As of Thursday, September 30, Japan ended it's state of emergency. The state of emergency has been in place since January. Japan has seen a major decrease in COVID-19 infections and they are administering around a million vaccines a day. Around 59% of the population is fully vaccinated (according to ourworldindata.org ).
With that being said, the move to reopen the country is going at a very slow pace. It is impossible to enter the country if you are not a citizen or resident. At this time, there is no timeline for when traveling will resume. I am one of the lucky ones who was able to enter the country under special circumstances. I am a member of the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program (JET), a government run program that hires fluent English speakers to teach English to Japanese students. After two postponements and over a year later, I finally arrived to Japan. With much anticipation, my journey in Japan began with a two week quarantine in a hotel by the Tokyo Airport in Narita.
Upon arrival to Japan, you need two apps downloaded to your phone. The first one is called "COCOA" which is an abbreviation for "COVID-19 Contact Confirming Application". This app works similar to "CA NOTIFY". It tracks your location, notifies you if you were around anyone who tested positive for COVID, as well as notifies others you were around in the off chance you test positive. The second app is called "MySOS". This one is a little more invasive, but also works as a tracker. For "MySOS" you need to take your temperature daily and answer the health questionnaire. Also, the app sends you two push notifications a day and you must respond with your location within five minutes of receiving the notification. In addition to the push notifications, the app would also call via facetime for 30 second intervals. Because all of these notifications come at random, I always made sure to have my phone on full volume and close by. I never had any major issues with the "MySOS", except one time the facetime call had issues connecting and the call dropped. Nothing ever came of that, though.
I arrived in Japan on Sunday evening September 12, and began working virtually Monday morning bright and early on the 13th. Many of you know that I am NOT a morning person. My room was located at the end of the hallway so I was always the first one to receive my breakfast (which came at or slightly before 7:00am). For breakfast I would always get a few pieces of fruit, a salad, and some type of egg/meat. A lot of these meals were the hotel's interpretation of what Americans eat, so there were quite a few meals with chicken nuggets:
By 9:30 am each day, I had to go to the lobby to get my temperature check. This is also where I would turn in my COVID tests. In addition to the COVID test the night I arrived, I had to take two more tests: one on day three and one on day ten of quarantine.
Then between 10:00 and 10:30 am, housekeeping would come. There was one day that an older lady cleaned my room. She held a conversation with me the entire time she was working. She asked me if I was "boring" since I was stuck in my room the whole time, I told her I was. In response she said that Tokyo was overrated because it was too expensive and there are too many people! It was nice to socialize and laugh with someone during that time, even if it was a short lived interaction.
Each day housekeeping would bring a new pair of ironed PJs and disposable slippers. It was basically a button down robe and I would often relax in it in the evenings.
The best part of my hotel room was the bidet!
Lunch would then come at 11:00 am. Each day I would get rice, usually some vegetables and fruit, as well as meat for protein (often times it was fried).
Dinner was very similar to lunch with the rice, veggies, fruit, and fried meats. It was served at 5:00 pm. On Sunday nights they would also serve dinner with a small dessert.
My favorite part of the day was when I could go down to the conbini in the hotel. A conbini is a convenience store that is open 24 hours a day. I was able to purchase extra snacks as well as anything I may need to get through the two weeks.
In between the scheduled daily tasks and online orientation videos, I tried to move around as much as I could. I would often take stretch breaks or multiple showers, just so that I could stand and move around. This allowed me to stay sane through the solitude. I was also very fortunate to make some friends at the airport and on the plane who I messaged throughout our time in quarantine. The support that I received from people back home during this time was also extremely important.
The time in quarantine is mostly a blur. It went by way faster than I thought it would.
Last Monday, I boarded a plane headed to my prefecture: Miyazaki. The day was clear and I was able to see Mt. Fuji. A sighting of Mt. Fuji is quite rare. Most days it is hiding behind a layer of clouds/fog. It was breathtaking even from all the way up in a plane. Unfortunately, I did not capture a picture of it because I did not have a window seat. As soon as I landed in Miyazaki, I was whisked away by some coworkers who have been extremely helpful and supportive. Without them, I would not have been successful in getting settled in, and for that I am very grateful. More on that later.
Also, if you made it this far down, I did make a short video for TikTok during quarantine that pretty much sums up my quarantine experience! Enjoy: