How COVID-19 Has Changed Life in Japan, According to a Long-Term Foreign Resident

Tokyo Culture Coronavirus 2020.05.21
After living in Tokyo for 18 years, what does this foreigner feel the COVID-19 outbreak has changed about life in Japan? One for each year, here are 18 changes big and small.
  • ① Empty Streets
    ① Empty Streets
    With the start of Japan's state of emergency, people disappeared from the city. There have always been so many people in Tokyo, where on earth did they all go?
  • ② Closed Stores
    ② Closed Stores
    Even shops and restaurants so popular that their lines always stretched out the door are now temporarily closed. Restaurants and hotels have huge fixed costs that they're definitely not recuperating, it must hurt to be hemorrhaging so much cash. I can only hope that these places will be able to reopen when the coronavirus finally calms down enough.
  • ③ Working from Home
    ③ Working from Home
    (To be clear, I just want to say that this picture is from lunchtime on a Saturday.)

    There's been a huge boom in people working from home, and the companies behind video conferencing software like the ubiquitous Zoom have seen their value shoot up. There are some companies that will definitely be surviving the COVID outbreak!
  • ④ Major Tourist Attractions Going Quiet
    ④ Major Tourist Attractions Going Quiet
    It's true, there are 5 or 6 people in this recent snapshot of the famous Sensoji Temple, but most of the shops in the area are closed and the handful of people are nothing compared to the huge crowds that would normally be swarming the gate. On the other hand, maybe now is the time to go photograph famous facades and their surroundings. It's a rare chance. But it's not really the time to be leaving the house unnecessarily. 
  • ⑤ Stay Home
    ⑤ Stay Home
    Adding # and making a hashtag about the latest trends is as popular as ever, and #stayhome seems like it's becoming a major buzzword. Other hashtags have been making their rounds too, including #seeyousoonjapan of course! ^^

    Everyone's really staying home, huh!
  • ⑥ Zoom
    ⑥ Zoom
    I already mentioned the way Zoom exploded onto the scene thanks to all the companies using it for online meetings while everyone works from home. But at this point in 2020 Zoom is being used in all sorts of ways - Zoom meetings, drinks over Zoom, Zoom blind dates, Zoom game nights, etc. etc.
  • ⑦ Thermometers
    ⑦ Thermometers
    Before all this I'd never even dreamed of buying a thermometer with my own money. Now I can't even buy one because they're always sold out everywhere. COVID-19 has meant huge sales for masks and thermometers.
  • ⑧ Runners Wearing Masks
    ⑧ Runners Wearing Masks
    As a person who goes for runs every week, I thought "there's no way running with a mask on will be a thing." But I've seen people running with handkerchiefs and bandanas, even special cooling masks, wrapped around their faces, as they do their solo marathons. We don't want to cause other people problems.

    When everyone goes back to running without any kind of mask, that's when we'll know the COVID-19 outbreak is coming to a close.
  • ⑨ Train Station Windows
    ⑨ Train Station Windows
    In convenience stores too, this vinyl sheeting has been taped up at any kind of counter or window where there might be close one-on-one contact. It looks 120% DIY, but it gets the message across.
  • ⑩ Billboards Going Blank
    ⑩ Billboards Going Blank
    It's just that - the ads are gone. The frames normally full of posters all along the underground walkways of Tokyo's subways are totally empty, so if you're interested...
  • ⑪ Masks, Even at the Park
    ⑪ Masks, Even at the Park
    This is a pretty divisive topic, but people social distancing extends to the park too, and people have been maintaining their distance from others and wearing masks during walks, etc.
  • In an effort to prevent infection at the park, the playground equipment has been cordoned off.
  • "Use of playground equipment prohibited."
  • ⑫ Chances to Skip the Lines
    ⑫ Chances to Skip the Lines
    For years this shop has been so incredibly popular that lines have spilled onto the street, making it difficult to even walk by. Now, nobody's lining up. I couldn't believe my eyes.

    That's right, now's our chance.
  • ⑬ Money Trays Everywhere
    ⑬ Money Trays Everywhere
    It's true that the use of these trays has been common enough in Japan since before COVID-19, but now everyone is really trying to avoid taking the germy money into their hands.

    Wait, I do want the money though!!!
  • ⑮ Masks = Everyday Necessity
    ⑮ Masks = Everyday Necessity
    Although the masks, which have been sold out and impossible to get ahold of, finally seem to be back in stores and available online. Maybe we're starting to see the end of the whole coronavirus situation.
  • ⑯ Work from Home, Even on TV
    ⑯ Work from Home, Even on TV
    I can't help but laugh. The whole situation seems ridiculous! I can understand why lots of celebrities are working desperately to develop their YouTube presence.
  • ⑰ Delivery Everywhere
    ⑰ Delivery Everywhere
    I've heard that pizza and sushi shops, two of the most common delivery foods in Japan, are doing especially well right now. I've certainly seen a huge increase in Uber Eats deliveries being made, yet Uber Eats let go of thousands of workers the other day. I've still never used the service.
  • ⑱ Handwashing
    ⑱ Handwashing
    Apparently we should be washing our hands for the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. Massively popular Japanese celebrity KimuTaku (Takuya Kimura) posted a handwashing video too, so let's all do our best to make it a habit.

Plunging into COVID-19 Recovery

When we see these 18 things start to go away, I think we'll know that the COVID-19 way of life is coming to an end, but Japan's state of emergency has already ended in many parts of the country. Now I just want it to end ASAP in Tokyo too - I want to freely leave the house, to run without a mask, to travel around Japan and abroad, and especially to head home and visit Korea! Everyone, when this is finally all over, let's skip Shin-Okubo (Tokyo's Little Korea) and head straight to Korea itself~ ^^
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