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
Osaka BOE Endangers Teachers
The prevailing advice in the midst of the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic is to stay home where possible, avoid large groups and keep the room you are in well ventilated.
Well, English teachers in Osaka City this week were none to pleased to find their employer flagrantly disregarding all of these essential safety regulations.
Osaka City Board of Education faced allegations of reckless endangerment in their treatment of their Assistant Language Teachers this past Wednesday.
It is customary each year on April 1st for all 100 or so ALTs to gather together for a meeting, where they will formally receive their contract for the year ahead.
However, in essence this ceremonial meeting is merely a traditional formality, and not in any way essential to the teacher’s performance of their duties. Hopes had been high among the teachers that the Board of Education would exercise some common sense, and indeed comply with the law, but they opted against this, and endangered all of their teachers as a result.
Almost 120 staff were sat close together in a single meeting room with minimal ventilation and no social distancing protocols whatsoever.
One teacher, who spoke under condition of anonymity said: “I feel like we are just disposable commodities to the board of education. Clearly they don’t care about us or our welfare, otherwise they would have canceled this pointless meeting.”
“I just hope none of us were infected”.
With Osaka being amongst the most virulent regions of Japan at the moment, it certainly doesn’t look good for the local government to be acting so recklessly.
The Osaka BOE were approached for comment on this story, but declined to do so, which pretty much speaks for itself.
Osaka School Shutdown Extended, Could Set Precedent for all Japan
Whilst the Osaka City Board of Education doesn’t seem to be taking Covid-19 seriously, it seems that, thankfully, the prefectural government is.
It was announced last night that public schools across the prefecture will remain closed until at least the end of the annual Golden Week holidays on May 6th.
With infections continuing to rise in Osaka, in excess of the average rate of increase nationwide, this seems like a common sense move at this time. Word is that universities will also follow suit, and some are even discussing the possibility of instituting home learning protocols for the entirety of this year’s spring/summer term. It remains to be seen if the numerous private schools in Osaka prefecture will follow the lead of the public schools, but given the quite obvious legal liability if they ignored official guidance on a public safety issue, it seems unlikely they won’t also remain closed until early May.
This is, of course, a developing story and you can expect more updates next week.
Rumours Persist: Is a Lockdown Imminent?
With schools remaining closed and citizens being encouraged to refrain from social gatherings and non-essential trips outside the home, the Osaka government had hoped that such measures would bring the outbreak under control. However, calls are growing both from the public and from medical experts for a full lockdown to be imposed on both Osaka and Tokyo, with some even advocating a nationwide lockdown in comparison to what has been seen in Italy, Spain and elsewhere recently.
However, Japanese constitutional law prohibits Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from formally calling for a legally enforceable lockdown. By law all he can do is issue a decree “requesting” people stay at home and self-isolate.
However, by calling a state of emergency, which he was given authorization to do in the Japanese house of representatives a few weeks ago, Abe can then empower regional governors and local city governments to enact their own individual lockdowns and create local bylaws, such as fining those who break curfew, to see the lockdown is adhered to.
This would be an unprecedented step in recent Japanese history though, so it remains to be seen whether the PM, who has frequently been accused of dithering on this crisis actually has the will to call for such drastic measures. Osaka’s governor has indicated he we be open to the idea of a lockdown is asked to do so.
It hasn’t been a good week for Japan’s embattled Prime Minister, and his latest scheme to help the nation fight the coronavirus was, this week, genuinely mistaken for an April Fools Day joke. He announced on April 1st that, whilst most countries are giving monetary handouts to citizens struggling to make ends meet amidst the ongoing crisis, he was going to send two reusable face masks to each citizen of Japan to help them stay safe.
What followed was a veritable meme explosion as Japanese twitter let rip on their PM with merciless zeal.
That’s all for now, but be sure to check back next week for another round of This Week in Osaka