Tag Archives: Tokyo

How Tokyo’s voluntary lockdown averted a massacre in one of the world’s most crowded cities

Credit: Pixabay.

No one in the world happily complied with stay at home orders and restrictions, but we had to. If not out of ethical and medical considerations, lockdown breaches in most countries resulted in legal penalties. But like in many other things, the people’s behaviour in Japan’s response to the pandemic has been radically different.

Despite the fact that the Japanese government only issued recommendations and requests for cooperation in social distancing measures with no penalty if such guidelines weren’t followed, most of its citizens voluntarily followed them. As a result, the country is one of the most sheltered countries from the pandemic even though it is notoriously crowded. According to a new study that examined mobility data, Tokyo came to a grinding halt shortly after the state of emergency was announced.

“Using anonymized data that represented about 2% of the population, we could compute human movement and contact rates at a 100-meter grid-cell scale,” said study first author Takahiro Yabe of The University of Tokyo. “We found that 1 week into the state of emergency, human mobility reduced by 50%, which led to a 70% drop in social contacts.”

While some have even staged anti-lockdown protests in Western countries, furious that their civil liberties were being challenged by an invisible virus, those in Japan willingly followed their government’s pleas to stay indoors as much as possible in order to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Unlike other countries, Japan’s constitution makes it impossible for authorities to enact the same kind of draconian measures. Lucky for them, they didn’t need to impose any penalties to convince their citizens to follow the stay-at-home orders.

For their study, the researchers analyzed location data from more than 200,000 phones, which enabled them to plot human movement in Tokyo before and during the state of emergency. Japan declared its state of emergency on April 7, which involved requests to close businesses and work from home. Additionally, aggressive travel entry restrictions were introduced.

The data spanning January to April revealed a dramatic reduction in mobility in Tokyo. For instance,  Shinjuku Station, the world’s busiest train station, had up to 87% fewer visits at the height of the state of emergency compared to pre-crisis levels. Overall, the study reported a 50% reduction in mobility and an 80% reduction in social contact. Those who earned more income tended to reduce social interaction more and, thus, lower their chance of COVID-19 transmission, the researchers found after they combined the mobility data with socio-economic data.

These findings explain how Japan, a country with a population numbering over 126 million, had only a couple hundred cases in April, which trailed down to a handful per day in May. As of this month, Japan is on an upward trend of COVID-19 cases, reaching 9,314 cases over the past two weeks. That’s still very manageable and doesn’t even compare to the 1.172.536 cases in the U.S. over the same period.

“With a noncompulsory and nonpharmaceutical intervention, Tokyo had to rely on citizens’ cooperation. Our study shows they cooperated by limiting their movement and contact, subsequently limiting infections,” study co-author Yoshihide Sekimoto explains. “These findings offer insights that policymakers can apply when estimating necessary movement restrictions.”

The findings appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.

This is Tomatan, and he will power you through a marathon — with tomatoes

Ever felt like there was something missing while you go for a jog? Like an unsatisfied yearning, a hungering left unanswered?

If you did, you’re not alone. Japanese vegetable juice company Kagome thinks they have the answer in the shape of a wearable robot that feeds you tomatoes while you run. Weighing in at 18 pounds / 8kg, Tomatan can be worn as a tomato-headed-backpack.

At the flip of a switch Tomatan will grab a tomato with its metal arms then swing them over your head and feed the juicy treat to you. Japan-based artistic studios Maywa Denki, well known for their unusual musical instruments and other devices, designed the robot — and an inexplicably large amount of the berries were involved in the process.

“We used about 100 tomatoes to complete this machine,” said Novmichi Tosa, one of the founders of Meiwa Denki. “We focused mostly on its visual design.”

Now, I really like Tomatan. It looks awesome and seems like a great conversation starter with the mademoiselles. But there is one thing that’s still beyond my grasp…Why? Why would anyone want to bite into a tomato while he’s running?

Awesome? Undoubtedly. Useful? Well, according to Kagome, which claims to be Japan’s largest supplier of ketchup and tomato juice, people taking part in the Tokyo marathon really need this.

“Tomatoes have lots of nutrition that combats fatigue,” said Kagome employee Shigenori Suzuki.

Suzuki intends to wear Tomatan on Saturday 21st, when he will be representing Kagome in the Tokyo Marathon. During the 5km long fun run, Tosa will be running beside him with tools just in case the robot needs fixing or Suzuki encounters a problem.

Then on Sunday 22 February during the full Tokyo Marathon, a professional runner from Kagome will take part using a lighter version of the tomato robot known as Petit-Tomatan.

Petit-Tomatan weighs just 3kg and features a mini tomato holster that is worn on the back.
Image via klepa.ru

As this robot is much smaller, the runner will need to hold a delivery tube up to their mouth through which the tomatoes will be delivered. Petit-Tomatan also features a timer so the runner isn’t fed too many tomatoes in one go.