Yoshihide Suga’s government is considering another state of emergency in the capital Tokyo and surrounding areas to curb the worsening of the coronavirus epidemic. Japan has been hit by a third wave of epidemic since December last year, especially in the capital circle centered on Tokyo.
Because it has come to another critical moment to fight against the epidemic, some sources say that Japan may be forced to completely ban foreigners from entering the situation.
If so, it is really “feuded down”. Living in countries with frequent natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, the Japanese should have been calm, but their mood is getting more and more complicated now: the familiar “daily life” may be difficult to return in the short term.
From the fight against the epidemic to work, and even the society and country they are familiar with, it has been profoundly changed and reshaped by the epidemic.
1. Change quietly
An epidemic has changed the “daily life” habits of Japanese people, especially office workers – squeezing the subway in suits, working long hours, drinking with the boss after work, and finally returning to the narrow apartment.
Before the pandemic, working from home was almost unimaginable for Japanese society, but now it seems that this trend is becoming a new “daily life”.
“It was confusing at first, but remote work is a good option for people like me who are busy with work and raising kids.” Mariko Otani, 37, is a brand marketer. She is also the mother of her 2 and 4 year old sons who returned to work last year during the pandemic.
She used to spend more than two hours a day commuting, but now she rarely goes to the office, mostly working from home and using a shared office in a nearby community every week.
“While working from home, I can spend time with my family, which gives me the right balance of mind.” Looking ahead, Otani believes that remote work will continue to be a part of her daily life.” What matters is not where to work, but how to work. I believe that this style of work will become a reality from now on.”
Otani is lucky. But in the past year, many Japanese have found that working from home may not be so easy. This is not only because the digital process is lagging behind in Japan, but also because of the strong traditions and habits of Japanese society.
Tokyo Shoko Research found that in July, a survey of 14,300 Japanese companies, found that despite the government’s calls to control the spread of the virus, 42% of companies have never implemented work-at-home.
Moreover, Japanese media reported that even during the so-called lockdown last spring, Tokyo’s commuter trains were still crowded, and many companies’ actions did not seem to have changed.
“In this country, you still have to show up in person.” Some American media sighed that Japan’s working culture requires continuous face-to-face interaction, in part to show respect.” My boss said loudly, ‘If I allow you to go home, you may not be focusing on your work. Who knows? You may even drink alcohol.
Even if customers no longer need face-to-face meetings, the boss still believes that the team should answer the phone in the office just to pay tribute, said one investment bank employee. “It’s the pride of the Japanese.”
Being regarded as the seal culture of Japanese administrative art, some Japanese office workers have to travel between the company and home.
A survey also shows that 77% of Japanese enterprises that do not implement telecommuting believe that the biggest reason is that telecommuting is not convenient to stamp and process written documents”.
However, in order to fight the epidemic, Japan is brewing a wave of “electronic seals” based on information technology. Many enterprises have begun to cancel written contracts and sign electronic contracts instead.
2. Helplessness and loneliness
Some people see more of “meermanence” and feel helplessness and loneliness than ever before.
Eriko Kobayashi, 43, is no stranger to the heavy word “suicide”. At the age of 22, she committed suicide because she had difficulty in paying rent and living expenses in Tokyo.
Now, she has found a stable job in a non-governmental organization and published a book about her own journey.
But this past year, COVID-19 is bringing back the pressure she once felt.” My salary was cut, and I couldn’t see the dawn at the end of the tunnel.” Kobayashi told CNN, “I often feel a sense of crisis, and I may fall back into poverty.”
In Japan, suicide is not a single social problem, but the last black exit for many problems that are not effectively solved.
According to statistics, the main causes of suicide in Japan are health problems, economic and life problems, and family disputes.
Under the epidemic, unemployment, social isolation and other problems have greatly increased the suicide rate in Japan, which once declined in recent years. Over the past year, police statistics show that the suicide rate in Japan has soared from June to 88.6% in October, mainly women.
In November last year, the number of suicides in Japan reached 19,225, far exceeding the total number of deaths from COVID-19.
Kobayashi said that many of her friends were fired, “Here, when something bad happens, the weak are first to be abandoned.”
But in the eyes of some people, the “favorite of fate”, also chose to say goodbye to the world.
Last year can be said to be an eventful autumn in the Japanese entertainment industry. Well-known movie stars Haruma Miura and Yuko Takeuchi were suspected of suicide one after another.
In Japan, where the coronavirus epidemic is still repeated, the death of fresh life, like a bomb thrown into a calm water, stirring unpredictable ripples – suicide, a stubborn social problem that once again touched the hearts of the Japanese.
No one can predict how negative perceptions such as anger, sadness, contradictions and stress can crush a person. People on the verge of collapse have their own unique moods. The survey shows that Japanese women are relatively affected by the epidemic.
Yasuyuki Shimizu, representative director of the Japan Suicide Prevention Center, said, “During the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, women’s anxiety and problems are likely to increase.
Factors such as economic and employment difficulties, child-rearing and domestic violence may be the cause of the increase in the suicide rate of women.
What is more painful may be that no one can talk about.” Others know that your weakness is shameful, so you hide everything and endure it.” Kobayashi spoke of the culture of shame in Japan, “We need to create a culture that can show our weakness and pain.”
The epidemic has also made some cracks in Japanese society more obvious. For example, informal employment.
For more than a decade, Seto Hida has been working in Tokyo subway kiosks, but has always been an informal employee. Last year’s pandemic, she waited for a belated but unpleasant ruling — and the Supreme Court held that her employer was not obligated to provide her with the same pension as a regular employee.
She filed a lawsuit in 2014 after knowing that her colleagues received four to five times her annual bonus.
Under the epidemic, many Japanese companies began to lay off workers, and informal employees were the first to bear the brunt.
The data shows that more than half of Japan’s female labor force is informal employees.
Japanese law requires companies to avoid “unreasonable” differences in treating employees, but the meaning of the term is not clear. The judgment under the epidemic made Hida sigh, “We are all disposable.”
3. Leave the big city
Some people struggle with “meermanence” and others reshape the new “daily life”.
Some Japanese have re-examined their work amid the pandemic and started to pursue a more balanced life. Leaving Tokyo, leaving Osaka… The trend of leaving the big city is quietly rising.
Kaoru Okada, 36, decided to leave last spring when the coronavirus outbreak caused rice and instant noodles to disappear from the shelves of Tokyo supermarket. He chose to settle in Saku City, Nagano Prefecture, the central city, about 160 kilometers from Tokyo.
He still does online retail and export business, while growing vegetables and rice on the shared farm. “Being close to food production centers and staying connected with farmers gave me a sense of security,” Okada told Reuters.
Miyao Nanjo, a 41-year-old pastry chef, also left Tokyo. She plans to open a cafe in Matsugawa Town, Nagano Prefecture this spring. Nanjo is a single mother with three children.
She moved from Tokyo to Nagano Prefecture last summer after the candy store she worked for was closed due to the pandemic and her son, who worked at a truck factory, lost her job. Nanjo felt lucky. “I was able to start over. There is no need to insist on Tokyo, where many people, many people have committed suicide.
Okada and Nanjiao are not examples. According to a record data, 30,644 people moved out of Tokyo last September, an increase of 12.5% year-on-year, while the number of people moved to Tokyo was 27,006, a year-on-year decrease of 11.7%.
This has never been seen in the history of Tokyo.
The pandemic is also reshaping Japanese companies’ perception of how they work. Yasuyuki Nanshi, CEO of Pasona Group, a Japanese human resources company, said last September that he would move his headquarters and 1,200 employees to Awaji Island in western Japan, where he is his hometown by 2023.
“Compared with Tokyo white-collar workers, careers are also challenging.
But you can ride to the office on a picturesque island, spend a weekend by the sea, immerse yourself in nature or relax in the hot springs.” He believes that this trend will continue as companies and employees change their perception of work-life balance.