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26 comments on “Calling Debito.org Readers: How is life for you in COVID Japan?

  • Jaocnanoni says:

    My answers are as follows:

    1) Since I live in a prefecture that is subject of the state of emergency, absolutely. I currently leave my apartment only for groceries and jogging. In the area where I live, traffic has significantly decreased. There is normally a traffic jam around 8 a.m. every Monday to Friday just in front of my apartment, but it doesn’t build up since the declaration of the state of emergency. The number of pedestrians didn’t change significantly though, as far as I can tell.

    2) Thankfully no and no.

    3) Home office since April 8th. My employer strongly encourages me to stay at home as long as the state of emergency is active (currently until May 7th, but I don’t think that this date will stay).

    4) Panic buying has somewhat cooled down here, but toilet paper, paper tissues, pasta and pasta sauce are in short supply.

    5) Thankfully no difference, yet.

    6) I only know of comments on TBS about how “bad the West is in managing the situation”, particularly based on the reported high mortality in Italy, Spain, and the US. Germany, however, was recently praised for her low mortality rate despite having numbers of overall cases similar to Italy and Spain. I don’t know about coverage on NJ in Japan after Japan basically closed her borders to essentially every NJ. Japan’s own mismanagement, however, is rarely* ever pointed out or criticized.
    *)I don’t say “never” in this case, because I know of one occasion at which one commentator – I unfortunately forgot his name – pointed out that Japan’s testing policy in strange (okashii).

    Reply
    • Jaocnanoni says:

      Short update on the panic buying in my area. There was a run on nattō, meat, and – of all stuff – bread. I suppose this has to do with the state of emergency declared for the entire country now.

      Reply
  • The big thing about February-March, at least here in Tokyo, was the lack of possible testing. I had a cold and fever for 3-ish days, but no known contact with anyone who visited China. That meant I didn’t meet testing requirements. This must have happened to so many people in Tokyo.

    When the US Embassy wrote the letter telling Americans to GTFO ASAP or be ready for the long haul, I saw several articles (in Japanese) on how the embassy was essentially accusing the Japanese health system of botching test procedures. That was weird, because everyone already knew the testing procedures were botched, but perhaps nobody bothered to write a story on it.

    I also see many newspaper articles here and abroad, in English and Japanese, speculating as to why such-and-such country or such-and-such city has relatively low infection rates. But when we know the testing is hard to obtain, that data is all totally meaningless. It’s understandable if we’re chatting with friends and make hand-wavy arguments, but newspapers have a duty to do better. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

    At my job we’re doing remote work. The bosses are handling this well. People who need to work at work fill out a form in advance explaining why. Almost everyone stays home. One very good thing is that nobody works (unpaid) overtime.

    The entry ban on foreigners from dozens of countries is terrible. If my friends or family get sick or die abroad, do I go to the hospital or funeral? If I leave, I can’t get back. It might be reasonable to have a re-entry ban for short-term visas, plus a regular entry ban on tourist visas, but for long-term and PR, it’s horrible. This scares the heck out of me.

    Locally, I feel like people have been acting calmly and reasonably. This also happened in 2011. Then and now, the national government’s actions left much to be desired, but fortunately many local governments and communities took steps to help make people’s lives better.

    One really good thing is technology. Many people can work from home. We can chat with our friends and family everywhere, and it helps so much when staying at home, for those who are fortunate enough to be able to do so. Also, having many expat friends around the world gave us access to information about what to expect. Other countries got hit first, so we had some time to prepare a bit, materially and mentally.

    Reply
    • Good news, according to Kyodo foreigners can also apply for the 100,000 yen handout.

      https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/04/363a734a19b1-100000-yen-handout-should-be-ready-by-may-aso.html

      At least Japan is doing the right thing in this situation. But I definitely agree with Tax Payer here, the fact that Japan banned all foreigners from entering, even people with PR is unbelivable. I‘m from Europe and residents in the EU have the same rights as citizens here (well not exactly the same, they can‘t vote, but I‘m talking about human rights here). Everybody with a residency permit can go back. My Japanese friend actually just returned to Munich 2 weeks ago, because she studies there. There was no problem entering Germany with a student visa. Meanwhile Japan banned people with PR and spouse visas. Just unbelivable. I would like to answer Debito‘s questions now. I‘m not living in Japan anymore, but the text says that people outside of Japan can write about their experiences too, so here I go:

      1. I‘m living in Croatia and the country is in full lockdown, like most European countries. You‘re not allowed to leave the house without a good reason and the police can ask you question about why you‘re out. If your answers don‘t satisfy them, they will send you home and you will be fined. The same goes for public gatherings of course. You are not allowed to leave your place of residency. If you want to go to another city, you have to get a permit. You can only obtain a permit if you have a good reason like visiting a sick family member, work related things etc. Most people are working from home now, I also have to work from home since March 18th.

      2. No to all these questions.

      3. Like already mentioned in 1. everybody in our company works from home since March 18th.

      4. There wasn‘t really any panic buying here. Farmacies ran out of masks and alcohol in the beginning, but now everything is pretty much back to normal. Supermarkets didn‘t face a shortage at any time.

      5. Since I‘m not in Japan I can‘t answer this question. The only thing I can say is that I‘ve read some immigrant comments on reddit and twitter and people are saying things that you would expect from Japan, i.e. people actively avoiding foreigners in public (on the street, on trains etc.), restaurants and hotels excluding foreigners and Japanese people are writing nasty and racist comments on Twitter and other websites. Sad, but totally predictable.

      6. I basically only saw the things that were already posted and talked about here on Debito.org. Politicians saying that NJ shouldn‘t get any compensation, the media blaming NJ and Japanese returnees for the rise in domestic cases, restaurants and hotels excluding NJ residents etc. The only good message came from the governor of Saga prefecture, who said that people should stop discriminating against NJ because of the virus.

      To Debito and all readers, please stay safe wherever you are and hopefully we‘ll be able to beat this virus in the next few months.

      Reply
  • Hard time to be a teacher. Each school does it differently. I must learn Zoom, Google Classroom and other things. I feel isolated. The government really screwed up and waited too long and there is not enough social distancing. May have to do online teaching through August.

    Reply
  • I work for a large, multinational Japanese company. Think Canon or Fujitsu, but not them. I have colleagues in 10s of countries as well as family in the UK. I’ve been in Japan for 10 years and have permanent residency. Just for background.
    1) Have you witnessed the effects of Japanese Government policy, especially when compared with what’s being put into effect in other countries (such as official calls at the local level for social distancing, the state of emergency in several prefectures, etc.)?  How would you gauge their effectiveness?
    I have seen most of my colleagues in Europe and the US be locked down unable to leave their homes. All colleagues in Europe are working from home and only go outside for shopping and exercise. In Japan we are free to move although as I’m sure you know, most places were you can relax and have fun are closed. When I walk around my local area it is just some restaurants, convenience stores and supermarkets that are open. As the number of deaths is clearly less than most European countries, without the need for a lockdown, I don’t see how the Japanese response can be overly criticised. Maybe everyone should have been South Korea for sure. But Japan has faired OK, considering there is no immunity to the virus so we cannot get anywhere close to zero cases. From February people here took social distances and hygiene far more seriously than the west, and it clearly shows. Everyone got lazy in March and we are paying the price now with increased infections.
    However, a certain amount of “herd immunity” is required and should be gained slowly over time, avoiding the old. Recently the number of cases in Japan has been increasing, but further restrictions seem to have slowed the pace down this week. Perhaps it will go up further and force even tighter restrictions, however Japan has worked its way up slowly to this stage so will weather the storm far better than Europe. This week, the number of people on trains in Tokyo is perhaps 30% of what it usually is during rush hour. Everyone (99%) is wearing a mask, and people are lining up 1m apart, with many stores protecting their staff with additional PPE. I am positive for Japan here, if the people can maintain this until summer, where the R0 should lessen a bit (although obviously some level of social distancing will still have to be maintained).
    I do worry about the economy. Some are predicting a depression. I don’t see how Europe can avoid another explosion of cases and further lockdown unless they keep as strict social distancing and hygiene as Japan. Even if they do, both Europe and Japan will be limping along for months, perhaps up to a year. Can the world economy survive that? I’m not sure my division in my company will, and it is a big entity. Let’s hope for a treatment. Or else, I do wonder if allowing the young and healthy (less than 20 with no health conditions) to be infected is maybe the right thing to do. Even antibody passports to allow free movement. This may be the key. Governments including Japan need to consider these measures.
    2) Have you been or do you know of anyone who has been sick with COVID? Has anyone you know been tested yet?  How were they processed by officials and treated by their peers/neighbours?
    Not personally. I know people who have had a fever but it only lasted one day so they could not get a test. I have however not seen anyone around them becoming sick. I had a sore throat 6 weeks ago and a very slight cough last week. Could it have been? Not sure. I heard of 1 person in my company in the US that died. That is all so far (that I know of). No one I work with.
    3) How is your workplace reacting to this pandemic?  Are your bosses giving you space to distance, or is it still basically business as usual with rudimentary PPE (i.e., masks etc.)?  Is there any resistance to working from home?  If so, what and why?
    We started working from home from the 1st April. I have to fill out a report at the start and end of each day outlining exactly what I have been doing and submit to my boss. The company targeted 50% working from home initially however that was eased off after 1 week and now if you can, 100% from home is OK apart from managers, who still have limits of 50%. I am told the senior bosses like to see people with paper in their hands otherwise no work is getting done. A very old fashioned way of working, however the company is taking it as seriously as they can, I think. Everyone should be checking their temperature each morning and there is plenty of hand sanitiser in the offices.
    As for the future? Remote work will have to be taken seriously here. I hope Japan moves into the current times. Less crowded trains, proper sick leave, people actually staying off work when sick, and less stress due to commutes. Japan needs to, regardless of this pandemic.
    4) Is there still panic buying of products, and if so, what are there currently shortages of?  Any pet theories as to why?
    I see toilet paper on the shelves a bit now. Still no masks to speak of. I hear rumours why, but only rumours.
    5) Do you see much difference in your treatment by Japanese society or media for being NJ (or a Visible Minority) due to the pandemic?  Are things better, worse, or basically the same?
    No different. At least for me.
    6) What (national and local) media messages are you seeing about NJ in Japan?
    Nothing stands out. But I don’t watch the TV news that often. It is better to look after your own habits rather than worry about what you cannot control. Although I am not in a position of losing my job. I do wonder if NJ without permanent residence will fair with the social payments should they lose their jobs or take a pay cut.

    Reply
  • 1) minimally. people are still packing into crowded trams, trains, and busses. very few working from home. nobody is engaging in social distancing and my(now expanded) personal space is often violated by people at crosswalks, supermarkets, and convenience stores.

    2) no to both

    3) I am a freelancer and have basically lost all contracts, I’m effectively unemployed because of this.

    4) not really. costco still has everything and I’ve been avoiding my local super for a month. there was a run on TP a while ago, same with masks. I can get TP at convenience stores now

    5) also minimal, aside from more people shooting me dirty looks, and the re-entry ban means I’m f****ed if I have to leave in the event a family member or close friend abroad gets sick. It’s a horrible place to put someone in and I’m really questioning my future in this country because of it.

    6) I see lots more racist and abhorrent rhetoric on twitter than usual, but I don’t have cable or a TV

    Reply
  • realitycheck says:

    Doing remote work but it’s not so bad.
    Sorry Dr Debito, please bear with me while I ask you a question – I’m sure you’re used to it by now!

    I just read today that the Japanese Government is going to give 100,000 yen to all households instead of the 300,000 yen for selected households that would have told many taxpayers ‘screw you’.

    However, I simply read the English version of the news and I may be mistaken but the word ‘citizens’ worries me. Despite foreigners being taxed without representation, we are still treated like 2nd rate tourists.

    We pay the ‘citizens’ tax – yep, when it suits the Japanese system suddenly we’re citizens when they want to hit us up for money – plus kokumin kenko hoken, kokumin nenkin/shakai hoken, many foreigners who don’t have a Japanese partner or family pay local association fees despite the unapologetic bias towards Japanese and the ‘gaijn’ as a convenient source of money and nothing more.

    So – is the Japanese Government going to insult foreigners yet again by denying those who live, work and pay tax, this 100,000 yen if they don’t have a Japanese spouse?

    If they plan to do so or if there is not a clear direction to ward offices to include foreigners, I think those excluded are within their rights to withhold citizens’ tax and do so until they leave Japan, if they do.

    Reply
    • Jaocnanoni says:

      Mild correction: Not all households, but all individuals who fall under the term kokumin. That’s at least what I got away from yesterday’s “hōdō sutēshon”. So if the people in charge apply the most narrow definition of kokumin to this, we NJ tax payers are screwed indeed.

      Reply
  • I have tolerated many things in this country. 5am Sunday morning immigration raids, “random” police checks on the street, you name it — I’ve been there and powered through it, always trying to find some justification for why things are the way they are. But the straw that breaks the camel’s back for me is not being allowed back into the country where I’m a taxpayer and long-term resident.

    You can have a PR, a family, a house with a 30 year mortgage obligation, a job, kids going to school. You could have been paying taxes, health insurance and been propping up the pension system here for decades. Your entire life could be here. None of that matters to the Japanese government. They have decided that in times of crisis you simply don’t count as a resident. Their line of thinking is that you’re the responsibility of “your own country” (not having lived there for years/decades and having no other place to go doesn’t matter to them in the least).

    The US, China and the EU have all placed blanket bans on foreigners who have no particular business traveling at this time. That includes tourists, business travelers etc. That’s logical. But none of those places have prevented or tried to prevent green card and PR holders from returning. Having a family in the EU is a sufficient reason for being let back in. Ditto for America and China. What Japan did is without international precedent on any level and truly egregious. Japan has locked long-term foreign residents out and there is no telling when the ban will lifted. Children asking where their mommy/daddy is, wives and husbands getting estranged, people losing their jobs — the Japanese government doesn’t care.

    I could even understand the logic behind their actions if people were dying en masse and preventing people from coming was truly saving lives. But let’s face it: the way they have been handling this whole crisis is a complete farce. They prevent PR holders from coming back and then they let nationals get off a plane willy nilly and take a packed train home, they refuse to close gambling and red light businesses or do anything that might impact the bottom line of the companies operating here. So you’re telling me that throngs of Taro Yamadas going to pachinko and then fuzoku every night is somehow less dangerous to public well being than letting a few long-term resident back in? Where’s the logic in banning foreign residents from coming but then refusing to close those all infection hotspots? If you must, then force the returnees to self-isolate for two weeks. Test them for the virus and hospitalize them if needed (we are paying health insurance here after all, aren’t we?) Do something other than kicking them out what amounts to their only home.

    Oh, you have invested half your life into this country? Tough luck, says Japan. This is the biggest breach of human rights that I have ever seen in a country that calls itself civilized and it truly finalizes things for me. My family and I have started planning our exit and will implement it as soon as it’s reasonable to travel again. Best of luck to Japan — better treat those 3 year visa immigrants well, or even they may stop coming (the local youth don’t seem too keen on doing all those 960 yen/hour jobs).

    Reply
    • I strongly agree, this is truly outrageous. If I want to see my parents again, I won’t be able to get back to my family here.

      As to the other questions:
      -I teach at university and we moved all courses online, which is a lot of extra work.
      -In trains I get some extra space (on top of the extra space I already had).
      -I didn’t see any shortage of anything.

      Reply
    • My colleague is a Brit whose wife is a Chinese national. He is in the UK and she is in China. He holds a valid work permit for China but is not allowed to return to his wife in China. So your point that having family in China is enough to allow a foreigner to return to China in incorrect. Puts Japan and China in same category, both engaged in unjustified discrimination.

      Reply
  • cynical.nj says:

    Background: working for major IT company in Tokyo (I live in a major city in one of the nearby prefectures)

    1) Have you witnessed the effects of Japanese Government policy, especially when compared with what’s being put into effect in other countries (such as official calls at the local level for social distancing, the state of emergency in several prefectures, etc.)? How would you gauge their effectiveness?
    ->Less effects than one would expect given the seriousness of the situation.. Since the government can’t ban people from leaving their homes, it seems some people don’t really give a damn, regardless whether Abe, Koike&co. declare a ‘state of emergency’ or what-not. I am shocked to see restaurants and other definitely non-essential businesses running as usual – a big difference to what is happening elsewhere (although I’m not sure whether the J-government would technically be able to force businesses to close temporarily, or is it a similar limitation because of the constitution?).
    So far the visible effects for me were
    1. Since around April, supermarkets’ opening hours were shortened
    2. After the state of emergency declaration by Koike&co., supermarkets and conbinis started asking customers to line up leaving some space in front and behind oneself, also some of the places introduced a plastic curtain separating the cashiers from the customers
    3. Only slightly less people on the train until the first week of April (started working from home thereafter so not sure what the situation is right now)

    2) Have you been or do you know of anyone who has been sick with COVID? Has anyone you know been tested yet? How were they processed by officials and treated by their peers/neighbors?
    -> No case that I am aware of. (TBH I might have been already sick, around late March I had fever for a few days and recurring chest pain, but luckily, it’s already over…)

    3) How is your workplace reacting to this pandemic? Are your bosses giving you space to distance, or is it still basically business as usual with rudimentary PPE (i.e., masks etc.)? Is there any resistance to working from home? If so, what and why?
    -> Being an avid news junkie, I started talking about this around early March, nobody gave a damn; late March, I confronted my kacho and bucho via email, saying it is really weird that business is happening as usual – can’t we at least cut the needless meetings/shorten them/reduce people involved? Unfortunately, the reaction was basically “we are not doing anything unless the government tells us to, but you can take some days off if you’re worried” [WTF!?!?]. [to be fair, the company HQ did give some recommendations aimed toward flattening the curve already around mid-March, if not earlier – it was a case of bad luck on my part, a friend’s department started handing out masks to employees around the same time]. Afterwards, in early April, I was moved to another division inside the company, and started working from home almost immediately. After Koike&co. declared a state of emergency, my former department (including the aforementioned relucant bucho) apparently felt forced to finally start their preparations, now they too are working from home as well (took them some two weeks though, love the corporate bureacracy & speediness lol). However I see employees from other departments lamenting that they cannot do their jobs remotely (because e.g. a) the servers are physically somewhere and the security measures do not allow any kind of remote access b) even though we are an IT company, it’s the same ダメパターン as mentioned by people around here recently, namely because of the need to get some papers stamped with a hanko… OTL ).

    4) Is there still panic buying of products, and if so, what are there currently shortages of? Any pet theories as to why?
    -> Masks, toilet paper/kitchen towels, butter(where butter used to be, now it says 原乳不足 at the local supermarket, but milk is always there..), there was a temporary shortage of meat and kimchi around the declaration, but the last two are back nowadays. (Sorry, no theory as to why)

    5) Do you see much difference in your treatment by Japanese society or media for being NJ (or a Visible Minority) due to the pandemic? Are things better, worse, or basically the same?
    -> I am not really following the local media so I can’t tell. As mentioned above, I barely leave home nowadays, but in the past month, I do not feel to have experienced any kind of worse treatment compared to what it was like before the epidemic.

    6) What (national and local) media messages are you seeing about NJ in Japan?
    -> See above.

    >Or tell us something else about COVID Life in Japan if you’re inspired.
    1. There was a certain topic of conversations / Twitter threads among people from work, boiling down to “Japan is safe, special, our hygiene is excellent, our brilliant scientists pinpointed the root cause of cluster infections to 3密 so as long as we avoid them, contraty to what 汚い外国 is experiencing, cluster infections won’t be a problem here” – yeah, right – we all know how that one turned out!
    2. In early April, one coworker asked whether I would be coming home because of the infection, adding 恐らく日本のほうが安全だろうけど (possibly echoing the Japan=safety country meme?) – in spite of the fact that, given it’s many faults, my country’s government made a wise IMO decision to impose a lock down early on, which resulted in (as long as we are to trust the official stats (although every now and then I read that every country underreports their cases) more new infections per day in Japan at the time of conversation, up until to and including now as well.
    3. Luckily I renewed my expired passport and visa as well, but as mentioned by Tax Payer, since they won’t let me in (I’m not PR, but on a long-term working visa), I am forced to stay for the foreseeable future (I do not want to quit my job.. yet, lol)

    Reply
  • Re a couple of the above posts – I too was concerned about being let back in but recently had read that having family here was enough to be let in (married, kids, etc.). Still a horrific policy for those long-term residents who are single and happened to be on a trip abroad.

    1) Have you witnessed the effects of Japanese Government policy…? Effectiveness?
    In central Tokyo, finally now maybe a narrow majority are starting to socially distance. Too little, too late, though.

    2) Have you been or do you know of anyone who has been sick with COVID? Has anyone you know been tested yet? How were they processed by officials and treated by their peers/neighbors?

    Nearby there is a hospital where doctors and patients got sick in the hospital. Nobody I know has admitted to infection or testing, but doubt they would given social stigma.

    3) How is your workplace reacting to this pandemic? Are your bosses giving you space to distance, or is it still basically business as usual with rudimentary PPE (i.e., masks etc.)? Is there any resistance to working from home? If so, what and why?

    Strongly encouraged to work from home, since before the emergency declaration.

    4) Is there still panic buying of products, and if so, what are there currently shortages of? Any pet theories as to why?

    Varies from time to time, but mainly tissues and toilet paper. Anxiety is the likely cause, I think.

    5) Do you see much difference in your treatment by Japanese society or media for being NJ (or a Visible Minority) due to the pandemic? Are things better, worse, or basically the same?

    Not much. I do think a lot of people are more stressed and likely to lash out at a foreigner now, and did experience someone doing that to me, trying to pick a fight in a public place it fdlt like, but I just walked away, no big deal. Be safe out there, and remember many people are losing jobs, businesses going bankrupt, and there’s nothing to gain by taking the bait. I feel sorry for the people who feel down on their luck and try to take it out on foreigners.

    6) What (national and local) media messages are you seeing about NJ in Japan?
    Not much media. Local government deserves credit for getting information out in English and simple Japanese. Not well advertised or easy to navigate, but that’s a common isue for government messaging here.

    Reply
  • The only thing hard to find is masks. In Okinawa it is not a problem. In February I saw people lined up in front of drug stores before they opened. In Osaka there was price gouging of masks. Selling for six thousand yen a box but the store got in trouble.

    Lots of people are working from home and need to buy microphone or computer equipment. My NEC has no microphone so had to order it. Hope to get it on Monday. Zoom has become very popular and some people use Webex.

    Reply
  • 1) Shops and restaurants have limited opening hours. More (but not all) people around me work from home. Overall, it seems that, compared to many other countries, life is not that different from a few months ago.

    2) Sick, perhaps. Tested, no.

    3) As a part-time freelancer, I’ve been lucky to work from home anyway. The beginning of the semester is postponed where I teach. Online lessons should start in May.

    4) Toilet paper and masks were very hard to get in February and March. Rice was scarce before the soft lockdown. It looks like things calmed down a bit now.

    5) I haven’t noticed any changes, but that might be because I don’t get out much.

    6) I saw a guest on an NHK show (an “expert” of some sorts) discourage prejudice against foreigners. That was in the early stages, when it may have been thought of as a ‘Chinese’ disease. I have also read about the Communist Party leader calling for equality with 100,000-yen handout, but that seems to be the policy anyway.
    https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20200416/k10012390601000.html

    Also, an article in the Japanese version of Asahi Shimbun this week talked about the hardships of overseas students who can’t come back to Japan, as well as their countries of citizenship limiting entry.
    https://www.asahi.com/articles/ASN4G56BQN30PTIL02Q.html

    Apart from that, it seems to me that Japanese media (especially TV) focuses on how well the Japanese manage the virus, for example, with reports of empty trains during the lockdown on Sundays (ignoring the crowds in other parts of Tokyo around the same time) implying Japan’s numbers have been relatively low because its people are disciplined.

    I haven’t noticed anything in international media as it seems they are concerned with other issues.

    Reply
  • Ben in Chiba says:

    I’m in the south of Chiba prefecture.

    1) There are police driving around informing people that the deadline for driver license renewals has been extended. There are city workers driving around urging people. There are less people out and about but I still see families and groups of more than 3 people at supermarkets and going for walks. Some people are socially distancing but some aren’t bothering. Disturbingly it’s the elderly that don’t seem to be changing their ways.

    2) No

    3) I work at a university that has postponed classes until mid May but refuses to go online. Another uniserity I work at is going online until late May. I haven’t had to commute anywhere since late March.

    4) Hand sanitiser and masks are in short supply. There are lines outside stores first thing every morning.

    5) No. I only encountered a couple of people online saying that citizens should recieve cash payments before ‘foreigners’. Apart from that, nothing.

    6) Again, local government has people driving around at certain times of day urging residents to stay at home.

    Reply
  • 1) I would gauge the effectiveness or lack thereof of local municipalities in Tokyo, as being completely useless with very little and inconsistent useless information. The community center that is literally a few feet from my apartment refuses to offer any useful information to me. My Japanese is not at a fluent level but God forbid a Japanese people be patient and try and listen to me. Where I live there are large obnoxious propaganda speakers mounted on a tall pole, where the mayor or city hall makes frequent obnoxious public announcements usually prefaced by a loud air raid siren noise that tells the city habitants do their part to fight the virus, look for missing people, etc. what should be the police department’s responsibility but they are usually nowhere to be found. All the while politicians drive around telling us about the virus. Quite useless.

    2) I do not know of anyone who has had symptoms, yet my wife seemed to have symptoms but was refused a test because she’s young. She’s been sick for about a week and still not feeling well. The local clinic, which is not knowledgable and careless, just decided that she would get an X-Ray and not the actual test and that’s the end of it.

    3) I am under different circumstances, my wife works for a prominent Hotel chain in management and is on reduced hours and income due to our child still at a young age and attending daycare. The government still expects her to go on a crowded train to and from work, which for her particular job she could easily be doing telework. Very careless on the part of her employer and the government. Also the government will not provide a bailout to my wife because even though she is on limited hours and income, they base the bailout on her full-time hours.

    4) As of now there is no panic buying but since there was a very slow and lackadaisical response by the government to this pandemic, we’ll have to see what happens. Masks obviously are in inadequate supply as we all know. I do feel that the @#$% is about to hit the fan. I could be wrong though.

    5) Things are basically the same. Still xenophobia is rampant. Obviously I expect local authorities and government to prioritize JP over NJ and possibly animals ahead of me. Typical mind-numbing rhetoric and opinions about foreigners.

    6) I haven’t yet witnessed anything personally, although there are many factories near where I live in Eastern Tokyo, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Chinese, Vietnamese, etc that work in these factories are being rounded up, but that perhaps is just me being skeptical of the the Japanese government and authorities. Japan does a pretty good job at covering up blatant discrimination/racism. I also am concerned since my average body temp is higher than a Japanese person’s body temp which should be taken into consideration, whether I will be subjected to mandatory testing and put into quarantine. Who knows at this point but I am a concerned because I lack trust with the society, local authorities, and government to do the right thing especially when it comes to foreigners.

    Furthermore I am concerned, about my wellbeing in Japan as a foreigner and obviously my family too. I am not sure whom to believe as there is much disinformation and misinformation. On one hand the U.S. Embassy Tokyo / U.S. State Department is making statements like, “U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.” It is difficult to discern because the message is not constant.

    Reply
    • 5) Things are basically the same. Still xenophobia is rampant. Obviously I expect local authorities and government to prioritize JP over NJ and possibly animals ahead of me. Typical mind-numbing rhetoric and opinions about foreigners.

      Actually, Japanese do rank animals over NJ, and NJ below animals in the heirachy of Japanese society.

      It was part of Imperial Japan’s propaganda to justify their brutal conquest in Asia. Not content enough with referring to their Chinese neighbors as “shinajin” (the japanese N word for chinese people), the Japanese propaganda machine one upped their racism and started to compare their Chinese neighbors as being less than pigs, and with this kind of mentality it is no wonder why the Japanese are able to commit unspeakable attrocities against NJ during the war.

      Even though apologists will claim its “wartime-progapanda-from-a-long-time-ago” excuse, one must remember than Japan was never denazified and to a degree retained their wartime anti-NJ indoctrination which is then propagated thru future generations.

      And typically as expected and predicted. This pandemic, I believe is a litmus test that ultamately reveals the real Japan, and what Japanese feel about NJ especially once the layers of keigo, omoetenashi and any feigned “tolerance” goes out the door.

      What we got before the corona pandemic and before the Fukushima meltdown was what I would call a “Pyongyang tourist showcase” where we are falsely shown a utopian Japan that is clean, egalitarian, safe, tolerant democratic society and how everybody is supposedly happy living in a dreamland utopia that the Japanese propaganda machine has been trying to sell to NJ for years.

      I also have a theory, I believe this may be a possible reason why some Japanese don’t like to see NJ going off the beaten path and explore Japan outside tourist areas and might explain why Japanese prefer than you have a handler to travel around Japan.

      Much like being a tourist in North Korea you will have a guide that takes you to only the places that you are allowed to see and hide the stuff that they don’t want you too see. It might explain why they don’t want you to be too affluent in Japanese, then you will be knowing too much. So basically, like with the Pyongyang travel experience, we NJ have been shown a narrative of Japan that has never existed.

      And little by little due to Japan’s inept management, the showcase state is slowly revealing its true colors.
      The Fukushima crisis reveals to us of all the problems with Japan’s government, and their press freedom. The Nissan scandal reveals to us of Japan’s problems with Japan’s justice system and human rights abuses. Now the coronavirus pandemic reveals and confirms that all the prejudices that many Japanese have of NJ have been true along and continues to remained so since the war. As former emperor Hirohito once said in his surrender speech, it was more about “tolerating the intolerable” rather than actually being tolerant.

      Not to mention some Japanese revisionists are opposed to the use of the word “surrender” as some hardcore nationalists believe Japan is fighting an ongoing “battle” of sorts against NJ that must continue until its won and might explain why many Japanese are so casual with using military terminology like “spy”, “agent”, “espionage”, “invasion”, “imperialism”, “infiltration” when talking about anything NJ related and always seeing immigration as a “national defense”. As a result any discussion about immigration comes off as unncessarily combative, and too often it comes off as if they are preparing for war more than anything.

      And Japan’s relationship with the west seems to be heavily weighted towards being more about military cooperation more than anything. Most of the news I read is heavily focused on arms purchases, miltitary drills, military protocals, military cooperation etc and little of anything else.

      North Korea’s hyper paranoid and militant xenophobia, I believe would be the best example what would sum up Japan’s xenophobia. As both countries believe they need a strong military first policy to fight some imaginary continuation war, and both countries treat foreigners as potential enemy soldiers. Also how Japan interpret “surrender” depends on who you talk to, as some nationalists go as far as thinking Japan’s situation is the same as the ceasefire between the Koreas, thus interpreting that Japan is still actively at war with the world in the minds of some ultra-nationalists who believe that Japan’s surrender is too humiliated for them to accept.

      Reply
  • 1) Considering the number of COVID deaths per capita in Japan is extremely low, I would rate the government’s reaction to the crisis so far quite high. We’ll see how the next couple of weeks go. I think many foreigners living here in Japan are conflating social distancing with success, when the real goal is to save lives–and too much social distancing costs lives. In that goal of saving lives, Japan is doing quite well so far.

    2) Have heard stories, but don’t know anyone personally.

    3) We have gone fully online, but in-person business is more effective and would like to return as soon as is reasonably possible.

    4) Don’t see any panic buying. There are shortages of masks at many shops, but they are possible to find, if you search for them.

    5) I haven’t personally seen any differences, but when some ALTs in Akita were diagnosed with COVID the head of the Akita BOE made some comments as to how they got COVID because foreigners don’t listen That comment wasn’t helpful.

    6) Outside of the comment by the head of the Akita BOE, haven’t really seen anything foreigner specific.

    Reply
  • boogalaboo says:

    1) Have you witnessed the effects of Japanese Government policy, especially when compared with what’s being put into effect in other countries (such as official calls at the local level for social distancing, the state of emergency in several prefectures, etc.)? How would you gauge their effectiveness?

    I think it’s important to declare your location as, looking at the figures, there are still areas in Japan that appear to have no infections. I’m a long-standing PR in Osaka and the city is very empty, when I have to go through it. I’m teleworking 3 days out of 5 at the moment. Looking at the international situation, I feel Japan’s response has been very slow, and, at the moment, has been lucky to have had such a low death rate, though that could change at any time. I’m worried about friends who have small businesses and the government response has been very slow in terms of helping them.

    2) Have you been or do you know of anyone who has been sick with COVID? Has anyone you know been tested yet? How were they processed by officials and treated by their peers/neighbors?

    No and no, and I’m still very curious as to why that is.

    3) How is your workplace reacting to this pandemic? Are your bosses giving you space to distance, or is it still basically business as usual with rudimentary PPE (i.e., masks etc.)? Is there any resistance to working from home? If so, what and why?

    With the customary excessive reserve I’ve come to expect. Everything has been slow to happen. Messages about hand-washing, alcohol hand spray and a lot of emails telling us about what they were doing and how to behave, but falling far from the mark of actually *doing* anything. A week ago, the co-workers, including a buchyou sitting close to me, were still not wearing masks. That made me feel very uncomfortable. I asked the union to make a stand. That was a waste of time. They did nothing. I was finally able, by chance, to speak to a manager who was feeling the same as I was, namely, confused as to why the company was not telling employees to wear masks, if they had them. That appeared to have struck a chord, and 2 hours later, our floor in the company became a mask only area. I had been wearing, and disseminating information about home-made masks for about a month, without any real feedback, and then, on that day, the same manager asked me to ask my wife to make masks for the company employees, which she was happy to do. (Yes, they are paying her to do that.)

    4) Is there still panic buying of products, and if so, what are there currently shortages of? Any pet theories as to why?

    Masks, though the supply of such seems to be a burgeoning business opportunity now. I’ve been using both sides of toilet paper for a while now.

    5) Do you see much difference in your treatment by Japanese society or media for being NJ (or a Visible Minority) due to the pandemic? Are things better, worse, or basically the same?

    Not really. Osaka is a bit international and I haven’t personally had any racist confrontations for a few years.

    6) What (national and local) media messages are you seeing about NJ in Japan?

    Nothing. We are mostly invisible as usual. As others did, I saw the guff about tax-paying NJ residents being treated differently, and it didn’t surprise me, though it saddened me, especially, the words of American-Japanese Onoda Kimi.

    I expect that this pandemic will cause real ongoing changes in working practices, world-wide and even in Japan. I hope to see teleworking and other new approaches to work, becoming a real alternative, following this crisis. I really hope that there will be no return to the old ways of working before this disaster happened.

    Reply
  • イケメン says:

    A little late, but:

    1) Elderly are the least likely to social distance. Anyone younger than that would either distance or not, but if they see that at least someone is distancing, they will too.
    I have no idea how it went in all other countries.

    2) 2 people I know in 2 different European countries were “maybe” sick, one of which did the test but never shared the results with me.
    No one here in Japan fortunately.
    As for peers/neighbours (of the 2 Europeans): I don’t know.

    3) I work at a Japanese company with only Japanese speaking personnel, but it’s a technology company which is also a rare case where we don’t rely on paper so much, so we got a laptop to do telework all the way since the first 3rd of March.

    4) I saw some panic buying on toilet paper first, and then on soy beans and ramen noodles (and rice, but they constantly restocked it so I don’t count that) at the same time, but in both cases this went over quickly and super markets were back in stock as usual each time.

    5) Not at all. It’s the opposite actually! Since there are no foreign tourists left, everyone is more likely to reply to me in Japanese to me without the need to ask them to do so. But as soon as I speak, it’s business as usual (meaning: no different treatment unless it’s something like Akihabara or Shibuya, but I don’t live in Tokyo).

    6) That 10万円 is for every resident of Japan regardless of nationality, and that foreigner workers cannot be discriminated when they need help. Other than that, nothing.

    This is all my observation
    Maybe my experience was good because I was born here and grew up here, but only look like a colored eye, white skin foreigner because my parents are born in Europe and naturalized Japanese citizens.

    Reply
  • IsOverJapan says:

    1) Japan got lucky, and it’s likely due to already being a mask wearing culture. Still though, it’s frustrating to see them test far below an acceptable rate. We’ll never know how many residents really have/had it or died from it since a lot of that information can be undisclosed sometimes.

    2) I don’t know anyone that has contracted it yet.

    3) Get to work from home sometimes, albeit not under ideal conditions. However, the plus side was they were one of the first companies to go through with it.

    4) Not anymore these days (except for masks) since it looks like we are near the end of the pseudo-lockdown.

    5) The Gaijin-empty-seat is back on the menu! Not that it’s ever truly gone away. Things looked like they were improving earlier in the year, but probably just a show for the Olympics which eventually got postponed. I guess they are back to their “natural” selves?

    Some days I have to go to the office, and will literally see all seats filled on the train throughout the ride, except the ones to the left and/or right from me. It’s too obvious and I literally stick out like a sore thumb. I even laughed out loud at one point. The Japanese don’t care though.

    6) Other than restaurants posting “Japanese only” signs using the COVID-19 as an excuse, Kimi Onoda’s BS several weeks ago, I try not to read too much of what’s going on 2ch, Japanese Twitterville or anywhere else. Not in the mood to be anymore angry and stressed given the current situation.

    Reply

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