Each week, here at Osaka.com, we will 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
Abe Masks Arrive: Met with Mix of Derision and Confusion
Citizens across Osaka City began receiving their two resuable masks from the central government this week. However, few were happy, with many complaining that the masks were too small to provide sufficient protection, and alledging that their cloth composition, prone to absorbing germs if not vigourously cleaned every day, actually posed a greater health risk than wearing no mask at all.
Photos have been circulating all week of Abe himself looking somewhat out of sorts next to his fellow members of parliament, with his mask barely covering his mouth, and looking like that of a child next to the full sized surgical issue N95 masks favoured by most of his fellow cabinet members.
Meanwhile the shortage of single use masks continues to be a major issue across the country as Covid-19 infection numbers continue to spike. At the time of writing the number of deaths nationwide has surpassed 200, with more than 12,000 confirmed infections.
However, given the extreme difficulty many have been anecdotally reporting over the last few days when it comes to actually getting tested, despite presenting symptoms serious enough to warrant hospitalization, the true number of coronavirus carriers in Japan is believed to be several magnitudes higher than that which is being reported.
English School Chain Ignores Safety Warnings
The much maligned English conversation school chain NOVA did little to help its already rock-bottom reputation among Osaka’s education community this week, as it faced further claims of reckless endangerment of its staff.
Whilst most other English conversation schools in Japan have shown respect for the ongoing stay at home and social distancing requests covering Osaka since the beginning of the month, NOVA has demanded that all its teachers and staff, including those with underlying health issues that put them at greater risk of fatal complications from Covid-19, either use their paid leave (which for new teachers can be as little as 10 days per year) take unpaid leave, or report to work as usual.
With almost all classes at the company now being conducted online, common sense would suggest that the teachers should be allowed to work from home on their own computers, as is the case with other companies in the sector.
However, NOVA insists that due to “security concerns”, they cannot allow teachers to work from home, and instead teachers are expected to travel, in some cases more than an hour on public transport to work at the company’s online center in central Osaka City.
According to eyewitnesses, social distancing at the center is said to be non-existent, and complaints from staff are being routinely ignored by management.
For their part, the General Union has already convened a meeting of NOVA teachers to discuss how to get management to listen to reason, and a potential walk out of teachers is now a very real possiblity.
A union source said: “NOVA continues to put profits ahead of the safety of their staff and customers. This isn’t acceptable and we insist that they comply with the state of emergency immediately. They are not and never have been an essential service.”
We’re in the money! Residents of Osaka, both Japanese and foreign were, this week, celebrating a coming windfall. In a dramatic late u-turn, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bowed to pressure from his coalition partner the New Komeito Party, to extend next month’s stimulus to include everyone in Japan, not just those in immediate financial peril. As a result, the previous payment of 300,000 per family for those hardest hit by the financial impact of Covid-19 will be scrapped and replaced with a 100,000 yen per person payment.
In a further positive move for Japan’s foreign residents, this reporter included, The Japanese Communist Party pushed a further late amendment to the bill. The JCP sought a change to the wording of the bill, to say that those eligible for the one-off payment be “residents” of Japan as opposed to “citizens” as the previous wording of the text had read.
Whilst this no doubt upset many on the far right of Japan’s political spectrum, it certainly brought a smile to this foreigner’s face.
Before anyone in the US starts to worry about a red takeover of Japan, The JCP are communists in name only.
Having distanced themselves from the likes of China’s CCP, their political platform is actually centre-left, in many ways similar to the likes of the Labour Party in the UK or the progressive wing of the US Democratic Party.
In any case, we foreigners in Japan owe those Commies a beer!
That’s all for now, but be sure to check back again next week for another round of This Week in Osaka!