A little background: I have two daughters, one who is eight years old, and one who has just turned three. The eight year old usually takes part in a few lessons outside of school. All were put on hiatus at the beginning of March after Japan’s PM requested schools close, but many restarted towards the end of the month. I kept the eight year old home from all but one, which was one-on-one. From yesterday, all are now on hiatus again.
Yesterday, while walking to the post office to post a Proof of Citizenship application to the embassy (as it was already signed and dated, it had to be sent asap), I ran into one of the eight year old’s outside-of-school instructors. This instructor is wonderful—kind, caring, encouraging, etc.—and true to form, with genuine caring in their voice, inquired as to why the eight year old had missed lessons the previous weekend.
“Well, I’m one of the more concerned people, to be honest,” I said.
“Oh, there’s no new corona virus in the classroom,” they replied.
“It’s not just that,” I said, “the possibility exists that we could have it and not know, and pass it on. After all, many people are asymptomatic.”
“Oh, no need to worry about that!” they replied with a dismissive laugh and hand-wave.
As I’ve already said, I quite enjoy this person. They have been very kind to my family, and this post isn’t meant to badmouth them, but to illustrate what is still, unfortunately, the overwhelming attitude here. Obviously, not just here, but quite possibly more here than elsewhere.
People here (#NotEveryoneHere) have been conditioned to believe that the virus only comes out at night and on weekends, and even then, mostly in seedy or boisterous places. They have been told that if they avoid situations where all three “Three Cs” are present (closed spaces with poor ventilation; crowded places with many people nearby; and close-contact settings, such as conversations at close proximity), they will be fine.
The result is many people still do not appreciate how widespread COVID-19 likely is, and how easily it can be transmitted. Nor do many seem to understand how serious an illness it can become. They still socialize with others, have play dates at the park, and get right in your face.
Heck, some delivery companies are still asking for signatures with the pen in their pocket. Hello, pen that one hundred + people have touched! Excuse me while I go bleach my hands before spraying down the doorknobs. (Note to self: Leave a pen at the door.) (**It has come to my attention that you can request non-contact delivery now.)
It’s incredibly frustrating to see, and it is even more frustrating when people brush off the efforts I am making as unnecessary. And Japan being what it is, it is incredibly difficult to assert oneself in case one damages the all-important “ningen kankei” (“human relations”).
Every time I politely attempt to decline or excuse myself and the kids from something, I feel like I’m walking on the slimmest of ropes, ever so close to falling into the abyss of neighbourhood pariah. It feels like possible death-by-COVID-19/manslaughter-by-COVID-19 is preferable to awkwardness.
Compounding things is the concept of enryo, whereby people think I’m holding back to be thoughtful, and so attempt to put me at ease by insisting. It’s a bizarre dance that has nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, and is performed regularly about absolutely everything, but in the current climate, it’s even more ridiculous and maddening.
Last night, the Japanese PM finally declared a state of emergency for part of the country, our prefecture included. But unlike in other countries, all prefectural governors can do is strongly request that people obey. Many will try, but thanks to the way the pandemic has been framed thus far, will not do enough. And plenty will make no effort to obey at all, just like elsewhere.
But in Japan, we’ll just have to put up with the “covidiots” and hope they don’t kill us all.
**Edited from a Facebook post of mine.