Lockdown Part 2

Imagine there’s a lockdown – and nobody cares.

Kyoto has been on its second Covid19 lockdown since January 13 and will remain so until February 7, unless the infections keep occurring on the same level of course. And, given how things have changed from the first lockdown, I wouldn’t be suprised if we we’re supposed to stay at home for longer. And the reason is:

Nobody actually is at home, despite the lockdown. I had to go to Kyoto Station last Saturday, and yes, the city was much quieter than usual. Part of it was surely the rainy weather, and part of it is surely the complete lack of tourists, foreign and domestic. Still, all the surviving shops were open this time, neither the streets nor public transport are completely deserted and museums, shrines, and temples have shortened business hours at best. The only thing where you notice something unusual is that the streets get much more quiet from 7 pm because restaurants are closing early.

This is a far cry from the eerie emptiness Kyoto experienced last spring during the first lockdown. To be fair, since then, many measures have been adopted to keep people safe, like compulsory wearing of masks inside buildings, social distance enforced with markers on the floor and plastic dividers on tables, fewer seats in restaurants, bottles of disinfectant everywhere… It took time to implement these and since people mostly adhere to the rules, I can see that most of them feel safe. I for sure do.

But while I am happy that I can keep up most of my routine and go out, I do sometimes wonder about other people and their train of thought. Last week, when I was meeting one of my students, there was a group of elderly people that I had seen before. They meet and chat and generally have a good time. This time, they were sitting at the table next to ours. At first there were only two old guys, but then more and more people would come.

Since the table was small, once there were six people, they were beginning to encroach on our space. And that’s when I got really annoyed. These were all old people, 65+, eating, drinking, laughing as nothing was amiss, no social distancing (although they did wear masks). I get it: I didn’t like to be shut up at home all day either. But YOU old people are exactly the reason why we’re shutting half of the country down. I’m not the one who has a big risk of getting seriously sick, YOU are. You silly old people need to stay home and find another way for your group therapy sessions. It’s only for four weeks while we’re in lockdown, that can’t be that difficult?

In the end, my student and I changed tables and topics. But seriously, how can you tell young people to put their lives on hold so that old people don’t get sick when these same old people couldn’t care less about it? I feel this kind of respect and taking care of each other should go both ways. But if it’s not even working in Japan, I don’t see much light for the rest of the planet.