Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, life, work and a lot of other things are completely different from normal this year.
One small example is that, at this time, many households, schools and workplaces are usually filled with conversations about what people plan to do for their summer vacation. In my consultation room, I've typically asked patients who are employed questions like, "Will you be taking time off this summer? It's better to go on a trip somewhere far away and really relieve your stress."
But this year, it doesn't look like that's going to work. I hear that there are many elementary and junior high schools where summer holidays have been shortened to catch up on studies after prolonged school closures. University summer vacations aren't really any different to an ordinary year, but there's no way group trips and lodging by school clubs, societies and seminars are going ahead. There are also many students refraining from returning to their family homes.
In an instance when I've unthinkingly asked a student what they'll do during the vacation, I got a sad response. "My planned short study abroad is gone, and I can't go back to my family home, so I haven't got anything to do," they told me.
But I think that even if summer vacation isn't going to be what it normally is, it's not like the summer season has disappeared. Perhaps in the regions of southwestern Japan, which have been victim of torrential rain, there isn't really the time or anything like that to enjoy the season. But apart from people in those regions, I'd like it if people could find their own ways to enjoy summer.
Even if they can't go on a trip somewhere far away, they could buy machines to make shaved ice at home, or enjoy hanging out on their balconies on a cool evening day. I suggest trying to enjoy this time with an even stronger sense of summer than usual.
I'm thinking about doing a summer reading group with my students, who I'm only seeing through online classes at the moment. Of course, it would all be done from computer screens, but what we'll do is passionately introduce books that we think are most evocative of summer, and explain what they're about and how we read them. It won't have to be a book for study; it could be a ghost story or mystery; just as long as it's something that you can get a feeling of the summer from.
So then, how will I myself get that summer feeling? I love baseball, so I'm sad knowing this year there will be no Japanese High School Baseball Championship at Koshien Stadium, where students from across the country compete to be named the best in Japan, and no Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star Series.
But this year I want, as much as possible, to enjoy the season's fruit and vegetables, like watermelon and bitter melon. I'm also thinking of digging out some CDs of the summer pop music I would listen to when I was younger, and put them on for the first time in a while.
Normally my summer vacations end before I know it while I'm sorting out the work that has piled up, but for this year, I'm going to try and take in the feeling of summer and let my mind and body relax. I'd like it if everyone could find the enjoyment that is only found in this season, while also taking care to avoid heat stroke.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)