Sakura Blossoms, Self-Isolation and Love Handles in Japan

This post a little out of character for me, as I’ve focused more on writing articles about my travels within Kyushu. At the same time, I figured that this was good time as any to post a general update-on-life-in-Japan article.

This past month of March and early April has seen some shifts in Japan – the sakura cherry blossom have come into full bloom, the season of candy-red strawberries have filled the grocery store shelves, and of course, the growing news of COVID-19 cases within Japan and across the globe.

Watching, Listening and Waiting for COVID-19 News

While COVID-19 has dominated the global news since early February, the coverage of the infection in Japan has been relatively quiet. I thought back to the countless times a student coughed directly into my mouth while I worked as an English teacher, or that time I had a debilitating, 7-day flu after a year-end party sharing dishes in a crowded izakaya. So, theories of Japan’s cultural norms, such as bowing or hygiene practices, were accounting for Japan’s low COVID cases didn’t do much to convince me. Cases did eventually trickle out after the 2020 Olympic postponement, and since then we’ve seen 7 prefectures (out of 47) in Japan to be declared under a state of emergency.

Suffice to say, the overall placidity of news reports was enough to get our butts in gear, and we’ve been building up our quarantine stock every weekend in preparation for more difficult times ahead:

Since then, we’ve taken lots of drives out in the countryside, cleaned the apartment, continued my job hunt online, and spent too much time thinking about cutting my hair. Or I could let it grow out like this:

😬

Cherry Blossoms in Kunisaki Peninsula 🌸

As self-imposed isolation becomes enforced in several parts of Japan, I’ve come to appreciate the many benefits of living in the open countryside of Oita even more than I had before. While we’re not completely out of reach from the dangers currently in the world right now, it’s nice to be able to get in the car and drive, sometimes aimlessly, through the countryside, to break the monotony of social distancing.

Over this past weekend, we drove through the Kunisaki peninsula to Gyonyu Dam (行入ダム), where several cherry blossoms were in full bloom throughout the park. There was barely another soul around – a very rare sight during peak sakura season in Japan.

Also, some pictures from a walk through my neighbourhood:

At-Home Exercising Program

With more time being spent at home, follows the sedentary lifestyle that seems to come with it. So, we have started an at-home exercise program to keep those sneaky love handles from making their permanent homes on our midsections. I could blame the sedentary stay-at-home-quarantine for our Japanese weight gains, but considering that Japan has barely started their self-initiated quarantines less than a week ago, I don’t think that excuse was going to hold up.

Actually, I’d been thinking about it for a while. Watching YouTube videos where people trained intensely for 30 days, I’d wondered how much I’d be able to change my body if I applied some hard workouts throughout the week.

So, during one of our aimless, scenic drive drives through the Kunisaki peninsula, I posed the question out loud. Unbeknownst to me, my partner was having the same thoughts, and was the one who took charge from there. Since then, we’ve bought a blender (to make shakes with), an exercise mat, an ab wheel, and a Japanese scale that has more intimate knowledge of my fat levels than I care to know about.

Next, we took “before” pictures so we could compare to our future “after” pictures. Here’s an exclusive peek of my “before” picture:

It’s been a week following our personal exercise regime, and so far, we’ve welcomed the new-found sore muscles and exercise. We shall see what happens in the next few weeks and months, both in terms of exercise, and the state of Japan. Hope everyone is safe, comfortable and engrossed in something fun and interesting.