Yes, I know. It has been ages since I posted anything here. Life has been full. We have not only moved to Sendai, the city of trees and a very pleasant place to live (if you can stand cold and snow). But my kids have also become fluent in English. thanks to their excellent teachers. And I have had crazy amounts of work in my day job.
And then the coronavirus came along and upended the entire travel industry. It is already worse than during the height of the SARS epidemic, and travel restrictions will start to bite soon. The Japanese tourism industry was just getting going, with a substantial part of the tourists coming from China. Do not believe that the Chinese hate Japan, by the way. They are very curious about their neighbors, and those who can love to visit. Especially if they can afford to buy souvenirs.
But now, nobody will travel anywhere, especially not the Chinese. If I had any shares in a cruise line, I would have wished I sold them two months ago. Diamond Princess has, thanks to botched quarantine, given the entire industry a bad name. It will be years before anything in the travel industry returns to normal.
The COVID-19 virus is very contagious, but so is the common cold. They are probably closely related, too. But the common cold does not kill people with asthma. The infection will spread rapidly everywhere, just like the common cold.
For us, it means even more local travel. We had planned overseas trips, but now people in Japan are nervous just to take the train - there have even been incidents where people who cough on trains have been beaten up by fellow passengers. So we will probably travel by car, since our kids have runny noses all the time. When we take them to the doctor now, the first thing they do is test them for COVID-19.
And we are likely to avoid large gatherings of people. In a country where the Tokyo Marathon has already been cancelled due to the risk of infection, you do not want to go somewhere you have to be within five meters of another person unless you have to. So shopping is out, and sightseeing more likely to be wide vistas which you can watch from a car window.
I will try to use some of the time I get to finish up the book I started a long time ago, about bringing your children to Japan. The culture will not change any more than it did after SARS, but some things will change. In Japan, for instance, even before the coronavirus scare, you were likely to find bottles of disinfectants in the lobby of most public buildings. They were placed there during the SARS epidemic, and they stayed. What will change with the coronavirus is not as clear, but you are safer disinfecting your hands, and wiping the hands of your babies and toddlers.
Eventually the virus will either stop infecting new people, as the quarantine was effective; or it will spread like the common cold until almost everyone has had it. Most people who get COVID-19 actually do not get more symptoms than that. But it will kill about a percent of the population or so, which means a million people will die in Japan. Yes, they would have died anyway (since it is the elderly and sick who die from coronavirus), but over a longer period. How long it will take is anyones guess. Perhaps some people are already immune (like there are some people immune to HIV). Who knows. But in the meantime, you probably do not want to travel with your children any more than I do.
So let us assume it takes two to three years until most people have had a COVID-19 infection. If you are familiar with the way viral infections spread, you will know that is a reasonable time for an infection to work its way through a population. After that time, it will be safe to travel again. So then, you are welcome to Japan (you are welcome now, too). And in the meantime, I will try to collect tips about traveling in and to Japan with children, toddlers and infants in such a way that you can make use of them easier than looking at this blog. Which means I will shift the direction a bit, and tell you more about how that goes.
I am Wisterian Watertree, recently moved from Tokyo to Sendai, previously of Bangkong and Honolulu. I write about travel, especially with our three beautiful kids (two girls and one boy, soon turning seven - yes. they are triplets). Travel is education and fun rolled into one, and if you are like me, that is something you want to give to your kids. If you want more tips and want to find out when I will publish something, get it from my email list. If you want to be personal, drop me a note on firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you want general tips, follow me on Twitter @wisterianw.