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. inequalities
Here’s a look at some of the stories hitting the headlines in Osaka this week.
Inequalities Abound as Cancellations Continue
The inequalities and inherent unfairness in how Osaka’s government has sought to distribute its vaccine supplies continued this week.
Reports increase day by day of frustrated residents’ vaccine reservations cancelled at the last minute. Meanwhile, some of those fortunate enough to work for private institutions under the government’s now closed “workplace vaccination” scheme, have already received their shots. It seems, in Osaka at least, that any pretense of ensuring those under 65 with underlying medical conditions receiving priority went out the window some time ago. Such inequalities only further feed growing frustration in the city.
In order to address supply issues, the central government, somewhat predictably, took a reactionary and rather poorly considered approach.
They announced earlier this week a plan to cut supplies to municipalities deemed to have “excessive stocks” of vaccines by 10%.
Resistance to the idea from those localities affected was immediate and furious. Representatives of the cities of Sapporo and Nagoya both said there “Simply isn’t any vaccine to spare”.
Even once Osaka secures extra supplies from these reallocated stocks, the plan to distribute them, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
Speaking at a press conference this week, Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said that half of the supplies received are subject to the discretion of municipalities, based on the number of new infections they have in the current “4th wave”.
I believe the English term here is: “closing the stable after the horse has bolted.”
Inequalities Extend to the Education Sector
Much of Japan pledged to ensure that all school staff would be fully vaccinated this summer. At first glance, Osaka seemed to follow. However, there’s a catch.
The status of Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) working in public schools across Japan is often vague.
Most are treated like teachers, but contractually and legally, they are not considered as such. The current vaccine crisis only highlights these inequalities further. Osaka City’s board of education declared their position several weeks ago. They promised to “endeavor to vaccinate all public school teachers by the end of summer”.
So, one would think this includes ALTs as well. However, this was not the case. Since they are “not real teachers” in the eyes of the Osaka BOE, ALTs are being left flailing around with the rest of the population. Some were lucky enough to secure vaccination slots, others not. Those with underlying conditions, or medically predisposed to severe Covid-19 infection, have been given no priority whatsoever.
I spoke with one Osaka City ALT, on condition of anonymity, given the sensitivity of the situation. Their frustration was immediately evident.
“If anything, we are actually at a greater risk than our Japanese colleagues. Almost all of us visit multiple schools, sometimes teaching hundreds of students in a single week.”
“Full time Japanese teachers typically stay at the same school all year, limiting their potential viral exposure”.
“I really feel like my employer doesn’t care about my safety at all.”
Hopefully, all ALTs can secure vaccine slots as soon as possible. However, as the crisis shows no signs of abating anytime soon, the chances seem remote. Inequalities in Osaka’s vaccination program, it seems, are here to stay.
Controversial Exhibition Venue Receives Terror Threat
Recently we reported on the difficulties facing the upcoming “Non-Freedom of Expression Exhibition Kansai” in securing a venue. The matter ultimately went to court. The court found in the organizers’ favor. However, the facility that wished to withdraw its offer to host the exhibition has appealed this decision. Things took a more sinister turn this week however, when a letter arrived at the facility, L-Osaka, in Chuo Ward. The letter promised “force including destroying the venue and attacking people” if the event proceeds as planned.
So far, the only lead police have to go on is a postmark from Southern Osaka Prefecture, dated July 12th. Investigations continue with the support of both the venue and event organizers.
Osaka was the venue this week for the latest in a series of warm up matches as Japan’s Olympic soccer campaign gathers pace.
The Samurai Blues under-24s squad delivered an impressive 3-1 win over fellow Olympic hopefuls Honduras. Maya Yoshida opened the scoring, with Ritsu Doan adding a double to round off a commanding performance. Attention will now shift to their next warm up game against the highly fancied Spain this Saturday.
That’s all for now but be sure to check back again same time next week for another round of this week in Osaka!