Over the past year, The Japan Times’ Escape section has been publishing “A weekend in … ,” a series that started out by introducing the host cities of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and then moved on to explore other cities in Japan and Southeast Asia.
Now with international and domestic travel halted by the outbreak of COVID-19, Japan under a nationwide a state of emergency and prefectural governments advising residents to refrain from visiting bars, restaurants and other crowded or enclosed spaces, any grand adventure is off the cards — for now.
Instead, we bring you “A weekend inside,” full to the brim with suggestions from Japan Times contributors and friends about how to best use your newfound time indoors.
It’s happy hour Chez Joe, and these days I’ve been delving into the exciting and rapidly expanding world of Japanese gin. Shinanoya sells several varieties — including popular brands such as Ki No Bi, Nikka Coffey Gin and Sakurao, as well as more niche offerings like shōchū-based Hinata from Miyazaki Prefecture. What I’m drinking right now: gin and tonic with Kyro x Ki No Bi Gin, a limited-edition collaboration between Finland’s Kyro Distillery and The Kyoto Distillery, while binge-watching “Tiger King” on Netflix. — Melinda Joe, Kanpai Culture columnist
Stuck inside, much of your day is likely to be spent thinking about (and then preparing) dinner. Or you can just get online for a takeout and support your favorite restaurants — otherwise they may not survive, and nor may the farmers who supply their produce. Instead of using Uber Eats, order direct (if possible), as it helps the restaurant’s margins. If you want to treat yourself to a high-end option, try Omakase. — Robbie Swinnerton, Tokyo Food File columnist
Ever since the lockdown, I’ve been using Netflix Party to watch films and shows together with friends. Download the app on their website and you can invite friends to watch Netflix in sync across your computers. Get it set up, start a group call, play your favourite series and you can enjoy the show together without the annoyance of laughing at the same jokes with a two-second lag. — Sakura Murakami, Reuters reporter
I start every morning with a cup of fresh-brewed coffee, but on weekends I like to take my time and brew it with a V60 filter, rather than the much faster French press I use on weekdays. There’s something meditative and satisfying about the ritual of boiling water, hand-grinding the beans and methodically streaming the water over the grinds. I prefer my coffee blacker than black, but you do you. (My recipe is 15 grams of ground coffee and 225 grams of water, poured in 20, 100, 60 and 45-gram increments.) — Claire Williamson, Japan Times Food editor
I now spend my mornings plugged into a decent pair of noise-canceling headphones exploring world music through time with Radiooooo. Open up the app, choose a decade from the 1900s to the present day and a country and listen to what was playing at the time. 1970s Algeria is a great place to start. — Oscar Boyd, Japan Times Escape editor
Ovenless in Tokyo and with social media showing me all these amazing cakes, I got thinking about how to repurpose my faithful rice cooker. Trial and error is my new thing, and afternoons are devoted to flipping the rice-cooker bowl and attempting to master the perfect rice-cooker cake. Entertaining and really quite fun, I recommend this to everyone. You can use any normal cake recipe! — Eleanor Ford, Tokyo resident
A good one for the children is something I used to love when I was young: creating a town. Tape a few sheets of paper together, draw your favorite shops, some roads and some rivers, and then color it all in. My daughter still thinks the barber is called “otakoyasan” (octopus shop), rather than “otokoyasan,” so that goes in every time. — Jordan Allen, Japan Times Entertainment editor
It’s after lunch. My finished bowl of rice sits unwashed next to me. I haven’t moved enough today to feel good about a nap, yet I’m too full to do anything productive. I take my guitar out and look through my chords list. I scroll down a bit, then crawl back to Pink Floyd. I’ve never related to “Comfortably Numb” so much before: “Hello … Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anyone home?” — Gabriele Bortolotti, Escape contributor
Since news about coronavirus is all everyone is talking about these days, I’ve created a virtual book club with my friends where we share books, articles and podcasts (so we can read less and talk frequently!) that are unrelated to COVID-19, and have extensive discussions about them. I’m now becoming educated on a broad range of topics: the history of stock markets, the psychology behind watching reality TV and myriad schools of moral philosophy! — Tomo Greer, Escape contributor
I spend my evenings playing Overcooked 2 with my kids on their Nintendo Switch. The aim is to work together to cook a variety of meals before the time runs out. Teamwork is essential. Often it descends into a bitter scene of blame and recrimination, but the sense of achievement and togetherness you get from serving up that last burrito in time makes it all worth it. — Andrew McKirdy, Japan Times reporter
During these times of isolation, I’ve had to find more economical ways to eat dinner, beyond my previous routine of dining out or ordering takeout. I’ve taken to cooking interesting dishes, ranging from homemade gyōza to cooking a whole bluefin tuna neck in my toaster oven. This new found hobby has opened a window into fascinating culinary experiments (did someone say nabe porridge?) — Aska Ross, Tokyo resident
I figured that if I’m going to keep myself busy playing my records in the evenings, I might as well share them with anyone who fancies a listen. After a few Google searches and a root around in my bag of miscellaneous cables, I worked out how to connect my mixer directly to my phone, and an Instagram/Facebook audience of about six people. It’s more fun than playing alone! — Joe Oliver, Japan Times contributor
In self-isolation I’ve finally been able to convince my decidedly skeptical art historian-poet-liberal arts-major friends to play World of Warcraft (and so can you!). Hop on a group call while participating in quests, battling odd monsters with even odder problems (mossy tumors?) and roaming around as an intricately face tattooed “Night Elf rogue” (my choice, anyway). Just like any other night on the town. Sort of. — Capella Yee, former Tokyo resident
Late at night, I start up my Nintendo Switch to say hello to all my animal friends in Animal Crossing: New Horizons and work to pay off my mortgage to the notorious raccoon tycoon, Tom Nook. One day I’ll manage it! — Jasmin Pendon, Japan Times editor
For those who are working from home and are finding it hard to resist the urge to snack or are stressed by their new life, I recommend taking 10 minutes to exercise. Find a wee space at home and follow along to a YouTube workout like Popsugar Fitness. It may only take 10 minutes but, by the time you finish, you’ll see beads of sweat on your forehead. — Haruka Murayama, Japan Times, Life & Culture editorial assistant
I’ve found the solution to getting my day started has been signing up for morning exercise classes. With a class I need to wake up for, I get up earlier and feel more driven. Doing the classes with a trainer that lives in Japan — Mitch Kondo at Raw Energy Tokyo — also means that I don’t have to worry about having a small space to work out in, as the trainer has created a routine specifically for less-spacious Japanese apartments. — Shaun McKenna, Japan Times Community editor
I like to start my day by journaling. It’s a helpful way to organize my thoughts and make sense of how I’m feeling. Not only that, but research also suggests that journaling can boost your immune system. Years from now, it could be interesting to have a record of how you lived through historic events. If you’re not sure how to begin, there are plenty of writing prompts online. — Alyssa I. Smith, Japan Times Entertainment editor
With no plans to use as excuses anymore, I’ve decided to finally tackle decluttering my apartment. I’m horrified to think about the pieces of clothing I brought to Japan over half a decade ago that I’ve only worn once or twice since. Thankfully Marie Kondo is here to the rescue, as she is making her signature book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” available on Line Novel free of charge until May 8. — Tom Hanaway, Japan Times Engagement editor
Hey, nerds. Wanna get into toy photography? There’s an awesome online community for that. And while there are tons of inspirational accounts out there, you really don’t need more than a phone camera and, if you’re feeling spicy, an editing app. The smallest space is still an enormous set for a toy and it’s helped me shift my perspective on my apartment from being confining to creative. — Dana Macalanda, Japan Times editor
Staring at screens is not always a bad thing. Exploring the world without any special equipment or licences, Google Earth Voyager has become my new hobby. From 1,000 feet beneath the sea to aboard the International Space Station, from the jungle to world-famous jazz clubs, you can join tours, take quizzes and learn from the Voyager guides. — Rina Yamazaki, Japan Times, Life & Culture editorial assistant
Sunday nights I’ve been focusing on having a bit of proper downtime before going to bed. Now I go through a regimen of lighting some candles, having a bubble bath and doing a face pack before curling up into bed. If I’m having trouble sleeping, it helps to top things off with an eye-warmer mask. — Sakura Murakami, Reuters reporter
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