COVID in Rural Japan: Braced for Bad News

COVID in Rural Japan: Braced for Bad News - A Hassan.- covid in rural japan

I feel for the people in the rest of the world, and even the rest of the bigger cities in Japan. Living through COVID in rural Japan has been like living in a little anti-pandemic bubble. Most likely the virus is here, but being in one of the most rural cities, in one of the most rural prefectures, on the least populated island of Japan, means that it’s progression has been exponentially slower than elsewhere in Japan and the world. Despite all this, I can’t help but be braced for bad news.

 As an ALT in the boondocks, me, my teachers, and our students have been going through the ebb and flow of school openings and closures without much thought. The first semester lasted an entire week. From April 7 – April 14, we were back to normal, I got to teach on two full days, and then Abe declared the state of emergency. So far, the school closures and States of Emergencies have been so strange because there is no confirmed case of COVID-19 in my small city. So we’ve accepted the school closures, but not much else. So little has changed because even with classes cancelled right now, school isn’t. All the staff come to school, have morning meetings, prepare worksheets, and just pass the day. Some days we sew masks, some days we have staff fried chicken lunches, and some days we do outdoor gardening. We don’t really wear masks, we go out to restaurants to eat lunch, we visit students at their homes to check on them, and they come in large groups to school for homework check. But throughout all this, there is always a low buzz of stress, anxiety, and worry. We’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Because, though we’ve been lucky to stay unaffected thus far, it’ll take very little water to sink this ship. 

Though being small and rural has kept the virus away from my city for so long, it also means that when it arrives, it won’t spare any time in spreading. Our population is so low, and within it, the elderly population is so high, that it would be truly devastating for us if the virus arrives and goes unchecked here. So even though we are all trying to stay calm and go from day to day, we’re braced at all times for bad news. It’s a miracle that it hasn’t gotten bad here yet. Unfortunately, with Golden Week coupled with good weather on the horizon, and the mixed messages from the government which have lulled people into a false sense of security, there is a real possibility that people won’t be abiding by the social distancing requests. If bad news is coming, it’s most likely going to arrive in the next two weeks, after Golden Week.

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