Japan news 2020. Japan has undergone some major changes in the last few weeks due to the Coronavirus outbreak. From Japanese eels and Manboo residents, to cut down tulips. Here are a few things in Japan today that show that times are changing.
Eviction of long term residents of Manboo
Because the price of renting a room is so cheap, and the food from the vending machine costing next to nothing (with most drinks being free), many opt to rent full time and stay in Manboo as a sort of a permanent resident. However, the outbreak of Coronavirus means that Manboo, as well as several other internet cafes have had to close their doors as they are not officially a hotel. This means that the long term residents of these establishments were forced onto the streets.
This week, Tokyo’s Sumida Aquarium has sent out a cry for help. It seems that with no guests coming in to keep the animals company, they are starting to get used to a life without humans. It is really starting to affect the 300 spotted garden eels. Because of the lack of human interaction, the eels are starting to burrow into the sand and refuse to come out, even when the staff come to say hello.
This makes it extremely difficult for staff to monitor the health of the eels. So in order to combat this, Sumida Aquarium have organised a “face show festival” asking everyone to call in and FaceTime with the eels to get them used to social interaction again. You can FaceTime the Japanese eels right now by FaceTiming one of these five emails. I mean why not. You could probably do with some social interaction as well.
Pachinko brings in 2.87 trillion yen per year. That’s roughly £21,006,142,870.00 and is (although being ran by the more nefarious organisations) extremely important to the Japanese economy. However, despite this, the Pachinko industry is in freefall. It continues to lose players and revenue year on year and it’s far less popular than it used to be. The reason for this is a lack of interest from the younger generations and a fast shrinking older generation. The Japanese youth think that pachinko parlours are a “criminal hotspot”. A very damming article in “Japan Today” explains that pachinko players are not contributors, and of course Japan being a harmonious society, they collectively look down on pachinko. However, Pachinko’s reputation descent has hit hyper speed this month.
When Shinzo Abe announced that Japan was declaring a state of emergency, pachinko parlours made it very clear that they will not be closing or altering opening times in any way. When Prime Minister Abe announced that he will be calling for stricter measures on weekends to help with social distancing, prefectural governors had to consult Abe on pachinko parlours refusing to close. This resulted in Governor Koike stepping into the ring and giving them one final chance do the right thing. They declined. So Governor Koike (as well as other prefectural governors) threatened to do the one thing that can hurt a business in Japan, and that is to name and shame them. Unfortunately, this did not have the desired effect and instead gave them free advertising. There have been reports that many parlors across the country are still open, but at this point nobody is surprised. The Japanese public have called to complain and issue death threats over the phone and by mail. The reputation of pachinko (like Joe Exotics financial situation) will probably never recover from this.
Japan is a country of natural beauty lovers and it’s easy to see why. From the top of Mount Fuji to the bottom Iya Valley, Japan is undeniably beautiful. Unfortunately, the recent state of emergency and social distancing guidelines have made it difficult to view this seasons flower displays. The Japanese authorities have gone to great lengths to show that they are not messing around when it comes to respecting the state of emergency.
One example of this is the cutting down of 100,000 tulips in Sakura, East of Tokyo. Unfortunately, tourists during Golden Week refused to stay home and instead chose to gather in the gardens of Sakura, forcing authorities to raze the 7,000 square meter garden to the ground. Disappointed tourists have likened the once beautiful scenery to mud pits.
Japanese authorities have promised that the tulip gardens will be bigger and more beautiful next year.
Golden Week is a series of national holidays that take place within one week at the end of April and the start of May.
Constitution Day (a day to celebrate the ratification of the Japanese constitution in 1947)
Showa Day (honoring Emperor Showa, who ruled over Japan during World war 2)
Green Day (a day for people to honor the environment)
Children’s Day (a celebration to wish young boys strength, and success in life)
It’s a time for celebration, travel, and if you are an international traveler, an extremely expensive stress filled nightmare. However, because of coronavirus, “Golden Week” has become “Gaman Week”. Gaman is a term taken from Zen Buddhism, meaning “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.” Basically, what has been a week of celebration and travel for decades, is now a week of social distancing and isolation, and people aren’t taking it well. There have been constant warnings against travel and distrust amongst commuters and neighbours is at an all time high. Seeing a commuter with an overnight bag, or a neighbour loading a suitcase in to a car would suggest they are traveling to another prefecture. This is something that Japanese news is condemning with an iron fist and a disapproving glare.
Japans reliance on old technology
This month, Japan’s reliance on old technology is under a 300 jigawatt spotlight. Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries on the planet. Only in Japan can you be served a coffee by a robot, be checked in to a hotel room by a hologram, and get ice cream and hot drinks from the same vending machine. Unfortunately, it’s probably the only country left on planet Earth that sends hyper sensitive, super important business invoices by fax, and requires a 19th century “Hanko” stamp as a signature on official documents.
The internet officially came to life in October 1969. Companies and governments jumped at it when it became publicly available in 1991. It has been standard in businesses and governments for arguably the last twenty years (give or take three years). We now live in a world of on demand. A world where anything I want to watch or listen to (in virtual reality) is a few seconds away. Any piece of information I want is at my fingertips using a device that has four million times more memory than the first space shuttle’s guidance system. Yet Japan, is still using a method of sending information that dates back to 1947.
The handling of the coronavirus hasn’t been any different. The reporting of corona has to be hand written, hanko stamped, and faxed to public health centers. This is causing a massive backlash by the public after a doctor specialising in respiratory medicine tweeted “Come on, let’s stop this already. Reporting cases in handwriting. Even with corona, we’re handwriting and faxing.” The doctor likened it to the “Showa period”. Showa refers to 1926-1989.
The consequences of using old tech has revealed itself in full force. Breaking news today is that 111 people were left out of the official announcements of daily corona victims. Not only that, there were duplicate reports of 35 people. With nineteen fields on form to fill out for each patient, and a specific method of sending information, it’s not surprising that mistakes happened.
If I sound salty… It’s because I am. I have been forced to use one of these archaic fax beasts while being here. I’ve not had PayPal, I can’t pay for things contactlessly, move money between banks or change yen into pounds using nothing more than an app. But hey! At least my toilet can sing to me.
As of mid May, authorities have allowed the reporting of corona cases via online. Let’s hope this changes the way companies in Japan do business in the future for all of our sakes.
It’s not all doom and gloom. As an English person, one of the first things I noticed about Japan is that Japan doesn’t really have satire or take the piss out of its betters. In England, a Scottish mother can’t tell off her kids without it shooting to international fame, and a member of parliament can’t give an interview without a panel of comedians ripping them to shreds at the end of the week.
However, during her daily speech about social distancing and volunteered self isolation, Tokyo’s Governor Yuriko Koike coined a phrase to explain the new rules. “Mitsu” meaning three, referring to the three “Cs” which are the three conditions of social distancing. “Closed spaces” Stay away from enclosed spaces, “circulation” stay out of places with poor circulation, “close contact” keep a distance from people. Unfortunately the warnings were not headed by a group of overzealous paparazzi who ran straight up to her after she had given her lecture.
Her response was to reprimand them by shouting “Mitsu desu!” Mitsu desu!” This sparked the international meme “mitsu desu”. Now, people who want some space can simply shout; mitsu desu! It has inspired countless “Mitsu Desu EDM Remixes” on Youtube. There has even been a computer game created in which Governor Koike is hounded by people and to get them away you have to strategically shout “mitsu desu.”