Life in Japan With Covid-19: Telecommuting and Life Online

Even though Japan has abysmally low telecommuting numbers, which have a plethora of reasons and factors behind them, there are still some of us out here engaging with work and earning money online. Here’s a bit about my experience being online in Japan during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Telecommuting: Working from Home in Japan

Office Desk - Two Second Street -
Yes, two mice! One for work, one for play!

My university was really ahead of the curve when it came to deciding to make their classes online: The decision was made back in March, the start date was pushed back two weeks, and online tools were hastily purchased and trainings were held. Come mid-April, we were ready to hit the virtual books and get our students communicating.

The initial problems were all technology related: missing passwords, figuring out how to use online tools, scheduling, discovering how best to communicate and connect with students, and the constant security dance that is Zoom. At first, our university didn’t want passwords, then they did but with no waiting rooms, then waiting rooms came but we couldn’t use the share screen function, and so on. It was a lot of trial and error, and, all things considered, they weren’t horrendously bumpy. I think they had the right amount of bump to be expected that, while annoying, weren’t completely unexpected.

My wife has also been home, doing her coding bootcamp remotely as well. Luckily, we live in a 2LDK, which means we have a few rooms with doors where we can separate and do our own thing. She’s been in the office and I’ve been in front of our blue wall in the dining/living rooms. It’s been pretty nice and helpful: I need a space where I dedicate myself to work. That, and wearing what I would to work, really helps me get in the mindset and actually get work done.

It hasn’t been without its downsides, however. I feel tired. Constantly. There are days where I’m in classes teaching for four and a half hours plus meetings, office hours, and professional work groups. I’ve managed to get into a groove but my motivation to do much of anything has hit a low. My mind feels foggy and my creative juices have stopped flowing a bit. To combat this, I’ve been trying to go on walks in the quieter parts of the neighborhood, and that’s been helpful. Just sitting outside can really do wonders! My doctor also told me to just get out into the sun to get some vitamin D, so even just standing on my balcony for a bit can really lift the mood!

Living Online: How to be Social Online in Japan

Working From Home - Two Second Street -
Where 90% of my human interaction took/takes place (100% for work)

The state of emergency is lifted, but during the emergency, online meetings for social calls reigned supreme. They’ll still reign supreme as businesses stagger their openings, limit the number of customers who can come in, and put into place more sanitation procedures, so let’s look at what has popped up socially in Japan from this.

The first is the transition of the Nomikai to online. For the uninitiated, a nomikai (飲み会, literally “gathering to drink”), are usually employer-mandated drinking parties to build teamwork and raise morale. There are many feelings about these, most I’ve seen being negative, but they have found themselves migrating online. These new online nomikai, known as on-nomi (“online drink”) are where you plop down in front of Zoom or Google Hangouts and share a drink with your coworkers, classmates, or friends. My wife has done quite a few with her bootcamp as they have really embraced their new online program.

You can also still experience the vast and diverse offerings of Japanese drinking culture through your favorite video-conferencing apps. The traditional party planners, the Geisha, can be accessed online for surprisingly affordable prices compared to an in-person soirée. The more modern host and hostess clubs are also moving their services online, allowing you to drink with beautiful people for a nominal fee. But fear not! There are still some intrepid in-person establishments looking to service your online drinking parties. Restaurant Kichiri in Shinjuku has little booths you can go to, complete with lighting, masks, and a tablet so you can enjoy all their menu options and all-you-can-drink while you party virtually with your friends!

Humans are very adaptable and it’s interesting to see how things have changed here in Japan to accommodate the new health restrictions. As we slowly ease back into the shape of a pre-outbreak world, it’ll be interesting to see how people further develop and innovate while mitigating the risk of spreading the virus.


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