#StayHome / Nanami Onishi

Currently, I am in the middle of a journey. But, have I ever wished for a journey to end as quickly as possible? No, probably not. I’m more of a person who likes to travel and enjoy that extraordinary life in completely different circumstances. So, the usual feeling I get during journeys are, “It was such a short time!” or “I hope this will go on forever!” which tells me that the one I’m on right now is quite unusual. Actually, I am not on this journey alone—almost everyone is, I think. People call this #StayHome.

The start of this long journey goes back to January 2020. It was a shivery winter day. I was at one of my favorite restaurants in Shinjuku, which was crowded and noisy with many people talking inside. There, I was enjoying a fresh, delicious sushi lunch, chatting with my friends. The lined-up sushi on my plate looked perfect as usual, like a collection of colorful jewels from the sea, and tasted great as usual, filling my mouth with its various rich flavors. As we finished, getting full and satisfied, never imagining that we will not be able to do these kinds of things without any constraint in a few weeks, we got out of the restaurant as usual, and said goodbye with a “See you soon!” Then I headed towards the station to catch the train home. The train was packed with people trying to get on as if they have a thought like, “If I don’t ride this one, I’m going to die, so let me get on!!!” It is so tiring to be riding such a train. It was just after I got back home when I first got to know about COVID-19. It did not have a name back then, but it reported that an unknown virus had broken out in a certain area. “Hmm, they must be having a hard time,” I thought, never knowing that it was already creeping towards us and starting to change our daily life.

It was only a few weeks later that the first COVID-19 patient appeared in Japan. I turned white as a sheet on hearing the news. That is because it was the period when we were freed from the assignments we called “demons” at school, and thus making plans with friends for what we should be doing to spend an awesome spring vacation. So, the only thing I had to wish for was the situation not to get worse from there. However, that news turned out to be the beginning of the nightmare. The changes happening were quick but slow in a way, just like the lazy but powerful typhoons striking in summer, its infectivity gradually grew, and spread the virus harm all over Japan but did not seem to go away. This eventually led everything to change, making the city full of people wearing masks, making people fight over purchasing medical products, and so on. It was now becoming a different place from what was called ‘the usual Tokyo.’ It made me think I had come to a new world, as if I was traveling somewhere I did not know―but it was guessable that it would not be a fun one, though. Anyway, due to this unnatural chaotic situation, I ended up receiving a message from my parents worrying about me, since they are living far from Tokyo. I was shocked. They requested that I not go out as much as possible unless I have something necessary to do in the city. That notification sound turned out to be the ending chime. My spring break was over in a way. At first, I did not want to spoil this vacation packed with exciting plans, so the idea of ignoring them crossed my mind. It was sure that whatever I do here in Tokyo, they won’t be able to tell (unless they have special powers). My friends around me seemed to be going out quite frequently. But since I was also one of the people who cannot say that their respiratory system was tough, considering my safety, I gave up and decided to start my journey of #StayHome one step faster than the government and others. That was March 23rd, the last time I went out to the city area without any constraints. Though it was a chilly day, the pink cherry blossoms on my way back home were blooming powerfully and beautifully for the upcoming event “ohana-mi,” not knowing that it would be quiet this year.

Four months after, thanks to my parents’ suggestion, I am doing well. When compared to the last time when I went out to the city, it is getting hotter and hotter now, and I can tell that summer is coming, but not the usual fun summer. Many things happened in these past few months―the declaration of the state of emergency, which continued for about one month and got lifted, stay-at-home requests, business suspension requests, and so on. Tokyo did not look like Tokyo anymore.

Those fully packed, stressful trains that I hated were gone too. It was a different world. So was my life as a student. University classes were now held online only through a computer, so basically, my day begins and ends in this one small room (I don’t know whether this is big or not on average) which is about fifteen square meters. As I get used to the online system, it is not unusual for me to wake up at 8:45, which is only 15 minutes before the first period starts. Still feeling sleepy in my room wear, during class I will be having my crispy toast with sweet strawberry jam and citrus-scented tea for breakfast to wake me up, if it is an asynchronous class. Then after second period, I would have my lunch alone and prepare for my class in the evening. After all the classes are done, I cook a simple dinner for myself and eat, take a shower, work on my piled-up assignments, and then get to bed. Thus, my day ends. There is nothing fun or special. This same flat process keeps repeating like a machine every day.

Where has my wonderful, fruitful university life gone, and when will it come back? Nobody knows. I admit that I like the point where I do not have to take those terribly crowded trains or wake up early in the morning to attend class. However, the damage of not meeting my friends and classmates is quite big and disappointing. Adding to this, not being able to eat out is also a point that took the joy away from my life. Since I am trying to #StayHome, going to eat out is gone, and I have no other choice but only to eat the food that I make. Of course, this will be no problem if only my cooking skills were better. The results were, tasting too simple, too spicy, too sweet, or sometimes quite strange. With all those seasonings mixed up, it ends up as a weird creation. It was better to get raw and fresh ingredients for my cooking, but the shopping frequency also became less, so it naturally made it difficult. Thus, as a whole, the meals that I make aren’t always the highest quality or always satisfying. I hope for a day I will be able to eat out with my friends, have professionally cooked delicious food, and go to that same sushi restaurant in Shinjuku once more, without worrying much about the virus. I was hoping that day would come this summer―but contrary to my hopes, the number of the infected are gradually increasing once more. In addition, unfortunately, it was announced recently that classes for the fall semester would be held online as well. COVID-19 was still here. It looks like this journey is going to be a little longer.

Currently, we are on a journey. We cannot avoid the journey and get out of it even if we wished. A flat and uninspiring solitary journey that takes place in a small room, or a certain area for every person, due to social distancing. When will everyone be able to enjoy their time with their friends without any worries? When will we be able to have a class in person? Will I be able to go back to my hometown, which is in the countryside from “this” Tokyo? When will I be able to go to that crowded restaurant that I liked and enjoy that delicious sushi once more? A lot of questions arise in my mind, but what’s the answer to it? I do not know; nobody knows. The only thing I can tell myself and do now is to try not to catch or spread the virus unintentionally and keep walking the path of this “journey of #StayHome” for now. Keep myself positive. A day passes, another day, and another―though I wish for it to end, the journey still continues.

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