Philip Patrick

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Postcard from Japan

by Philip Patrick Japan is often cited as a Covid success story. Officially we are at 4,100 deaths now, which given a population of 126,000,000 and densely packed cities, is, on the face of it, remarkable. There has been endless speculation as to why we’ve got off so lightly, with my favourite being the wacky idea that the lack of sibilant sounds in the language means less saliva is transferred during conversation. But it’s the more robust overall health, especially of seniors, and possible greater immunity from prior exposure to other Corona viruses that are the most plausible explanations. If visitors were allowed into the country, they would probably be surprised by how normally life seems to be continuing. There is no heavy-handed police enforcement of a bewildering array of ever-changing micro-regulations, and no signs of panic. Schools are operating as normal, and universities, most of them, going back to face-to-face tuition from next term. Masks, fetishised by the Japanese at the best of times, are ubiquitous and de rigueur, but only a few of the bigger department stores such as Isetan (the Japanese Harrods) insist on them, and the one time I forgot I was reminded with such exquisite gentleness it was almost charming. However, all of the above good news could be caveated with that very useful Japanese...

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February 2024
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