An Emptier Spring-time Harajuku

Currently, Japan has closed its borders off to the rest of the world. The state of emergency has not only affected my work, but many of my friends here in the country. The silver-lining of it all is that the streets are exceptionally empty.

I shot this video long before the official declaration of the state of emergency. This was earlier in the year when there were rumblings of change coming from the government.

Like I said in today’s video, I’ve only known Harajuku to be densely crowded. In the video I made for Marta, you can see her navigating through the crowd while taking in the atmosphere.

That same area, Takeshita Dori, was a ghost town when I passed by recently.

And it’s not just Harajuku, there are many parts of Tokyo and Yokohama that are not nearly as congested as they once were. Every once in a while, I’m required to travel to the office where I work and I can see the differences in my commute.

I recently had a conversation with a Japanese businessman who commutes to the countryside every week to inspect his company’s factory. He told me that for the first time in his life, he was the only passenger in his car on the Shinkansen.

Of course, that’s very unusual, but it serves as a testament to how radically changed things are in the face of the pandemic.

If you were curious, Japan is not under a formal lock-down order. Japanese citizens are free to go about their lives as they normally would. With strong encouragement from political officials, private companies and organizations are making their own decisions with the information they have.

For example, my Japanese employer has elected to shutdown our offices and introduce teleworking alternatives.

I think what makes this whole experience so jarring is the fact that it’s Spring-time. We had the Cherry Blossoms come and go with very little Hanami engagement this year. The Governor of Tokyo strongly encouraged citizens to refrain from their outside picnics under the blooming Sakura trees. And rather than go against the grain, most people accepted her advice.

Like I said, the silver lining for me is experiencing a quieter and more intimate Tokyo.

I only wonder how things will turn out in the future. When people will feel it’s safe enough to travel again and the residual effects of this public health crisis.

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