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When I heard the news that there was going to be another 緊急事態 (kinkyū jitai, state of emergency), I got a serious case of 既視感 (kishikan), which is also commonly referred to as デジャブ (dejabu, deja vu).

The first 緊急事態宣言 (kinkyū jitai sengen, state of emergency declaration) was announced last year in April. At first it covered seven prefectures, but was soon extended nationwide for close to two months.

Although it had no legally binding powers, コロナの感染拡大を抑えるのに多少は効果的だった (korona no kansen kakudai o osaeru no ni tashō wa kōkateki datta, it was effective to some extent in being able to contain the spread of COVID-19). Now, in the middle of a 第3波 (dai san-pa, third wave) of the virus, the governors of Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures want to re-establish this method of containment.

Restaurants and bars will be asked to follow the 時短営業要請 (jitan eigyō yōsei, call to shorten [their] working hours), while citizens will be asked to avoid 不要不急の外出 (fuyō fukyū no gaishutsu, nonessential outings) after 8 p.m. In the past, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato had said, “飲食の感染リスクをどう抑え込むかがポイントだ” (Inshoku no kansen risuku o dō osaekomu ka ga pointo da, The point is to figure out how to reduce the risk of infection while dining out).

With a rise in new COVID-19 cases, the Japanese government has asked its citizens to avoid 5人以上の会食 (go-nin ijō no kaishoku, eating together with more than five people), especially with those aged over 65, to help contain the spread of the virus. And yet, there is also a 矛盾 (mujun, contradiction), as some government officials have been called out for ignoring their own COVID-19 guidelines.

Right after announcing the suspension of the Go To Travel campaign last year on Dec. 14, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga went to a high-end steak restaurant in Tokyo’s Ginza district with six other people, all of whom were over 70. He has since expressed some regret over his actions: “他の方の距離は十分あったが、国民の誤解を招くという意味においては真摯に反省している (Hoka no kata no kyori wa jūbun atta ga, kokumin no gokai o maneku to iu imi ni oite wa shinshi ni hansei shite-iru, There was sufficient distance with other people, but I’d like to profoundly reflect on the fact that it gave the nation’s citizens the wrong impression).”

The noun 反省 (hansei) means reflection and introspection, and when it’s combined with the する (suru) verb it carries the nuance of an apology. It is a particularly useful way of indicating that you pledge to reflect on a past mistake and do better in the future. It’s also common for Japanese companies to hold 反省会 (hanseikai, self-reflection meetings) to evaluate their performance as a whole so that they can make improvements.

Perhaps it would be good for the government to host an online 反省会, particularly since it has come out that several politicians have attended parties in large groups.

Naokazu Takemoto, the former information technology minister and a House of Representatives member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), attended a year-end fundraising party in Osaka with 80 people on Dec. 18, but because he did not attend the dining session of the party and was unaware of alcohol being served, 責任を否定している (sekinin o hitei shite-iru, [he] is denying any responsibility). He tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 24.

The list continues: in Toyama, Mitsuhiro Miyakoshi, an LDP lawmaker, attended a drinking party with 30 people, which he apologized for after he fell over and was taken to a hospital; in Saitama, 40 members of the LDP gathered to eat in a hotel, which they defended by saying, “三々五々集まって食事しただけ (san-san go-go atsumate shokuji shita dake, We just ate in small groups).”

The secretary general of the LDP, Toshihiro Nikai, one of the guests who attended the steak dinner with Suga, claimed that the dinner party was not intended to be a “dinner party”, but rather a place for “意見交換” (iken kōkan, an exchange of opinions).

This “わたしの行い通りでなく、わたしの言葉通りにせよ” (watashi no okonai dōri de naku, watashi no kotoba dōri ni seyo, don’t follow what I do, follow what I say) attitude is problematic because it contributes to 社会のコロナ慣れ (shakai no korona nare, society getting used to COVID-19), and diminishes コロナへの危機感 (korona e no kikikan, a sense of crisis regarding the coronavirus).

It may have been better if government officials instead opted for テイクアウト (teikuauto, takeout) or taken part in trendy オン飲み (on-nomi, online drinking parties). Perhaps then this lesson could’ve been more about phrases having to do with ordering food to go, like 出前を注文する (demae o chūmon suru, order for delivery) or お持ち帰り (omochikaeri, to go) rather than apologies.

With the start of a new year, everyone is craving a taste of normalcy. ワクチンの開発に期待が高まるが、まだ気は緩められない (Wakuchin no kaihatsu ni kitai ga takamaru ga, mada ki wa yurumerarenai, People are raising their expectation for the development of vaccines, but it is still important to remain careful), especially with the 新型コロナ変異種 (shingata korona hen’ishu, new coronavirus strain) raising questions about how effective vaccines will be.

As a new 緊急事態 looks to come into effect, this time it looks like things will be different as 一斉休校の要請はしない (issei kyūkō no yōsei wa shinai, [the government] won’t request for the simultaneous closure of schools).

As the saying goes, 果報は寝て待て (kahō wa nete matte), which literally means “sleep and wait for luck” but has the same meaning as “all good things come to those who wait.” If good things really do come to those who wait, then the joy of a post-COVID society should be worth it.

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