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Toma’s New Adventure

Neither Keiko nor I miss having a car in Tokyo. But I suspect that Toma does miss his daily rides in the car to the Back Cove and Mackworth Island as well as other frequent trips around the Portland Maine area. Indeed, I suspect he really doesn’t understand what happened to the Audi TT Roadster. He loved proudly riding around in that car with top down!

To compensate, Toma had his first bike ride.

“Not quite the TT Paul, but it will do.”
“A cool trip! Don’t stop now.”

He and we really enjoyed the experience. Keiko and I shared the transportation duties, while Toma was safely tucked into his travel backpack. Next trip we will try to get some video clips.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to …..

That old Broadway line was brought to mind as Keiko and I were taking a walk around the building location of our new condo last week.  We were early for a meeting with a contractor and were leisurely exploring the surrounding neighborhood.

As we were finishing the tour an elderly Japanese gentleman appeared walking across from us. He stopped and was staring at me.  We stopped as well.  After a few moments of silence, he said inquiringly to me in perfect English “Where are you from?”  Not certain of his intent, I answered “Tokyo.”

He smiled and said “No, where are you from originally?”  I apologized in Japanese and answered “the United States.”  He walked up to us, saying “I thought so” as he extended his hand in greeting.

After introducing ourselves, we were then treated to a very friendly and informative 15 minute conversation.  His English was flawless.  He said he has lived all his life in the area and provided us with interesting historical information beginning with the Edo or Tokugawa period in 1603.

He welcomed us to our new home.  As we were parting, he said he walks the neighborhood every morning and that perhaps we would meet again.

We said thank you waving good-bye and turned to each other with the same look of bewilderment.  A mere coincidence?  Frankly, what are the chances of that “just happening” in Tokyo, a metropolis of over 39 million people?  Fate?  Destiny?

We agreed that for whatever reason, the strange encounter was a positive sign and confirmation that Keiko made a good decision in buying the condo.

I am looking forward to seeing him again ….. if he really lives there?

Japan COVID-19 Update

There is an eerie sense of safety here and one wonders why Japan is an outlier given that it has the world’s largest older population, densely populated and crowded cities, a very high smoking rate, and massive Chinese tourism––all factors attributed to COVID-19 vulnerability.  The schools were closed and many events canceled, but with no quarantine or enforced closures, much of Japan continues as normal compared to what is happening in the United States.

Three theories are prevalent––conspiracy, good fortune or effective government policies.

The conspiracy theory is rooted in Japan’s restricted testing and consequent low number of reported cases.  Many in Japan and in other countries attribute this to a government effort to protect the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by downplaying the extent of the COVID-19 infection particularly after the highly criticized handling of cruise ship incident.  While there may be some truth to this thought it is very unlikely that it was an organized conspiracy.  The Japanese medical community has been quite outspoken and critical of lax government policies.

The good fortune theory is based on cultural conditions such as relatively less social intimacy (e.g., bowing instead of shaking hands), a wide and accepted use of masks when feeling sick, an existing high rate of isolation among the elderly, and the obedient voluntary observance of a government requested two-week containment period of self-isolation and social distancing.  All true but IF Japan has indeed dodged a bullet, the element of luck alone may be a greater factor than cultural behavior.

The efficacy theory supports the government’s restricted testing policy and intense efforts focused on identified infection “clusters.”  So far it appears to be working but experts here and around the world question if the policy is sufficient and will continue to be effective with the two-week containment period ending.

Some of those experts predict that Japan has not yet seen the worst of COVID-19.

Indeed, along with the start of the new school year in April, they point to the start of hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season that includes large picnics and parties in Tokyo’s beautiful parks as a critical event.  Early evidence strongly suggests that Tokyoites will abandon self-restraint.  The Japanese love to party and the experts wonder if this may be a catalyst that brings Japan to a tipping point.

An Uplifting Story ––


A face mask made by Atsumi Fashion Co., a sewing company based in Toyama Prefecture, uses repurposed women’s underwear. | ATSUMI FASHION CO

Among the many wonders of life in Japan, the following headline and story appeared in this morning’s Japan Times:

As Mask Supplies Dwindle, Japanese Bra Maker Offers Support Where It’s Most Needed

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, one company is taking a unique approach to easing the shortage of masks in Japan.

Atsumi Fashion Co., a sewing company based in Toyama Prefecture, is producing masks by repurposing women’s underwear. The company began utilizing the cloth lining from bras after an employee realized similar materials were being used in disposable masks.

“We hope we can contribute to society as the mask shortage continues,” said Hiroshi Hinata, the company’s sales manager. “Even these masks can prevent the virus from spreading to others through coughing or sneezing.”

Employees are making masks after working hours at the company’s factory in Himi. They tried to devise new methods after the city called on local businesses to help provide masks for workers at City Hall, which only had 600 left.

Atsumi Fashion plans to make 1,000 masks for the city and distribute them to medical and educational institutions, prioritizing those in greatest need.

Other firms have also shifted resources toward mask-making.

In February, Sharp Corp. announced it would be making 1,500 masks a day by the middle of this month. Earlier, a chipmaker in Kanagawa Prefecture began using its “clean rooms” to make masks.

The Japan Times | March 22, 2020