#culture

Postcard From A Japanese Home

What social distancing looks like for a family of five in Tokyo.

Welcome to the second installment of "Postcard From Home," a series where we showcase what "home" looks like in the age of COVID-19. How people around the world are social distancing—what they're eating, reading, watching, listening to.

Last week, we spoke with Gabriela about what it's like to live in the small surfing and fishing village of Punta del Diablo, Uruguay. This week? We're jetsetting to Japan with Ai, Journy's dedicated reservationist who secures hard-to-get restaurant reservations for travelers by phone, which is a critical service since many establishments only accept reservations from a local Japanese number during a specific time window (that's often during the middle of the night in the US). On the call, Ai ensures the restaurant can accommodate specific allergies and dietary restrictions, while also helping our travelers get the best seat possible (usually at the counter with an up-close view of the sushi chef) in what are often small, 10-seat establishments. And if a traveler has to cancel a reservation for whatever reason, Ai's on it—working as fast as possible so travelers don't incur the often hefty cancellation fees equivalent to the cost of the meal itself.

Here's what Ai had to say about social distancing in Tokyo, the city she's called home for over 30 years.

1. What’s the current situation in Tokyo? Are you allowed to leave your home? Are you in an official quarantine? Or just practicing social distancing?

All elementary, junior high, and high schools have been closed since March 2nd—and up through the students' spring break, which typically ends around now in early April. Also, as of March 25, Tokyo's government officials requested that people refrain from going outside for nonessential reasons. So while we can go out now for food, many items are sold out, such as milk, eggs, pasta, noodles, etc. There are still mask shortages and, to make the matter worse, many Japanese people have hay fever (aka seasonal allergies) and need masks—especially in the spring. So people are using the same masks everyday...

2. How has your daily routine changed because of coronavirus? Describe what a typical day looks like for you now.

My husband has continued to go to work, but my three kids are staying home, so I have to take care of them all day. They're one, eight, and 11-years old. It's tough, but on the bright side they have more time to play together—so especially my one-year-old seems happy. On the other hand, though, my free time and working time are completely gone. Although the baby naps for a few hours a day, the other two kids always disturb me during this time, so it's difficult to concentrate on anything right now.

3. What foods have you stocked up on?

In my pantry, I have various cereals, dried noodles, canned food, rice, and pre-packaged food. And in the refrigerator, natto, tofu, yogurt, vegetables, and meat.

My youngest is a picky eater, which means the foods he can eat are limited. I always stock his favorites in the fridge and usually make pumpkin soup for him. The ingredients are just onions, carrots, pumpkin, and stock cubes. I put them all in a pot and blend with a little milk. It's super easy, nutritious, and yummy!

4. How has the way you’ve eaten changed? What does a typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner look like in your household?

Nikujaga 

I primarily cooked at home before COVID-19, so not much has changed in that respect.

For breakfast, I usually have rice, miso soup, fried eggs, and yogurt.

For lunch, I usually stir-fry vegetables and change the seasonings for me and my husband versus my kids. Today, I fried onion, shimeji mushrooms, and pork. For my husband, I added soy sauce, sake, sweet cooking sake (called Mirin), and sugar. But for my kids, I added Hayashi rice roux.

And for dinner, I usually cook meat instead of fish—called Nikujaga (Niku means meat and Jaga means potatoes).

5. How are you keeping yourself entertained? Are you watching any TV shows or movies? Reading any books or magazines? Listening to podcasts?

I want to learn more time-saving recipes, so I bought a recipe book and now cook from it every day.

When I cook pasta, I used to boil water in a pot, but now I use a microwave to boil the pasta. Also, when I make keema curry, I used to stir-fry onion and ground pork, then simmer it. But now I put ALL ingredients in a bowl and just microwave at 600 watts for 12 minutes.

Recipe book 

Also, I listen to podcasts (on Google Podcast) when I go to bed every night. It's difficult to read books during the day with the kids, but I can concentrate on listening when I'm in bed. They're mostly focused on lifestyle and news.

How are you practicing social distancing? Send us a postcard from your home by emailing [email protected]—you may be featured in an upcoming post!

Pantry staples that Ai has stocked up on