The first few weeks of 2021 had a lot of news — and a lot of new vocabulary.

Though vaccines were set to be the hot topic for the new year, we’ve seen a lot more news about 新型コロナ変異種 (shingata korona hen’ishu, new coronavirus strains). Reports claim that new variants have been found in Japan by way of the U.K. and Brazil. As a result, the government has decided to strengthen its border controls and 外国人の入国を全面停止する (gaikokujin no nyūkoku o zenmen teishi suru, suspend entry for all foreign people entering the country).

As other countries have already started ワクチン接種 (wakuchin sesshu, vaccine inoculations), people have begun to wonder when Japan will follow suit. The government is aiming to start vaccinating 医療従事者 (iryō jūjisha, medical workers) from 2月下旬 (ni-gatsu gejun, the end of February).

A second 緊急事態 (kinkyū jitai, state of emergency) covering Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures was declared Jan. 7 by 菅義偉首相 (Suga Yoshihide shushō, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga) after a 第三波 (dai san-pa, third wave) of COVID-19 cases. The emergency declaration was later expanded to cover seven more prefectures, including Osaka and Kyoto, in hopes of avoiding a 感染爆発 (kansen bakuhatsu, explosive growth of infections), which could lead to an 医療崩壊 (iryō hōkai, collapse of the medical care system).

So far, the second 緊急事態宣言 (kinkyū jitai sengen, state of emergency declaration) has been met with public indifference, as many workers continue to commute by bus or train, with others going out to virus hot spots before 8 p.m. This prompted Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike to say, “コロナウイルスは時計を持っておらず、午後8時だろうが昼間であろうが、不要不急の外出は控えるようずっと前から言っている” (koronauirusu wa tokei o motte orazu, gogo hachi-ji darō ga hiruma de arō ga, fuyō fukyū no gaishutsu wa hikaeru yō zutto mae kara itte-iru, The novel coronavirus has no clock, so whether it is 8 p.m. or noon, we have been calling on people to avoid nonessential outings from the very beginning).

This has laid the groundwork for controversial discussions on revising the 特別措置法 (tokubetsu sochi-hō, special measures law), that would allow the government to impose stricter regulations by setting penalties for those who do not comply to government requests during a 緊急事態.

While the situation remains uncertain in Japan, a different kind emergency took place in the United States: トランプ支持者が議会を襲撃した (Toranpu shijisha ga gikai o shūgeki shita, [Donald] Trump supporters stormed the Capitol).

This was an attempt to stop the certification of the election results in which Joe Biden was voted the next president of the United States. Many have called it an attack on アメリカの民主主義 (Amerika no minshushugi, American democracy).

On Jan. 13, 米連邦議会の下院は “反乱を扇動” したとして、トランプ大統領を弾劾訴追することを決定した (beirenpōgikai no kain wa “hanran o sendō” shita to shite, Toranpu daitōryō o dangai sotsui suru koto o kettei shita, President Trump was impeached by Congress for “inciting an insurrection”). This made him the first president in U.S. history to 弾劾された (dangai sareta, be impeached) twice.

Although Trump denies any wrongdoing, the consequences continued: ツイッターのジャック・ドーシーCEOはトランプのアカウントを永久に停止した (tsuittā no Jakku Dōshī CEO wa Toranpu no akaunto o eikyū ni teishi shita, the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, permanently suspended Trump’s account). Other social media outlets followed, including Facebook and Google.

Many have welcomed the move to ban Trump from social media, while others worry that doing so will アメリカの分断を進める (Amerika no bundan o susumeru, continue the division of America).

The unpredictability of 2020 seems to have continued on into the new year, and as new developments unfold each day, Japanese learners will no doubt have much more vocabulary to learn.

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