Looking on the Bright Side
Total global cases of COVID-19 now number near five million, with the countries in the top five switching around just about weekly. Japan is now way down on the list, and by the look of it the number of new confirmed cases peaked at the end of last month. So maybe we can relax a little.
Still, constant changes in air pressure and balmy, windy, sopping wet weather in combination with the voluntary restrictions on social interaction has made for a very depressing few weeks. As is printed all over this web site, residents are encouraged to reduce all excursions by 80%. I almost never go out, just about all of my work being online, and when I do I see the world set up like a plague zone: plastic barriers blocking all service counters, clerks and customers alike all dressed like surgeons in every shop, clerks passing change in the till because they're afraid to touch anyone's hand. Let us hope the world will be back to a relatively sane and civilised standard before too long.
(Just about the only thriving institutions, by the way, are the pachinko parlours. People come from far and wide to visit the ones that haven't been badgered into suspension; a goodly portion of the license plates on the cars parked outside them are from outside Tottori Prefecture. Clearly, for the addicted, feeding the monster trumps all other concerns.)
But the obsession with the face masks has relaxed a little, which makes life a bit easier to endure. I for one feel fairly suffocated with any material blocking my nose and mouth. Those who grew up using them seem not to find them uncomfortable at all. Face masks or no, though, most people still don't want to socialise. Thus the term "social distancing" turns out to be rather apt, after all--though in the early stages of this "crisis" seemed to refer merely to physical distance. We have been cut off from one another, reduced to electronic reproductions of interaction, as though the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables were severed, forcing us to live on white bread and instant noodles.
Maybe they'll let us have our freedom back--or at least some of it. Maybe we won't be force-vaccinated or have our every interaction registered in a public database. Maybe we'll have back a measure of the way of life we had taken for granted.