Coronavirus in Japan

After five weeks in self-isolation, I feel sad because of what is happening in the world. Today we had 0 new cases in Tokyo and I went out for a long walk for the first time in more than one month. The good news is that somehow Japan has been able to dodge the BIG bullet, at least as of today, the worst might be still coming…

Japan was the second country in which a case of coronavirus was detected in January. But now, two months later, while other countries are in full lockdown like for example Spain (My family there is having a bad time), where I’m from, here in Japan most things are normal except for seeing fewer people outdoors, no tourism and some businesses like gyms closed.

Source: Weforum

I’m not sure about the reason why the coronavirus is growing slower in Japan.
But this is a list of things that might have helped.

1) Japan felt the panic early and acted with prudence from day one as a team
I’ve seen this before when Fukushima happened in 2011, the Japanese are used to earthquakes, tsunamis, natural disasters… They feel the panic early and act with maximum prudence from the beginning. Furthermore, there is an increased sense of solidarity and people helping each other, which is known as kizuna spirit.

Notice the difference:

FEELING the panic VS ACTING with panic.

The Japanese feel the panic and the fear early, but act without panic, they help each other and prepare for the worst.

2) Wearing masks from day one

I can’t say that all Japanese are wearing masks, but I would say that over 80% and in some cases even more, of the people outdoors in Tokyo have been wearing masks since the end of January. They do wear masks even without a pandemic risk.

I believe this is one of the most important factors in the reduced rate of contagiousness of coronavirus in Japan.

Evidence that masks (also surgical masks) help

3) Restrictions
– Japan is restricting travel.
– Schools closed.
– Gyms and sports facilities closed.
– Events were canceled early on.
– Most companies are stoping business trips, “all hands” meetings, parties and gatherings.
– Many people are self-isolating (But it is not enforced by the Government as of today).

4) Social factors
– In Japan we don’t shake hands, we bow to each other.
– Usually they are not touchy in social events. It is difficult to see people hugging or kissing.
– Japanese kids are taught to clean their hands and gargle early in their lives.

5) Hand sanitizers

There are hand sanitizers already installed at the entrance of almost any shop, office or building in Japan. I’ve seen these since I arrived in Japan in 2004, and I always wondered why are they so scared of viruses to have alcohol-based hand sanitizers everywhere?

They were already preparing for the worst since decades ago.

Prepare and act as early as you can.

Be safe wherever you are and I wish health and happiness to you and your family and friends.


How Much Japanese People Sleep?

According to data from an OCDE study, Japan and Korea are the countries in the world that sleep the least hours, 469 and 470 minutes per day respectively, around 7 hours and 50 minutes. The French are the ones that enjoy more sleep time (8 hours and 50 minutes), while Americans get to sleep also quite well (8 hours and 38 minutes). My home country Spain ranks 3rd in the world enjoying 8 hours and 34 minutes sleep on average every day. Maybe this data is one of the reasons why when you come to Japan you can see so many people sleeping in trains or on the streets.

How many hours do you sleep on average every day? My average, calculated during the last 3 years using the Sleep Cycle app on my iPhone is 7 hours and 56 minutes.

Japanese people sleeping average

Source: Govexec


The Controversy of the Letter to the Emperor

Last Thursday, Taro Yamamoto, a member of the House of Councillors of the Japanese government, handed a handwritten letter directly to the Emperor. In the letter he expressed his concerns about what is currently happening in Fukushima and the complications that are arising while dismantling the reactors.

A great debate has raged on TV programs and Internet forums. Some have asked for Taro Yamamoto to apologize while others have asked him to resign for giving the letter to the Emperor. This doesn’t mean that they are not worried about the situation in Fukushima, however it turns out that the Japanese constitution says that the Emperor can’t meddle in political issues.

Emperor of Japan
The moment when Yamamoto handed the letter to the Emperor.

It happened during a party organized by the Imperial Household Agency in the Akasaka Imperial Gardens. When the guests arrived to the party they received a map of the gardens and a number of rules to follow like for example “Do not take photos of the Imperial family”. An official of the Imperial Household Agency declared afterwards that they didn’t bother to mention that it’s not allowed to hand objects to the members of the Imperial family in the instructions for the party because it’s common sense. (Source: Asahi Shinbun).

It seems that Yamamoto didn’t know the protocol and he was not fully aware that when handing the letter to the Emperor he was trying to use him for political purposes. He has apologized but he says that he is not going to step down unless somebody else forces him to do so.