What I Learned Living in Japan during the COVID-19 Pandemic
With the COVID-19 pandemic over two years under our belt, reading this now may seem irrelevant. However, I wanted to share our family's experience of moving and living in another country during this time and how it impacted our lives.
The pandemic caused so much heartache for so many families – luckily, we survived. Despite job changes, school closures, a lack of socialization with friends and family, (and boredom), we were able to come out the other end more united as a family and we grew as individuals.
We learned a lot and I will be forever thankful for what we were able to gain. In February of 2021, our family embarked on a crazy adventure of a lifetime. We packed up our life, said goodbye, and moved to the other side of the world.
Moving Across the World Mid-Pandemic
When I was first offered a job in Japan, it seemed so far-fetched and not something that could possibly materialize into reality. Somehow, my husband and children were on board, and friends and family openly supported us. We decided to go through with the idea and moved to southern Japan during the height of the pandemic when its borders were closed to foreigners.
We had no idea what was in store for us. Not only were we navigating uncharted territories due to the pandemic, but we were also moving into a foreign country with a different set of rules. We were greeted at an American base after traveling for over 24 hours with two young children, by going straight into a strict quarantine in a one-bedroom hotel for 14 days. We were not able to leave the hotel or open windows until we all received negative COVID-19 at the end of 14 days. This was an exercise of mental fortitude for everyone.
Finding a New Routine
For the first time in my life, I learned to live in the moment. To truly live in the moment and enjoy the mundane. We tried to maintain a daily schedule that included some sort of physical activity, mindful activity, and fun. My husband and I teamed up wholeheartedly and we kept a sense of peace within a time that it would have been so easy to mentally breakdown because of. We had fun doing it. We grew as a family and bonded like no other. We laughed and enjoyed each other's company. We played elaborate imaginary games that seemed to stretch for eternity.
And the best part of it all? My children found unity in each other. They built a bond that will hopefully last a lifetime. This is something that we would never have been able to accomplish had we not taken this unique opportunity by moving abroad during a time when the world felt catastrophic.
Settling Into a New Life in Japan
After our quarantine was complete, we began the exciting process of looking for our new home, enrolling the children in school, getting acquainted with work, buying cars, and learning to drive on the opposite side of the road. Life went by in a whirlwind of new experiences and excitement. It wasn't until routine began to settle in that I realized how different Japan and its citizens are, and what the benefits of their collectivistic society are. Living in a culture where people operate as a group, rather than having an emphasis on an individual point of view opened our eyes and hearts.
As a result of how Japan handled the COVID-19 pandemic, numbers in the prefecture we lived in remained low and my kids were able to resume normalcy the minute we left quarantine. They resumed in-person school, playing at playgrounds, dining at restaurants, and exploring the city.
Of course, I use the word ‘normalcy’ loosely, because there were far more rules (including having to breathe through cloth), but I would quarantine any day knowing a normal and safe life would be waiting for me on the other end of 14 days. Whenever asked, we quarantined, which was a lot. My daughter was put on a close contact list 8 times during a 2-month period, which resulted in us being thrown into back to back quarantine. Our children stayed healthy, the spread was kept to a minimum, then life resumed.
Riding the COVID-19 wave in Japan taught me to enjoy life with my kids. To live in the moment and invest in time with my family. It also taught me to value the greater good. Because the individual parts are only as strong as the whole. When people work together and respect the group, this in turn will benefit the individual. I am very thankful to have been allowed to work and live abroad and to have shared these valuable world views with my young children.