Each week, here at Osaka.com, we bring you a selection of some of the top stories about Osaka making the local and national news here in Japan. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s funny, but it’s always direct to you, from Osaka.
Here’s a look at some of the stories hitting the headlines in Osaka this week.
Foreign Language App Helps Residents Get Vaccinated
As of this week, over half of Japan’s population received two vaccine shots against Covid-19. However, the percentage of vaccinated foreign residents lags far behind this figure. This week, one Osaka firm took steps to try to address this. Yolo Japan Corporation, an Osaka recruitment firm specializing in helping foreigners, released their multi-lingual Covid-19 support app.
The app recognizes and translates a total of 17 foreign languages into Japanese.
Many experts cite the lack of native language resources as a major factor in the slow progress of foreigner vaccination.
The app aims to help foreign residents understand the information on pre-vaccine questionnaires and vaccination vouchers.
Company President, Taisuke Kaji spoke of his hopes for greater private sector involvement to help the foreign community. He said this week: “If administrative bodies and the private sector cooperate, we can create an environment where more foreign residents find it easier to get vaccinated.”
Foreign Resident Support Still Lacking in Some Areas
Unfortunately, one app alone will not solve the problem. Across Osaka, many foreign residents continue to face great difficulty with vaccinations. There is also clear evidence of inequality in terms of vaccine access based on employment status.
Those working for larger private companies already received vaccine offers over the summer. Likewise, a number of universities and private schools signed up to the government’s vaccine scheme for private businesses. This ensured both foreign and local staff could receive their shots. However, as we reported previously, the Osaka City Board of Education took on no such duty of care. There also appears little movement in terms of helping Private Language School (Eikaiwa) teachers receive vaccines either. Things continue to progress, slowly. However, Osaka’s foreign community still lacks equal or equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.
Government Considers Ending Restrictions Soon
As the national vaccination rate continues to rise, so too, the daily Coronavirus infection rate in Osaka falls.
With this in mind, the government may soon ease the current “quasi-state of emergency”, covering Osaka and surrounding prefectures.
Rumors continue to circulate this week of an end to restrictions on October 1st. The government’s primary cause for worry was the potential for viral spread during the “Silver Week” holiday period. Silver week ends this coming Sunday.
However, the ongoing election to choose the new leader of Japan’s ruling party, The LDP, complicates matters. This new leader becomes Prime Minister and, in all likelihood, should remain in office after November’s general election.
At the moment, we have 4 candidates, each with differing views on how to best bring the pandemic to a swift end.
However, none will want to do anything too “radical” ahead of the general election. So, depending on who wins, there is a possibility of some form of restrictions continuing up until the election, and beyond.
Next PM Remains Uncertain
The debate over the next PM further highlights the growing disconnect between the public and the ruling LDP. Despite a difficult start to the vaccine rollout, the Minister in charge of Vaccinations, Taro Kono, is the public’s preferred choice.
However, factional politics play a big role in choosing leaders within the LDP. Hence, despite trailing in 3rd place in polls among the public, Fumio Kishida is the party’s preferred option. Kishida previously served as foreign minister and would, in many ways, be a continuity candidate. Much of his policy platform mirrors that of the outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Though hardly a radical, Taro Kono represents something of a break from convention. A fluent English speaker, educated abroad, many within the party see Kono as a reformer and something of a maverick.
The unknown quantity is Sanae Takaichi. A staunch ally of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Takaichi currently polls around 20% among the public. However, powerbrokers within the party worry that her right-wing stance on a number of social issues may alienate centrist voters. Ultimately, her faction could play kingmaker, deciding whether it is Kono or Kishida who takes the top job.
Current acting Secretary General of the LDP Seiko Noda is another, late entry to the race. However, commentators feel she will struggle to gain traction, as such a late addition to the campaign
Osaka residents enjoyed a brief respite from the current covid woes last weekend. After a 2 year absence, the Kishiwada Danjiri Festival made a triumphant return. 22 floats in all took part in the parade, although the Kishiwada local government urged spectators not to gather in large numbers. Nevertheless, despite many staying home, the sound of the passing parade, complete with is rhythmic drumming and chanting no doubt lifted local spirits.
Hopes are high in the community that, come next year, we will finally enjoy the Danjiri Festival in its full glory once again.
That’s all for now but be sure to check back again same time next week for another round of this week in Osaka!