What a year, eh?
Hello, everybody. I am still here, and I have been thinking about this blog a lot over the past decade. I mean month. I mean year.
What even is time, at this point?
I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about. It sure has been a year. And I’m sure everybody else is ready for it to be over and to give 2021 a try.
Let me dust off this blog by talking about what I’ve been up to, what it’s been like over here, and how things are looking… and what I hope to do with this blog in the coming months.
What I’ve Been Up To
I remember having a conversation over Discord with a good friend of mine. He had heard about Coronavirus and said he was worried that it might spread to Japan and affect my life over here. I recall reassuring him that, even if it did, I would be perfectly fine. I also recall quite clearly thinking that it wouldn’t be that big an issue.
Well, I sure was wrong, wasn’t I?
Pretty soon after that, cases started appearing in Japan, and not long after that, we had a lockdown in April for several weeks. People took it seriously at that point. There were pictures all over social media of empty train stations, normally packed shopping malls looking like ghost towns, the whole nine yards. It was eerie stepping outside, as if you expected at any moment for a boogieman to leap out.
But following Golden Week, things started to ease back into a sense of normalcy. People eased out of their homes and back into the shopping centers, their work places. While sightseeing places began–and continue–to struggle, daily life for local folks more or less returned to normal with a couple of caveats: everybody wears a mask (well, almost everybody), and everybody social distances (read: some people).
Now in December, if you were to look out on a street in Osaka or Kyoto, it would look pretty crowded. Not as crowded as perhaps December 2019, but far more crowded than you would expect. We’ve had multiple campaigns over here, from the GoToTravel to the GoToEat endeavors to get the economy going again. From October or so I’ve started noticing people rolling suitcases around town again, and that’s… less than reassuring.
What It’s Been Like Over Here
Imagine having accommodation, a job, bank accounts, a phone, friends. Lots of things that tie you down to a given place. Now, imagine being told that, if you leave, you won’t be allowed back in to take care of any of those things.
That was the situation for months over here in Japan. Countless legal residents of Japan, regardless of their visa (spousal, working, etc), were locked out of the country from April onward. Those who were allowed in were given arbitrary criteria that they somehow passed while others were left behind.
Kyoto’s streets went back to 2007, foreigner-wise. Rather than have an obvious tourist every four or five people, I was back to blinking in surprise when I spotted someone non-Japanese. No doubt all of them residents, stuck in the same situation where you can’t go home but staying here was… questionable.
That said, sightseeing places lit up with excitement when I popped my head in because they weren’t getting nearly as many tourists. It’s been a prime time to see all the places that are normally swarming with people, and to get some lovely pictures.
Masks, of course, are a common sight in Japan anyway, but suddenly there was a market for them that never existed before. Every drug store and kimono shop I pass now offers masks with varying patterns and materials, whereas before your choices were white paper mask or black paper mask. And the latter could potentially land you in trouble. There was an article back in May about how people wearing the darker masks would be treated as potential troublemakers, though that stigma seems to have passed now that masks are so commonplace.
There’ve been a number of things for sale here that supposedly protect people. The governor of Osaka recommended a certain gargling solution a while back, and people rushed to buy it. There are little tags on sale that claim to ward off viruses, as well. And of course, shops began limiting how much soap each household could purchase.
How Things Are Looking
While I am beyond thrilled to hear about people already being administered the Covid-19 vaccine in certain parts of the world, it looks like the regular Joe Schmoes of Japan might not get it for months to come. The timeline may change, but as of right now, it looks like medical workers, folks 65+, and people with underlying conditions shouuuuuuld be all taken care of by the end of March 2021. Then the rest of us saps might have a shot (heh) to get it ourselves.
In the meantime, universities are debating whether to have face to face classes or online. Some have been face to face from autumn of 2020. Others are more cautious. Primary and secondary schools are, by and large, face to face, with closures of only a couple of days after a case is discovered “for cleaning” a common case here.
In other words, we’re looking at several months yet before anybody is out of the woods.
Given that we are, as of right now, considering having the Olympics in 2021, this is going to be an interesting situation.
What I hope to do with this blog
It’s been extremely hard motivating myself to do anything with this blog this year. Most of my “outings” have consisted of walks in my own neighborhoods in an attempt to get fresh air and exercise. It’s been difficult focusing on studying and reading (I’ve gotten through one book in Japanese this year).
But that said, I’m thinking of a few ideas now that might work given the upcoming months where we will need to continue remaining indoors. Things like:
-reading (yes I will get back on that horse)
-fiction based on my experience in Japan.
I hope to get back to posting regularly, and I hope to start seeing people on this blog again. I hope everyone reading this is safe, warm, and enjoying their New Year’s.
Let’s hope 2021 is a far better year for all of us than 2020 has been.
See you soon, internet.