A Wii Bit of Trouble as the Swine Flu Engulfs Kyoto
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The swine-flu hysteria that's gripped the world of late came to Japan a week or so ago. A few days ago, thousands of schools in Kobe (two hours away), Osaka (an hour away), and Shiga (just over the mountains) were closed, and last night at 10:30, we got a message from Anthony's school that they, too, would close today. It seems a 10-year-old at another school in Kyoto got the flu.

This morning, we got word that Anthony's school would be closed for the next week, as are all schools in Kyoto.

I can understand not wanting to spread the flu, but I don't understand why this strain is accompanied by such hysteria. Consider this story about the first three cases in Japan, which talked about the devastating effects of the swine flu:

The teacher had a fever as high as 38.6 degrees [100.5F] and the students had temperatures of 36.6 [97.9F] and 37.1 [98.8F].

A temperature of 100.5F?! Oh my! (rolls eyes). They're being held in quarantine for 10 days.

100.5F is at the edge of what I'd consider a fever, but the other two are perfectly normal temperatures. Americans learn “body temperature is 98.6F” (37.0C), but Japanese tend to think a bit lower is normal. Maybe it's that in Japan, it's much more common to take one's temperature with the thermometer under the arm-pit, and that gives a lower reading? In any case, 97.9F and 98.8F are certainly not fevers... unless you're in the midst of hysteria.

When other schools closed in those other cities earlier in the week, the kids just went to their local parks and such to play, sort of defeating the intended “keep isolated” purpose of having closed the schools in the first place, so the Kyoto school closures came with the admonishment not to do that.

So, with the prospect of Anthony being cooped up for the next week, Fumie had the idea to get a Nintendo Wii, something she'd thought about for a while. Antiseptic wipes in hand, I donned a face mask and went out and got one. (Thanks so much to those who sent a gift for my Lightroom plugin development this month, for helping to finance this 🙂 )

I also got two games for it, Wii Music (where you can pretend to be a music conductor), and, because I mis-remembered Fumie's request for a different game, Pikmin.

I got it home, and, well, it was a disaster. Perhaps this is why I'd never before bought a game console, but trying Wii Music felt like pulling teeth. Maybe I misread the Japanese and accidentally put it into “asinine mode” or something, but I found it ludicrously stupid and tedious. It was very frustrating.

I'm tempted to equate the hype that's surrounded the Wii along side that which surrounds the swine flu, but it's not fair to pass judgement so quickly, so I'll get the English manuals for the Wii games and give them another try. But my, how depressing. When video games first came out, you plugged them into the TV, turned them on, and played. When did they start to require hours of moronic setup, and cease to be fun? Sigh.

All 11 comments so far, oldest first...

When it just first started, there was some justification for the reaction to swine flu. Most flu seasons are caused by a virus that are slight variations on the prior years flu – so people have some amount of immunological resistance to it. About every 20 years or so, there is a “flu shift” – a brand new strain not related to the previous one, and that’s almost always a bad flu year as more people get it and react more severely. Then IT is the prevailing flu virus for the next 20 years or so, until the next shift.

The hysteria about swine flu is that it looked – under microscope I guess – quite similar to the horrendous flu strain shift that devastated the world in 1918. That one killed phenominal numbers of otherwise healthy young adults – not just the weak, very old, and very young like most flu strains.

With that as a possible threat, it would have been irresponsible to NOT take precautions.

But very luckily, it has turned out NOT to be particularly severe at all – actually rather mild as flu strains go. Thank goodness.

But once started, it seems that hysteria is apparently hard to stop. Especially when bureaucracies are involved. Oh well. It will pass. Tell Anthony to enjoy his extra vacation!

As for the Wii – good luck. It’s fun once you figure it out. Or maybe you can find an old Atari on Ebay. Missile Command, anyone? 🙂

— comment by Marcina, USA on May 22nd, 2009 at 9:56pm JST (14 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

You’re right on the swine flu nonsense….here in Boston there are still schools closed (and of course the teachers and bureaucrats are agitating to make sure they don’t have to extend the school year to make up the lost time even though the school year and day are already very short as compared to the rest of the world.)

As to the Wii, give it a chance. Its significance is that it is the first console to get people up off the couch and involved. My 59 year old wife who has never even thought about games before is hooked on bowling; I’ll be just waking up and bleary eyed before coffee and she’ll ask me if I want to bowl. When the kids visit we have great family time playing it. Don’t choose games only like you would for a traditional console. I work with hospitals and they are having great success using them in physical therapy. Nursing homes are finding them to be an effective way to get old folks to start moving as well. I think you will like it once you get it going.

— comment by hm on May 22nd, 2009 at 10:54pm JST (14 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

Craziness indeed. They closed down my daughter’s Denver area school for a week too a few weeks ago because there was one boy who had it. He recovered completely and never had more than mild flu symptoms. Luckily the bureaucrats had the wherewithal to reopen early when this became clear.

— comment by Jao on May 22nd, 2009 at 11:44pm JST (14 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

I am glad you are talking about this issue. I read some stories of people in Mexico who had it and it was terrifying to read. I read it on major news website so it should have some credibility. I also read about cases that were mild as well. We have a vacation planned to San Diego next week with 2 kids under the age 6 and are really wondering if we should just cancel or go. Anyone in or around San Diego area would like to help with our decision?
Thanks in advance!

P.S. I love your private island pictures. It is amazing that you discover such wonderful places to go and explore. What a unique experience for Anthony.

— comment by Sonal, MN on May 23rd, 2009 at 1:08am JST (14 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

It’s funny, in the US the swine flu hype peaked about two weeks ago but seems like now the mass media machine has moved on… I’ve never played Wii Music and don’t own a Wii myself (although I’m sure when our 5-month old is older that will change) but I know my neice and nephew loved playing Wii Sports at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, I only played it once but bowling and downhill skiing were pretty fun and were easy to play. I’m definitely also a fan of games that don’t require a manual to play, like Pong or Donkey Kong back in the day…

— comment by Brian on May 23rd, 2009 at 1:21am JST (14 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

My mother, brothers and all realtives live in Mexico, and they say that people there are returning to normal life and not more hysteria about the Flu. I am very paranoid about health issues so still affraid of get it. But I feel better after the comment of Marcina.

Griselda Nishikatsu, Arlington,TX

— comment by Griselda Nishikatsu on May 23rd, 2009 at 2:23pm JST (14 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

My wife is planning to travbel back to japan soon for a 法事family and at first she was told by her mother, first, not to come, and now, if she comes, to stay away from the house she grew up in for a week, which by then the 法事 will have been held. A friend of hers also planning to go to back to Japan, has been told by her family don’t come period. Neither of them exhibits ANY symptoms of the flu.

This sort of deer-on-the-headlights ‘intellect’ is enough to make me want to kick something very hard.

— comment by Bob on May 23rd, 2009 at 9:31pm JST (14 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

Bob, that’s very sad! Are you saying their own family is rejecting them because of some benign disease outbreak elsewhere in the world? I’m not sure who are the sick ones here. Crazy stuff.

I say, bring it on! It’s part of building and maintaining a strong immune system. You’ve got to expose yourself a little from time to time. Eating rotten food, drinking sewage water. That’s all good for you. I’m never ever ever sick because I don’t mind hanging out with sick people and having a little mold in my bread.

— comment by Nibar on May 24th, 2009 at 5:56am JST (14 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

Well, with moldy bread at least you’re not going to have too much of a problem with bacterial diseases…

— comment by Sean on May 24th, 2009 at 2:19pm JST (14 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

To Nibar:

Yes, that is exactly what has happened! She’s been turned away by her own family!!!
This leaves her pretty much marooned in the country of her birth. Further, from what information she has gleaned from her friends there, there is a good possibility she may be refused a room at a hotel, etc., simply because she has come from North America.
Japan believes itself to be a先進国, but this mass hysteria demonstrates that it is still a 後進国.

— comment by Bob on May 24th, 2009 at 9:08pm JST (14 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

Don’t judge video games or the Wii based on Wii music. Although it has received a lot of hype in Japan (or so I’ve been told), everyone in the USA has written it off. Fun games for someone Anthony’s age would include the Mario Party series. The Wii runs gamecube games, so you could get the old ones too. Mario Galaxy is pretty good too. Finally, the Wario game is pretty fun – but you have to figure out how to win each game while you play it – there are no instructions in or out of game.

— comment by Eric Mesa on May 26th, 2009 at 10:40pm JST (14 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink
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