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Japan’s Covid and Conformity Mania


Marking a dark beginning to the Japanese new year, a massive earthquake devastated Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture. Making matters worse, thousands at refuge centers, including many elderly people, have had to endure inane, unhealthy measures in response to some cases of Covid and influenza among them. 

These measures include propping open doors (in mid-winter) for ventilation and requesting that refugees wear masks even during sleep. Blogger Guy Gin remarks, “Wearing masks while sleeping is so stupid I’m surprised the Japanese government never officially recommended it.” Covid hysteria-related stupidity easily lends itself to parody, satire, and humorous commentary.

Pretending that he was talking about a rejected movie script, Woody Harrelson’s SNL monologue managed to send up the Covid reality in less than a minute. The Babylon Bee satire site has also been mercilessly lampooning the CDC, Dr. Fauci, Pfizer, and others. 

On the literary front, Michael Lacoy’s novel Stay Safe satirizes Covid-era social media virtue-signaling and much else, as does the Brownstone story “The Depopulation Bomb: A Halloween Sci-Fi Tale” by Dr. Clayton Baker. Also notable is Oisín MacAmadáin’s parody of Covid propaganda, Busting Anti-Vax Myths! Seriously EXPERT Arguments for the Covid-Deniers in Your Life. To write a good parody, it is hardly even necessary to change much about what is really happening.

Reports about the more ridiculous manifestations of Covid hysteria in Japan have been coming regularly from a British man writing under the pseudonym “Guy Gin,” a pun on the word for “foreigner” in Japanese. In one article he sums up his perspective: “What Japan’s Covid response lacked in authoritarian nastiness, it made up for in innovative stupidity.” 

Helping to empower officialdom and drive hysterical foolishness was computer modeler Hiroshi Nishiura, a professor of epidemiology at Hokkaido University. He is Japan’s answer to the always-wrong British computer modeler Neil Ferguson, whose exaggerated figures inspired extreme policies like lockdowns.

Dubbed “the modeling madman” by Guy Gin, in 2020 Nishiura predicted 420,000 deaths in Japan without social distancing and 850,000 patients on mechanical ventilators, of whom around half would likely die. The actual numbers were less than 9,000 on ventilators, with 1,687 deaths among them.

To prevent the predicted calamity, Japanese officials came up with innovations such as “mask dining” and “silent eating.” “Mask dining” means putting your mask back on between bites while dining in public whenever you engage in conversation. Guy remarks, “Unless you’ve seen people voluntarily practice mask dining in real life, you have no idea how low your opinion of humanity can go.”

Widely enforced in schools, “silent eating” means what it says. I observed it myself in our university’s cafeteria, where everyone had to eat within clear plastic barriers, with a “Silent Eating” sticker before their eyes. Many students ignored the signs and talked anyway.

Elementary school students were even more aggressively silenced. Some schools provided cartoons on TV monitors to discourage them from talking. Guy comments that this was “treating kids like inmates of a maximum security prison.”

Reinforcing the Covid mania among children, a comic book was created by Moderna and an educational publisher for distribution to 20,000 elementary schools and 3,200 public libraries in Japan. The manga extolls the invention of mRNA technology, along with Nobel Prize-winning researcher Katalin Koriko. Reina, the heroine of the comic, also has a father who does mRNA research.

Of course, the book makes no mention of the many victims of the adverse effects of the mRNA shots but instead encourages children to become mRNA researchers themselves. Guy Gin wryly observes, “I’d say Haruto [the other central character] and Reina learned the real secret of mRNA: don’t take it yourself; make money getting others to take it.”

Official Covid-era guidelines for live music venues included insisting on the use of partitions on tables, disinfection of all doorknobs and handrails, coin trays for handling cash, no hand-dryers in toilets, and participants singing along for only 25% of a song and at a voice level not exceeding that of ordinary conversation. Many obediently followed such ridiculous government guidelines and even internalized them.

As a result, mask-wearing became a marker of good manners, especially among women. On surveys many women expressed disapproval of people not wearing masks, and “improper” mask-related behavior was cited by matchmaking services as a common reason for breaking off contacts with eligible men. Guy puts his finger on the outlook of many Japanese women: “Whereas Covid Karen is usually a hysterical liberal, Corona Masuko tends to be socially conservative and priggishly concerned with correct etiquette.”

Not only foreigners in Japan like Guy Gin but some Japanese also riff on the Covid debacle. Manga artist George Kataoka has been writing 4-frame comics satirizing many aspects of the Covid panic. His strips remind me a lot of Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoons. They are available as an ebook under the title Covid is a Concept: Plandemic (“Korona wa Gainen: Purandemikku”). A character on the book’s back cover quips, “Yeah, yeah—it’s ‘conspiracy theory.’”

In one of my favorites, an unmasked customer tries to enter a bank below a sign requiring masks, only to be refused by a bank employee. The customer explains “I forgot my mask” but is still refused entry.

While the two of them are arguing about it, a tough-looking guy with a mask enters the bank and is soon seen demanding the tellers “Put it all in there!” Finally, the robber exits the bank with a big bag of cash while the clueless employee at the entrance bows and says “Thank you for your patronage!” Other strips poke fun at the exaggerated fear of the virus, the toxic injections, the obsessive disinfecting of everything, and the unthinking conformity.

Government-directed delusion combined with a culture of conformity can produce very comical (but sad) spectacles. Furthermore, social pressure has made it hard for people in Japan to put an end to the foolishness, even when the government gives them permission. A March, 2023 article by Guy Gin has the title “Endless Masking in Japan: The Majority Waits for the Majority to Unmask.”

In the words of Guy Gin, “the problem with prioritising harmoniousness is that nobody wants to rock the boat even when it’s heading in the wrong direction.” That observation certainly also applies to much of the rest of the contemporary world.

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