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In Japan, the main obstacle to achieving the kind of widespread self-isolation necessary for limiting the spread of the coronavirus is thought to be the country’s work culture. The government, which has always favored policies that benefit the private sector, is averse to countermeasures that would place a burden on business activities, and so mostly counts on employers to self-police their own activities.

The media likes to focus on specific examples of what it is about Japanese work culture that isn’t compatible with requests to stay at home and practice social distancing. One such focus has been on hanko, the carved seals and stamps used in lieu of signatures for official documents, and whose use requires even those people working from home to travel in person to the office to get their work approved. In any case, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported on April 13 that, following the state of emergency announced by the government, the decrease in inbound commuters wasn’t as great as it should have been.

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