State of Emergency

Corona Virus and no end in sight… depending on the country you live in, of course. While Austria is set to slowly return to the “old normal” after Easter, other countries are upgrading their Antivirus measures. From today, the Japanese government has declared a state of emergency in six regions until the end of the Golden Week holidays: Tokyo and the surrounding regions of Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba, Fukuoka prefecture in Kyushu, as well as Osaka and the neighboring Hyogo prefecture. The last two are just south of Kyoto.

What that means is that the regional government can now “request” (meaning: demand) that people stay home as much as possible, that schools, shops, restaurants and other public venues close, and that companies “thoroughly implement infection control measures” whatever that means in detail. This rather drastic measure comes after a jump in the number of infected people, and if you ever went by train in Tokyo or Osaka, or even just watched a video about rush hour there, you understand why the government is getting more and more anxious about the whole thing.

Although Kyoto is less than an hour away from Osaka, the city/prefecture is not included in the state of emergency. But then again, schools and universities remain closed for the time being, many museums, especially the larger ones owned by city government, are closed (again), and lots of popular events like the lightups for hanami and even Aoi Matsuri in May have been cancelled.

While things are going more or less normal at my work, at the moment, I’m spending more time checking the status of old events in my calendar than actually adding new ones. Seeing all the bright red “cancelled” notices in the What’s up in Kyoto event calendar is rather depressing, honestly.

I guess Corona/Covid19 will remain topic #1 for quite a while. Best to stay vigilant, even though I know it’s hard and annoying. In case you need a reminder why all this is necessary, here is an excellent video about why and how Covid19 is different from the flu. Stay healthy!

Hanami 2020

It got pretty cold again last week, especially the evenings are rather chilly these days. Sadly, right now would be the best time to see the sakura… Yesterday it was pouring all day just like during the rainy season, so that was the end of the cherry blossoms nearby my home at least.

On top of that, the friend I wanted to do hanami with had to stay home and take care of her sick cat. Hime-chan was an elderly Siamese cat my friend had since autumn last year, and she had kidney problems from the very beginning, as many older cats have. Hime-chan passed away last night, but I am sure that my friend has given her many great months at the end of her life. 

pink cherry blossomsAnyway, I have hope to visit the Botanical Gardens a bit later in spring. Not all cherries bloom at the same time, and in the Botanical Gardens, especially along the Kamogawa river they have planted lots of late-blooming sakura. So, there may be an opportunity for a little hanami after all.

Yes…Noh

Not much has happened this week that is worth writing about unfortunately – or should I say: luckily, given the state the world is in right now? So, I’ll give a brief overview of my plans for the weekend.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a day off, mostly because I have physiotherapy for my hip in the morning, and I’m in more pain than usual for the rest of the day. I have been fairly good in keeping up with my exercises though, so overall the pain has reduced. It’s still not good if I walk too long or too far, but I’m doing better, thankfully.

In the afternoon, I want to go see a free Noh play/lecture about Noh. I still love Noh and I would love to go more often if it weren’t quite that expensive. So I’m grateful for any free or cheap possibilities to see a play. In this case, it will be just a short one-hour affair, so I guess it is just a short excerpt anyway. Plus, it is held in Murin-an, a lovely garden with beautiful villa that is wonderful in all seasons, but especially in autumn. A friend of mine will come along, even though Noh is not her thing, really. But since it is completely free for her (I have to pay entrance to the garden) and it’s nearby her house and it’s just an hour, and we wanted to meet anyway… she relented and will come with me.

Murin-an in summer

What I will do the rest of the weekend is not certain yet – except that I’ll probably work one day of it. The cherries are not yet at their peak, and besides, I already have a hanami appointment with a friend next Wednesday. Many fun events have been cancelled, but there’s the possibility of simply using my one-year ticket to the botanical gardens. and seeing how far the cherry blossoms are along there.

We’ll see… I shall report 😉

Facemasks

Thank you all who have sent me emails from your quarantine to enquire about me! Looking at what is happening in Europe at the moment, I have to say that here in Japan, things are much, much better!

Kids are on holidays, universities are closed, and many events have been cancelled or postponed, including the Olympic Games 2020. People are wearing masks if they still have any, and there’s no toilet paper on sale, still. If you talk to people, the main topic is the Corona virus.

But other than this, things are pretty normal: We can go out whenever we like as opposed to just when needed, many museums are now reopening their doors, and the supermarkets are full, both with goods and with shoppers. So yes, for me, things look pretty normal with small exceptions, but then again, I neither care for kids nor for the elderly, and I work from home where I don’t meet many people to begin with.

Every now and then I do go out though, and the Corona crisis has provided me with a new experience! At our last soroban class, our teacher asked everybody to wear a face mask. Who knows where he got that stash from, but I obliged and wore a face mask for the first time in my life. It was… well… At first, it felt like I couldn’t breathe at all. The standard face masks are made with some sort of thick paper-pulp and it is weird to feel your own breath on your face. It took me some time to get used to the mask, but after a while it was okay.

After the class we took a walk at Nanzen-ji temple which was not very busy, but it was also a bit early for the cherry blossoms. The mask felt more and more restrictive the faster we walked about, and when it was finally time to go home, I took it off completely. I have never seen anybody wearing a mask on a bicycle or while doing sports, it really makes breathing much harder.

In any case, there are still no face masks to be had anywhere. And while the situation is relatively relaxed right now, there might come a time when you have to wear a mask when going out. So, I thought I’d be prepared – and did a bit of sewing last weekend. I took the mask I received at the soroban class and made a cloth version of it with some scraps I happened to have at home. It’s nothing fancy and definitely not perfect, but for a first trial I think I did pretty well. The left one below is the sample, the right one my own creation.

face masks bought and made

Almost Hanami!

Cherry blossom season is about to start, thanks to global warming much earlier than usual. The forecast is very accurate, it says that the first blossoms start flowering today; and in fact, I saw my first sakura just yesterday on my way to visit a friend! Next week, the sakura should be in full bloom.

hanami forecast 2020

I’m looking forward to doing some hanami! I will probably simply go down to the river for a quick onigiri rice ball, but it’ll be fun nevertheless.

More on the Corona Virus

People are getting more and more concerned about the Corona virus here in Japan. Here are a some news from my end – don’t worry, I myself am still fine and healthy!

The latest move of the government is to give prime minister Abe the ability to declare a state of emergency if needed. This means that the prefectural governors could then instruct residents to stay indoors and ask for schools to close and events to be canceled. Local governments could also demand that essentials like medicine and food be sold to them. They could temporarily take over private land and facilities to provide medical care. The difference to now (where schools are already closed) is that now the government does not have the legal power to force school closures etc. but they would have if a state of emergency was declared. Such a state of emergency could last for up to two  years, by the way.

woman wearing a surgical maskRight now it is virtually impossible to buy face masks anywhere. Of course, there are people who still have supplies and are selling them at exorbitant prices – a politician (!) from Shizuoka has just made 8.8 million yen this way. From next week on, it will be illegal to sell face masks at a profit, incurring a fine of 1 million yen and/or one year in prison.

This measure is only valid for face masks, but there are other things that are sold out or rationed as well: disinfectants for example, tissues and toilet paper, and, interestingly, female hygiene products (think panty liners). I don’t even want to know what people do with these… Just in case you want to be creative and make your own reusable face mask, here’s a how-to:
https://www.cottontimemagazine.com/page/10
It’s in Japanese, but thanks to the pictures, it’s pretty straightforward.

A number of delivery companies are taking measures to limit contact of their drivers with customers. You don’t need to sign when you receive a delivery for example, and it may even be that the driver will place your purchases not into your hand, but onto the floor in front of your apartment instead.

Hence the latest news from Japan. I’m still not worried, but then again, I’m not going out much anyway. My Japanese teacher has a serious knee injury and will not be able to come to our classes for a while, so that leaves at the moment only 3 appointments each week I have to go to, plus shopping of course. Also, sitting at home 24/7 is not good for my mental health, so people will still find me at my favourite cafe every once in a while.

Disappointment

What's up in Kyoto square logoFor my What’s up in Kyoto highlights this year, I have chosen event venues. There are a number of great places with live music as well as traditional theaters in Kyoto, and it’s a step away from the traditional events I usually do. As a bonus, I thought I would make a draw to win tickets for one of the events at the venue. I already had plans to do that last year with the museums, but the logistics is  much easier this time around I think.

So, I set everything up on my end, and I got this month’s event venue on my side to sponsor two tickets for their signature dance event. I advertised my “win 2 free tickets” from the beginning of the month and had the lines open so to speak until yesterday morning. And how many entries did I get? Want to guess? Not a single one… Let’s call this disappointing, shall we?

I am not entirely sure what the reasons for this utter failure are. Perhaps I
– didn’t advertise enough or not to the right people
– don’t have enough visitors to begin with so there are not enough interested people
– didn’t choose the right event (contemporary dance is not for everyone)
– made it too difficult to enter (too many clicks to get to the entry form)
– …

Oh well. I will try again. After all, how else am I going to improve?

Half Way…

I still haven’t upgraded my computer… Before starting this, I thought, it might be a good idea to do some cleaning so maybe the whole thing will go faster. By now, I’m not so sure anymore. Yesterday, I spent more than 3 hours getting rid of about 50 GB of old data. And I haven’t touched the big issues yet – my photos…

I guess my updating journey will take a bit longer than planned. *sigh*

Upgrading…

Just so that you know: I’ll have to do a software update for my laptop. If this were just my personal one, I wouldn’t care that much, but with my office machine I need to be a bit more careful, especially since I’m planning to keep using it for quite a while longer.

So, just in case I’ll go offline, it’s likely that the new software has sucked my laptop and me into a black hole…

Resolutions

cogwheelsJust as promised on Tuesday, here are the two most important of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2020. I do have more than these of course, but they are either very personal or too trivial/silly to share on the internet, so you’ll have to make do with these two.

  • Improve Work-Life Balance

This is my main work resolution, and I guess I’ll have to explain it in a bit more detail. As you know, I am self-employed and working from my home-office. It’s been 5 years now and over time I have fallen into the trap that is waiting for many people who work from home: a blurring of work and private life. It’s very easy to have work disrupted by tasks around the home: Oh, let me just throw in a load of laundry so it runs while I’m editing these pictures. Or: I’ll just quickly dust my desk (which then devolves into an office deep-clean). While it’s definitely nice to get some housework done, it’s not great having to work until late in the evening, even though I’m a professed night owl. In the end, it leads to a weird feeling of not getting anything done: During designated leisure time I’m thinking about all the work stuff I should have been doing and during work I’m procrastinating with household chores.

So, while my work-life balance as a whole is rather okay, I have decided to better separate my tasks. That means I have set myself a minimum of 5 hours of work every day (not counting any breaks) PLUS a set ending time for work at 18:00.

Clearly, there will be exceptions like when there’s a looming deadline, I have meetings during the day, or when I have a job that can only be done in the quiet time in the evenings. However, over time, I hope to get back to a similar routine I had when I was working in a “real” office: work during the day and do fun stuff or chores in the evenings.

  • Get out!

This one is for my private self. I have always been an introvert, and I could spend days, weeks, possibly months just reading on the couch without further human interaction. However, I already work from home, and I did notice that my social life here is essentially non-existent. So, my goal is to get out more often. Depending on work-load, I want to take at least one full day off each week, and then, I’d like to go out and do something new. There are many events in Kyoto I have never been to, and since I can choose which days to take off, I can always find something interesting to do.

I don’t think that I’ll ever overcome my introversion (mostly because I don’t see anything inherently wrong with it), but it’s nice to see new stuff and potentially meet new people. It’s always interesting what you can experience on a day in the city, and I have met my current friends at the most unexpected places and occasions.

So yes, those are my two main goals for 2020. Let’s hope I can stick to them!