The coronavirus outbreak has entered Japan some time ago, but as of today, there is a strange and almost eerie atmosphere of calm in the nation. There are reports of new infections and casualties almost every day in the media, but the government's response has been mild and unfocused, a far cry from the stringent and even draconian measures taken by many countries. In and around Tokyo, the trains are running as usual, and bars and restaurants are open, although the number of customers have noticeably dwindled.
The enigma is that despite the lukewarm measures taken by the Japanese central and local governments, the coronavirus outbreak has been restrained so far in Japan. Some people argue that this is perhaps due to the lack of infection tests. Conspiracy theories abound, pointing out that the government is trying to keep the infection and death figures low in order to go ahead with the Tokyo Olympics. This is unlikely to be the case, as the number of severely ill or dead from the disease does seem to be low, figures hard to suppress given the openness of the medical sector in this country.
So why is the coronavirus outbreak subdued in Japan? Some point out that the Japanese are incredibly clean people, washing their hands before eating food well before this outbreak. Others say that the obsession to wear masks even when there are no symptoms helped. Yet others suggest that the Japanese shyness towards bodily contacts such as handshake, hugging, and kissing in social life is a factor in suppressing the coronavirus spread.
In any case, there is an atmosphere of unreality and incredulousness in Japan right now, as the news outlets report tragic and urgent situations in other parts of the world. Life in Tokyo is certainly not as usual, but not so different from the norm. There is a hidden undertone of suspension in the Japanese psyche now. Is the Japanese government doing enough? Can we really go through the crisis with THIS level of protective measures? Nobody knows the answer.
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