You know when life isn’t awful but it’s not that great either? The Japanese call it モヤモヤ (moya-moya), which includes a vague sense of foreboding that’s in the air right now. Welcome to the 新たな日常 (aratana nichijō, new normal).
Businesses and schools have reopened, but people in Japan are still worried about a 第二波 (dai ni-ha, second wave) of the 新型コロナウイルス (shingata koronauirusu, novel coronavirus), especially 医療関係者 (iryō kankeisha, medical workers) who have been celebrated with surprise fireworks and colorful light displays. How about higher salaries?
To combat this モヤモヤ feeling, I recommend deploying the 三つの力 (mittsu no chikara, three powers) that are currently going viral in the Japanese media: コミュ力 (komyu-ryoku, communication power), 免疫力 (men’eki-ryoku, immune power) and the extremely trendy 女子力 (joshi-ryoku, feminine power). Personally, cultivating these three powers is one of the few ways I can resist checking in with my phone to see the latest number of infections.
コミュ力 is something many Japanese struggled with before the pandemic. For example, my friend Kana has always been 無口 (mukuchi, taciturn) unless in the company of close friends. She says the past two months of テレワーク (terewāku, teleworking) has changed her, though.
“ZOOM会議とこまめなメール報告で、わたしのコミュ力がアップした” (“Zūmu kaigi to komamena mēru hōkoku de, watashi no komyu-ryoku ga appu shita,” “With Zoom meetings and frequent status reporting over email, my communication powers have gone up”), Kana says.
While some people have struggled with わかりづらい (wakari-zurai, difficult to understand) video-chat meetings, Kana has found the experience liberating. She has been experimenting with lighting and makeup so that she’ll look healthy and cheerful, making sure she isn’t too casually dressed and channeling her inner Yuki Amami, クールな役柄で有名な女優 (kūruna yakugara de yūmeina joyū, an actress famous for playing cool characters), to speak up and be clear and decisive.
As a result, Kana came out with some great ideas that kept the meetings lively and interesting. When she goes into the office now, she finds herself talking to her co-workers as if they were old friends.
“思いがけず、成長できた” (“Omoigakezu, seichō dekita,” “I wasn’t planning on it, but I managed to grow”). Maybe she’ll be a YouTuber next?
The kanji 力 (ryoku) has another pronunciation: “chikara,” and it means strength or power. Since the pandemic began, 力 has become much more fashionable than 技術 (gijutsu, skill/technology). More people have realized 自分の身は自分で守る (jibun no mi wa jibun de mamoru), which means it’s every person for themselves out there, and that inner strength is the most effective weapon to combat 不安 (fuan, anxiety) and ストレス (sutoresu, stress).
However, wearing masks and keeping fit doesn’t hurt either. That’s where 免疫力 comes in. I get a lot of advice on 免疫力を上げる食事 (men’eki-ryoku o ageru shokuji, meals to increase your immune power) and 免疫力を高める生活習慣 (men’eki-ryoku o takameru seikatsu shūkan, lifestyle habits to increase your immune power). It seems like most people have a trick or two up their sleeve to boost immunity and energy levels. The one I can really get behind is 免疫力アップのためにチョコレートを食べる (men’eki-ryoku appu no tame ni chokorēto o taberu, to eat chocolate in order to bolster immunity), which, trust me, works wonders.
力 goes deeper than physical strength, though, it’s about tapping into your inner resources in order to be your best person. The kanji is used in the term 火事場の馬鹿力 (kajiba no bakajikara), an adrenaline rush or a freak strength that is unwittingly mustered during a crisis or emergency. Essentially, it’s your superhero power.
My superhero power is 女子力, and that term is a hot topic in the media right now — but not in the way you may think. In the past, 女子力 was a considerably sexist term that referred to the kinds of characteristics that made women desirable to men: being able to cook, clean and be pretty all at the same time.
Now, 女子力 is something different. Every person needs to be able to access it, whether it’s the ability to sew yourself a mask to protect from infection, take care of family members who are having to live in self-imposed quarantine or being able to access the patience and empathy needed in very stressful times. The slogan 女子力は世界を救う(joshi-ryoku wa sekai o sukuu, feminine powers will save the world) can now be seen all over social media. It may not be as catchy as “girl power,” but it’s definitely a part of the 新たな日常.