For me, the beginning of the coronavirus crisis was in Italy where part of my family lives. On the Italian TV they have been speaking about Covid-19 since February. The government said that Italian people did not need to worry as the National Health Care (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale) was prepared to face it. When people started to die they said they were elderly or already sick people. But then the situation got worse and out of hand, especially in the north of Italy, in Lombardia. Here is an article I wrote for Woking Writers Circle giving my view of the situation in Italy, Japan and the UK: Coping with COVID-19 in the UK, Italy and Japan: a comparison
Travelling to Japan at the beginning of March, I could feel the change. Airports were almost deserted and there were a lot of empty seats on the plane. There was a lot of space to stretch my legs and place my things. At the check-in desk they did not let me take my crochet stuff on the plane (apparently the hook was a problem), so I bought six water-soluble colour pencils at Düsseldorf airport where we changed plane and started to record images on my sketchbook, a sort of travel journal. I drew the Gucci bags I saw at Heathrow duty free shop centre, the Japanese masks of kabuki theatre from the intriguing ANA airlines safety video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=51&v=T0Zkey8LMHU&feature=emb_logo ) and magazine covers in Düsseldorf with Covid-19 headlines. Once in Tokyo, I made sketches of photos I took downtown and kimono patterns from the books my daughter had on her shelves. I especially liked the pictures on a book by Sheila Cliffe (https://www.arts.ac.uk/study-at-ual/short-courses/stories/all-about-kimonos-with-tutor-sheila-cliffe-lcf ) where the author wears elegant old and new kimono. She adapted them to her taste with cleverness and expertise. I also made collage pieces using cuttings from Japanese brochures and magazines.
The weather was warm, almost spring time and the sakura (cherry blossoms) were starting to bloom. We could not visit museums as they were closed for the pandemic, but we did a lot of shopping at Senso-ji temple and shopping centre and at Solamachi. I bought some beautiful kimono and haori (sort of jackets), Japanese ceramics and two books: The Pillow Book and selected haiku by Masaoka Shiki. My husband and son spent a whole day at Yodobashi Camera department store and Akihabara, places full of games, video games, anime and toys of all kinds and materials, from plastic to wood, paper, metal and fabric. Everything was so diverse, colourful and stimulating, I felt flabbergasted in such a profusion of creativity.
We took a trip to Mount Takao. Despite my jet lag, I managed to reach the top, 599 metres, and admire the beautiful view with layers of dark mountains against the blue evening sky. We took the easiest trail going up but going down my son opted for the hardest one across the forest. It wasn’t easy for me because my shoes had no slip grip but I managed to reach the end. Luckily the last bit had a cable car connection.
We had some problems with our flight back, as I explain in my article, but we eventually reached the UK safely. On the plane back home, I read The Pillow Book and the haiku. I also listened to relaxing music and watched Parasite, the film that won the best foreign film Oscar 2020. It was funny, cracking at first, but harrowing and hyperreal towards the end. I was mesmerised and shocked at the amount of cruelty that was so easily performed and the aftermath of it.