As COVID-19 continues to spread across the world, people of all nations have implemented countermeasures to some degree. Wearing surgical masks, frequent hand-washing, social distancing, and even complete lockdowns in some countries such as Spain and France.

A Brief Recap of Covid-19 in Japan

By James Heilman, MD - Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Japan was one of the first countries to be affected by the novel coronavirus, its first case confirmed in mid-January. The number of infections continued to grow and by early February, masks were sold out in stores across the nation.

Hokkaido saw infections surge throughout February, which warranted the governor, Naomichi Suzuki, to declare a state of emergency on February 28, urging residents to stay at home.

This came only a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe requested all primary and secondary schools to close until April to prevent the virus from spreading.

Cases have continued to rise in March and April, but not at the pace and scope of Western countries. Yet since the IOC’s decision to postpone the Olympics until 2021, Japan has once again seen a surge in coronavirus cases, leaving some to speculate that Japan’s low infection rate in recent months was inaccurate and maybe even deceitful.

On March 31, Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko said the capital is “on the brink,” urging the Prime Minister to declare a state of emergency. Despite calls from medical experts and political leaders, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga stated the current situation does not call for such extreme measures.

Abe announced a plan to provide two masks each to 50 million households across Japan to fight the virus leading to memes like this one where Abe is blinded by his second mask:

The meme below shows the seven-member family (plus cat) from Sazae-san, one of Japan’s oldest anime series, struggling to share their allotted masks.

What Happened to Common Sense?

Some say one’s true colors can be seen during times of crisis.

So what should we make of the following story from the Hokkaido Shimbun?

On March 24, a member of Sapporo’s City Board of Education spoke up about incidents of students being called out by school staff for wearing non-white masks, as per school policy. The committee member said that at a time when there is a shortage of masks, invoking discipline due to some minor infraction is inappropriate. The superintendent echoed the member’s sentiments, stating that colorful masks or even homemade masks should be allowed and that schools with strict regulations about masks should act according to the situation at hand.

Famed Japanese talent Naoki Ogi (AKA Ogi Mama) criticized the incident on his blog.

Disregarding the various difficulties families are facing, and the many children with pre-existing conditions and disabilities, it just makes me sad. Such a rigid and inflexible school may be even more hazardous than the coronavirus! It may be better to skip school for peace of mind—What a horrible shame. Has the headmaster forgotten his duty to safeguard the well-being of all children?

Ogi Mama's official blog


Ogi-san certainly doesn’t attempt to hide his incredulity that a school could have such a hard time prioritizing children’s safety over a rule about mask type and color. This is not an isolated incident. On the national scale, although Japan’s government is likely to declare a national emergency as early as tomorrow, it debated for a long time over whether to do so while calling on citizens to bear the responsibility to self-isolate and forego unnecessary outings.

The government can certainly do more to help its people, as many other countries have taken extreme measures to prevent coronavirus from spreading any further. But we each have to do our own part as well. Maybe you think you’ll be fine. You hear that most cases are mild. But think about the people with compromised immune systems or already at-risk due to age or other conditions. Let’s all be aware of how our actions affect those around us. And I’m pretty sure that Ogi Mama would agree with me on this one.

By - Mujo.