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COVID-19 versus Japan’s culture of collectivism

19 1 16

Kawaguchi, Saitama Pref. – The Tokyo cherry blossoms bloomed in late March. The public couldn’t resist. Case numbers of COVID-19 surged, leading many Western pundits to predict that Tokyo would become the next New York.

It has not occurred. Daily tallies for Tokyo have fallen as low as single digits. Active case numbers are in decline. Japan’s cumulative total of deaths from the new coronavirus is less than the average daily number of fatalities from the pandemic in the United States. Lockdown has proven unnecessary here. The medical system is holding the line.

Cities and states in the U.S. and elsewhere are attempting to restart their economies in abridged form. Japanese economic activity has never fallen beneath the level to which they aspire. Life has gone on, if not as normal, at least in the form that the new normal will comprise.

Japan has succeeded in countering both the initial advance of COVID-19 and a complacency spike. Reasons proffered have been many and varied. One that may yet attract increasing attention is its culture of collectivism.

The mantra routinely heard from Western commentators in respect to COVID-19 is “test, test, test.” Testing, however, does not prevent infection. That is achieved when individuals progress from contraction through to death or recovery without passing the virus on.

An impediment to that aim is the asymptomatic condition of some carriers, resulting in no one being certain whether........

© The Japan Times