Coronavirus in Japan

After five weeks in self-isolation, I feel sad because of what is happening in the world. Today we had 0 new cases in Tokyo and I went out for a long walk for the first time in more than one month. The good news is that somehow Japan has been able to dodge the BIG bullet, at least as of today, the worst might be still coming…

Japan was the second country in which a case of coronavirus was detected in January. But now, two months later, while other countries are in full lockdown like for example Spain (My family there is having a bad time), where I’m from, here in Japan most things are normal except for seeing fewer people outdoors, no tourism and some businesses like gyms closed.

Source: Weforum

I’m not sure about the reason why the coronavirus is growing slower in Japan.
But this is a list of things that might have helped.

1) Japan felt the panic early and acted with prudence from day one as a team
I’ve seen this before when Fukushima happened in 2011, the Japanese are used to earthquakes, tsunamis, natural disasters… They feel the panic early and act with maximum prudence from the beginning. Furthermore, there is an increased sense of solidarity and people helping each other, which is known as kizuna spirit.

Notice the difference:

FEELING the panic VS ACTING with panic.

The Japanese feel the panic and the fear early, but act without panic, they help each other and prepare for the worst.

2) Wearing masks from day one

I can’t say that all Japanese are wearing masks, but I would say that over 80% and in some cases even more, of the people outdoors in Tokyo have been wearing masks since the end of January. They do wear masks even without a pandemic risk.

I believe this is one of the most important factors in the reduced rate of contagiousness of coronavirus in Japan.

Evidence that masks (also surgical masks) help

3) Restrictions
– Japan is restricting travel.
– Schools closed.
– Gyms and sports facilities closed.
– Events were canceled early on.
– Most companies are stoping business trips, “all hands” meetings, parties and gatherings.
– Many people are self-isolating (But it is not enforced by the Government as of today).

4) Social factors
– In Japan we don’t shake hands, we bow to each other.
– Usually they are not touchy in social events. It is difficult to see people hugging or kissing.
– Japanese kids are taught to clean their hands and gargle early in their lives.

5) Hand sanitizers

There are hand sanitizers already installed at the entrance of almost any shop, office or building in Japan. I’ve seen these since I arrived in Japan in 2004, and I always wondered why are they so scared of viruses to have alcohol-based hand sanitizers everywhere?

They were already preparing for the worst since decades ago.

Prepare and act as early as you can.

Be safe wherever you are and I wish health and happiness to you and your family and friends.

Shibuya Scramble Square – Shibuya Sky

This weekend I visited the new panoramic observatory at Shibuya. It is 230 meters tall and it is called Shibuya Scramble Square. The skyscraper has a shopping are from floor 1F until 14F, it also has an office area where the new Google Japan offices are located, visited the rooftop. The 45F and 46F are open to visitors, it is a beautiful observatory called Shibuya SKY and it is open every day from 9AM until 11PM for ¥2.000, google maps pinpoint).

I took these pictures this Sunday, the sky was cast with clouds but in a clear day Mount Fuji is visible and also the views to the sprawl are spectacular since there aren’t taller buildings in Shibuya area.

The elevator to Shibuya Sky has a very psychodelic screen

Shibuya Scramble Square 3D model

Para más información esta es la Web oficial del observatorio Shibuya Sky.

Kyoto Imperial Palace

The Kyoto Imperial Palace (京都御所, Kyōto Gosho), was the official imperial family residence until 1869 when the capital of Japan was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. The Palace is surrounded by a huge garden area (1300 meters long and 700 meters wide) where it is a pleasure to walk. The whole compound was walled and many noble families (Mainly the Fujiwara and Saito families) lived inside, but after the capital was moved, the outer walls where removed and converted to public gardens.

Nowadays most of the areas of the Kyoto Imperial Palace are open to visitors but some others are still closed and only opened and used for enthronement ceremonies (When the Emperor changes). The Shishinden (紫宸殿, Hall for State Ceremonies) is the name of the area used for the enthronement ceremonies, this is how it looks like:

Notices the huge open gravel area in front of the hall, this empty space is designed based on the shinto tradition (Ise Shrine). Areas with “nothing” are as important as the buildings themselves. To access the hall, which is elevated over the ground (Emperors are supposed to be above things), there is a wooden staircase with 19 steps (Number of steps to go to heaven).

Also, notice the two trees on both sides of the staircase. The treen on the left is a cherry tree called “Sakon-no-sakura” , and the one on the right is a tachibana orange tree called “Ukon-no-tachibana”.

This is a different view of the Shishinden:

The current Kyoto Imperial Palace was built according to the original previous Heian Palace (Does not exist anymore), which at the same time was designed following the maps of Ise Shrine. Notice how in the previous Heian Palace, there was also place on both sides of the Shishinden staircase for the two trees.


The legend tells us that shortly after the Emperor Kanmu started living at the Imperial Palace (Heian Palace in those times: 781 until 806) he decided to plant a plum tree next to the Shishinden. When he died 40 years later, the next Emperor planted another tree. Later, on an occasion when the Emperor was giving a big banquet to his attendants he took flowers from the plum tree and with them he decorated the hair of the crown prince. With the passing time these trees became sacred and when they died of age they were always replanted in the same location.

Even though the city has been destroyed and rebuilt several times there has been a constant in Kyoto over the centuries: there has always been a plum tree in the spot that was first selected by Emperor Kanmu.

Recommended visit time: half a day, or even a whole day. A good idea is to eat picnic in the garden area, during the sakura bloom time it is beautiful. Together with the Imperial Palace there other 3 imperial properties Kyoto: the Katsura Rikyu, the Sento Gosho, and the Shugaku-in Rikyu. To visit all of them you might need up to two days.

Admission fee: free.

Open: from 9AM until 5PM.