By Laura Foushee
We knew that when we could eventually return to Japan, we would be returning to a different Japan than the one we knew before the pandemic. We have been back in Japan over a month now, yet the differences are not as readily apparent as I thought they might be.
For our family, much feels the same as before.
We returned to the same apartment we have been living in since 2017, and when we walked in for the first time since October 2019, everything was just as we had left it. It was hard to believe we had been away for 14 months as we shifted back into our Japanese lifestyle, almost effortlessly. A two-week voluntary quarantine helped us settle back in quickly as we returned to washing all of our dishes by hand and line-drying all of our clothes on our balcony.
When quarantine was over, we began our daily time in the park next door, the closest thing we have to a backyard. People are still out as they were before, and we watch packed rush hour trains pass by our front room windows every few minutes.
But the changes are there when you look for them. We remembered that progress does continue, in spite of a pandemic, when we first discovered the new bakery and hair salon across the street, or that our town built a new library and children’s center at the new junior high school, just yards from our apartment. Most people are wearing masks, even outside in the open air. Signs at the park remind visitors to stay distanced and wash their hands and gargle when they return home. I have started online grocery shopping, which I never imagined doing in Japan. We have not ventured on public transportation yet, even though we used to ride trains daily. At the time of writing this, Tokyo Prefecture is awaiting approval to enact an 8 p.m. closure of stores and restaurants to help slow its third wave and highest ever numbers of COVID cases.
The greatest change, however, is life with our Christian community.
As soon our quarantine was over, our church decided to move to online-only worship. We have been able to see our pastor and his wife just once since our return, and we do not know yet when in-person worship will resume. What was once our primary location for ministry has forced us to learn how we can be present with our church family from our little apartment.
We may not know for some time how Japan, or any other country, will have changed because of this pandemic. For many of us, though life feels the same in many ways, the changes are there and some will only be apparent to us once we are further removed from this crisis.
In times like these, we hope to adapt as we are forced to change, and we hope to have clarity and awareness for the ways we can respond to needs that surface from such change. In the days ahead, as we experience both the old and new, I will offer prayers of thanksgiving that we have been able to return, and also prayers for wisdom in how to minister anew.
Laura Foushee is a CBF field personnel serving alongside her husband, Carson, in Tokyo, Japan, in partnership with the Japan Baptist Convention. Learn more about and support their work at www.cbf.net/foushee.