Sunday Morning 3/1/2020: Week 6 in Japan

The shopping street near our apartment is usually packed with people, either walking or riding bicycles – these days there’s a lot less traffic. This picture was taken on Thursday at about 2:00 in the afternoon, but on Saturday afternoon the street was almost full again.

It’s Sunday morning in Japan . . .        

There have been more changes occurring since my post on Wednesday because of the coronavirus threat. Streets, shops, stores, everything seems emptier than usual as people avoid going out unless they have to. All schools will close tomorrow for the remainder of the winter term (until the first week of April). We will be going over to watch C while M works at home; he will be getting his lessons via distance learning for the rest of the term. Can you imagine this happening in the U.S.? We still go out for walks so we don’t go stir crazy, but otherwise, just for specific purposes, such as food shopping, or to go to our son’s, and we combine errands whenever possible. It’s going to be a challenge going forward to match our previous walking levels. We are taking things a day at a time.

We have been riding the bus more this past couple of weeks in order to avoid passing through Shibuya and other large stations, and as a result, we’ve been discovering all sorts of new places. For example, the other day, as we walked to the bus stop, we found an antique store just around the corner from our apartment! We had no idea. And, it’s been fun to travel through nearby neighborhoods at ground level on a bus versus speeding by them or be underground on a train. Bus rides in Japan always used to scare me – it was so easy to get lost, and the automated announcements for stops were always done by a woman with a soft, high-pitched voice that I could barely understand. These days the woman’s voice is still there, but we can track our route online before we go and know which stop to get off at, plus at the front of the bus is a large screen which announces the stop in both Japanese and English. Those things have proven to be very helpful, for me anyway. 

Tokyo Rusks: maple, sugar, and Earl Grey & orange. The three of them are just 133 calories.

I did not see myself loving something called a rusk, but I have fallen in love with Tokyo Rusks. Who would have thought that a thin slice of toasted baguette finished with a slightly sweet topping could be so delicious? The ones we took along with us this past weekend were a big hit, and the grandkids LOVED them, especially the maple flavor (but they also liked the Earl Grey with orange ones too). Brett didn’t get to try one of the maple ones so we went back to the shop this past week and bought some more, and we also got more of the Earl Grey with orange ones (my favorite) and some of their original flavor, sugar rusks, to try them out. Japan really does have the greatest snacks and cookies. We discover something new every time we visit.

This morning I am: 

  • Reading: I’ve gotten only a few pages read of American Dirt because lately I’ve been falling asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. I see a lot of free time coming up though in the next few weeks where I’ll be able to get in a lot of reading.
  • Listening to: Brett’s puttering around in the kitchen, making coffee and putting away last night’s dishes. I can hear crows outside this morning, but it’s quiet otherwise. It was raining last night, but this morning the sun is out and the sky is blue. 
  • Watching: Brett and I have been watching the fourth season of Better Call Saul, one episode each evening except for Friday when our grandson was here. Things seem to have taken a darker turn this season, but it’s still one of the best TV shows out there, in my opinion.
  • Cooking: We’re having tuna melts and clam chowder for dinner this evening. Also on our dinner menu this week will be gyūdon (thinly sliced and simmered beef over rice); CookDo mabo nasu; California roll salad; French bread pizza; and we’ll make quesadillas when/if our grandson comes over on Friday. We want to go to the okonomiyaki restaurant for our dining out night if it’s still OK to go out. However, M & M canceled an evening out last week so we’re not sure if this will be happening for us anymore going forward. We may just get takoyaki again from the stand up on the corner.
    Flavor #23: Strawberry Cheesecake
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I went over to the New Sanno Hotel on Tuesday to see if they had Diet Coke – Brett figured out a way to get there with only two train stops. They were out of everything we were looking for though, including Diet Coke, but we did find a new flavor of KitKats, Strawberry Cheesecake. We stopped at the National Market on our way back and got some freshly ground peanut butter as our commissary supply ran out this past week. We still can’t find hand sanitizer anywhere, but have broken out the hundreds of sterile alcohol swabs we carry in our medical pouch and are using those as necessary (we had sanitizer, but have no idea what happened to it). Yesterday our son drove us over to Hardy Barracks, another small military lodging facility in Tokyo with a minimart and we stocked up on a few more supplies while we were there. They had one case of Diet Coke open in the fridge – I took six of them as I’m running low. We managed to get in 6500 steps on most days.
  • Looking forward to next week: We’re not sure yet what we’re going to get to do as it will depend on how much time we spend watching C (K is going to continue going to her hoikuen for the time being). Grocery shopping may soon become the most exciting event of our week. We’d like to visit the Maneki Neko temple again – it’s just a couple of stations away from us by tram, and we plan to walk some more around our own neighborhood. Every trip out is anthropological – we always see and learn something new about life here, or find something to ponder.  
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) We had a wonderful getaway last Sunday up to the Chichibu area in Saitama Prefecture. Our first stop was at Nagatoro, an area of scenic beauty and geologic interest where we walked along the Arakawa River and explored the Iwadatami, which means “tatami mat rocks.” Afterward, we had a traditional, multi-course Japanese meal at a nearby restaurant and then drove over to Mt. Hodo, where we rode a ropeway up the side of the mountain to the top. Plum blossoms and wintersweet were in bloom all over, and the views of the Chichibu mountains were spectacular. Finally, we made a special visit to the Chichibu Rare Rock Museum, which had been opened especially for us so we could visit! 2) Our grandson stayed over with us again on Friday evening. We took him to Mister Donut for a treat, played games most of the evening, and rewatched Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse – a fun evening! 3) I appear to be changing shape, and maybe even losing some weight because my leggings keep sliding down now whenever I wear them! Of course, it may just be that they’re not shrinking back to shape because they’re being line dried. I’d like to think though that all this walking we’ve been doing has been having an effect!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We didn’t go crazy, but again it wasn’t a particularly frugal week. We used some more of our miscellaneous funds to buy the KitKats at the New Sanno Hotel, some more Tokyo Rusks, and doughnuts for C at Mister Donut. We spent some additional money from our grocery funds at the Hardy Barracks, and to get peanut butter at National Market, kaarage for Friday’s dinner from a specialty stand (it was outstanding!), steel-cut oats and brown sugar at Kaldi Coffee Farms, and a 12-pack of toilet paper and a bottle of vegetable oil at Tokyu. We have more than three weeks’ worth of meals on hand but are still thinking of stocking up a bit more on things like pantry items and paper goods. I was glad we picked up the extra toilet paper the other day – it’s also getting difficult to find these days.
  • Grateful for: As our ability to get around becomes more restricted, we’re thankful for all our previous visits to Japan, and for all the many things we’ve gotten to see and do here, and the memories we’ve made. We’re grateful as well for the ways people here appear to be working to keep everyone safe and the coronavirus contained (although whether that will be successful remains to be seen).
    Tatsuzawa Falls
  • Bonus question: What’s the best trip you’ve taken in Japan? Back in 1982, Brett and I signed up for an overnight tour up to Fukushima through the Navy Recreational office. We got a sitter for our son, and then managed to oversleep the morning of the tour and missed the bus! We called the recreation office and they gave us directions for how to go by train so we could meet up with the tour group that evening at the inn. The train ride up north was absolutely beautiful, and we made it to the inn and connected with the group in time for a great Japanese dinner. The inn put us in a large, traditional tatami room for the night, complete with tea, snacks, and a beautiful view. It was very romantic. However, in the morning, at breakfast, we discovered that everyone else in the group had had to sleep dormitory-style in two rooms, one for the women, one for the men, so we kept our mouths shut about our fabulous room. During a traditional Japanese breakfast (rice, fish, pickles, and tea – it was actually very good), we experienced a strong earthquake. That was exciting in an unnerving sort of way, to say the least. We continued the tour with the group after breakfast and visited the beautiful Tatsuzawa waterfall, and returned home on time in the evening. We still rate that trip as the best we ever took in Japan, all because we overslept!

Brett and I walked over to Setagaya Park yesterday, and then around the park and back home so we could get out of the apartment and get some fresh air and exercise. There were lots of people at the park, lots of families, and again, fewer people wearing masks. It really brightened our mood to see so many people out enjoying the day. Our son said they are going to give us a few masks to wear if we have to ride a train. M & M keep us informed daily about updates – the school closings throughout the county are a huge step to try and contain the virus here although it’s older adults who seem to be catching it versus children. I asked if our daughter-in-law’s office would close or have people work from home, but our son reminded us that she works for the government so unless things get very dire it will be business as usual for her. We’ve also been checking on what our status might be when we leave Japan, but so far we only need to self-report if we have any symptoms. We are watching things very closely in the U.S. as well. It will spread quickly if it gets into the dorms at WenYu and YaYu’s school, but Meiling can work from home if things get bad in New York. I’m far more frightened about potential outbreaks and the spread of the virus in the U.S. than I am here.

Anyway, that’s all for this week. I hope everyone reading had a great week, got lots done, has a good book to read, and had lots of good things happen for them. We’re looking forward to seeing what the next week brings, and hope you are too!

10 thoughts on “Sunday Morning 3/1/2020: Week 6 in Japan

  1. Thinking of all of you as you navigate this unexpected event in your adventure.

    The president certainly keeps adding to his moron plate…stating that the virus is some sort of hoax. No matter the threat level(low or high) present or future these viruses are no joke!
    Science, facts and common sense should be considered seriously. Things he and his followers have no brainpower for. Sorry for my rant….stay well and positive. Enjoy your time! Glad you found Diet Coke and i would send a case of hand sanitizer if I could.
    Anon in mass

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    1. I’ve been readingsome interesting things about how this was mismanaged from the start from the White House, that we started out on a”protect the president and the economy” versus being concerned about other disease vector outside of people coming from China. Our fingers are crossed for the U.S. – we’re in no way prepared for this.

      Still no hand sanitzer! Or any paper products these days either. We’re good for TP, but cannot find tissues anywhere. So much is imported here so we’re wondering how food supplies will be if supply chains are disrupted by the virus.

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  2. What a comprehensive & interesting post!

    You are truly experiencing the daily ins & outs of a long stay sojourn. I think it’s wonderful how you two are helping out with your grandson, and that has to be much appreciated. And best of all you are creating memories with him.

    I must agree this virus is a big thing and the consequences of shortages has already been felt around the world. I mentioned it to my husband recently but not much was agreed upon. Today I read there were likely to be consequences involving the production of meds. The article also mentioned the insurance companies to deal with this may need to be less restrictive.

    Stay well. Do you think this world wide health event has affected your thoughts on continuing long term travel? I know our recent experiences with medical issues requiring surgeries have made us feel less “invincible” due to our basic good health. We have discussed the importance of living in an easier to manage home. But first—we have to complete the recoveries…..

    Your exp

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    1. Thanks, Sonja! It’s interesting to be here during this and seeing how another country reacts and pulls together. We’re very fortunate that we’ve been here so many times before – we don’t feel like we’re “missing” anything, and are glad to be here to help out our son, DIL, and grandkids.

      We’re good for meds through the end of June, thank goodness. We got extra before we left the U.S. For now we don’t think the virus will affect our traveling, although that could change based on circumstances.

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  3. Things are moving at a rapid pace on this virus. It sounds like it’s good you are there to help your family, and it also sounds like Japan is on top of this. Our country’s response is worrying. Who would ever be naive enough to think a virus is a hoax to help someone out politically? I despair.

    My work background tells me there is not much that won’t be affected by supply chain interruptions long term. We had a material shortage when the oil platform burned in the Gulf back in the mid-00’s and, honestly, all I did was answer my phone and apologize for a long time. I used to call myself a professional apologist. But supply chains can’t be rebuilt overnight.

    We had grands over with colds a while back, and my DH bought HUGE pump bottles of Purell for which he was roundly ridiculed. Guess who’s laughing now? We’ve been using them for over a year and they’re not even half empty. We could probably eat out of the pantry and freezer for a long time, but we would miss fresh produce. I’m just hoping this doesn’t interrupt my trip to England for the new baby. 🤞

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    1. Yes, things are really picking up in the U.S. now and I’m afraid people are going to be in for a rude shock in the very near future as it appears the virus has been incubating for far longer than was realized.

      What I wouldn’t give for one of those big bottles of Purell right now! I sure wish I knew what happened to our bottle, but it’s no longer among our things which means it most likely got left behind somewhere.

      Sixty percent of Japan’s food supply is imported, so we wonder what will happen if and when those supply chains get interrupted. For now the shelves are full, but that could change. Things continue to disappear off the shelves though – this past week it was toilet paper, tissues and feminine hygiene supplies. I’m sure it will be something else this week.

      I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed for you to make it over to England!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The getaway weekend looks divine! How nice to get out into nature.

    Thanks for the reminder about toilet paper – I added it to my grocery list for this week. Even though I keep a supply in the pantry, I’ve been letting it dwindle and now it’s time to top it off again.

    The numbers for Italy are scary – the number of cases has quintupled since Monday night – not quite a full seven days – from 220 to 1,128 mid-day Sunday. I’ve been fascinated/horrified watching the Johns Hopkins’ dashboard: https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

    My impression is the Japanese are more respectful of efforts to control the virus.

    Sending you best wishes to stay healthy 🙂

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    1. We really did have a great time, and it was so nice to be out of Tokyo, even if just for a day. The Chichibu are is lovely, and I imagine even more so in the spring, summer, and fall.

      When we stopped into Tokyu last week I noticed that toilet paper stocks were diminishing, so I grabbed another package. Brett thought I was crazy, but now is glad we got more. We hopefull have enought now to get us through until we leave in April. The shelves are bare, and there are signs up everywhere that people are allowed to take only one package.

      My son has always says that the Japanese love to follow rules. So, if the government says to do something, the people will do it. It’s why recycling is so successful here, and other things as well. People are still very nervous about the virus though, and are happy to follow the government’s recommendations.

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  5. The main ingredient in hand sanitizer is alcohol – the higher the % the better. Are there any bottles of rubbing alcohol to be found? Could you make your own hand sanitizer? Any English gin left? LOL.

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    1. It would be great if gin could work from the inside out – gin & tonics as a disinfectant! Haven’t seen alcohol anywhere, but we carry sterile alcohol swabs along – one is big enough to clean an entire hand (or at least I hope so). I also use them to clean my phone. We keep looking for alcohol but so far no luck.

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