Coronavirus, Japan 2020

And then suddenly there was no toilet paper. I first knew things were heating up when the girls at Starbucks all started wearing face masks. It’s not uncommon for people to wear them on the street or in the train, but to see service staff looking like hospital orderlies was a bit disturbing. Of course, I had on a mask too, so our interaction went something like,

“Wrrcome tr Srbucks, mray I trk yr rrrder?”


“Mray I trk yr rrrder?”

“Grrrnde crrffee prrease.”



I also discovered it’s pretty hard to drink coffee while wearing a mask and without touching the cup. So I bought a bag of beans and resolved to start brewing up at home.

Coronavirus Japan, Sayonara Groceries

Then Friday at the supermarket, well, good thing I’d stocked up on toilet paper during the last typhoon, because the aisle was vaporized of all tissue. And when I went back Saturday for Asahi and some chips, there was a woman at the entrance, in a mask, literally wiping down every shopping basket with alcohol and a rag. I could barely get through the door. A million Japanese folk were rushing hither and thither, pushing carts piled high with meat, noodles, vegetables, canned goods, just anything they could get their hands on. Granted, a Japanese shopping cart wouldn’t even fit an American box of cereal and gallon of milk, but still the scene was enough to induce me to panic-buy three six-packs and all the remaining Doritos. Ah, set for life.

I’m not sure how well alcohol actually kills viruses, but anyway that’s not what this is about. It really speaks to the depths of Japanese culture.   

Because make no mistake—Japanese folks positively love this pandemic. Coronapocalypse is their dream come true for living out the five sacred Japanese values: distrust of foreigners, particular hatred of China, neurotic germaphobia slash OCD cleanliness, righteous whining of See?-I-told-ya-so, and complete batshit overreaction. Finally, a reason to stockpile Kleenex. All your wishes, fulfilled.

The Japanese Response to Coronavirus

Which isn’t to say a response to COVID-19 isn’t justified. Sure, life’s all about managing risk. It’s just that, while you’re running to the store for N95 masks, well, try not to get flattened by a gang of Japanese teenagers on tiny motorcycles. Truth is, this coronavirus taps into something peculiar within the Japanese psyche, because the population has been conditioned—trained, actually—to freak out over anything and everything. Earthquakes, fires, tsunamis, landslides, typhoons, floods, nuclear war, gas attack, plague of locusts, whatever, Japan’s had it. So you’re probably not gonna see Ken Seeroi’s winning design for a tourism poster any time soon. Come to Japan for a visit, stay forever! Yeah, good choice to hold the Olympics in Tokyo. What could possibly go wrong?

Coronavirus Japan, Hello Izakaya

So Friday evening, my girlfriend and I were at an izakaya, drinking a couple of malt liquors. And just to pass the time, I started giving her a ballpoint pen tattoo. Hey, I was all out of card tricks and sometimes it’s just easier than making conversation.

“So on your right knuckles, we write L-O-V-E,” I said, inking in the letters.

“That’s sweet,” she replied.

“But on your left knuckles is H-A . . .,” I continued with the pen.

And just then, the waitress came by wearing a mask and carrying a spray bottle of hand sanitizer. “For safety,” she said. So we dutifully held out our hands as she sprayed what felt like a mixture of alcohol and baby oil. After which it became impossible to continue writing letters.

My girlfriend looked at her hands. “LOVE and HAT?” she said.

“Yeah,” I replied, “The two great forces of the universe.”

“I don’t understand,” she said.

“We better order more drinks,” I answered.

Coronavirus Japan, Karaoke Anyone?

Then on Sunday, fortunately or unfortunately, I’d scheduled to meet some friends for beer and karaoke. My old buddy The Tanuki showed up, having recently survived both a stroke and crashing his car into a city bus. Talk about managing risk. And of course the Suzuki-sans came, with Mrs. Suzuki wearing not one but two masks. Never seen that before. She promptly doused everyone’s hands with sanitizer, and then pulled from her bag a giant roll of Wet Wipes and set upon wet wiping the mics, remote controls, table, and beer mugs. Real mood-maker, she is. But then everyone pulled down their masks to drink and sing, which seemed to kind of defeat the whole sanitation protocol. Anyway, nice try.

Coronavirus Japan, Sayonara Tourists

So to get to karaoke, I ended up hopping on the bus. I was like, Score, there’s empty seats at the back. And just as I was pushing through the masked Japanese folks amassed at the front, I stopped. Because in the last row were six Chinese college girls. The entire back of the bus was empty and all the Japanese folks were standing like sardines in the front.

Now, Ken Seeroi’s about the least racist person in the world. But he’s also not trying to die any time soon, so cognitive dissonance aside, I decided to cast my lot with the Japanese crew and finally got off a few blocks early and just walked.

I recently read that 25% of all foreign people in Japan are from China, which seems about right. If you want to have a fun and interesting time, come to Japan, then hang out with Chinese folks. And until about two weeks ago, you could, because every shopping mall and drug store was filled with them. But now the numbers have pretty much fallen off. There’s a lot more room on the sidewalks and you don’t need reservations for restaurants. There are visibly fewer people, tourists and locals alike. The Japanese economy, already headed to the bottom of the ocean, just got tied to a giant anchor for 2020.

Should You Visit Japan Now?

Yeah, that’d be a question, all right. But apparently Shinzo Abe has yet to appoint Seeroi Sensei as Health Minister, so honestly, I’ve no idea. How bad is the coronavirus in Japan? I don’t know, you don’t know, nobody knows, but it’s looking like I’ll need to cancel my Diamond Princess cruise. I’m also not real crazy about sitting on a plane for several hours, breathing the air same air as… ick, other people. But even that aside, my biggest fear would be getting detained through some quarantine, flight cancellation, or border closure. I can just see going on a week’s vacation and then losing my job because I got stuck for a month in Istanbul.

So is now a good time to visit Japan? Well, maybe it’ll be easier to view the sakura with fewer tourists, if you don’t mind seeing petals wafting on a coronavirus breeze. But hey, the autumn leaves are pretty excellent too, and the country’s nearing lock-down mode, so I might advise waiting a bit. As long as you’ve got enough coffee, beer, and Doritos to last through the crisis, or at least the weekend, you’ll be good.

74 Replies to “Coronavirus, Japan 2020”

  1. Ken,
    If you want to learn a couple new card tricks, let me know. I can teach you a couple of nifty ones.


    1. Thanks. If I ever finish my current hobby of studying fifty thousand Japanese flash cards, I’ll take you up on that.

        1. Honestly, after all these years of studying, and using the language daily, it’s astonishing how many words I don’t know. Mnnn, depressing might be a better way to describe it.

  2. Thanks for taking my request and putting it together so quickly. Great read!

    It’s been quite some time since I’ve visited here I should be punished by eating a bowl of natto. So long in fact I thought for sure you’d have tied the knot with some barfly & now living in a sexless Japanese marriage. It appears not so you still have something to look forward to. Goals are important, stick with it & find someone not very attractive so it won’t matter in the bedroom.

    Anyhoo, I read where Japan has spent $13+ billion (that’s so many yen the zeros would fill up this post) on the Olympics that for it not to be held would be a huge economic dent. Ouch! Add to that a lack of the usual visitors & tourists & it sounds like The Perfect Storm. Without George Clooney of course, which is probably a good thing. On a positive note with a shortage of Olympics visitors it just might be the perfect time to attend. Just bring toilet paper & an updated life insurance policy. Hmmm, is healthcare free in Japan?

    I’m signing off to get more brainwashed by watching NHK World on my local PBS television station. They make it sound like Japan is THE perfect place for food, scenic vistas, friendly locals, perfect weather & easy to comprehend train schedules for foreigners like myself. I live in the US so I cannot tell real versus fake news so I’m totally buying what NHK is selling.

    Screw COVID-19, I’m on my way,

    1. My pleasure. Yeah, bring a supply of face masks and rubber gloves and come along, you’ll fit right in. And yeah, we’ll thank you to bring your own toilet paper, since people have already ramped up the trend of stealing it from bathrooms.

      But on the real, if there is any virus to be had, then I can’t imagine a worse idea than riding the packed trains of Tokyo. Yeah, good luck with that. I’m hoping this will jump-start a work-from-home revolution so I can spend the rest of my existence drinking beer in my boxer shorts.

  3. the Abe govts botched handling of the evacuees (not enacting the contagious diseases law so 2 returnees were able to refuse testing), and the incompetence displayed in the quarantine of the diamond princess, and yet Abe doubled down and released the passengers after 2 weeks into the worlds largest metropolis to catch the train home… all that ineptitude and yet living in tokyo i dont sense any anger at the govt, just panic, oh and even more xenophobia…

    1. Xenophobia indeed. Japanese people love them some tourists and English teachers, so long as they keep their distance. Here, it’s black and white: there’s them, and there’s us. Good thing we’ve got the reliable indicator of race to tell the two apart.

      1. at a meetup party in tokyo saturday i joined a group of 3 japanese who were discussing how one of them “looked korean”… but then of course the japanese couldnt end racism at black and white differences, because that would mean theyre part of a larger racial group, those despised koreans and chinese… and besides dont the japanese claim to be mongolian, although they also sometimes claim to have longer intestines because of the millennia theyve eaten rice… which is strange since the mongolians never ate rice… as for the toilet paper panic (again!), i looked up anal retentive but sadly it doesnt apply…

  4. People are literally already starting to buy out all the toilet paper and bottled waters at Costcos in America, even though we only have like… 50 cases. On average, more people die from gunshots every week. *shrug*

    My friends back in Japan are paying hundreds of dollars in cancellation fees to cancel travel plans. I guess in Japan the situation is slightly concerning, but even 700 people out of 126 million is like… nothing% ?? It’s so tiny that my calculator can’t show it without scientific notation, so yeah, nothing%.

    Always love to get your take on things… you never fail to deliver!

    1. Slightly concerning would be an understatement. The word “coronavirus” appears in the first few seconds of every conversation. Small children are wearing tiny kiddie face masks and my local hiking group cancelled this month’s walk in the woods. You know, so many people out in the forest. I’m pretty sure Japanese families have already drawn lots to see which family member gets eaten first. Sorry, little Takeshi, you drew the short straw.

    2. @jdawg
      Just a small correction… 50 cases in America – “you said more people die from gunshots every week”. Actually more people in America die from gunshots every 12 hours.
      As for the 50 number, in general it is not reliable. We are not testing for coronavirus anywhere so theoretically even if the number of cases were 1,000,000 we still might not know about them especially when you could be symptom free for 2 weeks or more in a lot of cases. How can anyone know the real number when nobody’s being tested for it?

  5. This post is truly hilarious. But I am very curious, why toilet papers? I mean if it does run out why cant people just use water and soap for your rear?

    Then again the huge dent would mean cheaper accommodation and flight tickets on my next visit to Japan. I don’t wish for such detrimental state of economy for them, Just saying. Lol

    1. Yeah, I know. Last I checked, air, water, food, and shelter were pretty important for survival. Toilet paper’s pretty far down on that list. Way below shochu, I’m sure.

  6. In Germany it is not better in any way.
    Well, it’s the Country where geigercounter where sold out after Fukushima incident after all…
    In my City (160km², 250k People), there are 5 definite cases of corona, and people are stockipiling, you can’t imagine. On Saturday evening, there even was no bottled water anymore in the supermarket. Not talking about vegetable, bread, noodles, flour…
    Construction workers can’t buy their masks for work and even for hospitals there are just remainders of masks and germicide.
    Everyone is going crazy… Discrimination against asians was also sometimes a thing, at least before the italy outbreak.
    From italy, there was a quote of an old man regarding stockpiling: “Even in war times we had more”

    1. Wow, that’s heavy. Here it’s more of an annoyance, at least so far. When I went to the store yesterday, it was less crowded (of course, it was a weekday) and some brands of toilet paper were back on the shelves.

      I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of this virus, but thus far it feels like an overreaction fueled by the media.

      1. Yep. Same here. No shitpaper at Seims OR OK. I feel the same exact way. I don’t know what it’s like in Sendai, but in Kawaguchi the streets are barren. Just like the stores xD

        Also I’ve been visiting this site for about 5 years. Ive been living in Japan for 4. I can relate to a lot of your content.

            1. I do apologize to bother you again, Ken. My wife and I were wanting to move to the countryside. (Im a bit shy) What I’m trying to ask you is how hard was it to obtain your Car license? We haven’t really needed a car but recently We are getting too damn old for all this noise :3 and to be honest, just going outside takes a lot out of me these days. I do appreciate any time you spare. My confidence in my test taking ability has fallen far from grace.

              1. I’ll be glad to help you, Steve. Let me start by getting some pertinent information:

                Do you have a valid driver’s license in another country? If so, what country?

                Are you an experienced driver? Given the opportunity, could you drive a car with reasonable skill?

                Once we’ve got answers to those questions, we can go a bit further.

                1. I do have my license from the states, but it’s been expired for about 2 years now. But anyways I’m reasonably sure I could still drive if I had a bit of time to warm up. I asked my brother-in-law about it and he told me he took about 3 weeks of driving school to get his. But it costed about $2,000-3,000( give or take) I also took a sample written test( in Japanese, of course) but it seemed a bit Too…err..condescending to even give me an idea of the real test. Sorry for such a long message. And thanks again for everything!

                  1. Okay, the first thing you want to do is find a Japanese person and drag them to the Japanese DMV to confirm what I’m about to say, because I’m just going off what I remember and think I know, neither of which is particularly reliable. And even if your Japanese skills are top-notch, as I’m sure you’re aware, you can get a different response simply by having a Japanese person by your side. So take someone with a name that can be written in kanji.

                    Now in my case, I had a valid license from the States, so all I had to do was get 8 out of 10 questions right on a multiple choice test, written in English. And then fail the road test twice before passing it on my third try with a score of 100%. Somehow I was magically able to go from being a complete fuck-up to a perfect driver in 3 tries. I wish all of life worked like that.

                    But without a valid license—and here I’m making a guess—I figure the road test will be the same, so all that they could do would be to give you a longer, harder, possibly Japanese paper test. But even that, I kind of think they’re going to have in English. So that’d be the first thing I’d confirm: what exactly the testing procedures are in your case.

                    Here’s another thing I think I know: you don’t have to go to driving school. Everybody does, but that’s just because, well, everybody does. Japan. Foreign people with a valid license almost never go, and I’ve heard of one Japanese guy who skipped it and went straight to the test, eventually passing. So in your case, I’d check to see if you really need to go, and word that question carefully, because of course they’ll push you to attend.

                    In my case, here’s what I did: After failing the test twice, I went home in tears and rage, and enrolled in a driving school for 1 hour. Cost about 30 bucks. It might’ve even been 30 minutes, I don’t remember, but I did a couple of laps on a test track with this horrible bitch who said everything I did was wrong and even grabbed the wheel from me on a couple of occasions. But at the conclusion of that humiliation, I got a piece of paper saying I’d taken a class. Then I went back to the DMV and they were like, Oh, you’ve got a piece of paper, now you’re golden. And then I got the 100%.

                    I should also mention that at the point I started this whole miserable process, I’d already been driving in Japan for 3 fucking years. First in a car with an international license for a year, and then two years on a scooter, which is way harder and more dangerous than a car. Not to mention years of experience in the States. But whatever. So step 2 is, enroll in a driving school for 1 hour.

                    The truth is, like a lot of things in Japan, it’s really not that difficult. There are simply two mind-fucks you’ve got to avoid. The first is the process. It’s made to look complicated, but it’s really not. You can definitely work through it, and pretty quickly, particularly with the help of a Japanese person. They just throw up barriers—you need to have a valid license, you need to go to driving school, you need to bring your passport from 10 years ago (or whatever thing you didn’t bring because you thought there was no way they’d need to see that). So what I’m saying is, don’t psyche yourself out. You can definitely do it.

                    The second mind-fuck is the road test. Trust me when I say you can’t pass it if you think it has anything to do with driving a car. It doesn’t. It’s completely non-intuitive. The entire test is geared around doing the what the instructor wants to see, not what the road conditions dictate. I’ll give you an example.

                    At the very start of my test, I had to drive along a four-lane road for about 100 meters and then make a 90-degree right-hand turn. Now, you might think that because there’s a sharp right turn coming up that you’d want to be in the right-hand lane and not going too fast. And you’d be wrong. Because what you need to do is to gun the engine, switch to the left lane, then after 30 meters, switch back to the right lane and brake like crazy to make the turn. This shows, in the eyes of the instructor, that you know how to accelerate and brake properly, switch lanes smoothly with signals, and understand that the right-hand lane is the passing lane. So step 3 is, figure out what they expect to see and then do that. Don’t just show up thinking you know how to drive.

                    Well, let me know if you’ve got other questions, but that’s where I’d start. You can definitely do this. Don’t be intimidated by the process. Work through it and get your license, like everybody else. You can do it.

                    1. Thank you for the confidence boost, Ken. I’m a poor test taker at the best of times in my mind. As for dragging a native to the DMV with me..That is a good point. Wish I would’ve thought of that first xD I’ll see about taking either my wife or father-in-law with me. And yeah, I do feel very frustrated about that too. Nothing steams my vegetables faster than being virtually ignored when I have someone with me, even though I frequent said places almost daily. Alone. I really do appreciate the real talk, and I wish we could meet up for a few tall cans of peach Chu-hi together. I do miss the Ramune ones though. Love them things. XD

  7. Well, I am coming in April, virus or no virus. But if we are to be honest, it is going to be about the same everywhere and really I am going to get sick, I think I like my chances better in a Japanese clinic. But maybe I am biased.
    I was thinking of getting a bicycle once there. Now it seems like an even superior form of transportation, because I have even more of a reason to avoid Japanese style crowded transport. Sure as hell I am not going to be able to avoid people at the university, though. Well, you win some, you lose some.
    By the way, I am that one guy that was trying to coerce you into having a fan meet up. For good or bad I am being send to the suburbs of Osaka, not Tokyo, so that makes it definitely less possible to coerce you into it. Well, maybe once the virus calms down and I decided to ride my bicycle outside of Kansai I will be annoying you again.

    1. Yeah, I think it’s good you’re coming. Hopefully things will be a bit more in control by April. Don’t know how much I agree with you about Japanese clinics though; they’ve always seemed pretty ineffectual to me. But I one-hundred-percent agree about the bicycle. It’s a great form of transportation in this country.

      Let’s talk about that meetup once you’re here. I’m still waiting to see how things pan out job-wise for me here, both in terms of money and scheduling.

  8. great column ken-san! the five sacred values, spot-on and lots of laughs, sorry.
    I started commuting by bicycle from shibuya to chiyoda a few weeks ago but from Monday the office is all remote-work anyways.
    The stockpiling is an odd phenomena but fortunately even when the water is sold out there is plenty of beer available. I will definitely bring some to enjoy Meguro sakura, where the festival is cancelled but the riverwalk still open to enjoy. I wonder what part is cancelled, exactly. Hoping its the loudspeakers telling everyone where to walk.
    take care and please include me on any fan-club attendance list!

    1. Ah, good point—we may finally get a seat below the sakura this year. I guess the yatai will be few, so it’ll be mostly BYO-Chiken skewers and beer. Kind of an odd festival vibe.

      Japan was sure a lot more fun before I was aware of all the earthquakes, tsunami, and life-threatening viruses. Ah, the good old days.

  9. I’ve been hoping you’d post something about the Coronavirus; always love hearing your thoughts.

    My partner and I have a 5 week trip planned from 25 March. The one time we book a long holiday… Anyway, unless the Australian Gov says otherwise, we’re still coming.

    Do you think the reason the number of cases in Japan is low is because less people are being tested, compared to other countries?

    As an aside, I have just realised I’ve been following your blog since 2013. Happy 7 years of reading!

    1. There are a ton of questions swirling around this coronavirus thing. It’s probably unwise to speculate without any real data.

      But what the hell—let’s do it anyway! So it seems reasonable to assume there’s a gap between the number of people who have COVID-19 and those being tested. How big the gap is is anyone’s guess. Which is to say that a) there are people walking around feeling “unwell” who have yet to visit a hospital; and b) there are people in hospitals without test kits to say definitively yes or no. Both of those cases would not be reflected in the reported numbers.

      Now, are fewer people being tested in Japan? And are the numbers reflected overseas indicative of what’s actually happening? Yeah, really hard to say. I have read in the Japanese media that there were cases, and deaths, in Kyushu and Okinawa over a week ago, and neither place appears on the Johns Hopkins map. So that’s concerning.

      You’ve still got 3 weeks before you arrive. I’d keep an eye on the numbers, inaccurate as they may be. Right now they’re statistically insignificant and being hyped in the media. Ultimately the trend will tell the story.

      Thanks for reading all these years. Hard to believe it’s been so many, eh.

      1. Just to add about the clinics. I am from a small Eastern European country, so at least compared to here I think it would be better. But who knows, I might be too biased and wrong.

  10. The thing about outbreaks is that for governing institutions it’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation. You raise the alarm and tell people to take precautions, and they’re disappointed when it’s not the Black Plague 2.0. You leave people as they are and suddenly everyone is on your case once cases start to appear. Wuhan province being an example of the latter case. That’s also the take I got from a postmortem on WHO’s decision to evaluate Ebola as a medical emergency from a few years back and COVID-19 certainly now has more presence than either Ebola or H1N1, realized in the sheer worldwide economic impact.

    I guess what I want to say is that yes, people in seemingly less impacted areas get excited for the chance to role play as rugged survivalists, but by undertaking these behaviors it does, in fact, help to contain the outbreak and, in the event you do get quarantined to your home, being without essentials does suck from what I’m told.

    Glad you got your TP in the end.

    1. That’s a great point about “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” Even as an individual, it’s hard to know what the right level of response is. It’d be hell to be responsible for setting the course of an entire nation. Okay, everybody listen up, I want you to calmly begin stockpiling beer and chips…that’s good…and you’ll want to download a bunch of Netflix…and maybe buy a couple cases of shochu just to be safe…

  11. If coronavirus won’t turn out to be the mass-exterminator it has been marketed as, at least it will be an extraordinary success in social engineering.
    You don’t need tanks in the streets to have people lock themselves
    up in their homes, apparently.
    Listerine disappeared from the shelves too: provided the virus will help the Japanese solve the endemic chronical bad breath problem that plagues the nation, well, this whole panic crisis won’t be devoid of results at least.

    1. I’ll be thrilled if it just gets Japanese folks to start covering their mouths when they cough and sneeze.

      1. I’ve had a stubborn cough (but no fever) for a couple of weeks now. Japanese people scurry away every time I cough in their general vicinity. I totally understand that. I try to cover my face but am not wearing a mask since I can’t find any. I think if it were anything more than my biannual cough I’d know by now.

  12. Great post Ken.
    My order of face masks via Amazon hasn’t arrived from India yet after a couple of weeks- I’m beginning to wonder if they they actually sent them.
    Toilet paper has been flying off the shelves here in Australia. We’ve just had a bushfire season where people were given fire warnings late in the day like: “If you have not yet left, it is too late. Stay and defend your property”. (Those are my words, but the warnings were similar.)
    So I think the people of Australia may already be geared up one or two notches towards crisis mode. Hopefully they will get supply lines of things like toilet paper sorted.

    1. “If you have not yet left, it is too late. Stay and defend your property”.

      Classic. That sounds like every island of Japan. Here, people are cutting up pieces of gauze and crafting home-made masks. Doesn’t sound too effective to me, but maybe it’s better than nothing. Guess you could just tape a sock to your face too.

      Anyway, hope your masks come soon!

  13. OCD cleanliness/germaphobia? HA. Japanese people don’t care about cleanliness as evidenced by the majority of men and women who don’t wash their hands after using the washroom.

    1. Heh, excellent point. I stand corrected.

      Japanese people are the armchair quarterbacks of cleanliness. Never actually played the game, no real idea how it’s played, but will go on and on telling everyone within earshot what they’re doing wrong and should do instead.

  14. Ganbatte ne! How is going your break from work? Would really like to see a post making a comparison of the places your worked, which one you considered the best and why.

  15. Another quality post Ken, I’ve no idea where you live but here in Yokohama everyone is very silently going nuts. My local ok store can not possibly restock anything that is made out of some sort of ‘derived from a tree’ or ‘sanitary’ / ‘cleaning’ product fast enough. It’s all sold out and while it is being restocked… good luck beating everyone else to it.

    At least there’s still plenty of cheap beer though! Spring specials as well XD

    1. My thinking on this coronavirus has gone from relatively casual to moderately severe in the past few days, largely based upon what’s happening in Italy and the U.S. I’m now taking the whole thing much more seriously, which unfortunately means no more bars, restaurants, or karaoke for a while. Gonna be a sucky few weeks. at minimum. Situations in other countries have tipped from bad to worse very quickly, so it seems prudent at this time to stock up on essentials. Time to start buying beer by the keg.

  16. Glad to hear you’re all right. Canadians aren’t behaving any better. Toilet paper is sold out, grocery store shelves are empty, stores are enforcing limits on products… honestly, people have completely lost their minds. I’m all for precautions, but I can’t understand the panic.

    1. Let’s see…a deadly, invisible killer your friends give you even though they have no symptoms, just because they went to a work two weeks ago with others who also had no symptoms. Yeah, I think I can understand the panic.

      Add to that human nature. A hundred people go to the store, which has 100 remaining cans of tuna and 100 packs of ramen noodles. So everybody says, Let’s be fair, we’ll all get one apiece. Right. The first person through the door buys all 100, and the second person walks over to the gun store.

      So only two things you gotta worry about. The virus, and other people. Preparation’s just panic in slow motion.

      1. I agree that it’s a serious situation, but panicking just makes it worse! Yah yah, I know, it’s human nature…
        Anyway, stay safe and healthy, Ken!

  17. Hey Seeroi,
    Long time no see. Or read, i guess. You might remember me from the “How to Make Japanese Food” article.
    This is more of a rant, than an actual comment.

    I hate how im impaired in my everydaylife shedule due to people having made the (obviously not so personal) “own personal decision” to eat animal products somewhere half-across the globe.
    Just going to leave this here, since he is a real hero in this day and age, and he’s obviously from the country you came from. ( i made this sound like america gave birth to you, but that’s not how i mean it )

    You might remember him from the physicians committee for responsible medicine, if not, whatever.

    Hopefully the world will wake up now, go vegan,”invent” (rocketscience apparently ) even more animal product substitutes so they can calm the fuck down with their “traditions” argument, and not piss off others with their BS.

    Edit: You saw the “March for the Animals” in Tokyo? It’s literally on youtube.

    if there is any country on this planet that gets the concept of healthy, non suffering food, fast enough, it’s japan, and they’ll come up with solutions faster than you could say “The typical slice of cheese is 70% fat – that’s one step away from Vaseline. It’s one of the unhealthiest foods you can eat. But marketers learned a long time ago that people gravitate toward the addicting casein in cheese, so they add it to everything.”

    He has this really lovely attitude, which is just far less sarcastic compared to yours, and mine obviously, but you’ll like him.
    Yeah rant over.

    1. Thanks for the rant.

      Japan’s a great country for fresh, locally grown, reasonably priced produce. But if there’s a country on earth that loves meat, it’s Japan. Go to Google Images and type in 焼肉 (barbecued meat). Warning: you’ll see a whole lot of meat. That’s how popular it is here. In Japan it’s meat, meat, meat for festivals, celebrations, and company parties. So while I agree with your sentiment, I certainly wouldn’t hold up Japan as any standard for vegetarian or vegan eating.

      1. I think i didn’t bring my point over then. Im not shocked by the sight of meat or animal products itself, but rather knowing the practices and suffering that happened prior to it shock me.
        I meant that if the japanese government would prohibit the produce and consumption of animal products maybe the japanese would rather easily adapt as they’re tied together as a nation so much, or isn’t that the case?

        1. That’s a bit far out there. I can’t imagine the Japanese government, or any government, imposing such a prohibition.

          But supposing such a rule were enacted, you’d probably have rioting in the streets. I wouldn’t assume Japanese folks to behave much differently from people of any other nation. Japan’s just a normal place with normal people—good, bad, and everything else in between.

          1. Well.
            Thank you for destroying my illusion for good.
            Though im still curious, as how the coronavirus situation in japan has affected your everyday life. Like do you still go out to eat or do you just order or even go as far as cook dishes yourself? What about newscasts? Are they full of panic embracing articles?
            What about publi transportation or work in general. Did companys close entirely for a set period of time?

            In Germany pretty much everything except for system dependant fascilities have closed down, including schools and university, restaurants and even some public offices.

            What’s your life like currently? Now don’t tell nothing has changed, that’d be boring, no?

            Anyways, looking forward to your next post. They’re always educating with a sense of cynism.

            1. Well, first the backdrop: We’re a nation where masks are an everyday accessory and a handshake is an exotic experience. Even under normal circumstances, you might meet a good friend a few times a year, so Japan is normally self-isolated. In that sense, not a whole lot’s changed.

              I should also mention I don’t live in Tokyo. There things seem to be getting more serious by the day. Those who can are working from home and most are avoiding going out. Many restaurants have switched to a take-out model. Flower-viewing parties have been cancelled. Stores alternately have very little product (toilet paper, ramen noodles) and then freaking heaps of the stuff. We’re pretty great at panic-buying, so we got most of that out of the way early.

              Probably the biggest difference is that tourists are almost entirely gone. In recent years, tourism in Japan has become a massive business, to the extent that sometimes it’s hard to even find a Japanese person on the streets. Well, those streets are empty now. I heard on the news that 90% of Japan’s businesses are small mom-and-pop-style places. This is going to be a terrible blow to the economy, which was already suffering.

              It’s really hard to get a handle on exactly how big of a problem this is, because there’s so little testing. I’ve spoken to three friends who all said they had symptoms. Two went to the doctor and were told to go home and rest. The third just kept going to work. (Her: “Don’t work, don’t get paid.”) The Japanese approach to medical care is sugar powder and a pep talk. Nobody was tested.

              Amusing fact: In Japan, everything–schools, businesses, everything—starts April 1. So we’ve had a bit of a natural reprieve for the last two weeks. Will companies start back up? Will people pack the trains? Will classrooms be full of students? Despite lingering myths from the ’90’s, Japan’s still technologically in the Bronze Age. Many people have no home internet or even a PC. So working or studying for home would present, uh, challenges, to say the least. We already tried closing the schools back in February, but that caused an uproar because, with both parents working, nobody was at home to take care of the kids.

              So what happens in April? Everybody crowds into offices, trains, and classrooms and cases skyrocket? Then the nation has to completely shut down, destroying the economy? You don’t need to be Nostradamus to make that prediction. But I’m still planning to resume teaching in April, despite the risks. And everybody’s in the same boat. Don’t work, don’t get paid.

              1. Unfortunately like the US southern states Japan is going to quickly find out that they aren’t magically protected from what is happening elsewhere due to moral superiority. With the advanced age of the population I wouldn’t be surprised if a situation worse than Italy is around the corner. I’m depending on Japanese professors staying alive and healthy for the sake of my own work so this is making me nervous. ;-(

                Sad news about that other even more lecherous Ken as well. Stay safe Ken Jr! As much as you can anyway…

                1. Ah yeah, Shimura Ken, lotta people sad about that guy. Hard to say who’s the more lecherous though.

                  As for the coronavirus, guess we’ll see just how far moral superiority and magical thinking will take us.

  18. Nice blog. I’m planning to visit a friend I met online for about 2 years but I have to cancel it due to the outbreak.
    I’ve been reading your other blogs as well, and heck man I’ve got to drop off a bunch of beers for you when I get there as a token of gratitude.
    I’m one to research a lot(I mean a lot, even unnecessary side information) and I’m having a crush in this friend of mine, so in a way I have to research how their society work in here.
    I myself came from an Asian country, namely the Philippines(literally a mixture of Western individualism with Eastern collectivism) so around half of the East vs West differences in mentality/behavior isn’t an issue for me.
    But as for the rest, the things that you’ve mentioned in your blogs are an eye opener.
    The girl in question though is quite open(?), she feels like a Japanese that got exposed to the Western community so that makes it easier for me. She’s really shy so her regularly responding and double texting my messages says something at least, as I’ve heard these feminine creatures are the best at ghosting/ignoring.
    As an Asian I grew up reading subtle hints/messages but I don’t want to do that 24/7 so being open with her opinions sometimes is a good thing, what do you think?
    No for real, I’m asking for sensei’s advice

  19. > “LOVE and HAT?” she said.
    > “Yeah,” I replied, “The two great forces of the universe.”

    Reminds me of something that (IIRC) Jack Handy once said…

    > Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at
    > the word itself: “Mank ind”. Basically, it’s made up of two separate
    > words- “mank” and “ind”. What do these words mean ? It’s a
    > mystery, and that’s why so is mankind”

    1. Are they “closed” closed, or still offering take-out? ‘Cause where I’m at, we can still drive-through and take-out. No coffee no life.

  20. Wow, this (Coronavirus in Japan, 2020) is a totally awesome primary historical document. Thank you once again, Ken!

    Please delete this comment, and if you can, lock this post from getting any more comments! It’s a thing of beauty, just as it stands.

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