April in Japan is beautiful. The weather has been nice, save for a few rainy days. The cherry blossoms are out and so are all of the people. Wait- what? Why are all these people out here? When I scroll through the news and my social media, I constantly see stories about COVID-19. Everyone is talking about the lock down, social distancing and what to do in quarantine or self-isolation. Lock down? That sounds serious. Social distancing? Interesting… Self-isolation? Sounds like something an avid gamer really wouldn’t mind. Plenty of them were already doing that, anyway.
I feel like I’m somehow missing out on something here. Everything in Takamatsu is life as usual. When I went out to see the sakura trees, families and friends were still having picnics under the pink and white blossoms. I was surprised at how many kids were outside in the park. Then when I looked around, I realized it wasn’t only kids. Many people were wandering around. I went to a restaurant a few nights ago and it was packed. Only two tables were open in the whole place. And this is something I’ve been noticing when I pass by restaurants, stores, arcades, and the like: They’re still filled with people.
I have to wear a mask when I’m teaching, and hand sanitizer is readily available in virtually all businesses. Those are just about the only noticeable changes that have occurred in recent weeks. They still aren’t testing people out here. One of my coworkers had a fever and a cough, and when he went to the hospital, they basically told him that since there were only two confirmed cases in our prefecture, that it was probably nothing, and he could return to work. Seems like the criteria is rather high for being too sick to miss work – so again, no change there for Japan. The plan here seems to be to wait until a lot of people get sick, and then reluctantly try to curb the virus. I’m constantly wondering how things will turn out here, and I’m constantly worried about the state of affairs back home. Luckily, for myself, I’m not in a high risk area (as of yet, anyway). But people are still traveling around Japan. Schools are opening again, and apparently, this is the time of year that everyone is moving to go to a new school, or start a new job. Tokyo is on the brink of calling a state of emergency. Major cities and possibly even their entire prefectures will be affected. And this is only the beginning. Does some sort of lock down await all of us? I guess we’ll see how things shake out in the next couple of weeks. Wherever you happen to be in the world, stay safe.