Personal space dictates how one communicates, works and lives, especially in Japan, far more than in any other country worldwide. I was predominantly raised in Asia, specifically in the Philippines, and for a majority of this year, I have been living in Japan and with the wave of this coronavirus crisis, I have a few points to share to help give some perspective on their cultural norms. Which I believe could play a significant role as to why the two countries could be the way they are at present.
- Individuals of emotions, according to Gallup 2019 Survey “one of the most emotional people in the world.”1
- Mano Culture, where you take an elders hand and raise to your forehead,2 and Beso-Beso culture, cheek to cheek kissing.3 The individuals whom you would share the mano or beso-beso with would be a strange for introduction, friend or family. These greeting manners were introduced during the Spanish colonization period.
- The Cultural Fiesta, Parties and Inuman Tagay-sessions are filled with late night drinking, midnight eating and highly regarded in society as an act of social status, and norm.14
- Accessibility to safe water is at a developmental stage in specific regions of the country7 and access to soap, tissue or working faucets in public spaces vary.
- Face-masks are accessible at the price of 1Php a piece but are predominantly worn by medical practitioners, or individuals combatting terminally ill diseases and are out in public spaces.
- The Philippines went into lockdown on March 28, 2020 and depending on which city of residence, there are different rules whether you must stay at your homes or have the ability to leave. At present the Philippines hold the World’s Longest Lockdown title.8
- Public Transportation:
- Every handle, lever and device must be touched in order to work.
- When seen not wearing a mask, the government will punish you violently or face arrest.9
- The Japanese people look at eyes for emotional cues, give more weight to emotions but tend to shy away. 4
- Space Culture and respect for personal space. 6
- The Japanese Bow as a salutation and each bow has a different meaning depending on the degree of curvature of the back.5
- Health Practises such as Rajio Taiso (ラジオ体操) aka Radio Calisthenics in Japan, is a national radio program that broadcasts a set of warm-up exercise guidelines along with music for the morning to promote health.13
- Accessibility to soap, tissue and working faucets in public spaces are abundant and well-maintained by the government and/or private establishments.
- In urban areas, Face Masks are worn if someone has a allergies, cold, cough, or students who simply desire hiding from the teacher. There is a rich culture of masks for battle, ceremony, ritual, theatre and celebration; but in recent times it acts as a tool of privacy and anonymity.
- While Japan declared the period of the state of emergency on April 7 until May 31. After the state of emergency was lifted, individuals continued to telework, social-distancing practises, sanitary equipment at the entrance of every establishment and a total wipe-down sanitary measure of every public space.
- Public Transportation:
- Senors on doors, toilet trashcans, toilet flushing systems water faucets, and many more devices in private and public places which allows individuals to not touch anything. Even so, cleaning attendants frequently wipe down and sanitize everything.
- Japan cannot go against human rights law by arresting and prosecuting individuals who fail to follow the government suggestions to wear a mask. Even so, wearing a mask in public is upheld by citizens as they recognize this social responsibility for the benefit of everyone.10
There is no right or wrong with how to handle the COVID19 Crisis, especially since decisions are formulated around cultural practises and society’s norms. The Philippines handled everything strictly with military implementation by the provincial Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) who would ask a civilian for their quick response (QR) code or ID Number in order to enter, exit or move within their respective barangay (aka town).11 Can you imagine that since March 28, until mid-September, no one is allowed to leave their home without the paperwork to prove and justify their actions? How can one go to the grocery store, pharmacy, or even work to support their populous families? Even with these strict methods of implementation, the case counts still rise along with deaths.
While Japan cannot implement rules as harshly, due to the Human Rights Law,12 civilians diligently comply with the government suggestions to stay home during the state of emergency; and since it was lifted in May, whenever a citizen is outdoors, they wear masks, check temperature and sanitize hands upon establishment entry and stay home if sick. From my observation, even when riding a train or walking down the street, and you do not wear a mask, everyone will look at you as if you are outcasted from society. There is an awareness of the social responsbility and how your individual choices affect society as a whole.
This managed to keep the Japanese economy afloat is because of everyone conciously aware of their individual choices and due to their voluntary compliance, it has allowed everyone to return to normal of going shopping, eating at restaurants, school reopening, going to work and traveling across the nation. COVID19 cases remain small, and deaths low. So perhaps, the next time you leave your house, consider washing your hands frequently, sneezing into your shoulder, wearing a mask, speaking softly, taking your shoes off when you return home and thoroughly showering.
Only through awareness of the self can we move towards an improved state of society, for everyone. Rethink how your health effects global health. We are in this together.
- (2019, April 30). The Filipino Times. Retrieved from this link.
- (2020). The Cultural Atlas. Retrieved from this link.
- (2018). The Culture Trip. Retrieved from this link.
- (2007, May 10). LiveScience. Retrieved from this link.
- (2018, February 24). Go! Go! Nihon. Retrieved from this link.
- (2018, August 7). TalkAboutJapan. Retrieved from this link.
- Water.org. Retrieved from this link.
- (2020, July 11). The Telegraph. Retrieved from this link.
- (2020, July 29). One News Philippines. Retrieved from this link.
- (2020, Aug 11). Kyodo News. Retrieved from this link.
- (2020, September 11). Philippine Government: Philippine National News. Retrieved from this link.
- (2018, April 28). Human Rights Watch. Retrieved from this link.
- (2020, March 29). JapanKuru. Retrieved from this link.
- (2019, November 15). RemitBlog Australia by Filipinos. Retrieved from this link.