A few weeks ago, Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency for a few choice provinces around Japan. Just last week, he expanded that to include the entire nation. So what does that mean for me and the rest of my community here in Japan?
What a State of Emergency Looks Like
Before, I lamented the lack of government response and said it didn’t instill the utmost of confidence in me. Declaring a state of emergency, in light of the rapidly increasing number of cases (especially in the Tokyo area, where I live) seemed like a nice step in the right direction, even if many think it’s too little too late.
What was the government ordering before this? They were using the word “jishuku” (自粛), or self-restraint, to encourage people to use their better judgment when going outside. The idea that Japanese peer pressure and the cultural ethos of looking out for the community would overrule people’s desire to go out, but it was met with mixed results.
Now with the official decree, what does that mean? Well, prefectural governments can call for the closure of schools and businesses but noncompliance results in no punishment. They can also requisition land, food, and medical supplies, as well as punish hoarders.
I had to go out to my doctor amidst all the madness, on a Wednesday during the tail-end of morning rush hour and the lunch rush. While I noticed a lot of people out and about, it didn’t seem like as many as would normally be out during that time. Still, with the Ministry of Health polling Japanese citizens through the Line app, less than 6% reported that they were telecommuting or teleworking. And at the time of writing, some schools in my area were still in session, so seeing schoolchildren, construction workers, and salarymen out and about en masse was not surprising. Schoolchildren, however, are starting to protest the opening of schools by staying home, so who knows how much longer some schools will stay open?
Another big reveal was that each family negatively impacted by the virus would receive a 300,000 yen (about 3,000 USD) check from the government. This has now been changed to a flat 100,000 yen (about 1,000 USD) check for all members of a household, regardless of whether or not they’ve been negatively affected by the outbreak.
Additionally, everyone in the country is receiving a set of two free cloth masks from the government. Dubbed by citizens as “Abenomask” (Abe’s Mask), a clever play on Abe’s economic policy, dubbed “Abenomics,” shipments began last Friday. The first round of masks have been sent out to the most vulnerable of populations (elderly, the very young, pregnant women, etc.) and the results are… well… here’s a picture of Abe sporting one of the government masks. Take a look and you can take a guess what people are saying:
The mask is hilariously small and ineffective. Even looking at the WHO website, you can deduce that this mask will do nothing to help your mouth and nose moisture from spreading to others around you. The masks are being rightly ridiculed online, and once they are available here, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be there to show you exactly what it’s like!
On that note, it’s been a bit unnerving to not have access to masks; a friend from England gave us a set of masks when she was visiting a few months ago, so we’re covered for the time being. Even the “make-your-own” mask kits at 100 yen shops have started disappearing from the shelves. Regardless, we’re good for a short bit, but we’re on the move to get our reusable masks!
We’ll have to see how the country pushes forward in the coming months; while we stay inside our apartment doing our work remotely, we’ll be keeping an eye out and giving you all updates moving forward. Stay safe, everyone!