April is approaching and with it comes the start of the new school year. Ordinarily, this would be a time for ceremonies replete with tears and smartphone-captured sentimentality. In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, however, even such small-scale public gatherings are less visible.

One of my Japanese students, the mother of a toddler who will be graduating from kindergarten this March, admitted to finding a silver lining to the otherwise terrifying contagion. She no longer has to organize the “mama’s dance” at her son’s kindergarten. She had been spending numerous Saturdays practicing the sōranbushi, a traditional folk dance from Hokkaido, because she “won” a lottery draw to lead a dance troupe of mothers corralled into putting on a show.

Like me, you may have grown up not knowing the sōranbushi, nor the peer pressure that could make an already frazzled working mother of a pre-schooler agree to learn a traditional Japanese folk dance on the weekends. Like me, you may be destined to go to your grave still bemused by the Japanese pre-school experience. I say this despite having a 3-year-old son in a Tokyo nursery, who is looking forward to going up a grade and meeting his new teachers this spring.