TOKYO -- Former astronaut Naoko Yamazaki has offered children advice on how to relieve stress and enjoy life while stuck at home amid temporary nationwide school closures and the government's request for the public to stay indoors due to concerns over the novel coronavirus.
Yamazaki offered the tips as part of a team of Japanese astronauts and others with space-related jobs, who launched a YouTube channel called "Stay Home, Play Space!" for children in such circumstances.
The channel's first livestream took place on April 15 and featured Yamazaki, who said, "I believe you are all spending time at home to protect yourself and those around you. This is similar to life on a spaceship where you can't go out."
During the livestream, Yamazaki, who was assigned to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2010, spoke of her experiences, including ways she coped with life in space with zero gravity. She explained that since windows could not be opened, the same physical space was used for both work and personal time, which easily led to stress, and that it was difficult to grasp a sense of time within the space station since it orbited the Earth every 90 minutes.
Yamazaki went on to point out that the daily lives of children now who cannot go out and see their friends is similar to life in the confined cabins of a spaceship. She commented, "Let's enjoy the small daily changes in our lives. I recommend soaking in the sun and getting fresh air, and to try leading a life with a clear separation between tasks and leisure."
During her stay on the ISS, Yamazaki looked forward to observing the plants grown inside the space station as well as the changes in scenery of outer space. She also kept track of days of the week through meals and played the koto, a traditional Japanese string instrument, as a hobby in order to reduce stress. Looking back on her experience, she also said that it was important to get together with everyone on her team at meals and to keep a good sense of humor.
Yamazaki commented further, "Although you probably have to restrain yourself from doing a lot of things right now, I hope you can find fun things to do, for example taking up a new hobby. I did exercises like push-ups and sit-ups as part of training before space missions, and these can be done at home as well. I think many people will spend their time sitting down, so I suggest you stand up at least once every 30 minutes."
Toward the end of the episode, Yamazaki left a message to children saying, "Imagine that each and every one of you are crew members of spaceship Earth. Let's all work together as astronauts to overcome this coronavirus crisis."
The "Stay Home, Play Space!" YouTube channel will invite speakers including officials from a venture company that develops artificial meteors, space debris removal technology, lunar probes, and manned spacecraft, for their following episodes. They will be broadcast from 1 p.m. Japan time every Tuesday and Friday until the "Golden Week" holiday period. The channel will also provide opportunities for children to ask questions.
(Japanese original by Etsuko Nagayama, Opinion Group)