In his June 2 opinion piece, Tomoya Saito paints a rosy picture of "The secret of Japan's success in combating COVID-19," but the contact tracing and public information campaigns that he touts as being exceptional are not: They are average at best when compared to those of peer industrialized nations.
Instead, it has been the combination of two factors that have thus far accounted for Japan's unlikely success: strategic impediments to widespread testing, and Japanese culture, particularly that of shame and perseverance.
The government adopted a policy course that purposely made it extremely difficult for the average person to be tested if they wanted to. At the same time, Japanese people showed little demand for testing, as the shame of being potentially the first infected in their community was unbearable. Instead, although sick, many have quietly and diligently persevered on their own.
Together, roadblocks and culture have kept the number of people admitted to hospitals for COVID-19 to a bare minimum, which has in turn kept the Japanese health care system highly functional and allowed medical professionals to concentrate on tending to those most in need of urgent care. Surely, many thousands of Japanese have suffered in unaccounted-for silence as they fight the virus on their own. Their fight is the secret to Japan's success.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.