2020 has been an unusual year for the world due to the COVID-19 crisis. Dealing with the pandemic-related changes has been an added challenge for the 2,800,000 foreigners living in Japan.
In this section of the Agenda, we look at Japan’s efforts to make overseas visitors and residents feel safe and supported during this pandemic, both medically and in their daily lives. We’re also talking to some people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Frederic Madelaine is a pastry chef and CEO of ‘Le Pommier’ bakery. He has been living in Japan for the past 20 years. In the Spring of 2020, he became very ill with the virus.
Pastry chef and CEO of ‘Le Pommier’ bakery Frederic Madelaine has lived in Japan for the past 20 years. In the Spring of 2020, he became very ill with the virus.
He was sent to a military hospital, where he was put in a negative pressure chamber isolated from the rest of the world.
Despite the serious nature of her condition, Madelaine says she was well received.
“There was no discrimination at all. We were all equal,” he adds.
Fortunately, Frederic is now in full health. He is happy to be back in business with his employees and reunited with loyal customers.
When a patient in Japan is diagnosed with COVID-19 and needs to be hospitalized, he must first find a clinic or hospital. A Japanese organization called AMDA International Center for Medical Information assists foreigners in this process.
The center’s director, Kobayashi Yoneyuki, explains how this happened:
“When this coronavirus started (…) we received quite a few calls from foreigners.
“The president of the Japanese Medical Association decided to give us three million yen, and we used that amount to hire an interpreter to advise foreigners who call us.”
Japan’s healthcare system is highly rated, and the country has one of the highest life expectancy in the world. The number of COVID-19 deaths and infections is currently much lower in Japan than in many other advanced economies.
Another medical facility that helps both locals and foreign nationals is Tokyo Medical and Dentistry University Hospital. One of its main measures was to establish a special and separate section for the treatment of patients with COVID-19.
Its manager, Okada Takuya, says it’s particularly helpful to foreign nationals, with staff mostly fluent in English. However, they also have a technological solution for non-Japanese patients who do not speak English; tablets with translation systems.
But it’s not just about getting medical treatment. The consequences of any illness can make patients feel isolated and alone. The hospital also takes measures to help their psychological well-being.
Beyond health concerns, 2020 has been a difficult year for the world economy. Many countries have seen an increase in unemployment due to the pandemic.
Gowell Township in Tokyo is an area managed by an employment agency that matches foreign job seekers with Japanese employers. Thanks to them, Levi Brunner, an American citizen, got a job working in a Japanese municipality. The agency helped him fill out the paperwork and understand the visa process. His new found job is at the Yugawara Tourism Association.
2020 has also been an unusual year for foreign students as classes move online and social restrictions are imposed. However, as International Relations and Political Science student Mariam Sessi explains, Japanese universities stepped in and provided material and moral support:
“The school kept checking on us. Every now and then they sent us a Google form to fill in how we felt, what the lessons were like if there was anything they could help with.
Denis Iliushenkov is a student at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. He says he is still receiving Japanese government scholarships when he applies and receives for further support available to international and national students.
Japan may not have been as affected by the COVID-19 outbreak as other countries, but it is doing its best to provide the best assistance to foreign nationals in our strange times.