“Killed by politics” blares a full-page ad in a Japanese newspaper. Concern in Japan is growing. The nation’s citizens worry the government is forcing them to endure the pandemic without needed vaccines—just as the Tokyo Olympic Games are ramping up.
More than 300,000 people have signed a petition calling for canceling the Tokyo Olympics. The petition urges the government to spend the money for the games on people in need of support because of the pandemic instead.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has angered and confused the public by repeatedly vowing that the Olympics will be safe. To most Japanese, his words ring hollow.
Japan has lagged far behind other advanced countries in vaccinations. Only one percent of the public has been fully vaccinated. Yet millions of doses sit unused in freezers. Officials blame a lack of supplies imported from Europe. But health professionals say progress is slow because of staff shortages.
Just yesterday, Japan’s government extended a state of emergency to even more places in the country. Some hospitals are struggling to find beds for the sick and dying.
There is deepening resentment over Suga’s request for people to endure more emergency virus measures amid increased planning for the resource-draining Olympics, set to start on July 23.
Public frustration has even targeted Japanese swimming star Rikako Ikee. Ikee won a spot at the Tokyo Olympics after recovering from leukemia. She tweeted recently that she has received messages that “pained her heart” by urging her to oppose the Olympics and not attend.
Last month, Suga declared a third state of emergency in Osaka, the center of the current surge in virus cases. Tokyo and two other areas also came under the emergency announcement. Those measures have been extended through May 31. Yesterday, Suga placed two more areas under emergency measures.
“No vaccine. No medication. Are we supposed to fight with bamboo spears? We’ll be killed by politics if things remain unchanged,” say the two-page advertisement. The image shows a red coronavirus particle imposed over a World War II-era photo of Japanese children practicing to fight with naginata, sword-shaped sticks.
The ad caused a stir on social media. It urged the public to demand that the government end feeble coronavirus measures. “We have been deceived. What was the past year for?” it read.
A Japanese publishing company took out the ad. The ad went on to say that many Japanese people have faced medical and financial problems with little government support. It claimed the situation resembles Japan near the end of the war. At that time, the government urged people to fight with sticks and mobilized schoolgirls to train. The government of imperial Japan also incorporated visual art as propaganda—hiring some of Japan’s finest artists to craft the nationalistic imagery that rallied citizens around the island country’s attack against the United States. After the war-ending bombings of Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a younger generation of Japanese citizens began to mistrust their government. They blamed their leaders and elders for taking the country into such destruction.
Japanese citizens today may be questioning their leadership with that history in their memory. Many were interested in a recent session of parliament. During one meeting, scores of lawmakers asked Suga how he could guarantee a safe Olympics during an expanded state of emergency.
Suga didn’t answer directly. Instead, he has claimed over and over that he is committed to holding the games in Japan safely and to protecting people’s lives and health.
As videos of Suga’s remarks appeared on social media, people posted comments of their own. One was particularly telling. It read: “The prime minister is broken.”
What does the Bible say is God’s opinion of a leader who doesn’t take care of his or her people? Do you think Suga is leading with righteousness or not?
When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan. —Proverbs 29:2
(People walk past posters promoting the delayed Olympic Games, now scheduled to start this summer in Tokyo. AP/Koji Sasahara)