Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professer, Religion and Global Security, University of Tokyo

The state of emergency declaration has been lifted in all prefectures in Japan until May 25.

It is not, however, the end of the story. That ushers in a next stage of a new lifestyle in which people explore the way of life which reconciles the reopening of economic activities with prevention of the spread of infections.

People in Japan has been experiencing the “staying at home” period which was also described as “nesting” in Japanese. There arose a boom of wide-ranging of “nesting-consumptions” boosting sales in online stores and deliveries. 

For some people, there were also a lot of time for reflection and retrospection seeking for lessons to learn.

Often cited in the discussion was the story about Isaac Newton and his most productive year, called the Annus Mirabilis or the “Year of Wonders.” It was 1665 when he originally hit upon ideas like the law of universal gravity. At that time Newton was staying at his birthplace Woolsthorpe Manor, escaping from Cambridge University which was temporarily closed for fear of the outbreak of the Great Plague.

The same things may have been happening to many people who has voluntarily locked themselves in secluded places in Japan.

There’s already been changes in behavior and mentality.

People in Japan have noticed that there’s been excessive concentration of population in the large cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka, clammed into overcrowded trains for long hours every day to commute to overcrowded workplaces, holding redundant and unnecessary meetings and after-the-work drinks and dinners.

During the time of voluntary confinement, many people rediscovered the value of healthy way of life and started a proper exercise routine.

And when we reflected further deeply, there were recognitions on who supports the fundamental infrastructure which enables us to “stay at home.”

Who maintains the internet on which we are totally relied on to keep our social life? If your smartphones or laptop computers are broken, from where the supply and replacement come? If any of more basic necessities, such as electricity, water and sewage have been disrupted, we could not stay at home in such a comfortable way.

In Japan, the local and global supply chains and the people maintain them have been most of the time kept unnoticed and hidden from sight.

The value of public infrastructure was reassessed and recognized.

Also, we were reminded of the importance of the small shops and stores in our community which supply us basic but essential goods and services produced locally. It was too much taken for granted that we can introduce goods and services from everywhere in global market at any time in cheap prices. The reality is, we can’t. 

If we regained the sense of appreciation for all the precious things which sustains our life and those people who produce and deliver those necessities, COVID-19 may have taught us something imporatnt.