There's an old-established western confectionery shop called "Ginza West," which runs cafes in the Ginza and Aoyama shopping districts, as well as shops in department stores in the greater Tokyo area.
Some of you may have tried out their cookies before. Most of the branches remain closed due to the spread of the novel coronavirus and the ensuing state of emergency declaration.
Ginza West usually tweets about its online shop, current circumstances and other information, but the other day it said in a post, "We don't like using the terms nonessential and nonurgent. We believe -- whether it be music, movies, theaters, sports or even bars, restaurants, cafes and sweets -- that they all exist because they are essential to people's lives."
Some people criticized the content of the tweet, saying things like, "Are you opposing the practice of self-restraint (for outdoor activities)?" But I think Ginza West just wanted to point out that everything that we are restraining ourselves from doing now -- from work to hobbies -- is actually essential in our lives.
Many people are currently limiting the number of times they go outside as much as they can, and are living on the necessities they can buy. Meals tend to be simple dishes made at home. This can't be helped since our top priority now is to protect other people's lives by preventing ourselves and others from getting infected with the coronavirus.
But that doesn't mean the situation should stay like this forever. Cakes seem to taste better when we make the effort to go to shops far from where we live. Clothes we chose after trying many garments on suit us better. Movies have more impact when we watch them at cinemas rather than at home. For adults, the warm glow of bars often makes us put in extra effort to visit. All of those things are what we need to live.
In one word these can all be summed up as "culture." We tend to leave cultural events for later in a life under self-restraint. Some may even think we can live without those things.
But what defines humans are the arts, leisure, fashion, gourmet experiences and numerous other cultural elements we are currently refraining from. These things all add to our lives and make them meaningful.
It's a matter of fact that we should not let our guards down even when the state of emergency is lifted. Daily efforts to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus will continue for years. Under such a lifestyle, we should slowly regain the mental capacity to enjoy cultural events.
While voicing my support for individuals with culture-related jobs, I pray that we will be able to socially distance ourselves and enjoy tea at a pleasant cafe or be moved by watching a stage performance as soon as possible.
(Japanese original by Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)