“Cases of infection continue to rise” in Japan says PM Shinzo Abe
A closed SEGA arcade in Akihabara (Photo: Daryl Harding)
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on May 4 that the State of Emergency declaration, originally scheduled to end on May 6, will be extended until May 31 to battle the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The incoming measures were pre-announced on May 2 after the Japanese government passed a supplementary 117 trillion yen budget (US$1.1 billion) which will aid both businesses and people throughout the hard times, then confirmed on May 3 after Abe met with other ministers, and then formally announced on May 4 after meeting with the special coronavirus taskforce.
The extended declaration comes after prefectural governors asked for the extension after the northern island of Hokkaido saw a second wave of coronavirus infections after a partial lifting in late March.
The initial State of Emergency was declared on April 7 for seven prefectures, including the metro areas of Tokyo and Osaka. The declaration was then extended on April 16 to the entire nation in part to limit the spread during the current Golden Week holiday. 13 prefectures were deemed a “higher risk” than the other 34 prefectures.
These included the Tokyo Capital Region (which includes Tokyo Metropolis, and Chiba, Kanagawa, and Saitama prefectures), the prefectures of Osaka, Hyogo, Fukuoka, Ibaraki, Ishikawa, Gifu, Aichi, Kyoto, and the island of Hokkaido.
Differing State of Emergency Measures
An empty Takeshita Street on May 1, with a majority of the stores closed. (Photo: Daryl Harding)
The extended state of emergency measures will have the same restrictions for the above 13 prefectures, with stay at home requests from all of the governors and a majority of non-essential businesses and schools requested to stay closed. Outside of these prefectures, where the spread of COVID-19 has been limited, some restrictions will be lifted. Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said in a press conference on May 2 that restrictions “will be relaxed gradually from next Thursday in areas other than the specified prefectures. We want to create a framework that would allow businesses to make proper decisions,” in the current climate.
Some parks, museums, libraries, and other public facilities may re-opened, depending on how the facilities handle virus prevention measures, said Nishimura on May 3. These facilities include those in the "high-risk" prefectures.
The main pillars of the State of Emergency are to limit the “Three C’s”, closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings, with Abe calling for people to limit interactions between each other by 80%. The Mainichi reports that while the 80% target has been met in downtown areas of Shibuya and Shinjuku – largely in part to the shutdown of most entertainment and night-life businesses – parks and suburban areas are teeming with life, more so than usual with people working from home and schools staying closed.
A quiet, but not empty, Shibuya Scramble on May 1 (Photo: Daryl Harding)
Outside of the 13 “high-risk” prefectures, the 80% target for interactions between people will be lifted, as will the 70% target for people to stay home from work. Though people in all prefectures are being asked to not go out to night-life businesses and downtown areas and keep up hand washing and social distancing to limit spread.
Since the first State of Emergency was declared, coronavirus cases have risen in Japan to 15,202, with 4,655 cases centered in Tokyo. Over the weekend, cases have risen once again to over 150 in the capital after the days prior saw new cases drop in the Japanese capital to under three digits from the first time since the State of Emergency began – the drop likely stemming from the Golden Week holidays, which continue until May 6. 542 people have succumbed to the illness.
Effect on Japanese Society and Anime
Advertising for Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 in Shibuya Station. (Photo: Daryl Harding)
Schools across Japan will again be impacted and stay closed for the foreseeable future. In a video call on YouTube between Tokyo governor Koike and Osaka governor Yoshimura on April 30, the two agreed that the 2020 school year, which was scheduled to start in April, should now start in September. Though outside the 13 “high-risk” prefectures, schools will be allowed to open at the discretion of the prefectural governors.
Koike cited the September start for the school year as a “global standard” but noted that changing the school year would have a dramatic effect on Japanese society. April also marks the start of the financial year in Japan, as well as when new graduates start their careers. While it’s currently not known how far-reaching changing the school year would have, it’ll at least move the start of the school year away from the cherry blossom season. Abe said on April 29 that he would consider the idea.
Within the anime industry, two people in the production process told Yahoo! News that anime production is “influenced greatly” by the State of Emergency and stay-at-home orders, and that reassessment of the production process would happen when the State of Emergency declaration would be lifted “on May 6.” With the declaration extended, it’s safe to assume that some of the issues facing anime production, including voice production, will still exist.
If you or someone who know is living in Japan, coronavirus-based English resources are available at NHK World Japan.
Daryl Harding is a Japan Correspondent for Crunchyroll News. He also runs the YouTube channel about Japan stuff called TheDoctorDazza, tweets at @DoctorDazza, and posts photos of his travels on Instagram.