First, some glum news: John Coates, head of the International Olympic Committee’s coordination commission, was quoted in The Australian on May 21 as expressing doubt over prospects for the Tokyo Olympics to be held in summer next year. Coates went on record as saying the decision on whether or not to proceed with the games in 2021 was likely to be made by October.

Meanwhile, weekly magazine Friday (June 12) dropped another bombshell, claiming to have obtained a copy of a report by an unnamed major travel agency that states the decision has already been made to cancel next year’s games.

The report concluded that national Olympic organizers have neither the time nor the resources to conduct the trials for athletes to represent their respective countries. Nations will be giving priority to budgetary concerns. Moreover, even if a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed, it’s unlikely it can be made available in quantities that will enable worldwide distribution. Finally, the contagion is just beginning to hit developing nations in Africa and Latin America and efforts to bring it under control are likely to be drawn out.

In another major blow to next year’s plans, major U.S. corporations such as United Airlines are expected to plead poverty and withdraw pledges of sponsorship for the games. U.S.-based journalist Hiromu Ibuki tells the magazine: “They see little value in sponsoring, in terms of business or publicity. Their honne (true feeling) is hoping the games will be canceled.”

Meanwhile, interest in UFOs has been rekindled with the April 27 releases of three videos shot by U.S. Navy pilots over Southern California.

A day later, reports Asahi Geino (June 4), Defense Minister Taro Kono told reporters that while he “does not believe in the existence of UFOs,” should Japan’s Self-Defense Forces encounter something out there, “they should follow procedure” — whatever that might be.

The timing in a way is fortuitous, as Japan’s Space Operation Squadron, with headquarters at Fuchu Air Station in western Tokyo, was formally launched on May 18. The unit’s main function at present appears to be surveillance of the heavens utilizing satellites.

In a somewhat fanciful article, Asahi Geino remarked that one of the new squadron’s first assignments will be to produce a manual for pilots who respond to UFO sightings.

“Should a UFO enter Japan’s air defense identification zone, ASDF planes will scramble,” military journalist Buntaro Kuroi tells the magazine. “They will transmit warnings that say, ‘You are about to enter Japanese airspace.'”

Still, says Kuroi, Japanese pilots will not attempt to shoot down any intruders unless they are fired upon first. They will follow orders from their commander to pursue them.

Should the intruders prove hostile, Japan would be likely to deploy F-15 fighters or possibly Patriot surface-to-air missiles. But would that be enough to contend against a more advanced civilization — perhaps like something out of the movie “Independence Day” — armed with sophisticated weaponry of which humans are incapable of even imagining? What will happen if Japan finds itself completely outclassed by the alien intruders?

“If it comes to that, I suppose there will be no other recourse but to request the U.S. military to respond with nuclear weapons,” Kuroi says. “This will invoke the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty; but as it cannot be imagined that only Japan would be attacked, it would call for response on a global scale.”

Perhaps, writes Asahi Geino, tongue firmly in cheek, that manual should instruct Japan’s pilots to treat UFOs as “friendlies” and leave well enough alone.

Have you been wondering why Japan, in terms of the number of deaths and cases of infections, has so far been spared from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic? Well, you’re in good company. This question has been raised frequently in the media, although no definitive answers have been forthcoming.

Japan’s health authorities have resisted mass testing and vigorous contact tracing. And rather than laying down the law and demanding people stay at home, it has merely appealed to people’s common sense and better natures, basically issuing earnest pleas for cooperation without any means of legal enforcement.

One would think that Japan’s crowded urban areas and its high percentage of elderly citizens relative to the total population would have seen hospitals, and morgues, bursting at the seams.

Telejournalist Jiro Shinbo, writing in Flash (May 5), echoed a number of hypotheses suggesting the possibility of demographic, cultural and possibly even genetic factors that served to limit the spread. Not being a scientist, he admitted to being stumped.

Shukan Gendai (June 6) engaged in similar speculation. Could it be possible that people in East Asia acquired a form of group immunity from a previous contagion, SARS, back in 2003?

In Nikkan Gendai (May 27), associate professor Takayuki Miyazawa of Kyoto University’s Institute for Frontier Life and Medical Sciences, observed that, compared with other groups, Japanese are perhaps blessed with something he describes as “Factor X.” Based on scant reports of cluster infections from passengers on commuter trains, or in cars or buses, for example, it means social distancing measures as advised by the World Health Organization or Center for Disease Control in the United States are probably not warranted.

“Compared with Japanese people,” observes Miyazawa, “many foreigners have larger physiques and they boast greater lung capacity, which means they exhale with greater force, so it can be hypothesized that more viruses are also expelled. Likewise, many foreign languages have a larger number of plosive sounds, and one can suppose people expel more droplets of saliva when they speak.”

None of these articles claim to know the answers to why Japan has largely been spared, but still come to the same conclusions: In Japan’s case, there appears to be no benefit to such precautionary activities as social distancing, or even to wearing masks.

Perhaps more credit is due to an informed public that listened to advice and exercised sensible precautions.

Big in Japan is a weekly column that focuses on issues being discussed by domestic media organizations.

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