Dear readers! *It’s been a while, indeed. But rest reassured, my lack of updates inversely correlates with the number of activities I have been up to, so buckle up, for some fresh tales of adventure in the following series of posts. But first, here are some general remarks on living in Japan in this crazy year, since I get asked this a lot.
Since my last update (feels like a lifetime ago), Japan had imposed, and by now recalled, a national state of emergency due to the spreading of Covid-19 in the bigger cities, mostly Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. Home office had thus also reached Japanese companies/universities. As a visting scientist I was allowed to finish up ongoing experiments, as long as high levels of hygiene (hand washing, rubbing alcohol) and other saftey precautions (distance and masks) are met. This was also only possible because I live in cycling distance to the university campus, and I could reach the lab without using public transportation. Tough luck for the bachelor and master’s students, however, who had to stay at home. And because it’s not much fun to work in the lab all by myself, home office it mostly was for me, too. I realise that in many ways I was far from getting the worst side of this whole situation, but imagine how much fun home office is, when your home and office consist of only a single room, in which you are supposed to sleep, work and relax, with only a tiny table that must serve for cooking and eating as well. But at least I had the apartment to myself, and friends of mine, who live with their (also working) spouse in a similarly sized apartment, were clearly not to be envied.
Along with the rest of classes at Kyodai, my Japanese classes had been moved to online teaching, with students tuning in from around the world, because due to travel restrictions they could not enter Japan in time… . Fortunatley, online Japanese turned out to be a rather amazing experience, because my sensei does an amazing job at teaching in an entertaining, interactive and really quite effective style, and the shared misery of Covid-19 induced daily restrictions really quickly brought us together as a class! Who would have thought that it can be so much fun to complain about all the places you don’t get to visit, all the local foods you don’t get to try, and all the famous Japanese after-work activities (mostly heavy drinking and the famous karaoke) you don’t get to do…
Around end-May/early June the ‚first wave‘ seemed to have passed, and life slowly but noticeably moved back towards more normal (which in Japan in any case means high levels of distancing and hygiene precautions). Bars and restaurants were allowed to stay open for longer hours again, and the downtown areas felt less and less like a ghost town with each passing week of lower infection numbers.
Now, because it took me so long to finish writing this post, it’s already the beginning of August, and case numbers have begun to rise again. How this will turn out and what it means for public life in Kyoto at the moment still seems very unclear.
So much for the general situation from my (very limited) perspective here in Kyoto, Japan. Note that the picture I painted above seems rather dark, but in fact, and this is almost embarrasing to admit and quite frankyl unfair about this whole situation, my personal experiences in these insane times have been mostly positive. The people in my sourrounding cleary very much looked out for one another, and the support that I got as a Japan-first timer was phenomenal. I was even able to continue my explorations in and around the Kyoto area, perhaps in a slightly smaller distance range than I would have done otherwise.