- On Tuesday 17 November, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 298 new cases of the coronavirus, up 118 from Monday. The number is the result of 3,647 tests conducted on 14 November. The tally brought Tokyo’s cumulative total to 35,229. By age group, the highest number of cases were people in their 20s (81), followed by 50 each in their 30s and 40s. The number of infected people in Tokyo with severe symptoms is 42, up two from Monday, health officials said.Nationwide, the number of reported cases was 1,686. After Tokyo, the prefectures with the most cases were Osaka (269), Hokkaido (197), Aichi (138), Kanagawa (133), Hyogo (107), Chiba (79), Ibaraki (55), Kyoto (49) and Okinawa (24). Seven coronavirus-related deaths were reported,
Japan is not in a situation that requires a state-of-emergency declaration again over the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Friday, adding that experts backed that view. Speaking to reporters, he said the government’s initiative to boost domestic tourism with subsidies also did not need to be revised. Coronavirus infections reached the highest-ever 1,634 cases in Japan on Thursday, topping a previous record set on 7 August, according to public broadcaster NHK.
- The Japanese government will financially support shops and restaurants that are asked to shorten their business hours in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Monday 16 November. Suga’s pledge came as Hokkaido officials agreed to ask residents of Sapporo to refrain from nonessential outings following back-to-back days of record infections in the region.Speaking at a meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force, Suga said the government plans to use 50 billion yen for the support program should local authorities deem it necessary to cut short business hours. The money has been set aside assuming payments of between 200,000 yen and 300,000 yen per outlet for one month, according to officials.
The request for shorter opening hours will be limited to specific areas and industries, Suga said. In addition to Hokkaido, a popular tourist spot known for its heavy snowfall, Aichi Prefecture is also looking to raise its coronavirus alert, while Tokyo, Osaka and other major cities continue to see high infection numbers.
In total across Japan, record daily coronavirus cases were reported for three consecutive days through Saturday, with the figure hitting 1,737 on that day. Suga also said he would ask governors to consider making groups of more than five people or so ineligible for the government’s Go To Eat program, which is aimed at encouraging dining out at restaurants.
With 189 new infections in Hokkaido reported on Monday, Gov Naomichi Suzuki and Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto agreed in an emergency meeting to urge the city’s residents not to travel to other areas of the island. Hokkaido has recently been experiencing a rapid rise in daily infections, with more than 200 cases reported on four consecutive days through Sunday. It reported a record 236 cases last Thursday.
Sapporo is expected to raise its alert for the pandemic to four on the island’s five-level coronavirus scale, indicating a rapid surge in infections and a need to implement measures to avert a great burden being put on medical facilities. Raising the level will enable authorities to request limits on the operational capacities of facilities that have failed to implement measures against the pandemic.
The island initially requested catering and entertainment businesses in Sapporo’s Susukino nightlife district to refrain from operating between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., while pledging 200,000 yen for each business that follows the request. But local authorities now plan to expand the request to the entire city and call on eateries without proper virus prevention measures to refrain from opening.
Meanwhile, Aichi Gov Hideaki Omura said Monday that his prefecture is considering raising its coronavirus alert after it saw over 100 daily infections for six straight days through Sunday. “We don’t expect a downward trend” for the time being, he said at a press conference. Despite a spike in cases, Suga has said the government will maintain its Go To Travel subsidy campaign to support domestic tourism.
- Ruling and opposition parties on Monday jointly submitted a bill to recognize those who give birth to a baby using donated eggs or sperm as legal parents, a move that could help conclude a decades-old debate in Japan.The current civil law does not have a provision regarding in-vitro fertilization involving a third person, sparking discussions about how to eliminate legal uncertainties with regard to the parentage of such children. But the bill does not recognize the rights of such children to seek disclosure of the identities of egg or sperm donors, triggering criticism from groups representing them as well as the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
It also postpones responses to some other issues such as the buying and selling of eggs and sperm as well as whether to approve surrogacy. Lawmakers said they will consider legal action to address those issues over the next two years.
The bill also does not reflect the recently increasing demand among sexual minority couples and single women who wish to have children. The bill is expected to be enacted during the current Diet session through early December with support from parties including Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party and the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
It stipulates that a woman who gave birth is the mother of the child when she used a donated egg, and that a husband cannot deny he is the father after he consented to his wife using sperm donated from a third person. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has only allowed egg donations from a third person to married couples who cannot have a baby of their own. It has also excluded women with aged ova as recipients.
In Japan, such fertilization has been conducted at a limited number of facilities and many patients, mostly older women, have given birth to children after receiving eggs abroad. The number of patients seeking treatment overseas through mediators has increased in recent years. But problems over sperm donation between individuals via the internet have been on the rise.
The debate over donating eggs and sperm became active in Japan after a doctor in Nagano Prefecture announced in 1998 he had carried out in-vitro fertilization for a woman using eggs donated by her younger sister. In 2003, a panel of the ministry released a report that allowed egg and sperm donation under certain conditions. The report also called for a legal system to allow children aged 15 or older to request disclosure of who donated eggs or sperm.
- Japan is set to break with its age-old tradition of requiring citizens to use personal seals to stamp all official documents, scrapping their use in nearly 15,000 administrative processes, an official at the Cabinet Office said on Friday. The use of seals will be abolished for all but 83 instances such as automobile registration, the official said, affecting transactions carried out by millions of Japanese every day. The official said no specific timetable has been set for phasing out seal use.The radical switch comes as newly installed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga seeks to boost use of digital technology to streamline processes and spur lackluster growth in the world’s third-biggest economy. A custom originally imported from China more than a thousand years ago, the use of seals – hanko in Japanese – was formalized by Japan’s government in the mid-1800s.
With far more people working from home in Japan than previously amid the coronavirus pandemic, the custom has come under criticism with millions of workers forced to commute to their offices because of the need for contracts and proposals to be stamped using the seals.
Taro Kono, minister in charge of regulatory reforms, stoked controversy in recent weeks after he posted a picture of a seal with a phrase “abolish stamps” engraved on it on Twitter. Kono’s move triggered an angry response last week from the All Japan Seal Industry Association, representing 890 seal manufacturers and retailers that serve a population of about 126 million.
- The requirement by many of Japan’s firms that job applicants indicate their gender and even provide a photo on resumes has left the country out of step with the international norm, but that may be about to change. An internet petition campaign stressing that such practices can lead to discrimination has collected over 10,000 signatures, while at least one major company has altered its rules to scrap both requirements and even stop asking for applicants’ first names.Identifying gender on resumes is particularly problematic for transgender people, often leading to obstacles in getting hired, experts say. “For someone like myself who is unable to circle male or female on a resume, I often face hardships about my ideal situation. Gender should have nothing to do with my job,” said Minori Hori, a 31-year-old resident of Onagawa, who is legally a woman but feels as if “I am neither male nor female.”
“Getting rid of the gender section on applications will help prevent discrimination,” said Manabu Sato of Posse, a nonprofit organization that offers free job-related consultations, among other services. In the United States, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a job applicant because of race, color, religion or sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy).
The signatures calling on eliminating gender on resumes were submitted to the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry and the Japanese Standards Association, whose resume format had been referred to by stationery makers until being deleted from the association’s official website in July.
Major stationery manufacturer Kokuyo Co plans on selling resumes without a gender section. Some companies, such as Unilever Japan, no longer require photos or gender specifications — going as far as to ask job applicants to only list their surname to prevent bias recruitment based on sex. Toyota Motor Corp has also jumped on the bandwagon, eliminating curriculum vitae gender sections to respect diversity, it says. The company still requires photos, however.
Even so, some argue that information on gender is sometimes essential, at least as a way of demonstrating equal opportunity. Kirin Holdings Co has made it voluntary to provide gender since it hired new college graduates to join the company in the spring, explaining that the practice has not been wholly dissolved as it seeks to hire the right balance of employees and promote women in the workplace. This also helps with its public relations image, the company argues, when asked about gender ratio quotas.
The Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation, which supports sexual minorities and has launched a petition for an LGBT equality law, welcomes the elimination of gender sections on job application forms, but it is also apprehensive about “not being able to calculate the ratio between men and women in the workforce, putting women at a disadvantage” in Japan’s male-dominant work environment.
Yuichi Kamiya, secretary general of the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation, said, “It is desirable to ask for gender identity rather than (legal) gender that does not respect the person’s perception. We also need the option of neither.” But Kamiya added: “Some gender information needs to be known. We need to listen to and consider the opinions of experts about its necessity for hiring and how people should be asked.”
- This month, the first-ever Best Masknist Award ceremony was held at the Capital Hotel Tokyu in Chiyoda, Tokyo. This award honors the people in four categories who best exemplify the spirit of using a mask as a fashion accessory rather than just a plain old way to avoid infecting people. The concept was taken from the Best Jeanist Award that was also given out earlier this year for the 36th year, even leaving the “n” in the title, making it “Best Masknist Award”.It was a well-intentioned event to help put a positive spin on wearing a mask. Despite the protective qualities, the fact that you cannot see other people’s smiles every day can have negative psychological effects. So perhaps by injecting some style this general malaise can be curbed.
The Best Masknist Award 2020 was given to people in the fields of influencer/model, athlete, entertainer, and actor. In addition to the honor, each winner also gets a Gold Mask Trophy which is literally a trophy in the shape of a golden mask.
In the first category the Best Masknist Award went to model Yuki Kimura, affectionately known as Yukipoyo, for her commitment to wearing stylish masks. In the athlete category, soccer player Karina Maruyama can now put a Gold Mask Trophy next to her Olympic silver medal and FIFA World Cup 2011 champion medal. Maruyama thanked the event’s sponsor SERAO for producing a mask with good breathability, which is indispensable for people with active lifestyles.
The Best Masknist Award 2020 for entertainers went to the Osaka-based comedy duo Milk Boy, Takashi Komaba and Takashi Utsumi. Finally, the Best Masknist actress award went to Mayuko Kawakita, star of numerous Japanese TV shows and feature films. Kawakita gracefully accepted her Gold Mask Trophy and told the audience, “because masks are indispensable in my life I’m honored to receive the Best Masknist Award.”
- International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has inspected venues for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Bach is now visiting Japan for the first time since the decision was made in March to postpone the Tokyo Games to next year.On Tuesday, day three of his four-day stay, he visited the athletes’ village, guided by the head of the village, Kawabuchi Saburo. Bach inspected accommodation buildings and the main dining hall. Under the current plan, one or two beds are to be placed in each room at the village, but the plan is reportedly under review to prevent coronavirus infections.
Bach praised the facilities, saying they have sufficient space for social distancing.
He then visited the main stadium for the Games, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and Paralympics. He took time to walk around the National Stadium, viewing spectator seats. Bach said he was impressed by the stadium’s Japan-inspired design and coloring.
When he was asked if he hopes to see the stadium filled with spectators during the Games, he said everybody hopes so, but indicated that they will settle on an appropriate number of spectators. He said what that number will be is not yet clear. He also expressed hopes of visiting Japan again in spring, when the Olympic torch relay and test events are scheduled to begin.