David Murakami Wood Lecture: Japan & COVID-19

Queen's University, Contagion Culture Lecture Series

Mindo, Face-Masks and Fax Machines: Japan and COVID-19

David Murakami Wood
, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Queen's University

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In June 2020, the veteran right-wing Japanese government minister, Aso Taro, described the apparent success of the country in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as the result of mindo, a nationalist concept which refers to the supposedly unique characteristics of Japanese people and culture. David Murakami Wood will look at what has happened during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan, and the role of various possible explanations (political, medical, technological, soiocultural and biological) in accounting for Japan’s claimed success. He will argue Aso was able to make this (for him) conventionally outrageous claim largely because there is no generally plausible explanation for why Japan has ‘done well’ and certainly not the disorganized and unpopular approach of the government of which he is part. However, when one starts to examine whether in fact Japan has truly been successful, and particularly to ask the question, ‘success relative to where?’ a new and rather different set of issues emerge, which might be crucial to understanding the impact of COVID-19 around the world, and mindo can be consigned to the garbage.