Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
Disposable masks have become an essential accessory in the worst-affected areas of western Japan, while a growing number of Tokyo commuters are wearing them. The government has recommended use by those who suspect infection, but some businesses are ordering employees to wear them, especially if they have face-to-face client interaction.
And Japan’s upper house of parliament is requesting that everyone, including lawmakers, wear a mask when entering the chamber.
Not surprisingly, some pharmacies and drug stores have run out of stock, while shares of medical mask makers Shikibo and Daiwabo have shot up since the first case was confirmed in Tokyo.
The new flu strain that emerged in Mexico last month has brought Japanese TV shows, newspapers and government ads out in a rash of demonstrations of the art of proper hand-washing to avoid the spread of germs.
“First, you clean the palms, then rub the dirt off the back of the hands. Make sure you wash between fingers and finger tips. And yes, don’t forget your thumbs and wrists!!”
Japan may not be smokers’ heaven any more. Commuters in greater Tokyo will see smoke-free stations from April 1, as railway operator JR East launches a total smoking ban on platforms. JR East joins a growing list of major Japanese public spaces and work areas going smokeless amid heightened public health awareness.
I am a pack-a-day smoker and so don’t go to movies, as I cannot stay smokeless for two hours, as well as some coffee shops, because coffee and smoking to me are inseparable. Excuse my political incorrectness, but I have felt pinched lately, having to spend more time finding a place to light up.
This may be an increasingly minority opinion and I can already imagine the chorus of scorn citing health statistics as well as second-hand smoke issues. But with all due respect to these sensitivities, I wonder whether one day enjoying the nicotine buzz anywhere in public here will be prohibited, as in France and Ireland. A health ministry official told Reuters last month that Japan may tighten rules on public smoking, and we’ve already seen dramatic change.
Sit-ups, push-ups and back exercises — 50 a day each — are keeping Japan’s 68-year-old Prime Minister Taro Aso as fit as a fiddle.
Aso, in his latest e-mail magazine, brushed off a comment by one reader that he was looking worn out after five months on the job. Tabloids have also been awash with stories that the premier was losing sleep and weight over a series of setbacks, including the resignation last month of his finance minister, who had been forced to deny he was drunk at a G7 news conference in Rome.