Cultural Reason Behind Japan’s Very Low COVID-19 Deaths?

Written by Pauline Chakmakjian

Prior to the circus show of COVID-19, let’s think back to what observant people were noticing in society before the drama of 2020.

Food EVERYWHERE in the form of cafes and restaurants, endless queues at Starbucks and the like, fatsos taking up too much space in already crowded areas and entitled, impatient people wanting everything NOW and FAST having been conditioned by lightening internet speed, mobile phone use and a culture of convenience.

The talk of the town among intellectuals and keen observers was that society today seems to emulate the last days of the Roman Empire when the success of a civilization led to luxury, excess and a perverse gluttony of sorts.

Shopping and eating in packed establishments made everything cheering and delightful yet filthy and vapid at the same time. Could all that have lasted forever?

That is when that feeling creeps up on someone who is aware that it cannot because it’s around about that time for another crisis to be conjured up and exaggerated because that is what usually happens every ten years or so – another reset decade by decade so that the middle class gets whittled down slowly to the level of what for the most part are peasants.

This crisis virus was something a little different from the garden variety war or financial crisis. After all, there needs to be a bit of creativity and innovation in stories used to crash economies and destroy livelihoods or people may start to become suspicious.

The charms of a health-related crisis is that it addresses the issues surrounding the gluttonous and restless behaviors technology seems to have advanced in its objective of convenience and speed. The nanny-like instructions to citizens then commenced, treating them like children in a playground to begin a process of reprogramming human behavior to how it was before the excess of leisure built up over the past several years.

With culinary establishments shut (a significant percentage of which will go out of business in a few months if not sooner), lockdown is the reset button for overindulgence and overcrowding in such places. The child-citizen will now learn to cook more and the longer this new conditioning lasts, the longer it will take for a return to the gluttonous side.

The sudden and extreme reset is what will make getting back to that high piggy level take about a decade before another shocking something is exaggerated to push the elimination of the middle class – these are incremental, psychological, detonation-like aims of tyrants.

I am not convinced social distancing is really about a virus; it is about slowing down that high speed broadband brain to become mindful of space and patient with time. Moreover, it’s about time for places to have a deep clean since prior volumes of customers most likely did not allow time for desired levels of cleanliness.

It is fascinating that the most culturally interesting and powerful countries like America, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany as well as the BRIC nations have the highest rates of infection and death. They are also among the nations that are in that category of of acting like the end days of the Roman Empire. The reset appears to be mainly for these particular places that experienced a hyperactivity of overindulgent behavior.

Then there is Japan watching all of this nonsense quietly. If you are astounded as to why Japan with its large population has such low infection and death rates, you shouldn’t be if you are familiar with their culture.

The Japanese are accustomed to being at close quarters with one another, so they learn certain courtier-like airs and graces from an early age to increase awareness of the space around them and others with elegance and tolerance.

No matter how fast their internet connection gets, it is ill-mannered to show anger or impatience for trivial things. And, deeply rooted in their indigenous belief system of Shinto, cleanliness is paramount so no need to show people how to wash their hands on mainstream media.

Like any other country, Japan is not perfect, but in the context of the coronavirus spectacle it appears to be a winner (joining places like Sweden and Taiwan for slightly different reasons) because of its default behaviors in relation to space, patience and abhorrence of filth.

These used to be the default etiquette in countries worst hit by COVID-19, but it seems they have been abandoned in recent years. The reset can perhaps help to bring them back.

Puppet masters do indeed have a sense of humor, so while I may think the instructions are nanny as to children, they are more likely to view it as the training of dogs as evidenced by the advice of wearing a muzzle. So, remember, when things get gluttonous again as no doubt they will, be a pig if you’d like and as much as you’d like but try to go about it with some class and sophistication (and don’t wear short shorts if you are a slob).

And that explains the mystery surrounding the reference to Japan and etiquette in my book!

Yes, an usagi that champions liberty!

About the author: Pauline Chakmakjian is a Writer, Visiting Lecturer, Business Development Manager, Private Tutor, Tourism Specialist and Brand Ambassador at Nazani Tea. She is a keen student of Japanese culture and author of Sphinxing Rabbit Series of Books.

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Comments (3)

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    Alan Stewart


    Brilliant Pauline – thank you. Then there is the modern Anglo(??) expression ‘Get outta my face,’ which is anger. Rare with strangers in shopping venues. The 6′ rule is totally, totally unnecessary. Ironic as I got a flu bug several years ago. A buddy got into my face with laughter and inadvertently coughed. Social Spacing has existed even within Neanderthals.

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    Gary Ashe


    Told you the other day, they are all Pavlov’s dogs.

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    I loved the Japanese custom of bringing you a hot wet washcloth before your food at restaurants.

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