It has become quite clear in the last year that our world is ever-changing due to the COVID virus issue as well as the government responses to how best to deal with the issue. Sometime in March 2019 in Japan we started to experience signs of COVID as toilet paper lines and mask shortages became a reality. A few months later this reality started to hit home in the United States. What was that experience like in Japan? This is one of the most common questions that we get.
Japan prides itself on being a homogeneous society, so the response to COVID appeared to be immediate and uniform. Japanese typically wear masks anyway given their close proximity in daily life, desire to prevent spreading of sickness to others, and general cleanliness. When COVID came on the scene society quickly wore masks everywhere believing that it would prevent viral spread. Even to this day they continue to wear masks everywhere. Almost immediately every area open to the public had hand wash sprays out with requirements for use upon entry. Some of the larger stores also had head thermometers to determine if the body temperature was at fever levels. Eventually the nightlife areas were shut down as they were determined to be a major spreading areas. The Japanese solution was to close down known drinking areas as well as limit restaurants to a 7 P.M. curfew. Japanese people were hesitant to get the vaccine, however when the government began to issue them by age category almost every elderly person immediately got one. However, there is still a portion of society that refuses the vaccine. As of the writing of this article about 60% of Japanese have received a vaccine.
In general, currently in Japan the infection as well as death numbers are very low compared to most countries. I believe this has to do with the Japanese culture itself in that Japanese tend to keep their distance, don't touch, and have excellent hygiene practices in general. Almost immediately Japan also closed its borders to international travel to most people unless they had special permission which was difficult to get. Even now it is very difficult to gain access into the country unless you were a prior resident. For this reason many in ministry have not been able to gain access into Japan. Also, many in ministry have come off the field as well. We plan to re-enter Japan in the winter time. Please pray for Japan that they would re-open their borders so that families can see each other, business can occur, and ministry can be done.