Japan’s vaccine rollout has been a skin-of-the-teeth endeavor, with authorities making pronouncements before finalizing any plans. Blame for the resulting confusion has mostly fallen on local governments, which have been tasked with carrying out the actual vaccinations.

The media has thus developed a sub-narrative about localities allowing certain parties to cut the line for injections, the most infamous case being that of the 70-year-old chairman of pharmacy chain Sugi Holdings Co., who, along with his wife, was prioritized for vaccinations ahead of other elderly people in Nishio, Aichi Prefecture — though once the media found out about it the couple was forced to stand in line like everybody else. In a May 15 article, Tokyo Shimbun referred to the incident as an example of privileging jōkyū kokumin, or a “higher grade of citizen,” in public matters.

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