NZHerald wants you to thank vaxxes and masks for Japan's recent low case numbers via AP's Mari Yamaguchi
What do Japanese people really think though?
Mari Yamaguchi treats Japan’s latest valley in corona virus cases like it is some kind of miracle and goes searching for answers in this propaganda piece. Ignoring some other obvious factors like seasonality and ivermectin, she cherry picks some experts™ who thank vaccines, masks and teetotaling.
Fourth Post In I’m Breaking the Rules
Yes, this is a republished AP piece and AP aren’t a NZ organisation. But it’s about Japan, where I live, and was published by NZ Herald so I’m counting it. Enjoy. Also a lot of this will just be based on my experience living here all the way through this. Deal with it, debonkers.
Let’s Get This Out Of The Way
The anti-viral elephant in the room gets zero mention in this piece. We can safely rule out any objectivity on the writer’s part. Sure, this is correlation and not causation, but these people love to treat the former as the latter when it suits them, like with masks for example. How much it is actually being prescribed is anyone's guess, but I have personally heard of it being given to people who didn’t ask for it by doctors. Nevertheless, our super-safe, super-cheap, super-not-making-any-politicians-money friend here is left on this article’s cutting floor. I’m stunned.
A Funny Admission Re: Testing
The article weirdly tries to implicate a fall in testing as the reason for cases falling. Tell me Mari, if it is appropriate to speculate a fall in testing might be responsible for a fall in cases, what should one logically think whenever there is a rise in cases? Mari doesn’t tell us explicitly, but those of us that can read between the lines know.
What’s The Big Difference Between This Year And Last Year, Mari?
The graph above makes the latest peak look like a marginal rise above other peaks. This is misleading. Check the scale. It doesn’t go up evenly. The last peak was huge compared to previous peaks. New cases were numbering in the thousands daily. Newscasters had conniptions. Cats and dogs started living together.
Previous peaks maxed out at several hundred new cases a day. The latest peak was in a new ballpark. So what changed? Two things come to mind: the delta variant and…
Mari gives neither much emphasis or investigation.
Masks? Are You Serious?
Let’s clear this up. Masks were given a lot of credit early on for Japan’s success but the latest peak showed definitively they had nothing to do with it. Mask compliance has been at a steady %90 (figure based on walking around and living here) since June last year and it was only lower than that before because of shortages. Yet the peaks have come and gone and are increasing in magnitude each time. The idea that masks make any kind of difference is laughable at this point and it is sad to see Mari bring it up. There’s no real world data and any studies supporting their use are garbage. Let it go, Mari.
What Do The Japanese Really Think About Masks And Vaxxes?
Two young university students (girls, and whiney ones at that) are quoted as saying masked life feels normal now and they don’t want to be near unmasked people. I have also heard of bank employees (colleagues of a friend) obsessing over the vaxxes. I have no doubt there are people like this here. I have met one or two. They are, however, a minority.
There are no laws or penalties regarding masks, just a lot of signs up in shops. I almost never wear one. I ignore the signs. Nearly nobody cares. I get no attitude or even mean looks from shop staff. I am denied entry to one or two department stores and some facilities such as gyms (I know, right?) unless I wear one. I just don’t go to those places and suffer very little. Dumbbells cost less than gyms in the long term anyway.
I have encountered precisely three Karens in my year and a half of maskless-ness: one old lady that seemed mentally ill and who other Japanese in the area were actively avoiding and two (probably) racist old men. They both ignored other maskless Japanese people in the room, had a go at me and paid dearly in shame. Both incidents were hilarious. One blew his gasket so hard at me in a café (I know, right?!) just because I didn’t bow and scrape when he confronted me that his own mask fell right off. The other kicked the back of my chair on a train for an impressive 30 minutes straight before they made an extended stop and brought three men on who threatened to kick HIM off if he didn’t cut it out. He complied.
When I recount these tales to Japanese friends, their first reaction is to question whether these people were really Japanese or not.
As for vaxxes, the Japanese labour department has made it clear that they are to be optional and the employees must not suffer for their choice. As with all Japanese labour laws, compliance varies. They were completely optional at my company. Talking to people, they seem to recognize they don’t really do much. Vax hesitant conversations have been started and perpetuated in meetings (not by me). Everyone is very chill and capable of talking about these things like an adult. There are no accusations of killing grandma if you aren't on board. Levels of fanaticism are low.
So Why All The Compliance Then?
Simple peer pressure. Nobody wants to be the odd one out here. That’s Japanese culture. Nobody wants to be the one person without a mask. Nobody wants to be the only one at work or in the family who didn’t get the vaccination. That’s it. Far less people seem to be under the false illusion that these things do anything than elsewhere. They just don’t want to be singled out and aren’t really aware of any dangers associated with doing these things.
How do I know? Apart from talking to the ones I know who readily admit it, there is their behaviour. Specifically how they are completely unaverse to crowds. The crowds Mari herself mentions. Crowded trains. People sitting next to maskless me on uncrowded trains where they have a choice to sit elsewhere. Crowded shops. Crowded bars in July with no masks on.
A small but significant minority actively resist. I have seen photos of clinics with signs asking the vaccinated not to enter. The odd restaurant demands you take your mask off on entry. Many protests have been carried out. One prominent group has done more than 50, almost one a week outside big stations like Shibuya.
There was a big anti-vax-passport protest in Shinjuku recently. Protestors and rebels catch some flak but its mostly for being protestors and rebels rather than for lying or misinforming people.
The overwhelming majority sit in the middle and comply because that is the path of least resistance and they aren't aware of or effected by any dangers associated with the measures. Not because they think they truly work well.
What Does The Future Hold For Japan?
The trend over the last year, as indicated by the numbers of people going out and about and decreasing compliance with rules and signage, has been one of increasing relaxation and indifference. Even the government seems to have changed tack lately with their sudden and simultaneous removal of states of emergency in late September and now-Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso being quoted publicly reminding the experts™ they have gotten it wrong every single time. Whether the government pushes measures harder or continues to lighten up during the next peak remains to be seen but the mental gymnastics by propagandists like Mari pushing things we know don't work to reduce cases will be impressive to see either way.