Freedom and Opportunity

By Shun 

In the past few months, I have come to appreciate the amount of freedom I have to live a “normal” life despite the current pandemic. As most countries are starting once again to implement travel restrictions and lockdown measures, Japan seems to be doing the opposite: removing the 2-week quarantine upon entering the country and providing discounts on hotels and transportation accommodations. If you walk through Shibuya, located in the center of Tokyo, you would not even think for a second that we were in the midst of a global pandemic. People walk the streets, certainly within 6 feet of each other, some not even wearing masks.

 

Coming from the United States, it feels unfair and almost disrespectful that while the rest of the world deals with the deadly pandemic, that people here can live so normally and carelessly. With ~250 cases being reported daily in Tokyo, the virus is nowhere near gone. I just hope that the people here can take slightly more responsibility for the freedom they have so we don’t lose it with an influx of cases.

 

On the bright side, with the measures being slightly more relaxed, I have started to have more opportunities to participate in programs offline. One of those was the Exploratory IT Human Resources Project (Mitou Project), the program I am currently apart of where I am developing an iPhone application. As a member of this program, I receive resources and mentorship from the Japanese Government to work on and develop my idea. Until recently, all meetings and presentations of the work I had been doing (held once/twice a month) were online. However, they decided it was safe enough to hold the last meeting in-person, so I was finally able to meet the other members of the program and my project manager in-person.

 

Participating in the in-person meeting was like taking a breath of fresh air, a reminder of the beauty and power of being with people. For months I had been working alone, endlessly typing away at my computer, my only communication with the other members, and my managers done through Zoom. Though in the moment, it didn’t seem like I was missing out on much, the meeting was a reminder of the excitement of the now days-of-the-past, where you could meet new people and exchange conversation in the same physical environment. I could move around to talk to different people without having to be assigned break-out rooms and I didn’t have to rely on private messaging to talk with individual people.

 

As I sit in my room alone writing this blog post, I feel so grateful for the offline aspect of the meeting, something I took for granted just a few months ago. Without it, I know I wouldn’t have been able to meet so many people and received the valuable feedback I did, from software engineers and professors. Looking back, this pandemic has given me many opportunities to reflect and appreciate aspects of life that previously, I never noticed. Although life here has started to regain some normality, I know that other parts of the world aren’t as lucky. I look forward to the opportunities that await me while taking responsibility for the freedom I have been given.