A few weeks ago it was hard to imagine what state the world would be in today. Just before I left the UK my daughter’s school in Wales announced that it was closing and we should take our students back home. I was lucky enough to get my daughter a seat on the same plane I was on, and we returned together, and spent 14 days quarantined together at home. I managed a brief trip to Yosano, where the cherry blossoms were blooming. Nature looked so lovely, it almost seemed like life was normal. Then I returned to Tokyo going into lockdown. Apart from that brief trip, I have been inside the house almost all the time for three weeks already.
What do you do in lockdown? Actually, a lot of days are the same as a Saturday or Sunday when there is no kimono event for me. On those days I am often at home. I clean, do a bit of gardening, and write about kimono. I am still doing this, so my life in some ways has not changed so much. In normal circumstances though, I would cycle 14km a day and walk 100,000 steps, and I cannot do that. I love to be outside. I cannot meet and chat with friends or teach my students. If I have to go to the supermarket, I put on a mask and scarf too, and everyone outside is hiding their faces and swerving away from each other. There are no smiles to be seen anywhere. I have a big pile of kimono that need repairs, some major and some minor, and other sewing projects to do and books to read. I don’t have a television. I am never bored, because I have these things to do. I sometimes message or skype with friends or family.
I have family in the UK and Belgium and friends in Italy, Spain and New York, so I am concerned about how they are doing. So far, they don’t have the virus. I allow myself to look at a round-up of world news at night. If I looked at it more often I would panic. Once a day is enough to see such terrible things happening. When I read about doctors and nurses not having enough protective clothing I feel angry and when I read that some of them have died, I cry. I cannot imagine what it is like to be working in a hospital now. Shop keepers, delivery drivers and cleaners are now heroes on the front lines in a war against an enemy that we can’t see. It is a terrifying situation.
I am really sad about all the kimono events that have had to be cancelled, all the plans that have been put on hold. I am sad for all the children and students who were looking forward to going to school, and for all the people who cannot work and will be thrown into financial trouble. Life in Japan is going to get much harder before it gets better again. We have to learn from the experience of other countries. It takes a huge sacrifice from many people to stop this virus. Recovery from the illness takes time, and no country has yet recovered from the damage done.
They say that every cloud has a silver lining. In this case it is hard to see what the silver lining is. There are few things that are certainly good for us. We have been forced to slow down. Life in Tokyo can be so frantic that we never have time to stop and think. Having time to stop makes me ask myself if what I am doing is the right thing to be doing. Does it have meaning for me? How do I want to live my life? Am I giving anything back? It makes me appreciate my home and the people in it. Some people are all alone in isolation and some people are in abusive or stressful relationships. There is harmony in my house. It is also spacious and I am very grateful that I have space. Space is more important than things. The sky is blue and it is quiet outside. I am sure that the air is cleaner, so the plants and animals will be happy. Nature is doing what she always does, and tulips are blooming in my garden. The potatoes that I planted are coming up.
None of us knows how the world will change after this. We don’t know exactly what we will have to go through either, but many of us will be changed somehow by this experience. I really hope that we will be kind and support each other. I was horrified that the university staff and students where covid 19 broke out, were bullied. We must stick together and be kind to those who get this horrible sickness. We should check on our elderly neighbours, to see if they need shopping. We should prepare but not panic buy because we are afraid. We should use the time we have been given wisely. We can read books we have always wanted to, or try a new craft, make music, or do an online course. We can also enjoy doing projects, games or cooking with family members. It is nice to have the time to be creative together.
This is a watershed moment for the world. We should also be thinking about what we would like the world to be like on the other side, when this is all over. It is a chance for change.