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So I wasn't going to make a video on the coronavirus.
Given the situation is changing so fast, it can often be too hard to keep up with it.
But yesterday I noticed a worrying trend that, for me, became a bit of a turning point.
I was going to my local supermarket in search of some lentils and an apple,
and as I reached the front of the store, I noticed that every customer seemed to be desperately clutching on
to as many toilet rolls as they could carry.
And I quickly thought to myself, 'well, shit's going down'.
Now, I'd seen earlier in the morning that there was some serious panic-buying in Tokyo.
There'd been rumours that, as a result of Chinese factories being shut down because of the coronavirus,
toilet roll manufacturers weren't producing enough toilet roll and thus,
people were going out and buying as much as they could before it inevitably ran out.
Yet, as it was pointed out later on in the day, these fears were completely unfounded
given that most of Japan's toilet paper comes from Japan,
and members of Japan's toilet paper industry had to basically come out and say 'don't worry, there's toilet paper for everybody'.
But not before people at my local supermarket had run off with enough toilet rolls to build a small castle.
But for me, that was the turning point where I felt like, 'okay, maybe it's time to make a video on this',
because when you start to see people panic like that, inevitably you begin to panic as well,
and that sensation really sucks.
Now, I have been following the situation closely for the last two months, giving advice to a lot of worried travellers,
and there's been some ridiculous, crazy news stories from around the country as a result of the coronavirus,
from a ramen shop that banned foreigners entirely,
to even Mickey Mouse and Van Gogh's iconic Sunflower painting facing quarantine in Tokyo where it's currently on display.
So in this video, I wanted to give you a round up of all the things that are going on around Japan,
throw in my own personal experiences and observations,
and discuss if Japan is still safe to visit - or, is worth visiting - given the ongoing situation.
Now, for the longest time, even though Japan did have the second highest number of cases after China,
the situation did seem relatively stable.
Even though there are 862 cases, 691 of them, the vast majority, are on the boat ride from hell, the Diamond Princess,
which is quarantined in Yokohama Harbor.
One of the first noticeable differences was a massive drop in the number of tourists,
as a result of China banning group tours.
China makes up 30% of Japan's overseas tourists - a huge amount.
And I've been to Sapporo, Tokyo and Sendai in February, and in all of those cities, you could feel it.
You could feel there were less crowds and there were fewer tourists, particularly in Sapporo during the Sapporo Snow Festival.
Last year, they had 2.7 million attendees, this year that number was just 2 million.
So, a pretty substantial drop, and as a result the whole event didn't feel that busy.
Slightly ominously, in the hotel room that I was staying in, I saw a receipt poking out from under the bed
that clearly the cleaner had missed, which already was bad enough...
But I pulled out the receipt and it revealed that the last guest in the hotel room the night before
had, in fact, bought hand sanitiser, towels, cold and flu tablets, and masks,
and that wasn't particularly reassuring!
I didn't really wanna see that.
But just today, Hokkaido announced a public emergency due to 63 cases and 2 deaths.
And they're currently trying to encourage people to stay in and not go out, and basically just self-quarantine.
Meanwhile, in contrast to that, Kyoto, which is typically flooded with tourists throughout the year,
has seen such a spectacular drop in the number of overseas tourists that they've announced an 'empty tourism' campaign,
basically encouraging sightseers to come and enjoy the city while it's still rarely empty.
And for the first time in a long time, I'm actually thinking of going down there to wander around it and explore it
while there's not many people around.
Meanwhile, Disneyland and Universal Studios are closed until March 15th,
because nobody wants Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to contract the coronavirus.
Even Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflower painting, which is on loan from the National Gallery in London at the moment.
It's the first time it's left Europe ever.
It's currently quarantined in Tokyo for the next two weeks as all of Japan's national art museums are closed.
Just about the only good thing to have come from it so far has been people being more weary of personal hygiene -
washing their hands, wearing face masks, and just being more careful in public.
And it's said that this was a key factor in a 60% drop in the number of cases of influenza this year.
Last year, there were 129,000 cases, this year just 44,000,
a sign that people are changing their habits in the face of the coronavirus.
Still, fear does bring out the worst in people, and there was one disheartening story:
the case of a Tokyo ramen shop where the owner had banned all foreigners outright.
It became a Japanese-only ramen shop to protect the customers from catching the disease.
And ever-so-slightly ironic given the vast majority of cases on the Japanese mainland
are Japanese people.
It does set a worrying precedent - what if other shops and stores enact similar policies
to the point that foreigners just can't go out and eat ramen.
Thankfully, that won't happen, because most people
aren't fucking idiots.
Fortunately the ramen shop did receive a wave of criticism,
mostly from Japanese people who pointed out that viruses don't discriminate on race, so why are you?
And, of course, this is an isolated case which is why it did get so much traction in the media.
One of the most dramatic moves came last week when the Japanese government decided to close all schools across Japan.
Well, not technically close all schools, but advise schools to close, which is essentially the same thing.
It is really unfortunate timing as the Japanese academic year finishes in March
and thousands of students have their graduation ceremonies which is a really big moment in their lives - y'know, it's a really big milestone.
And now, all those events are cancelled.
But the biggest worry that overshadows everything and seems so unthinkable just saying it out loud feels like a crime,
it's basically Japan's answer to Voldemort,
is the potential cancellation of the 2020 Olympics.
6 months ago, if someone had suggested the Olympics wouldn't happen in 2020, they would've been laughed out the room.
Now, people are talking about it as a real possibility.
What's worse, is Japan has already cancelled a previous Olympics back in 1940
and you can probably work out why that happened.
But to cancel it would be a huge blow for Japan.
And while I'm not a fan of the Olympics, or sports,
or just the concept of having fun in general,
for 7 years now I've watched the country become consumed with excitement and enthusiasm and anticipation,
especially after the hugely-successful Rugby World Cup last year.
Billions had been spent, the planning has been colossal, and cancelling it all just so suddenly would not only blow a hole through the economy,
but also just a devastating blow for the national spirit, I think.
Y'know, Japan is very good at overcoming the many disasters that gets thrown at it,
whether it's a tsunami, earthquake, nuclear disaster, a typhoon - I mean, just next week is the anniversary of the Tohoku tsunami.
But to cancel the Olympics would be a huge blow, and I really hope that that doesn't have to happen.
I really hope the situation improves in the coming weeks and months.
So to those of you visiting Japan or considering visiting this year, should you cancel your trip or should you postpone it?
Right now, as of today, on the Japanese mainland, there are 157 confirmed cases,
which is a tiny proportion of the population, given there's 126 million people.
And you can look at that in one of two ways: wow, that's a lot of potential people that could get infected,
or wow, that's a really small proportion of 126 million people.
Though it is important to point out the actual number of unconfirmed cases is probably a lot higher than that.
For me personally, I'll just be travelling around in March as per usual between Tokyo and Sendai.
I'll be washing my hands, being a bit more careful.
I can't say I'm gonna wear a face mask because I don't see how this is gonna stop a 200 nanometre virus from getting through it.
Though if I do contract the coronavirus then I will be wearing one, like this.
Fun fact: this is the first time I've ever worn a face mask
and...
I don't like it.
My students - when I was a teacher, my students used to wear this even when they weren't sick.
Just because they could kind of keep hidden and keep, kind of, away from answering questions.
So they're a big fan of these masks to be honest.
I think the main risk in coming to Japan isn't necessarily catching the coronavirus,
but being potentially quarantined when you return back to your home country.
At this moment in time, I don't know of any countries that are doing that, but obviously,
if the situation gets worse then that might become a thing and you might have to be in a room.
You'll have to assess that on your own personal situation.
But at this moment in time, Japan has a level 2 warning from the Centre for Disease Control in the US
which means practice enhanced precautions, which is a step below South Korea and China where it's a level 3
where people are being told to avoid non-essential travel.
I've actually got 5 unrelated friends all coming to Japan in April from the UK,
and at this moment in time, none of them have cancelled their trips.
On the contrary, many of them are excited by the prospect of cheaper air fares, cheaper hotels, and a more relaxed atmosphere,
because there's just fewer tourists in general at the moment.
But obviously, if there is a spike in the number of cases in the coming weeks, then I may urge them to reconsider it.
It's something I'll be monitoring and following along closely.
As for the disease itself, I've read mixed reports - some say there's a mortality rate of 1%, some say it's 2%
but obviously if you factor in the global population, that is still quite a large number.
And if you have elderly relatives in particular, it's a little bit worrying,
and my thoughts go out to everyone who's actually been affected by the virus or lost any loved ones or relatives.
However, it seems likely that the worst effect for most of us will just be a combination of inconvenience and fear,
and we can only hope as the temperatures warm up and winter becomes spring,
that the number of cases begins to drop - that's what I'm hoping for.
Until then though, I'm gonna start work on my toilet roll castle.
While I intend to wait for all of this to blow over.
I will be posting more updates on Facebook and Twitter which you can find in the description box below,
but for now guys, as always, many thanks for watching.
I'll see you next time.
Right!
Time to get on with this toilet roll castle.
I think we're gonna need more toilet rolls.
See, if I was a good Youtuber, I would actually build a toilet roll castle,
but instead, because I'm not a good Youtuber,
I'm just gonna pretend like I am.
Genius!
... Maybe it can go higher.
Let's see...
if it...- no.
That's- That's it.
That's where the fun ends.
... Wait a minute.
[Chris sings the James Bond theme]
... Yeah, I need to get out more.