Japan is now at war（戦争中、senso chu）.
The enemy is swine flu（新型インフルエンザ、shingata infuruenza）, and no measure or action taken is too great or out of proportion.
Just prior to departure for a short trip to the US in early May, the President of the university（大学、daigaku）where I work sent an email to all faculty and staff. It was clearly motivated by an administrative directive （行政指導、 gyosei shido）from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare （厚生労働省、Kousei Roudo Sho）in Tokyo.
The jist of the mail was: all business trips to North America are until further notice banned （禁止、kinshi）, and all personal trips should be done "with restraint"（自粛、jishuku）- which better translates as "do NOT go."
Over the past weekend there was an outbreak（発生、hassei）of the flu in the port city of Kobe. Students who have never been abroad were infected （感染、kansen）by other students who also had no experience of traveling overseas. Schools and universities in Kobe and parts of Osaka are now closed for the week.
On our arrival back in Japan last week, the pilot informed us mid-flight that we should stay seated after landing at Kansai International Airport while Japanese authorities carried out a quarantine inspection（検疫検査、ken eki kensa）to determine the temperature of every passenger on the plane.
This took roughly 90 minutes. A team of perhaps 10 entered the plane dressed in light blue hospital scrubs, surgical gloves, and plastic face masks.
They moved around the plane and took the temperature of each passenger by pointing a heat sensor at one's forehead, collecting a health form each passenger filled out, and then noting all of the data.
After we were all cleared and allowed to leave the plane, our first human contact in Japan was with yet another "official."
A tall man standing just outside the door of the plane in yellow hospital scrubs, surgical gloves, and a plastic face mask yelled at each departing passenger: "Hands!"
As you put out your hands, he then shot of a dab of disinfectant（消毒液、shodoku eki）onto each of our palms.
Then, behind him, a woman in a mask handed each of us a mask（マスク）, which we were to wear （着用、chakuyo).
The final hurdle was walking through the quarantine station and then on to immigration.
Welcome to Japan.
The media in Japan has worked itself into a frenzy over this, bordering both on hysteria and, at times, xenophobia. Both the print media and television news are running non-stop coverage of the crisis.
There are now lines at pharmacies （薬屋さん、kusuriya san）for masks, and shortages have been reported.
Japan is now in full panic mode （パニック状態、panikku jotai）.
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Thursday, May 21, 2009
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