Social Distancing Police Are Everywhere In Japan

Jisyukukeisatsu is a widespread slang in Japan under COVID-19. It literally means “self-restraint police”, describing the people acting as social distancing police by themselves. When the pandemic occurred, it quickly became a huge problem in Japanese society. And because of its impact, it was nominated for the buzzwords of 2020 in Japan.

Examples Cases of Social Distancing Police in Japan

Exposed privacy on the internet

At the very beginning of the pandemic, everybody’s attention was towards the people coming from overseas. Indeed, some of them didn’t follow the instructions that they should. But they were subjected to outrageous reprisals. As a result, internet users didn’t spread only the person’s personal information but also their schools, workplaces, and family’s privacy. Eventually, some were forced to move to other cities to escape from harassment by their neighbors.

Put notices on the shop entrances

The Japanese government requested a business suspension request when the first wave came in spring 2020. As it didn’t have legal enforcement, some shops and restaurants kept open as usual. But some citizens put notice papers on their entrance doors without permission, saying “Are you still open even in this pandemic situation?” or “Please close, or I will call the police.”. Regardless of its business’s pros and cons, pachinko parlors were the most affected at that time.

Identified by the vehicle registration plate

stop sign

When people returned to their hometowns by car in the holiday season, some local people checked the vehicle registration plate whether they were coming from outside the prefecture. There have been incidents of cars being damaged or malicious tailgating in some places. Due to these issues, some local governments ended up issuing stickers to prove that the people live in the prefecture. Personally, my parents had to cancel a visit to my grandmother’s house on New Year’s Day just in case as it’s in a very rural area, which tends to be more sensitive about people coming from outside.

Excessive Justice Causing Troubles

It must not be the case in Japan only. Similar cases must have happened in some other countries too. But why has it become such a big issue in Japan that many people worried about? One reason is the lack of enforcement by the Japanese government. Japanese citizens tend to have a negative image of the idea that public authorities have the power to control.

In many countries, mandatory lockdowns were implemented. On the other hand, the state of emergency announced in Japan was just a sort of request, not an order. The government or police don’t have the authority to limit one’s activity, so ultimately, it’s up to people’s own decisions. This situation may have something to do with unpleasant feelings toward high-class people a.k.a “Jokyu Kokumin” in Japan.

Furthermore, Japanese media usually don’t report infected people’s personal information to avoid unnecessary civil troubles. However, it caused the opposite effect: people live in an over-surveillance society by individual citizens, as mentioned above.

Tips To Stay Safe in Japan

Having said that, those were quite extreme cases. I can see many foreigners walking around the center of Osaka, like the other Japanese. So I would say it’s still relatively safer to stay in Japan than in other countries. But I recommend that you remember the following points related to social distancing in Japan.

Be more cautious when you visit rural areas

People in rural areas have been more sensitive about what if the viruses are brought in from the outside. So even if the pandemic slowed down to a certain extent, it’s better to be extra cautious about where you go.

Wear a mask & clean your hands at the entrance

Even before COVID-19, wearing a mask was a natural thing for Japanese people. To avoid getting involved in unnecessary trouble, it’s better to wear a mask until the situation is fully under control, even if you feel awkward. And you will find many places asking visitors to use a hand sanitizer at the entrance. You can use it as well.

Avoid shaking hands

To begin with, shaking hands isn’t a common culture in Japan. Unless it’s really necessary, you should avoid shaking hands with someone and keep social distancing in Japan. If you ask for it, some might hesitate to do so because of COVID-19. Please take a bow instead.


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