on a scale of on-cloud-9 to ugly-crying...
Though this was our second time going, we were also the first wave of tourists to return after Japan's long Covid-19 restrictions.
I had asked our new friend, Sarah, who I'd been writing with since 2020 to plan our tattoos, how Japanese were feeling about the tourism ban being lifted. The last thing we wanted was to be "that tourist" that wouldn't be welcomed or blamed if another large break-out was to happen. She assured me that we would be welcome, and Japan was eager to have tourism return.
With that easing some of our anxiety, we still made sure to have any allowed vaccine doses, have all vaccination proofs available, pack plenty of masks, and keep an eye on all safety rules Japan was currently following.
Covid-19 seemed to let Japan loosen up a bit, there was more chatter on trains (but still insanely quiet compared to anywhere else in the world), young adults and teens laughed loudly and joked around while waiting on the platforms or walking down the street. But still extremely respectful of their surroundings and others.
If we had to guess, Tokyo was still at 90% wearing masks everywhere. We expected masks on public transportation, in shops, or in crowds, but we were surprised to see so many wearing masks when they were driving alone in their cars.
We had learned quickly in 2019 that Japan is respectful of personal space...and people in general. But this time, since we were already on the edge of the anxiety cliff, we couldn't help, but take it personally when they would get up and move three or four seats down if we sat beside them on the train or subway. Were they giving us a wider berth because we weren't Japanese? Had we made a mistake?
I'm happy to say that once we arrived in Toyama, it was as if we stepped into another time. Every resident we crossed or interacted with were kind and welcoming. There was no hesitation and mask wearing had dropped down to 50%, then perhaps 20% were only wearing them with their noses out or under their chin.
I think being aware of how we might be perceived, we were sensitive to all or no reactions. We did our absolute best to not disrespect one of the most respectful countries we've been to. We always had spare masks on us in case a strap broke, we never missed a hand sanitizing station before entering shops or transport stations, and we gave the same personal space to others they gave us.
Covid-19 changed everyone and how we go about our daily routines. Extremely social people have stopped going out every weekend, foodies might avoid packed restaurants, smaller towns are more relaxed compared to cities since they had space to walk and socially distance.
Will we go back? Abso-freaking-lutely.