The government’s 延長 (enchō, extension) of the national state of emergency took some of the shine off Golden Week as people ditched plans to travel in favor of 巣ごもり (sugomori), a word that means “nesting” that the Japanese are using for sheltering in place during the coronavirus pandemic.
So it looks like we’re in for another month of おうち時間 (ouchi jikan, time at home) and requests of 外出自粛 (gaishutsu jishuku, refraining from going outside). That means I’ll be spending more time with my computer and smartphone screens if I want to talk to my friends: “何してる？” (“Nani shiteru?” “What are you up to?”), the typical conversation starts. “特に何も” (“Toku ni nani mo,” “Nothing special”) comes the reply.
But we can’t sit at home doing nothing while we wait for life to return to the way it was. 暇だから今までやったことがないことに挑戦してみたい (Hima dakara, ima made yatta koto ga nai koto ni chōsen shite-mitai, Because I have time on my hands, I want to try things I haven’t done before). I know two people who are learning the ukulele, one person who has signed up for a college course on environmental development, and another who is studying 手話 (shuwa, sign language).
One thing that people in Japan seem to be doing more of while staying home is 料理 (ryōri, cooking). Since a lot of restaurants have been affected by the 緊急事態 (kinkyū jitai, state of emergency), there has been 時短営業 (jitan eigyō, reduction in operating hours) and most places have had to limit their operations to テイクアウト (teiku auto, take out) and デリバリー (deribarī, delivery) services such as Uber Eats. However, the Japanese media reports that a lot of people are just cooking on their own. Young women in particular have taken to お菓子作り (okashi zukuri, making sweets) at home, their creations being so インスタ映え (insuta-bae, perfect for Instagram) that they can enjoy eating their treats and get a few likes while they’re at it.
Before the pandemic, the elements that make up the word “巣ごもり” implied something stronger than simply staying at home. The kanji “巣” (su) means nest while the ごもり (gomori) suffix is the noun form of the verb “籠もる” (komoru), which means to seclude oneself, hide away or shut yourself in your room. In feudal Japan, the kanji from 籠もる was most often seen in the term “籠城” (rōjō), a response to a military blockade that would see warlords holing up inside their castles. In order to do this, the clan needed sufficient water and food supplies to sustain everyone for a period of three months or more. The strategy was common during 長期戦 (chōkisen, drawn-out war), a term used by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when describing our current situation with COVID-19.
The verb 籠もる can also be found in the term “引きこもり” (hikikomori, shut-in) and “立て籠もる” (tatekomoru, to barricade oneself in). In fact, one of the few news stories to break through the onslaught of recent coronavirus coverage was a 立て籠もり事件 (tatekomori jiken) hostage incident that happened in Fukuoka last month, when a diner employee barricaded himself inside the premises after taking his boss’ young daughters hostage. Thankfully, the two girls were let go.
家にいる間にできることは料理だけではありません (Ie ni iru aida ni dekiru koto wa ryōri dake dewa arimasen, While you’re holed up at home, you can do more than just cooking). 巣ごもり消費 (Sugomori shōhi, Nesting consumption) has become a marketing phenomenon as various companies compete to cash in on the trends that support the nest.
Instead of accumulating more things, however, I recommend a good 大掃除 (ōsōji, deep house cleaning) and 断捨離 (danshari, thorough decluttering) if you haven’t done one already. That way, you can make room for some おうちヨガ (ouchi yoga, yoga at home) and おうちエクササイズ (ouchi ekusasaizu, exercising at home), which is good for both your physical and mental health. 近所の人は毎朝縄跳びをしています (Kinjo no hito wa maiasa nawatobi o shite-imasu, A neighbor of mine jumps rope every morning), but if you live in an apartment just make sure you don’t make too much noise when doing that.
オンライン飲み (onrain-nomi, online drinking parties) or, more specifically, ZOOM飲み (zūmu-nomi, drinking parties using videochat service Zoom) have also grown in popularity, which can be noisy inconveniences for your neighbors as well. It’s a time of high stress, so take the feelings of those around you into account in whatever you do at home. Hopefully, we’ll be back to drinking at noisy 居酒屋 (izakaya, pubs) in no time, impressing our friends with the skills we acquired while in 巣ごもり mode.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.
Your news needs your support
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.