My Experience With the Covid-19 Pandemic in Japan.

As of January 2022, it’s hard to believe that this all started almost 2 years ago. Actually, it had already started 2 years ago. Actually, it was already there even well before that. Maybe it hadn’t relentlessly bombarded our collective consciousness in quite the same way, but it was already there. Japan was in fact one of the first countries to have a major pandemic-related event.

One of the last real organic interactions I had outside before all of this started. A bartender drew me as a sipped beers and enjoyed Hokkaido sausages. Wow!

How it all got started. The first signs of real covid-19 panic in Japan, and my first real experience dealing with the pandemic in Japan

At the time my life had mysteriously revolved around this new phenomenon. A ‘crabby’ phenomenon. ‘Fight Crab’ to be exact. During my time at university in Japan localizing small-scale Japanese independent video games had become a passion and side-hustle for me, and Fight Crab was my magnum opus. It was to becom the ultimate crabby combat simulator of crusteanal crabby goodness! And it was.

Fight Crab. A game where you are crab and you fight crab.

February 6th, 2020 was set to be a big day for Fight Crab, and a monumental day for Covid-19. Set to be one of the first major press events for the video game industry of 2020, the Taipei game show was going to be my first experience supporting a game developer abroad at a major press event.

It was going to be grand!

It was going to be intense!

It was going to be life-changing!

It was going to be canceled.

Wooo! Wait…what?

That’s right. The event was cancelled. It was the first time in my life I had ever heard of anything being cancelled because of some mysterious new thing called ‘covid-19.’ I had no idea what we were all getting into. Ah! Oh to dream of a simpler and more naïve time, so long ago, but at the same time, not so long ago.

That time everyone started to panic about the pandemic in Japan. Covid, TP, and a very silly man.

It’s mid February. “Japan store shelves stripped of toilet paper amid coronavirus fears.” This was one of the major headlines surrounding the beginning of covid in Japan. You’re probably saying, “Oh. I remember that!” But actually, Japan’s TP crises took place probably around a month before it happened anywhere else in the world. Actually, ironically enough, Japan is one of the countries that didn’t have a real TP crises. It was self-induced TP crises by a few very silly men, on very silly Japanese television programs, in very silly suits. This all got started (from what I heard) when a Japanese “scientist” with “evidence” came onto TV to warn the domestic population about the imminent draining of Japan’s TP supply! It was to become a real conundrum of the home! Why? ‘BECAUSE JAPAN’S TOILET PAPER COMES FROM CHINA, THE SOURCE OF THE VIRUS!!!…Idiot…’

But wait, most of Japan’s toilet paper is made…in Japan. Japan is famous for being one of the most developed countries in the world, that just happens to be a large island with very few natural resources. That being said, if there’s one thing Japan doesn’t have a shortage of, it’s tree’s, and incredibly high standards when it comes to toiletries in general.

Basically, the panic was for nothing. The panic caused the panic. And that panic caused me to go on a 4am trek outside of my apartment in search of this new rare commodity. No, surely TP was now a luxury! I made sure to gather dry leaves outside my apartment, just incase I couldn’t get my hand on any.

I did. No leaves were required.

What was the government response like?

Things have generally been pretty steady in Japan, with a very slow growth curve all the way from early 2020 to late 2021 (although we aren’t out of the woods yet.) In April the first “state of emergency” was declared in Japan, which dictated that businesses close their doors early, along with the cancellation of large scale events and other restrictions. Japan is unique in that it cannot technically enforce any actual restrictions, however, the Japanese culture is such that even with little to no restrictions 2 years later, I have yet to see a single person in a crowded place who wasn’t wearing a mask. All in all, the pandemic was more mild in Japan, while Japan was one of the last countries to receive any of the vaccine strains.

Why were the infection numbers in Japan so low?

Shoving yourself into a tube is a regular Japanese past time. Doing it while wearing a mask and avoiding infection? That was a sport.

Nobody knows for sure, even at this point. Many people point to genetic factors in the Japanese population, which I find funny. Do I count as a part of that statistic? No, surely I do not, even I have been slurping my fair share of udon noodles and sharing very close proximity to salary men and other drunkards for the last 7 years.

In my opinion, there were 3 major factors that really helped Japan as a population since the start of the pandemic.

  1. The Japanese population (especially women) have grown up wearing masks. (Especially women because many women will choose to wear masks instead of doing their makeup.)
  2. Japan’s culture of creating distance. Lack of physical touching and, for as sad as it is, much less intimacy and general PDA definitely helped.
  3. Japan’s use of pure alcohol spray instead of hand sanitizer. Japan doesn’t use hand sanitizer. At least, I’ve never seen it. Most shops in Japan now have a bottle of pure alcohol attached to a foot pump near the entrance. While it’s not as kind to your skin, alcohol shoots out of these things, which I think leads to people getting a perfect sanitization much more frequently. Plus, the cooperative nature of people in Japan means that almost everyone will use this spray, raising the demand and putting more pressure on restaurants to supply enough and properly sanitize everything. There are very few anti-vaxxers here. People in Japan believe in science.

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