Blogtober 12: forbidden journeys

Right now, on the internet at least, it feels as though there are only two types of people: those who worry excessively about covid-19, and those who absolutely do not give a damn. If you’re a “worry about” type, you’re one of the mask wearers, the hand washers, the social distancers, the self-isolaters. You haven’t been out since February. You get everything online if you can, and if not your trips to the shop are hurried, with thorough disinfections upon returning home. You haven’t had a haircut since January. You work from home as much as possible (if you still have a job). You haven’t met friends or family in what seems like a lifetime.

Except, are we all following all of these?

I have met a total of one (1) friend since before my baby was born, and he is actually a friend of my husband’s. The last actual friends I met were WorksOfGenius and Lana, back in February when we went to eat crêpes. My parents in England haven’t met their granddaughter yet, and they were supposed to be here at the birth (more on giving birth during covid another day). My father in law came to visit in August but his wife hasn’t met the baby yet either. I miss my friends desperately. We all do, right?

But… I’ve also been to the aquarium recently – twice. I’ve been to an osteopath several times. I went shopping for baby clothes, baby toys, and other baby supplies. And I feel embarrassed to talk about any of it, because it feels as though I’m being irresponsible, and breaking a taboo.

Today, I went to a department store in Yokohama, to pick up a pair of rain boots that I’d asked them to order in for me, since my old ones got a hole in them at the start of the rainy season. While I was there, I popped in to the Pokemon Centre in the next building over and bought a couple of bits to send to a friend. There weren’t many people around, but absolutely everyone was wearing a mask, and the majority of people made use of the hand sanitiser sprays dotted around the place. There were plastic curtains up between cashiers and customers at the tills. The aquarium does temperature checks when you go in, as does the osteopath.

See if you can work out what’s daft about this picture!

So for all intents and purposes, we are still following all of the social distancing guidelines. The State of Emergency is long over (we were never under lockdown). The government is constantly pushing people to go out with their ridiculous “Go To [whatever]” campaigns. My husband argues that it’s not that bad because (for reasons still unknown) covid has never been quite as awful in Japan as in many other countries. And yet by going out, even when it’s for something genuinely necessary like baby clothes or shoes for me, I feel so ashamed. And I still somehow can’t bring myself to meet up with friends!

Am I alone in feeling this way? And when will this end? Even after we eventually manage to find a way round the ‘rona, I feel like some of the new habits we have had to establish this year will be hard to shake…

24 Thoughts

  1. How very different from the UK, where social distancing tends to be scrupulously observed by the old and vulnerable and ignored by many younger people. A new form of lockdown is likely to be announced today, and there have already been protests from some businessmen worried about their profits and young people who want to get on with a normal life. Pity the poor university students encouraged to go back to uni, who find they are in lockdown in their halls of residence and their studies are all on line. They would have been better off staying at home and saving their rent. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

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    1. I wouldn’t say “herd mentality” EXACTLY, but there was some survey here recently asking people about wearing a mask, and it turned out that the majority of people in Japan are wearing masks not out of mindfulness of the greater good, but “because everyone else is”.

      Don’t apologise for saying what you think! I always appreciate your perspective. Every time I look at covid news from the UK I find myself less and less able to comprehend what is going on, why the government is so astoundingly useless, and why people are being so thick. It’s frustrating enough to watch from the outside (I want things to settle so that you can come here!!) much less having to deal with directly.

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    2. The main problem here in the UK is that the government is 100% relying on lockdown and restrictions rather than working on a decent testing, track and trace system, they’ve stopped supporting people who have at risk jobs so we can’t lockdown forever

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It feels as though “lockdown” is a very loose and unclear term too, only exacerbated by the fact that the sodding politicians (and their “friends”) don’t believe the rules apply to them!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been a mixture of both. I’ve been going out locally and I did do a little bit of travelling a while ago but I’ve always worn masks, washed and sanitised my hands at every opportunity and taken my temperature/monitored symptoms religiously.

    I can’t deny that I’ve felt uncomfortable at times (I had a LOT of anxiety in Hokkaido, for example) but I’ve also stayed home a lot too and limited how many times I meet up with people/which people I see. I still don’t know what the right balance is, but I don’t think I’ve made horrendously bad choices.

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    1. I remember you travelling! Were people around you equally careful at that time? iirc it was before the State of Emergency, right? I know some folks (cough hanami attendees cough) weren’t being particularly vigilant, but that was largely in the bigger cities so maybe it was different where you went…

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      1. I was in Hokkaido during the summer holidays and I mostly kept away from crowds but as far as I could tell people were being vigilant.

        Everyone was wearing a mask (I don’t think people were fed up of them at that point) and I only ate in my hotel/outside so I wouldn’t have to deal with restaurants. It was much easier to social distance there than it is in Yokohama to be honest!

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  3. I do understand the shame part, but I’ll be honest, I’ve in a way given up on self-isolating. Several times I’ve gone to do things simply for entertainment, went with my fiancée to restaurants, done shopping other than groceries. That said, I do in general stay in the local area, and I always wear a mask, wash my hands frequently (a habit from kindergarten work since before the pandemic), upkeep social distance, etc. If I have nothing I need to do or nothing planned, I do stay home though, I haven’t been out just to be out for a long time.

    But yeah, no. I don’t talk much about going out doing things (unless they’re “acceptable activities”), especially on the internet. So while I definitely understand that shame, I don’t think we need to feel it. We’re careful, we do our best, but only seeing your own house for a whole year can be so so damaging for mental health.

    (I hope we can come see you and the baby at some point! Will put every extra effort into covid prevention, as I do whenever I visit my friend and her new baby!)

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    1. Yeah, when your workplace still expects you to go in and interact with tens of children it’s hard to feel an urgent need to keep away from all human life outside office hours too! And your point about mental health is a very good one.

      I am really looking forward to being able to see you (plural) again before too long 😭💕💕

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  4. Ahh I really feel you >< I was going to make a post about something similar eventually.

    In the end, it *is* important for us to meet people and to go to places, it's so easy to get isolated and scared of the Outdoors in a situation like this, so I hope you can keep going to the acquarium and to the stores and eventually meet friends when it is safe. It's just so difficult, at least to me, to objectively judge when it *is* safe, especially when it seems to be so difficult to politicians and other people who should be able to make these judgments.

    I spent a lot of time with my parents and my family (who were more or less the only people I met during the summer), we kept our travels mostly to national parks and I felt fine about them, since they're safe places to be in, but even then every time we, say, got takeout pizza I felt bad and ashamed. And the one time we went to have dinner for my brother's birthdaa! I felt so awful, it was at the time when there were 0-5 cases in Finland daily, and most of them not even in Helsinki, so I *know* it was a completely safe and fine thing to do, but it still felt so bad, I was just already so used to avoiding something like that.

    It's been even worse now – I had to fly to Italy and go to work right afterwards! It had been getting worse in Finland, but here the situation was unquestionably really bad. What if I'd caught the virus? I wasn't allowed to work from home "just in case", and also couldn't, since I don't have Internet yet. I've had to do *so much* shopping after the move. And every time it becomes obvious I'm a foreigner and don't speak Italian well yet, the looks I get are just so awful. I can hear the "Why is that tourist [since that's obviously what I seem like] here at this time?" in my head, and feel awful, but I just… don't feel like I have any options.

    So yeah ._. I can relate to the feeling of shame and everything else, it's… difficult. Even when you have no options, even when you seemingly have no legitimate reason to feel scared to do things.

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    1. I had honestly wondered what it was like moving countries during this time!! I’ve had a friend move to another city and another one move back home (she caught one of the very last flights out of Japan back to Hawaii iirc), but both of those are very different experiences to moving somewhere entirely new where communication barriers are also an issue. It sounds really hard 😭 Are people wearing masks in Italy?

      Also, jumping back in your comment a bit, yes ._. When politicians can’t make their minds up what the rules are and also don’t seem to feel as though the rules apply to them at all, it’s hard to adhere to them with any real sense of urgency…

      😭 big hugs 💚

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      1. I won’t lie, it hasn’t been super easy ._. The “what if I caught the virus on the flight!??!” paranoia hit me pretty hard, it’s slowly getting better but I don’t think I’ll be at ease until next week, but all the other things are taxing too. The mask situation is much better than in Finland, although not by choice: they just passed a law requiring people to wear masks whenever not alone at all times the day I got here. So, basically the only time people are not wearing them is on empty streets or, say, while hiking empty trails, where you just pull up a gaiter when you see someone (on Saturday this happened once ^^’).

        Thank you for the hugs, have some in return 💙🫂 Hopefully the world will eventually feel less scary /anxiety-inducing for both of us…

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  5. Mental health is a big issue with isolating, I have to admit we have met up with a few friends (and had a couple to stay over) but everyone has been isolating otherwise so we’re not at risk from each other and it seems like the mental health benefits are worth the risk.

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    1. Several people are mentioning mental health in the comments and I think it’s a really valid and important point. Like, when this all started and even when we were 3 or 4 months in, it was tough but doable, you know? But now we’re, what *counts* 8 or 9 months in? Humans aren’t made to be isolated for that long, even the introverts ._. I reckon you’re right – since everyone’s been being careful, the mental health benefits outweigh the relatively low risk of spreading the virus…

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  6. I went through the whole paranoia thing already on both ends of the spectrum. And while I think it’s important to stick to some rules… much like Gabby said, too, I’ve been out and done things just to get out of the house because my mental health was taking a serious hit.

    I missed people – especially because I was unable to see anyone while I was out of town for so long for like the majority of the past year. But my friends and I are careful about social distance etc whenever we meet up and we think about things to do more carefully (e.g. we’ll eat outside or we’ll eat at my apartment which offers the most space for social distancing instead of eating at a restaurant).

    Mask wearing, hand washing, hand sanitizing, wiping down my things once I come home and changing out of clothes and washing them every single day have become permanent habits.

    Taking the train used to induce some anxiety but it has faded now that it’s become a routine again and granted, the trains are a lot emptier than they used to be before the pandemic (something I hope will stay for a long time to come…)

    Japan, I think, is doing something like “we still need to be careful but we also want to get on with life” and… even though it’s sometimes stupid maybe or shameful, I find myself agreeing with it.

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    1. I think it really hits home what a big impact isolation is having on us all that so many comments here are mentioning the mental health aspect! It’s such a big and important thing, and while (like most health issues) it can be put on the back burner for a short while, we’re reaching (have already reached) the stage where we all NEED to be able to get out and do something. And there’s also a level of comfort to be found in the fact that, when you’re friends with like-minded people, the people you meet up with are also similarly cautious and are therefore most likely to be the “safest” folk to meet.

      As for riding trains… I know it’s daft, but I kind of appreciate that the windows are always open, and that people almost always wear masks and keep quiet (in Tokyo at least, can’t speak for elsewhere!) – it may not be perfect, but it’s more reassuring than it could be. But then, I’ve never had to ride during peak hours! That does sound pretty scary still.

      For all the criticisms to be levelled at the Japanese government regarding their (in)action over the virus, in the end it does seem like they might be getting some things right.

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  7. You’re so not alone in this!

    I think generally people are tired and so are becoming a bit lax with the rules, but you should be proud that you’re still being careful. I get it though. I still feel guilt when I go to buy cat food (because it involves going inside a department store). But like you say, a lot of people seem to wear masks, many make use of the hand sanitizer. I think we can be careful and just hope that others do the same. But there’s no shame in doing essential shopping!

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    1. Perhaps you and I (and people like us who are not currently at work) are in a moderately unconventional position because we aren’t in a situation where we have to go to the office every day. In a way, that allows us to stew in our anxieties even more, right? I feel like the people who have to go to work every day are also less likely to be hyper-vigilant about social distancing at the weekends, because if it’s “safe” to go to work why is it not “safe” to go out? Whereas you and I are still in that “all ventures out are Dangerous and Bad, even the necessary ones” mindset. Hmm 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I think that’s a really good point. I’ve been kind of surprised by the carefree attitude of my friends who have to work in an office, suggesting getting together for lunch or dinner when all I can think of is “nooooooo”.

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  8. Back when we got to hang out, the baby was still a dream. 😭 I remember wondering with you and Lana if this was going to even become a big deal—funny in hindsight. I’m still mostly isolating, but there are a few people I trust and will meet outdoors. I’m taking classes, so I’m being extra careful about eliminating risks. People in Tokyo seem pretty reasonable. Mostly I’m concerned about when/how I can see my family again in the US.

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  9. I’m not at either extreme. Initially, I followed all the rules, worked from home, went out only for essentials… but I’m ashamed to admit I’ve recently taken trips out of Tokyo just to get away from it all. I even took advantage of the go-to-travel campaign (yikes!) but we rented a car and drove to a lovely ryokan where we were almost always isolated from other guests. The dining room tables were set far apart. I’ve also found myself dining out more often than I should. I’m currently planning a trip to see my family in Kenya, it’s absolutely essential that I see my son whom I last saw in January.

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  10. I don’t want to comment much about living through this in the UK because it’s so wild. I’m definitely in the isolating since early March, everything delivered to home, wipe everything down, hand wash, never leave home without a mask etc. Most of my weariness is from feeling at odds with the society I’m in. Like extreme expatitis. There’s things I miss, galleries, football games, local cafes, and things I’ll never do again, like shop in a supermarket, catch the tube, or go to the cinema (at least in London). And, while I’m very cautious, I will get on a plane at the first available opportunity.

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