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No.61
No.61, Society  Sept. 25, 2020

The History of Infectious Disease in Japan: Origins of the World’s Best Hygiene Awareness — The Mysterious Relationship between the Japanese and the God of Pestilence

Isoda Michifumi, Associate Professor, International Research Center for Japanese Studies   The authority of the Emperor of Japan as well as the rituals at Ise Jingu shrine have their beginnings in infectious disease. Today, people in Japan have a high awareness of hygiene. This advantage has contributed much to overcoming the current wave of COVID-19. How did this amazing public health competency develop among the people of Japan? To consider this question, we need to look back at history. The story starts 1,700 years ago. Emperor Sujin (97–30 BCE) is thought to be the tenth in the imperial line after Emperor Jimmu (660–585 BCE), the first emperor who may actually have existed. This is what Inoue Mitsusada (1917–83), an authority on the ancient history of Japan at the University of Tokyo who compiled the postwar history textbooks, says in Nihon no rekishi 1: Shinwa ... ... [Read more]

No.60
No.60, Discussions, Society  Sept. 18, 2020

Udo Yumiko’s My Fair Person: What Can Be Seen from the COVID-19 LINE Survey―Miyata Hiroaki, Professor, School of Medicine, Department of Health Policy and Management of Keio University

UDO Yumiko vs Prof. MIYATA Hiroaki   Udo Yumiko: Nice to meet you, Professor Miyata. This is my first time talking online with someone that I’ve never met in person before. Professor Miyata Hiroaki: I’m honored!   Udo: Professor Miyata, you proposed the “Early SNS-Based Monitoring System for the COVID-19 Outbreak in Japan: A Population-Level Observational Study,” gathered massive amounts of health data from many people, and continue with efforts that utilize the next move in COVID-19 measures in cooperation with local governments and the Cluster Response Team of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW). Miyata: Of the approximately 83 million LINE users in Japan, we received responses from about 25 million during the first survey, held from March 31 to April 1. With a response rate of about one-third, it was the second largest survey in Japanese history, excluding the national ... ... [Read more]

No.60
No.60, Society  Sept. 11, 2020

The Dividing Lines of Contemporary Japan: Political Correctness in the Social Media Era

Ito Masaaki, Professor, Seikei University   The coronavirus outbreak uncovered various forms of division and conflict in society. Not only political and economic conflicts, but cultural conflicts between people with diverse backgrounds have intensified and “flame wars” over these have been unfolding online more or less daily. Yet those conflicts were not caused by the coronavirus outbreak itself. Rather, it could be said that the coronavirus outbreak has brought to light the various conflicts that had already been formed in Japanese society and lay concealed within. For example, the comedian Okamura Takashi sparked controversy in late April with a remark allegedly discriminating against women that he made on-air during a radio show, and was forced to apologize along with the radio station. This incident caused one of the biggest storms of criticisms at the time and followed a “flame war pattern” that has been ... ... [Read more]

No.60
No.60, Society  Sept. 7, 2020

The History of Infectious Disease in Japan: The Answer Is in History — To What Degree Are Protective Hygiene Measures among the Japanese Effective?

Isoda Michifumi, Associate Professor, International Research Center for Japanese Studies   Currently, COVID-19 is spreading so quickly that the situation changes from day to day. This is precisely why we need to step back from the new situation and take a broad view of matters from the perspective of the history of civilization. I have previously consulted ancient documents on infectious diseases in Japan, but this article is based on the writings of my former teacher, the late Hayami Akira (Nihon wo osotta Supein infuruenza; translated as The Influenza Pandemic in Japan, 1918–1920) and the environmental journalist Ishi Hiroyuki (Kansensho no sekaishi [A World History of Infectious Diseases]). Ishi, who is my uncle by marriage, is also an expert on infectious diseases in Africa and elsewhere. New infectious diseases have assailed mankind any number of times. If we consult history, we may learn lessons ... ... [Read more]

No.60
No.60, Society  Aug. 23, 2020

Japan and COVID-19

On June 30 and July 2, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide stated that, “In a worst case scenario, we may enact another state of emergency.” But even if we avoid that worst case scenario, what will become of the Japanese economy and society? How quickly can Japan address the lagging digitalization in administration, health and education and the national digital divide? Mizuno Tetsu delves into the impact on Japan of the spread of COVID-19.   Mizuno Tetsu, freelance writer   On July 2, it was decided to cancel the Gion Festival, one of many representative Japanese festivals. The Gion Festival’s origins lie in Emperor Kanmu holding a festival in 869 to pray for the frequent disasters and diseases of the time to disappear, and it has decorated Kyoto summers for 1,150 years. Each year, over 400,000 people throng to the yoiyama, the climax of ... ... [Read more]

No.59
No.59, Society  Jul. 13, 2020

The President of the Japan Football Association’s battle with the coronavirus, his recovery and the future: I won’t give in to the virus, and neither will football or the Olympics!

Tashima Kohzo, President, Japan Football Association (JFA) and Vice President, Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) A message from someone who has experienced the coronavirus ―During the second half of March, it was announced that you had contracted the new coronavirus, deeply shocking the Japanese public. Tashima Kohzo: Thinking about it now, I probably caught the virus in Europe. During the second half of February, I attended an international meeting in Belfast, UK. That coincided with an important meeting in Amsterdam in the Netherlands to promote our bid for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, in which rival countries would make presentations. We were also given the chance to make a presentation, so canceling was not an option. Looking back, Europe at that time was completely different to the situation now. No one was wearing a mask on the street and people were casually shaking hands ... ... [Read more]

No.59
No.59, Society  Jul. 6, 2020

Building Bodies and Minds That Can Overcome COVID-19: Boosting Immune Strength with “Daily Baths” — Strengthening the Body’s “Lifeline” with Improved Blood Flow

Hayasaka Shinya, Professor, Tokyo City University   For some twenty years, I have conducted medical research on bathing as a lifestyle habit. That experience has taught me one thing with certainty. It is that “Bathing is the best health practice that people in general can do.” It is easy and inexpensive, can be done every day without trouble, and it is very effective. We affectionately call bathtub bathing “ofuro” in Japanese. I suspect Japan is the only country in the world where nearly every house across the country is equipped with such an “amazing health promotion tool.” In fact, the great health effects of bathing have been proven medically. Some examples include increasing immune functions, adjusting autonomic nervous responses, improving blood flow, activating basic metabolism and enzymes in the body, and reducing mental stress. It has an astounding variety of effects. Among them, I ... ... [Read more]

No.59
No.59, Society  Jun. 30, 2020

Hints from the combination of labor economics, Social Sciences of Hope and Social Sciences of Crisis Thinking: Toward ways of working able to respond to abnormality and change

Genda Yuji, Professor, University of Tokyo   Lessons from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis More than anything else, protecting the lives and health of people is necessary to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no room for argument in that regard. Based on this, many people are hoping they can secure employment that brings in the income needed to cover living expenses in the months ahead. In term of employment, the possibility that this new crisis is more serious than the 2008 global financial crisis, defined by the iconic September 2008 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, is a concern given the rapid shrinkage of economic activities associated with the spread of COVID-19. During the 2008 global financial crisis, 950,000 jobs were lost in Japan in only a year, and the unemployment rate rose to 5.5% in July of 2009, matching the previous record high. ... ... [Read more]

No.58
No.58, Society  Apr. 27, 2020

Mega Sporting Events and Regional Revitalization — Host Town Initiatives and Challenges

The Host Town Initiative of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games uses interaction with participant countries during pre-games training camps for regional revitalization. This article looks back at the experience of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, introduces projects that look past 2020, and investigates what conditions enable these projects to produce results.   [This article first appeared in the January 2020 edition of THE TOSHI MONDAI (Municipal Problems), before the March 24 decision to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.]   Matsuhashi Takashi, Associate Professor, Faculty of Commerce, Takushoku University 1. Introduction Compared to other mega sporting events that have taken place in Japan, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics) have one main distinctive feature: an initiative to use the games in regional revitalization around Japan. At present, the most significant project is the Host Town ... ... [Read more]

No.57
No.57, Society  Mar. 25, 2020

Failure Analysis of Modern Japanese Population Policy

Population Stagnation and Urbanization even in the Edo Period In contemporary Japan, the total population has begun to decline. Meanwhile, regional maldistribution is becoming more pronounced as population density is increasing in Tokyo and other metropolises and there is population decline in rural areas, making “regional revitalization” a policy challenge. Since 2015, the government has promoted the Comprehensive Strategy for Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy, which aims to rectify the concentration to Tokyo by creating jobs in the regions, push for support of young people’s employment, marriage, and child-rearing, and support a population of about 100 million by 2060. However, population decline has been a problem many times in the past. From the Kyoho through the Koka eras (eighteenth–mid-nineteenth century) of the Edo period (1603–1868), the population stagnated. This was due to global cooling that resulted in poor crops as well as ... ... [Read more]