'Japan is an interesting test case. The growth of new cases is far behind what it statistically should be. It’s widely believed that this is because the Abe government is behind the curve in testing (not as far as the U.S., but no industrialized nation is as far behind in testing as the U.S.) in order to depress numbers and try to save the Olympics (which are toast, IMO). Certainly possible and quite in-character. But the puzzling thing is that there’s been no huge spike in hospitalizations, which you’d expect if it were simply a matter of underreporting - especially since Japan has the largest elderly population in the first world per capita. Why is that?
The best guess right now is that the reason is that the Japanese are so good as following instructions. If you’ve spent any time here you know, it’s no myth - this is a society where service to the community over the individual is a religion and the people are literally obedient to a fault. It’s possible that the Japanese are so assiduously adhering to dictums about self-quarantine and limiting contact that they’re slowing the spread of COVID-19 dramatically. If that’s true (and there’s no way yet to know for sure) it’s evidence that containment measures other than Chinese-style lockdowns really do work. But only if people do their part as individuals.
Alternatively, it's possible that there actually is a surge in hospitalizations and deaths, but the government is covering it up. That would be totally consistent for Abe, but I'm skeptical they could pull that off. Or we could be on the verge of an explosion, just delayed for some (inexplicable, frankly) reason. Or there could be something totally different at work. But it's clear something odd is happening here, just not what it is.'
I think it is quite hard to cover up a large number of deaths, so I would think a high degree of compliance sounds more likely. It isn't going to happen like that here at this point, but maybe the lessons from other countries ahead of us on the curve will help. I'm sure there has been a reluctance to face up to widespread testing in many countries, but the Olympics is bound to be a massive headache.
I read somewhere that a postponement might be a solution. They have to use that infrastructure at some point.