Five Things

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.

Forced Retirements

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.


  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Five Things

For the first time in almost a month the family and I spent time with people who live in a different house; Reiko’s parents. We all enjoyed a couple of hours in a park with several dozen other families, though at a distance. Since the boy was pulled out of kindergarten for the last week of February we’ve been pretty much isolated from the world. Sure, neighbours will say hello, but we don’t stand around and chat anymore. When we’re out for a walk or a bike ride, we keep to ourselves. When I’m out in the park by myself, I’m allowed slightly more space from people who might otherwise walk past in closer proximity. While I’m plenty accustomed to feeling isolated and alone in a country of 127-million, this additional layer of segregation is not at all pleasant.

Societal partitioning aside, the family is physically healthy and enjoying some of the warmer temperatures. So, without further delay, it’s time for another Five Things post.

Parents of Young Kids Have Given Up

We’ve been to a number of large parks this past week looking for a place where the boy can burn off some of his energy while also spending time outside and, at every location, it seemed the boy was the only person under the age of 25 that was wearing a mask. Even a large percentage of the parents out with their kids were without masks, which struck me as interesting. That said, a number of conversations that I’ve overheard recently boil down to this lamentation:

Kids are less susceptible to the virus and ill be damned if my children spend every day inside the house and playing video games.

Advice from medical experts be darned, parents will let their kids out of the house just so they can be out of the house. Reiko has tried for weeks to help the boy stay entertained and engaged since leaving school a month ago, but it hasn’t been easy.

Malls Are Still Crowded

This one strikes me as odd given the tone, pitch, and intensity of the news this past year. I had figured that the malls would all be ghost towns by now but, driving past, the endless sea of vehicles shows that many people will continue to shop inside enclosed buildings with recirculated air. Pachinko parlours are seeing similar situations, likely as the result of an incredibly bored population.

Franchise Restaurants are Busy, Independents Are Not

While it’s true that people need to eat, I was expecting that restaurants would shut down or switch to “drive-thru-only” service methods as a result of the government’s recommendation to have no more than one seat at a table. Instead, it seems that chains are as busy as ever while the independent shops are shuttering their windows. A couple of mom & pop shops around here have decided to simply shut down permanently, likely due to the week-by-week revenue nature of restaurants.

Schools Are Expected to Open in April

Spring marks the start of a new school year with millions of young people getting back to their studies in the first or second week of April. There was talk that the education ministry might push back the start of the next semester to June or July then cancel the summer break, but this seems to have been kiboshed for reasons unknown. As of this evening, kids are expected to get back to school in two to three weeks. Reiko and I are not yet certain about what we’ll do about the boy’s classes, given that he’s in kindergarten and not one of the higher grades where attendance is a legal requirement1?

”Everybody” Wants the Olympics Postponed … Except the Government and IOC

Every news program has yet another sporting team, domestic or foreign, demanding this years Olympic summer games be postponed until the autumn or some time in 2021. The Japanese government is loathe to do this for financial reasons and the IOC is loathe to do this because money, money, money, money. Regardless of what happens, the people of Japan will be paying for these damned games until 2050.

Hopefully the summer heat and humidity will slow the Chinese virus.


  1. Home schooling is certainly an option for some parents. The amount of paperwork the government demands for this is incredible excessive, though.