A Very Japanese Guide to Social Distancing

Nationwide Culture Coronavirus 2020.04.15
The coronavirus situation in Japan means that people all over the country are trying their best to either stay home, or stay 2 meters apart.
PANDAID might sound like an organization trying to save the giant pandas, but actually the "pand" comes from "pandemic." It's a self-described "collaborative editorial website, bringing together wisdom from around the world to protect lives during the Coronavirus pandemic." The bright, eye-catching website was created by social design activist group NOSIGNER, who aim to "drive social change towards a more hopeful future." As part of that objective, they're using the platform of PANDAID to clearly communicate important information to anyone dealing with the COVID-19 (i.e. the whole world).

Alongside pages dedicated to collecting information on topics like hand-washing, or how to make your own cloth mask, perhaps the most striking media to come from PANDAID has been their cute, helpful, and oh-so-Japanese guides to keeping 2 meters (or 6') from others, reducing the chances of spreading the virus. Teaching the world how to tackle social distancing (or perhaps we should say physical distancing), with an added touch of Japanese charm.
  • In recent days, the instruction to "stay 2 meters away from others" has been coming from all directions. This simple action, we hear, helps to prevent spreading the infection. But exactly how far is 2 meters? Can all of us imagine that distance well enough to implement this effectively?

    PANDAID's social distancing page presents a handful of infographics to help people visualize the distance. It starts innocently enough. Two meters is about the length of an average bicycle - makes sense!
  • Things soon start getting a little wild, though. Apparently, 2 meters is the size of your average bluefin tuna (or maguro, マグロ), one of the most popular sushi ingredients in Japan. The top of the poster tells people to "stay one bluefin tuna away from others." Is this a distance everyone in Japan can imagine with precision?
  • Next, the visual aids go old-school. With an image of two Edo era Japanese men, samurai perhaps, facing each other from a distance, we are told to put enough space between ourselves and others to fit one tatami mat. And actually, while the unique hairstyles pictured might have gone out of style in Japan long ago, most modern citizens probably can imagine the length of a tatami mat with ease. Good one, PANDAID!
  • So of course, they had to make one more infographic, featuring the most relatable two meters of all: the exact distance between George Harrison and John Lennon on Abbey Road. Perhaps if you can calculate the length of the strides that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are taking, you'll find that it's exactly two meters. We'll just have to assume that this is knowledge that your average Japanese citizen possesses.

    So stay safe, everybody, and if you have to leave the house, make sure to put enough space between yourself and others to fit a bicycle, a tuna, a tatami mat, or Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr!
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