Readers’ Top 10 News Picks Illustrate Impact of Pandemic on Japan Society

The coronavirus pandemic has shaken Japanese society from its foundations. The top 10 domestic news events chosen for 2020 by Yomiuri Shimbun readers clearly show the scale of the shock and the influence of the spread of the infectious disease.

The highest-ranked event was “the spread of the novel coronavirus and the government’s declaration of a state of emergency.” In response to the government’s requests to refrain from going out, many members of the public have implemented a “new way of living” in which they wear masks and avoid crowded situations. Dining establishments and other businesses have shortened their operating hours, while companies have expanded staggered commuting hours and teleworking.

“Requests to close elementary, junior high and high schools nationwide” (ranked seventh) were made in late February before the government’s declaration of a state of emergency. The school closures continued for up to three months, and universities have been forced to provide remote teaching to students.

Amid an uncertain future, everyone thought of their loved ones and endured hardships. Many people may have felt the seriousness of the situation when they learned the sad news about the “deaths of celebrities such as comedian Ken Shimura one after another” (ranked fifth).

It was regrettable that a lack of cooperation between the central and local governments has caused confusion over requests for businesses to suspend their operations and delays in paying benefits and other support money. Relevant organizations are urged to closely cooperate with each other to protect the lives and livelihoods of the people by breaking down bureaucratic sectionalism among them.

There was a sudden change in leadership at a time when political leadership was sorely needed. “The announcement that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would resign from his post” ranked fourth and “the advent of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga” was third.

Suga, who took office in September, seemed to have started smoothly, but has been criticized for his lack of explanation about his refusal to appoint new candidate members recommended by the Science Council of Japan and a delay in deciding on the suspension of the Go To Travel tourism promotion campaign. The approval rating of his Cabinet, which was the third-highest in the all-time ratings when he took office, has been plummeting.

The prime minister cannot overcome this ordeal without the trust of the people. He must listen even to critical opinions and take the initiative in dealing with the coronavirus crisis.

“Postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics” came in second and “the cancellation of national high school baseball tournaments in spring and summer” was eighth. Various other competitions, both professional and amateur, have been forced to be postponed or canceled.

Sports move people and give them energy for life. It is hoped that the knowledge and measures that professional baseball teams and J.League professional soccer clubs have accumulated to prevent the spread of the coronavirus will be shared, and that such efforts will lead to the holding of the Olympics.

Amid a sense of stagnation, there were bright topics. “The great success of the anime film ‘Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba’” ranked sixth. This seems to be proof that many people have yearned for a daily life in which they could enjoy events.

“Sota Fujii, a seventh-dan shogi professional, becomes the youngest title holder” ranked ninth. The accomplishment of the 17-year-old high school student gave people hope.

Vaccinations are scheduled to start early next year, but the situation will remain critical for the time being. It is vital to take every possible step to support medical services and overcome the difficulties.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 22, 2020.