Living in Japan for the last four and half years, I have never seen anything like this before – while the number of those infected by the COVID-19 virus (Coronavirus) in Japan is relatively small when measured against total population – the preventative measures introduced by the Japanese Government are starting to take their hold across the country, including in the world’s largest metropolis, Tokyo. The mood in Tokyo, in fact, has become very surreal over the last few days.
Last Thursday, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe requested all elementary, junior high, high and special education schools close from 2 March until the the end of spring vacations (which is usually in early April) (see more about that decision here – All schools in Japan told to close until April over virus outbreak). The impact of this decision is now being felt throughout the wider community as businesses try and deal with many of its employees needing to care for children that otherwise would be at school.
From my personal experience, the impact of the measures announced by the Japanese Government to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus are growing everyday.
On Friday, our office announced that during March we should work from home as much as possible and avoid face-to-face meetings. Out shopping yesterday, some shelves at the international supermarket were bare, while checking Twitter one discovers that some supermarkets are now out of rice, there is also a rush on toilet paper, which seemingly has caused massive queues at CostCo as many head to the bulk product supermarket to stock up on essentials. Meanwhile, to try and keep to a normal routine, I thought I would head to one of Tokyo’s largest golf driving ranges today, only to find it is now shut until 15 March (just like Tokyo Disneyland) due to the Coronavirus risk.
The preventative measures imposed are certainly impacting day-to-day life in Japan and this period of abnormality looks set to continue at least until the end of March.
With the Olympics on the horizon there has also been much discussion as to whether the Coronavirus outbreak will impact the Olympics, which are scheduled to start in late July. While it may be too early to make a call on the Olympics (I’m hoping they are unaffected as have been waiting for them to arrive in Tokyo since I got here), there are many sports that have followed the Japanese Government’s call for a reduction in mass public gatherings (see more here – link).
Over recent days, we have seen Japan’s B-League (professional basketball), J-League (soccer) and Top League (rugby) impacted with games cancelled, postponed or held behind closed doors. Japan’s Super Rugby Franchise, the Sunwolves (who are in their last season of Super Rugby), have moved their Japan-based scheduled games in the near future to Australia.
Meanwhile, today’s famed Tokyo Marathon, was a shadow of its usual self as the usual mass participation event was restricted to elite runners only due to Coronavirus concerns (read more here – link).
Lets hope that these preventative measures stem the spread of the Coronavirus here in Japan. The measures are now certainly impacting day-to-day life and creating a surreal atmosphere that we all hope will be over soon.