An opinion column in the Japan Times described Japan as a corona virus-outlier. That was a week ago.
Things change fast.
Last weekend many residents of Tokyo ignored the government’s requests not to hold parties this year and took to the parks for ohanami as usual, a colossal failure to understand the concept of social distancing.
In response, Tokyo’s Governor Koide warned of a pending lockdown if people failed to self-distance and stay home this weekend. Corona virus numbers continue to rise. Therefore, thinking it was likely inevitable, early Wednesday morning I began to stock up on nutritious supplies should that occur.
Good thing, because after news that the Olympics would not go ahead this year hit and people were again urged to stay home this weekend or face lockdown, Thursday’s lineups in stores were horrendous. The good citizens of Tokyo (as happened in cities elsewhere earlier) cleared the grocery shelves of bread, meat, eggs, cup of noodles, instant ramen packets, spaghetti and water.
Fortunately, after getting food poisoning while traveling in 2010 and being laid low in my hotel for four days, I am better prepared. Now I always travel with a kit containing a supply of medicines to deal with regularity, flu or food poisoning.
With the present the disparity between the Canadian dollar and the Japanese yen the worst it’s ever been, I also pack food for my extended stays. Staples which at Tokyo prices can be three times the amount I’d pay in Canada. I still have a few more breakfasts from the kilogram of rolled oats and the tail end of the coffee. Two weeks ago when I saw what a few grams cost at the supermarket, I began to use less of the 500 grams of sunflower seeds and 500 grams of pumpkin seeds I add to the daily oatmeal.
This time with C-19 looming and thinking of hydration should I get ill, I also came with 18 organic bouillon cubes, as well as half a dozen small containers of unsweetened applesauce. On a day to day basis I supplement those supplies by always having things on hand which would help me manage self-care should I become ill. These include the BRAT diet staples: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast and tea. In addition I keep milk, probiotic yogurt, eggs, crackers and cheeses on hand.
When Koike’s first warning came I had a dozen eggs nearing their best before date in the fridge which I muddled and froze in salad dressing containers I obtained from Jon at Citron. I have been keeping him supplied with paper towels which are hard to find now. Whenever I pass by a drugstore and can find a pack I pick it up. From him I also ordered 12 containers of house-made vegetarian pea soup.
I froze those and added the last two packets of frozen vegetables without nightshades I could find in the local grocery store. Those I can add to the bouillon cubes and swirl in one of the frozen eggs for a nutritious soup. I also picked up a dozen fresh eggs good until April 17, carrots, more boxes of crackers, and packets of high quality soba noodles. I prefer those to rice or bread and the cooking water can be enjoyed afterwards as a nourishing tea.
Wednesday I was fortunate to find 750 grams of a lovely French brand of rolled oats which I have enjoyed on previous Tokyo stays. A 250 gram package in Tokyo, however, is the same price as a kilogram in Victoria. Ouch!
Then for rewarding sweetness that packs a wallop of fiber and other healthy goodness, I have dates and prunes as well as kiwi fruit and bananas which are less expensive here than 5 dollar individual apples and other pricey fruit. I saw a small watermelon yesterday for 35 dollars. Ouch, again!
Canada is telling its citizens that their lockdown will likely go on for more than weeks. I recently saw a headline which speculated August. Bring on last week’s crow chorus: Ow! Ow! Ow! At preset people in Victoria are allowed limited grocery runs, but supplies aren’t always in the stores. I don’t know what the rules will be if Tokyo goes into lockdown. However, I am prepared to ration what I have.
Meanwhile I step up best practices. When I must take a train I can maintain my distance most of the time. Since I live beside Aoyama Cemetery I choose to enjoy the sakura with those who are not deadly–just dead.
Recently astronaut Chris Hadfield offered the following advice about self-isolation. Watch the YouTube video here. I offer my responses to his ideas in parenthesis:
Understand the actual risk. (It’s not small; it’s unavoidable. So be wary, but don’t fall prey to all the sensational headlines either.)
Don’t be afraid. (When his visor filled with fluid on a spacewalk he kept his cool. He had to in order not to drown in his helmet. Fear makes you stupid. Fortunately, I have not been afraid. Disappointed by the setbacks to my original purpose in being here and overwhelmed once or twice, but not afraid.)
Have a mission—goals and projects. (I focus on something as simple as sanitizing consistently—aka wanking my door handles which makes the chore a bit more amusing. I organize, create, watch other creators online and prepare for isolation if it comes. I hunt down the ever breeding Tokyo dust bunnies. There is always something to do even in a space as small as my Tokyo apartment. I exercise beside my peacefully sleeping neighbours and enjoy the cherry blossoms at the same time. They won’t last forever; neither will the virus.)
Take care of yourself and your space ship. (This one is so true. Eric Edmeades, recently posted a valuable video on how one critical point was being missed when C-19 was discussed—and that is the nutrition required to keep an immune system strong.
Alas, in Tokyo wild temptations for the taste buds are overwhelming: lemon tarts, pumpkin crème brulee—a new discovery. I work to limit those but in four weeks I’ve indulged more than I normally would in over six months or more in Victoria. Sigh….
Historically the Canadian government is woefully slow on repatriation of its citizens at any time. Therefore, I don’t think I’ll have to suddenly leave Japan before I get to use up my stash. Japan isn’t even on the list of countries from which the government is now trying to repatriate citizens simultaneously. Usually crises requiring repatriation are isolated incidents not global assaults.
Therefore, I continue to keep a Buddha mind about it since I am assured that I can extend my lease and the real estate company is being incredibly cooperative about the fluid situation.
I continue to gather the information I need to cope and thrive here. And I will be better able to assess my circumstances in two weeks’ time when I will need to make that decision. When I read of hotels in Victoria closing their doors during the current crisis, I’m most grateful to be in a lease arrangement with a large established company than in a hotel or an Airbnb.
As a result, there will be no great lamentations, weeping or gnashing of teeth in this quarter. While that makes great Biblical copy in the St. James, it’s not practical in the present circumstances. Keeping my lamp trimmed and ready is more my style.
So I’ll sit tight for now and see what develops. I’m sleeping well. Probably because I’m not fighting the situation. It is what it is. I do my best to make it beautiful. So far, in spite of the setbacks, my Tokyo life is rewarding beyond expectations. I’m savoring the season’s beauty and tapping into the bliss.