Five stories on how the COVID-19 pandemic has left its mark on Japanese society in 2020:
- For many in Japan, 2020 has been a year hijacked by uncertainty — a tumultuous period spent improvising and adapting to an unfamiliar way of life. Ryusei Takahashi takes readers on a journey through Japan’s first, second and third waves of the coronavirus pandemic, and looks at the changes wrought by the virus. But how many of them will last?
- The Japanese have spoken: 密 (mitsu) is the kanji of the year for 2020. But what is this character trying to say to us? Ryan Norrbom takes the kanji apart and puts it back together again, hoping to shed light on the matter. An honorable mention also goes out to all the other coronavirus-related characters got nods in the public vote, illustrating how little else there was to talk about in 2020.
- American Barry Yourgrau’s struggle to cope with life during the COVID-19 pandemic inspired a burst of creative writing, which culminated in a book of short stories, “Botticelli,” that became a hit in translation in Japan — before even being published in English. For The New York Times, Yourgrau recounts how his daily dispatches seem to have struck a deep chord halfway around the world.
- How has this invisible enemy affected the lives of visually impaired people in Japan? Guide dog users say the new normal brought about by the coronavirus has made going about everyday life more confusing. Seeking help from others while maintaining social distance is a particular challenge, and no, guide dogs do not need to be sanitized.
- Hordes of Santa Clauses rode Harley Davidsons through Tokyo last Sunday for their annual parade against child abuse. Gratuitous Christmas Day Santa reference? Certainly not. At the parade, bikers said this year’s event meant more than usual because more children were vulnerable to domestic violence during the pandemic. And they may have a point: Child abuse cases in Japan rose up to 20% between January and March versus the same period last year as more families spent more time at home.