This Week In Japan: Social Distancing Gaming and Stimulus Packages

Following the national declaration of a state of emergency, persistent pachinko players and imaginative creators are responding differently to the news.

April 25, 2020

A new game based on Japan`s social distancing campaign is all the rage right now, but is it motivating people to stay indoors or just providing more memes?

1. Play as Governor Koike in 密 (Mitsu) The Game

Following Tokyo Governor Koike`s proclamation on following the 三密, or the san-mitsu, which strongly encourage people to avoid crowds, close quarters, and face-to-face communication, several flash games have sprung up. These games have you play as the governor herself going around to crowds and separating them with your special power and shouting “密です” which means it`s crowded. Not only are these games quite hilarious, but also a fun and positive way to spread the message of avoiding crowds.

Abe Shinzo makes an appearance to reward you with 2 masks

The first game, in particular, is unexpectedly littered with details about the Japanese government`s corona virus measurements. While playing as Governor Koike, your lives are represented by 5 masks. Once the levels increase, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo will occasionally appear with two masks, representing his two-mask plan to help citizens, and will reward you with 2 lives if you run into him. There are also power ups like a piece of wagyu beef, a reference to the rumor that the government will distribute a wagyu beef voucher to citizens instead of money. The other flash game is the same concept except it`s in 3D, taking place in a crowded city setting. Also, in this game Koike has gained the power of flight and flies across town stopping crowds with her powers. The games have been rapidly spreading around the internet, much to the surprise of the game’s own creators.   

3D-version of the popular Mitsu-desu Game
Yuriko Koike flying around the City (3D-version of the Mitsu-desu Game)

2. Government Declares Nation-wide State of Emergency

After an initial state of emergency announcement covering six prefectures, Japan has now declared a state of emergency nationwide. The increase to all prefectures was announced after continuous rises in the number of corona outbreaks. Tokyo and Hokkaido have seen significant spikes in cases. As with the previous state of emergency, no lock down procedures are in effect. However, there is encouragement to avoid going out except when necessary and to telework if possible.  With the approach of one of Japan`s biggest holidays, golden week, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo hopes to reduce the outside movement of people as much as possible. Golden week is one of the most popular times for tourism and travel plans can often be set up to a year in advance. Foreign tourism in Japan has already been reduced by over 90% due to strict immigration sanctions by the government. The official announcement from the government and pressure from the media will hopefully be enough for people to cancel their trips. The declaration is currently in place until just after golden week, May 6th, but whether it is extended or not remains to be seen.

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo delivers an announcement while wearing a small mask

3. Abe Shinzo and his 10man Plan

In the past weeks, rumors and discussions about a stimulus package to citizens have been building. Last week, it was finally announced that every citizen in the country would be receiving 10-man or 100,000 Yen to aid in combating Corona. This is a change to the previous discussion of a 300,000 Yen stimulus package for only families that had lost income due to Corona. Finance Minister Taro Aso has stated that the sooner this 100,000 Yen stimulus can get out to citizens, the better. That being said, exact details of when this stimulus will be available, where to apply for it, and how to apply for it are all still unannounced.

Furthermore, the statement that “all citizens” would receive the stimulus has led to a lot of debate on what counts as a citizen. Many foreigners, tax-paying residents are unclear whether they will be able to qualify for this stimulus. In the past, foreign residents have been allocated stimulus during emergencies such as the financial crisis of 2008. This stimulus is following up the initial package of 2 cloth masks, many of which are just now being received by residents. The 2 masks package stimulus received criticism after the exorbitant cost of around 46.6 billion Yen to prepare and disperse them was revealed. There is speculation that Abe`s announcement of the 100,000 Yen plan was heavily influenced by outside pressure to provide direct economic relief.

Saitama in the middle of the Heroes with his signature yellow suit and bald head

4. Popular Anime Series One Punch Man is Potentially Getting a Hollywood Movie

A live-action movie of the mega-hit manga and anime series, One Punch Man, is currently under development at Sony Pictures. The same team behind Sony hits such as “Venom” and “Jumanji” are planned to write the script. One-Punch Man was originally created as a webcomic in 2009 by the artist ONE. The story follows the hero Saitama as he aims to become a better hero while also searching for a worthy battle to cure his boredom. Unfortunately for him, he ends every confrontation with simply one punch. The series received an anime adaptation in 2015 by studio Madhouse which gave it much more exposure to western audiences. If the project moves forward, producers say they wish to adapt the story of the manga, which is currently being redrawn and published by the mangaka Yusuke Murata. Many fans are expressing doubts about a Hollywood anime adaptation of the story, heavily citing past flops such as the infamous Dragon Ball: Evolution.

A lone pachinko player continues to play during a nationwide state of emergency

5. Pachinko Industry Under Fire

The pachinko industry is facing criticism after choosing to keep its doors open for customers during the nationwide state of emergency. Pachinko parlors are usually very loud, smoke-filled rooms that are closely packed with people trying to hit their pachinko jackpot. These are not the ideal conditions to be in during an epidemic. One potential reason that pachinko is refusing to close at this time could be to keep customers addicted.

While it may not be as straightforward as a casino, pachinko parlors can be as addicting as any other form of gambling. Pachinko dependency in Japan has become a severe problem in recent years, with people wasting fortunes away to try and hit it big one time. If pachinko parlors were to shut down for an extended period, frequent customers would be forced to break their habits and learn to adjust without visiting pachinko. In an attempt to counteract a lack of cooperation, the government is threatening to shame pachinko companies that decide to stay open by name. However, it is unsure whether or not doing so will make addicted customers stop visiting.

Hosts of Ryu Tokyo Podcast

Julian Domanski: Born in England, Julian is a writer, videographer & musician living in Tokyo. When he’s not drinking copious amounts of English Tea, he can be found studying Japanese or trying to master the surprisingly complex basics of the Jiuta Shamisen.


Yasuharu Matsuno: Founder of Ryu Tokyo. Japanese-born entrepreneur. Yasu spent his life around the globe – Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, Australia, and the U.S. He hopes he had more time to play Japanese RPGs. MBA from Columbia University in the City of New York.

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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