Archive for the 'coronavirus' Category

Long Summer

Sunday, August 23rd, 2020

Life continues to limp on in Tokyo. The extreme heat and humidity is causing death and putting an extra strain on the health system, already burdened by the increase in cases of Covid-19. This is the longest period of time I have spent in Japan and it does not look as if I will be going anywhere this year. At the minute we are not even meant to leave the city. Every day we hear that people should remain on heightened alert, as the situation in Tokyo is still extremely severe. But like everywhere we are becoming fatigued and we may need more than a polite request to stay home.

I have finished teaching summer workshops for TIP Youth. I still find remote teaching difficult as there are always technology issues to deal with. Some of these are caused by the students switching off their cameras or logging out, which is not something they would get away with so easily in an actual classroom. Trying to find ways to deal with how differently people interact via Zoom is tiring. As we continue to do this we will find it easier but at the minute it is still frustrating and draining. That being said the workshops were still fun and I am glad that we went ahead with them.

The show I was meant to be directing for a November performance has been cancelled. Aside from the risks of rehearsing and having people attend there is the issue of making a socially distanced show commercially viable. The theatre we were planning on using is suggesting that we sell 35 seats per performance in a space that was meant to hold around 100! How can anyone pay for a show with such a reduction on the number of tickets?

Renting theatre space in Tokyo is very expensive and many spaces need booked more than a year in advance. Cancelling shows is also problematic because of the lost deposits or even having to pay the full price for the space depending on the contract. One of the groups I work with has already cancelled their February 2021 show as they couldn’t risk waiting as the cancellation fees keep increasing as time passes.

I realise that I don’t sound overly cheerful, but the current situation is difficult.

Moderate Changes

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

Just over a month ago I wrote about the small changes that were being made to life in Tokyo. Today things are much more uncertain. The schools are closed, museums and theme parks are closed, many more people are working from home, and there are shortages on papers products and hand sanitizers.

I have had to suspend my studies as I have no students to teach in March. The Youth Theatre program I work for has cancelled classes, and I keep having to reschedule rehearsals. I am working on a show that has a cast of 35 people, but we can no longer have that number of people in our rehearsal space, and some of the bigger spaces are run by the local government and have been closing. My freelance work is greatly reduced and I only have one day of recording work this month.

We can still buy most things at the local supermarket, but there has been no toilet paper, tissues, masks, or hand sanitizer for quite a while now. There are also changes in how things are displayed. We used to have a bakery section where the bread rolls were displayed in a basket, and the cabinets were full of fresh pastries. Now every individual pastry is in a plastic bag.

I have been doing my best to avoid traveling on busy trains, but sometimes I still need to do this. I have been hearing that there are fewer people on the trains, but given how full Japanese trains get it’s not possible to stay a metre away from other people. And if I walk to places I still end up walking through crowds, and some evenings these are crowds of thousands of people as I need to walk through areas like Shinjuku.

The building I live in has closed most of its communal areas, and the gym is closed. There are signs in the lift showing good coughing etiquette and how to properly wear a mask. There is an alcohol spray at the doors and signs about keeping your hands clean

COVID-19 does not appear to be spreading as fast in Japan as it has in South Korea, but then the two countries have very different testing criteria. By the 10th March Japan had only carried out 9,600 tests, compared to South Korea which had carried out nearly 200,000 tests. (I tried to link to the Japanese website that listed the figures, but they have been overwriting the page with new reports, and the new charts no longer show number of tests, just the number of positive results.) The government tell us everything is improving and that the Olympics will go ahead, but the cases of COVID-19 still increase and I’m starting to see articles about hospitals being under pressure and not easily able to deal with the outbreak. We are expecting to hear more from the government on the 19th March, and it will be interesting to see if the current restrictions are lifted or if we start to fall in line with the rest of the world.

Small Changes

Friday, February 7th, 2020

I have been asked if coronavirus is having an impact on life in Tokyo.

Some things have changed for tourists, such as enhanced quarantine procedures at airports and ports. Japan is no longer allowing foreign nationals who live in Hubei province or have have visited the province recently to enter the country. As of this morning there are 61 confirmed cases of the virus on a cruise ship that is in quarantine in Yokohama.

There is no doubt that coronavirus is a topic of conversation and mentioned in every news broadcast. It’s become difficult to buy masks or any sort of hand sanitizer as people have been panic buying. On Sunday we tried to buy an alcohol sanitizer for rehearsal, but gave up after trying multiple drugstores. As masks have become scarcer it is noticeable that fewer people are wearing them when walking around outside, but that nearly everyone of the train is wearing them. I assume that, like me, people are keeping them to wear when they are in places that are overcrowded. I am aware that wearing masks can’t stop the spread of a virus, but it does offer some protection and in a city like Tokyo people expect you to wear them in overcrowded places.

My hands are becoming dry as I have been washing them more often, as now I make sure to wash them every time I change location. I always washed them when coming home, but now I do this when I arrive at any venue.

I have started to buy more food. It’s normal for me to go to the grocery store every day, but recently I started to stock up on rice, pasta, and canned foods. I’m not buying loads of food, but I realised that I usually keep very little extra food in the house, because going out and buying what I need is really convenient. Now I’m starting to think about what I would do if the government introduced social distancing measures in the city.

At the minute I would not describe us as being overly concerned about an epidemic, but it would be foolish to ignore the fact that the virus is spreading through Asia and that we live in a city where we can come in to contact with thousands of people in a day. I live within 15 minutes of the busiest train station in the world, which is used by around 3.5 million people a day. For now we will continue to pay attention to the situation.