This Week In Japan: Video Games Sales Explode While Corona Controversies Rise

A weekly digest of the trending news in Japan. This week, the gaming industry sees two games open to massive success, and once again corona affects both politics and businesses.

April 18, 2020

1. FFVII Finally Released

After years of teaser trailers, setbacks, and false rumors, the remake of Final Fantasy 7 has finally been released for the PlayStation 4. The game’s original release all the way back in 1997 blew audiences away with the use of 3D models used over 2D backgrounds, a technology that had never been used before in video games. These cutting-edge graphics mixed with a captivating original story created a timeless classic. However, this new remake is on track to be just as successful as it’s predecessor.

FFVII Cover comparison
Cover comparison of both the original 1997 game and the remake.

Completely recreated from the ground up, Final Fantasy 7 Remake features a beautiful remastered OST, hours of new story which delves deeper into the world and characters than ever before and a new and engaging combat system that allows players to take part in the action directly. This remake is the first of several that will split the original story into different parts. This allows a fresh and new experience to be had even by veterans of the series. Unfortunately, it seems there will be quite a wait in-between part releases.

2. Animal Crossing Breaks Records

The latest entry in the popular Animal Crossing game series, New Horizons, has broken Nintendo Switch sales records, selling over 1.88 million copies in the first three days, making it the fastest-selling Nintendo Switch game in Japan to date. The explosive success can be accredited to the unique style of the game, which is centered around the player’s peaceful and relaxing days as they grow their village.

Tasks like bug catching or fishing are as intense as the game gets, and each villager has their quirky personality that comes out the more you get to know them.  It ends up being a perfect counter to the stress and uncertainty many people are currently feeling—the recent trends of self-isolation and staying home further complimented the timing of this game’s release.

Animal Crossing: New Horizon
Animal Crossing

3. The Problem with Hanko

In Japanese society, using a hanko, a stamp or seal used to represent a signature, is as ingrained into culture as bowing or using chopsticks. No official document gets turned in without the hanko seal, usually several, of approval. On any given day, a single person could stamp dozens if not hundreds of documents with their personalized hanko. Recently, Japanese businesspeople are expressing how they desire to want to work from home and avoid public commutes but claim they cannot due to their hanko responsibilities.

The majority of documents also requiring the hanko of several higher-ups in ascending order makes it even easier to justify going to work. However, the fact that digital hankos exist and can be stamped onto digital files as needed raises obvious doubts about the need for direct stamping. The main question posed here is whether business people genuinely feel that they cannot forgo stamping documents, even during a state of emergency, or whether this is simply an excuse for some to continue working.

Japanese Hanko
Japanese hanko are special seals used as signatures.

4. Abe Shinzo Video Controversy

Amid the Corona virus panic, particularly over the past several weeks, Japan prime minister Abe Shinzo has seen a fair share of mixed reactions to his handling of the situation. However, his recent video might have landed him in his most controversial spotlight to date.

Last week, Abe Shinzo posted a twitter video with Japanese pop star Hoshino Gen. Gen sang and played guitar in the video alongside Abe as he expressed the struggles of not being able to go outside or see his friends. His video essentially showed him at home, hanging out with his dog and drinking tea. Abe stated that by staying home, we are helping to save lives and ease the burden on the medical staff. His intent to promote self-isolation seemed apparent, but many Twitter users were quick to point out flaws in the video. 

Abe Shinzo Instagram post
Prime minister Abe Shinzo`s video post.

The reason for the public outcry was mainly cited as a lack of understanding from Abe himself. A vast majority of people are still being required to go to work to make a living, despite the growing corona numbers. While people risk their health and lives to fight through the corona, life-saving decisions like implementation of a national stipend to support those who have lost their income or to aid struggling small businesses seem to be lost in political limbo. While the population is getting restless for decisions to be made, and emotional appeal video of this kind, which seemed to lack any sense of urgency, was the perfect recipe for the media explosion that followed.

A Twitter poll with over 85,000 votes, with over 70% of responses being critical of Abe Shinzo`s video.

In an astonishing twitter poll, over 85,000 people cast their opinion as to how they felt after watching this video.  The question itself, “Are there people who watch this and feel `The prime minister is doing his best. We should too`?” received 42% of votes for the answer, “I thought `are you kidding me.`” Around 28% agreed with the message and felt that they should do their best after watching the video. The remaining 29% said that they were amazed that the stupid aide (Abe) again encouraged them not to fall during these times.

5. Construction Industry Faces Harsh Reactions Following Employee’s Death

Shimizu Kensetsu, one of the five major construction companies in Japan, announced an immediate stop to all construction projects from April 13th following a corona outbreak of 3 employees, and even one worker death due to the virus. The employee had come to work for four days straight with a fever and symptoms of the virus. Even with the stopping of all projects, the company is already facing backlash for lack of proper treatment of employees.

Not only did the company itself receive a five percent drop in stocks following the announcement, but the construction industry as a whole also fell in stocks. Private companies are now being criticized for lack of responsibility concerning employee health. Another concern is the speed of available testing in Japan. If tests are not readily available for those who show symptoms, even companies who are accurately monitoring their employees will not be able to prevent outbreaks. In the meantime, over 2,000 employees of Shimizu Kensetsu are being sent home for a month.

Christian Dakin

Christian Dakin is an editor, designer, and video game director currently based out of Tokyo, Japan. Originally from a small town in Georgia, he studied in Japan for a year in college before returning again for work. Christian enjoys studying Japanese and the outdoors. In his off time, he is most likely to be found adventuring to a castle, belting it out in karaoke with friends, or in a gym somewhere.

More articles by Christian Dakin

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