According to the world statistics for COVID-19 , as of November 2020, Japan’s Total Cases per one million inhabitants ranked number 152, and the total deaths per one million stood at number 148 among 219 countries and territories in the world.
However, Japan never enforced a lockdown or penalties for not wearing a mask outside, and on the contrary, the government has encouraged people to go out for dinner and travel domestically with the measures aimed at helping the struggling economy called “Go To Campaign”. However, cases are surging again, and Japan has entered a third wave that has caused local goverments to issue several alerts.
Despite the current trends, the number of infections and deaths has not grown exponentially in Japan as it did in other countries. There are some unique aspects that might have contributed to this:
What may come as a surprise to many is that Japanese people have always been used to wearing masks. There are lots of reasons like the ones mentioned here
but people in Japan often wear masks even if they are not sick. As a result, the majority of people did not object to wearing masks in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when the government asked people to do so. Wearing a mask in a summer was of course a new thing for Japanese people as well, so many of domestic companies developed summer masks that would make it easier for people to wear them during the hottest months of the year.
Japan is originally a monoethnic state. Individuality and originality are not regarded as precious since value is put on being like everyone else. Being out of the frame means being expelled from the community. Yes, this is a cultural aspect that does not make everyone happy and that has resulted in many problems and anxiety. However, when it comes to situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, following what the community does has helped people wear masks even if they don’t want to. Of course, this does not mean that everyone follows the rules, but the number of people who follow what the community does is a vast majority.
As you may know, Japanese people are very shy. Saying hi to the bus driver is not the case there. They seldom talk to strangers unless they want to ask for directions. If you travel in Japan, you might be surprised to see how silent it can be inside a train or a bus. Since conversations at kept at a minimum, it has helped reduce the risk of droplets spreading in these close spaces.
Have you ever stayed with Japanese family or friends? The first thing you need to do is take off your shoes at the entrance and clean your luggage’s wheels before entering. This is not done in order to minimize the spread of viruses. However, it’s certainly good to know that this aspect of Japanese culture has been helpful during the pandemic.
Kids are always taught to wash their hands and gargle when they come back home. If they try to eat snacks before doing so, they will definitely be scolded by their mothers. Since people are used to always washing their hands when entering home, this is something they don’t have to remember to do because of the pandemic.
Funny enough, though, hand sanitizers are still a bit uncommon in Japan. The pandemic has of course allowed hand sanitizers to become more popular in Japan, but Japanese people have always preferred washing their hand might have a relation to the fact that P&G, the world’s largest consumer health goods company, could not conquer the Japanese market.
Like in many other countries, Japanese people living in cities tend to live separately from their parents (a trend that’s different in the countryside). Thanks to this, and because people refrained from visiting their parents during the most important Japanese holidays, the virus spent months only affecting younger people. However, this has also started to change as Japan enters its third wave. Now, the elderly are also getting sick.