I was back in rehearsal this week for the first time since the end of March. There was thought put into how to make sure that the rehearsal was safe, so I was prepared for that, but I had forgotten how uncomfortable it is on the trains. I live too far from the rehearsal venue to walk and I planned to miss rush hour, but in Tokyo trains can get incredibly full at any time of the day. Everyone in the carriage was wearing a mask, and only two people were speaking. The windows were open but it still felt incredibly uncomfortable having so many people so close to me. Guidelines here still suggest two metres between people but it’s often impossible to do that on the trains, I was lucky if I had two inches space around me.
For my second rehearsal I found a different route, one that involved a lot more walking. It took longer to get to the venue but I felt more comfortable and less stressful. There must have been some issue on the train as an announcement was made in Japanese and English asking people to please remember to wear masks and to refrain from speaking. Japanese trains are always quieter than European ones, but now now they are eerie. No one speaks and it seems that no one interacts or smiles. Masks hide so many facial expressions.
We have so many masks. I am always wearing one if I leave the house and it seems that I have spare masks in every bag. There are masks at the front door, to put on if a parcel arrives. Then we get to do the dance of opening the door and waiting for the person who knocked it to move back by two meters while I pick up the parcel. Today I had to sign a piece of paper on delivery. This has been scrapped by most companies and I could see that the delivery person was embarrassed as he expected me to use his pen. (Since I am foreign he is not expecting me to use my own name stamp, though I do have one in the hall.)
Being heard, while wearing a mask, is difficult. And my understanding of Japanese declines when the sound isn’t as clear and I can’t see mouth shapes. Singing with a mask on means that my voice is a little raw today, mostly because I am over singing as I can’t tell if the person I’m singing to at the other end of a room can hear me. These things are not ideal, but if this is what we need to do so that we can continue performing, then we will do it.