There's a real cognitive dissonance to blogging about our jaunty adventures in Japan during this time of increasing panic over the coronavirus pandemic.
When Nora and I were in the final stages of preparing for this trip, we had many anxious discussions about what would await us. We wondered if our flights might get cancelled--or, indeed, if we should just cancel them ourselves and go another time. But we'd been planning this trip for a year (after I'd been promising to take Nora to Japan since she was very little) so we decided to press on and hope for the best. We also prepared for the worst. I packed tons of extra meds against the chance we might get sick or quarantined for an extended period upon our return. Because we could not buy masks, Nora and I hand-sewed cotton masks for ourselves--more for fashion than for safety, really; we knew masks wouldn't really help, but we thought they might help us fit in. We stocked up on all the hand sanitizer we could get ahold of (unnecessarily, as it has turned out--it is everywhere here, and frequently its use is gently insisted upon when entering a business.)
We also hoped, of course, that the news would get better and things would settle down during our month abroad. That hasn't been the case. The tickets we purchased in advance to the Ghibli Museum and to the Light Museum in Tokyo were cancelled and refunded, as the museums are closed indefinitely--as are all museums and indoor public places. Hanamis and matsuris have been cancelled. One notable exception *might* be Omizutori, the fire festival in Nara which we hope to see this Friday. As of right now, the website says it's still on ... We shall see.
Nora and I are looking at the bright side. The cherry blossoms continue to bloom (more every day!) And the temples, shrines, parks, and paths that make Japan so enticing are still available for exploration. The people are exceptionally kind and friendly (especially Japanese elders, who continue to go out of their way to rescue us--notably, today, a dapper older gentleman named Jiro, who walked us a half mile to a bus stop Google Maps was no help in finding) and Nora is getting intensive practice of her language skills.
But it is odd to ride empty buses and empty trains, navigate empty stations, walk down empty streets. It's also hard to know what tone to take when posting about our adventures. I want to share the fun and excitement of our trip, but it seems rather tone deaf. Fiddling while Rome burns, as it were.
Anyway, we'll keep posting pictures and sharing our journey. I hope we're not coming across as a couple of foolish, clueleless idiots. I mean, maybe we are.
Maybe we should have cancelled and stayed home. It might have been wiser.
But spring is coming to Japan. The cherry blossoms are opening. And we have decided to be here to greet them.