News Archive (01-07 Mar)
As it is around the world, Covid-19 is causing a fair amount of concern in Japan, but people are still getting on with their lives and our visitors are enjoying quieter than normal tourist spots.
Spring blossoms are just around the corner
The cherry blossom forecasts are once again on the TV with the mild winter meaning that everything is a little earlier than usual. The first buds are predicted to open in Tokyo on March 15th followed by Kyoto on March 20th. Although the parks and gardens will be quieter than normal this year, the blossom will be as beautiful as ever and those blue tarpaulins will surely still be out for hanami (flower viewing) parties.
We are keeping an eye on the temporary closure of some museums and attractions and have been advising customers of what is open and closed. The vast majority of temples, shrines and gardens are all open as usual but some museums and attractions have temporarily closed until mid-March. A considerable number of sports events are being played behind closed doors and some large-scale events have been called off.
Japanese government increases testing for Covid-19
This week saw a large increase in the rate of testing in Japan as the Japanese government legislated to cover the cost of testing within standard health insurance (source: Japan Times, 6th March). Whereas at the beginning of the week around 2,000 people had been tested, we end the week with this figure at just over 8,000. Unsurprisingly, this has brought out a lot more actual cases, and the case count in Japan is now at 497 including 57 people who have recovered.
Restrictions for Chinese and Korean visitors
The Japanese government announced that from Monday 9th March, anyone entering Japan from South Korea or China (including Hong Kong or Macau) would be placed in quarantine for 14 days. (Source: The Japan Times, 5th March). These are the only countries on this list, as we write, and there are no other new entry restrictions.
In effect the ending of the visa waiver scheme means that no Chinese tourists will be able to enter the country, dealing a huge blow to the Japanese tourism industry which has seen numbers of Chinese visitors increase exponentially over the past decade.
Visit of Chinese leader cancelled
In a diplomatic blow for Prime Minister Abe, the planned once-a-decade visit of President Xi to Japan has been postponed. Meanwhile tit-for-tat withdrawal of Japan and South Korea visa-waivers have not helped already tetchy relations across the Japan Sea.
Japan is usually a pretty harmonious society, but unfortunately a new word entered the Japanese lexicon this week, "Corohara". It's short for "Corona virus harassment" and has been used to describe some thankfully rare cases of abuse of Chinese people or businesses, with Yokohama's Chinatown being targeted.
There has been a lot of speculation in the news about the fate of the Tokyo Olympics, with mixed messages around a possible delay. As of now, however, preparations are all under way for the planned dates of 24th July to 8th August for the Olympics and 25th August to 6th September for the Paralympics.
For all the existentialists reading this blog, the Mainichi newspaper in Japan has reported a leap in demand for Albert Camus' 1947 novel "Plague". An article from 7th March reports that bookstores are struggling to meet demand.