As the sixth week of “Stay the Heck Home” comes to a close, a lot of people in the neighbourhood are starting to show signs of open frustration. There’s only so much that people can do from home and only so long they can see the same walls. Our homes are generally meant to act as homes rather than some sort of minimum-security prison1 we’re asked to remain interred at. Looking around and talking to people while out and about, I’ve learned the following things:
A Business is Sinking Before It Can Even Begin
There’s a building under contraction about 2km from here that was to be a new restaurant. Construction was slated to finish in March with a grand opening for April 1st. As a result of the Wuhan Virus, the construction company has not yet completed the building and the restaurant owner is struggling with bills and mortgage payments for a place that cannot even be used to generate any revenue. Apparently the restaurant owner has enough financial reserves to four months. If they’re not open and making a profit by the start of August, the entire business venture will bankrupt the owner.
The Japanese government will not be able to provide assistance to this business owner because hasn’t yet opened for business.
Many Parents Will Send Their Kids Back to School This Week
This week will see the new school year begin for a majority of students across the country2. All three elementary schools, both kindergartens, and the junior high in this neighbourhood will open their doors for kids to return to their studies. Just about every parent I’ve spoken to said they’ll be sending their kids to school because they simply cannot stay home any longer.
Reiko is seriously considering keeping the boy home from school until next year, though.
Two of my neighbours have recently been asked to retire “for the good of the company”. They are 57 and 52 years old. Pension payments do not begin until a person is 65 and age discrimination when hiring is very much a problem in this part of the country. While they do have enough savings to get by for a while, that money was being set aside for their expected retirement years.
Hopefully they can find some gainful employment in the near future.
Pokémon Go Players are Committed
Everywhere you go there is a noticeable lack of people. Grocery stores are half full. Barber shops rarely have more than two people. The roads are clear enough that it’s actually possible to drive at the speed limit for more than 200m3. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the number of people aged 50 and above playing Pokémon Go in each of the nearby parks. If anything, I’d say there are probably more participants simply because people get to work from home, which frees up the time once used for commuting for other purposes.
Alcohol Is Getting Scarce
The alcohol sections of stores are looking pretty thin despite the fact that Kirin, Asahi, and Sapporo have increased production of their popular beverages. While I’ve not had a conversation with every store manager in the area, Mayumi at the local FamilyMart convenience store says that they receive shipments every night around 10pm and sell out of the more popular drinks by dinner time the next day; which almost never happens because “a convenience store with empty shelves is losing money”4. Will there be a rise in alcoholism in the area as people try to stave off boredom? Is this why there are a lot more police sirens at night than ever before?
The longer this goes on, the more damage there will be to repair.
Our homes are usually more comfortable than a prison — regardless the security level — but confinement can make even the most comfortable places feel like captivity.
Schools have the option to remain closed. Many universities have opted to push back the start of their year until mid-May. K-12 in most cities around the country are gearing up to begin classes again
Congestion and a glut of bad drivers generally limits driving to 15km below the posted limit unless you’re the first car stopped at a red light. Then you can almost be guaranteed a 200m stretch of road to traverse unimpeded … until you catch up to the cars that left you behind at the previous red light.
This is how she described empty shelves, which is an interesting way of looking at the situation. People can’t buy what isn’t present.