Visiting Hong Kong was one of my favorites since I made the first trip there in 2004. I did it eight times until now. I loved to stroll on Sai Yeung Choi Street South where people were very cheerful and energetic, to enjoy wonton noodles, steamed duck, and gwilinggao at restaurants, to get Nokia’s brand new and second-hand smartphones and accessories at mobile phone shops of the Sincere Podium building in Mong Kok, and to open and use a bank account of HSBC Hong Kong. I saw the Big Buddha at Ngong Ping, visited a prison museum at Stanley, stayed at a hotel of Chungking Mansions, worshipped at Che Kung Temple, had a fortune-telling session at Wong Tai Sin Temple, and extended my journey as far as Macau and Shenzhen. All the memories of those places were impeccable.
COVID-19 is dreadfully spreading throughout the world, hospitalizing more than 3,100,000 people and taking the lives of more than 200,000 patients as of April 29, according to Johns Hopkins University. It is no exceptions here in Tokyo.
The virus is forcing all people in the world to change their lifestyles. Many have been grounded for months. Essential workers, such as doctors, healthcare workers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, supermarket clerks, garbage collectors, delivery servicepersons, and staff involved in public transportation, work outside facing the fear of infection.
I’ve been staying at my house in Tokyo for almost two months. Although the confirmed cases and the death toll in Japan are lower than those in the United States, there are hundreds of cases tested positive and dozens of casualties every day. People are requested to refrain from non-essential journeys and maintain proper social distancing like the US and other countries to avoid causing overshooting of patients. These days I work from home, watch TV, surf the internet, read e-books, have meals delivered at the door, eat them, and sleep in the bed.
Nobody knows when this inconvenience ends. Some say that it will take 18 months for everything to get back to normal. Others say that it will never return to what it was before the outbreak. Since public health specialists say that the situation in Tokyo is three weeks behind that in New York City, the Metropolitan Government will probably lift the de facto lockdown no sooner than three weeks after NYC. As of today, no countries reopened business yet.
I’m at home all day long, unless I buy foods at the grocery store or wash my laundry at the laundromat. I have much more time to think about what the world will become in forthcoming years. Here’s what I think the world will change:
The second year of the Reiwa period began with a nightmare. More precisely, at the beginning of the year, nobody could predict what would be going on just two months later. I am talking about what the entire world is fighting against—COVID-19.
The coronavirus outbreak has been an urgent global issue. It was just the case of people in a limited area of a particular country, or poor, rich travelers within a trapped gorgeous cruise ship in February. Only a few weeks later, however, it became the case relevant in most parts of the world. Now the situation is changing day by day. For days, thousands of people around the world have been newly hospitalized due to this disease. More than 10,000 patients have died from it in China, Japan, Iran, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, the United States, and more.
The World Health Organization declared a pandemic. Lockdown is underway in many cities and even nationwide in some countries. Going out for non-essential reasons is banned or discouraged. People are forced to stay home and keep six feet away from others so as not to be six feet under.
The lockdown has had a massive impact on the world economy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by around 1,000 points this month with circuit breakers taking effect many times. The share price of Boeing has become less than a third for weeks. This financial crisis is even worse than those in the great depression in 1929.
That is true with Japan. Here in Tokyo, the governor stated that lockdown in Tokyo is likely because patients tested positive are increasing every day by more than the number of cases a day before. She requested Tokyoites for being home this weekend except for essential business.
People in Japan look afraid of a state of emergency being declared and lockdown being issued. I hate to say that, but I’m sure that these will be near. I think lockdown orders will be released in weeks or even in days because we see other civilized countries being already like this.
Lockdown being inevitable, how should we do? Most people will be forced to stay away from their workplaces, such as offices, farms, fishing grounds, milk plants, and factories. Then it is likely to run short of various things needed for daily life. As a result, the production of foods and groceries will be severely restricted.
Once supply cease, panic buying is likely to take place. This action must be blamed as antisocial behavior since not all households have enough money or means to get what they need. It will be difficult to supply daily necessities if panic buying occurs, because the distribution system will be burdened more than usual, and the distribution of domestic inventory will be unfair. Participating in such panic buying is nothing but not only exposing your low awareness of social solidarity, that is, lack of knowledge that society will not be established if we do our own things, but also proving that you have neglected to be prepared and save in case of an emergency.
We have no choice but to secure the needed supplies for the time being before lockdown takes effect. It would help us a lot to find out what people in countries where lockdown is already in place are doing.
This experience gives us the following important suggestions and lessons: the fact that even the most rights-sensitive liberal nations can easily and quickly control individual’s rights and freedom before the impending crisis. It means that, once an emergency happens, the rights of individuals are insignificant and vulnerable.
What is happening in front of us now seems like a dry run exercise for the third world war. I think it is likely to occur in the coming decades because it is a very similar situation where a big earthquake occurred in 1923, the world financial crisis in 1929, and WWII 12 years later. Likewise, the big earthquake and tsunami happened in 2011, and the economic crisis derived from the coronavirus epidemic eight years later. Now the world is divided. Each country is isolated and closing its borders. How many years is left for us to see those countries to collide?
The time is right to be prepared for in the future. Divide your assets into some pieces and save them in different countries. If possible, have multiple places to live and jobs in two or more countries. Having as many life options as possible will save you in this volatile future with many uncertainties.
Visiting US military bases is fun for me. The US Army, US Navy, US Air Force and US Marine Corps use 75 facilities within Japan and Okinawa, 51 of which are dedicated and the rest 24 shared with Japan Self Defense Force. Though those facilities are usually closed to civilians, they are open to residents around them once or twice a year, and you can get inside the military places during these festivals.
Visiting those facilities is one of the few occasions to get in touch with the United States. You can eat American-made hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, turkey legs, and other American foods. You can pay foods, sodas, beer, sweets, and souvenirs with US dollars. You can talk to Americans in English. And, you can find out how average Americans live their daily life. What kind of groceries do they buy? What kind of foods do they eat? What kind of newspapers do they read? What kind of school do they make their children attend? You can catch a glimpse of those things without flying more than 12 hours to get to mainland America.
I have visited US bases and facilities in Japan and Okinawa for more than 15 years. With respect to what I have experienced, I’m grading each of these out of 5 by categories of accessibility, smoothness of entry and exit, freedom of movement, and availability of on-base building. 5 is the most excellent, and 0 the worst.
もう１つは、私の英会話力が格段に落ちたということ。さきの周生生の店員さんとの会話でも、それ以外の香港人との会話でも、私の受け答えは”Yeah,” “No,” “Thank you,” “Oh really?”とかばかり。数年前に比べて英語のレスポンススピードが明らかに遅くなっているのがありありとわかりました。職場では全く英語とは無縁の仕事になってしまったので、せめて家の中は環境を英語化しておかないとどんどんさびついていきそうです。
A few weeks ago I visited Hong Kong to deposit part of my fixed amount savings, deposited in Japan’s post office and matured last month, in HSBC Hong Kong where I’ve had my bank account for 13 years, and to buy some gold which was a bit inexpensive than what you buy in Japan. Since nobody can predict what will happen to Japan and its economy in the future, I think it is reasonable to diversify assets both nationally and internationally to reduce risks of the loss due to possible economic confusion.
I found out two notable things through this trip. One is that Kagoshima is in fact one of the important gateways of Japan for some foreign travelers. From a Tokyoite’s point of view, Kagoshima looks like the southernmost far end of Japan, but for some people, it is not. I heard that a sales clerk of Chow Sang Sang’s Central store selling a gold necklace to me saying that she had ever been to Japan for leisure, entering Japan at Kagoshima Airport, and then moved east to Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, where she departed. She also said that it was a golden route for travelers from China and Hong Kong. Those facts suggest that cities like Kagoshima, Nagasaki, and Fukuoka should look at Asian countries rather than Tokyo to survive in the future.
The other thing is my lacking ability of English conversation. When I talked to the sales clerk or any other people in Hong Kong, all I could say to those people were one-to-two-word sentences like “Yeah,” “No,” “Thank you,” “Oh really?” or something like that. Response speed to English was apparently slower than that of a few years ago. Clearly, it was because I hadn’t used English so much for years as it is now irrelevant to me in the workplace. All I can do (and need to do) would be to have at least my home Englishized to get accustomed to the English environment and help live in an English way.