By Leah Alsept (@leah_0913)
Osaka, Japan, is 6,639 away from Findlay, OH. Visiting Professor of Japanese Rie Aoki hasn’t been to her home city Osaka since summer 2019.
As COVID-19 vaccination hopes are seen in the news , the CDC COVID-19 Tracker states that there are 125,144 confirmed cases of the virus in Ohio with over six million cases across America.
Japan, a country that the University of Findlay has many exchange and international students come from, has 72,726 cases of the coronavirus with a population of 126,401,224 according to WorldOMeter. That is .00057% of the Japanese population. There has been 1,393 deaths from COVID-19 in the country.
Aoki knows Japanese people and American people have a different cultural perspective on wearing masks.
“It’s very dry,” Aoki said about her home country’s winters. “In Japan, culturally, we don’t blow nose in front of people like how you do in America, so people like wearing masks in winter. Or, like spring, people with the allergies like to wear masks. So, we don’t have any offensive feelings about wearing masks.”
Politics are left out of the mask conversation in Japan, but she sees Americans display political attitudes by wearing or not wearing their masks.
“Japanese people are very worried about how other people see themselves,” Aoki said. “Uniformity is very important. How one knows he or she is maintaining the uniformity [is by] seeing the others reactions.”
Aoki gives a hypothetical example of that uniformity.
“When I get on a train, majority of people are wearing masks, and I don’t wear it, I feel uncomfortable because I’m not in the majority,” Aoki said. “And if someone next to me is not wearing a mask, I feel comfortable, because he is doing the same thing.”
Tamara Medakov, a Serbian national and Japanese and Spanish major at UF, has been living in the United States for the past six years.
The student nor professor know anyone in their immediate family that has contracted the coronavirus, but Medakov knew one of her classmates at UF did contract and recover from the coronavirus months ago, which made her face the reality of the situation.
“I got scared, just asking questions like ‘when did you think you got it,’” she said. “I was wondering if he was going to be okay. He did say that it was rough.”
Medakov thinks that Serbia is a lot like the United States in terms of the response to the coronavirus lockdowns, curfews, and mask wearing requirements.
Serbians started out accepting news of the coronavirus.
“With one difference is that in the beginning, people in America did not listen from the very start, or they weren’t as obedient,” Medakov said. Though Serbians started out cautious, the response evolved into protests against COVID-19 restrictions set in place.
“But then later when everything reopened again (in Serbia) and when (coronavirus infection) numbers started to incline, and when there was like, more curfews and like rules and stuff, people were less obedient,” Medakov said. “The (coronavirus infection) numbers kept going up, I remember our president being really, really mad for people just going out and beaches and parks and gathering and everything and not listening.”
Medakov hasn’t made the almost 5,000-mile trip back to her home country yet, but she’s hopeful she’ll be able to once she graduates in 2022.
Aoki, with many more miles to travel back home, hopes she’ll be able to return to Japan next summer.
For more information on COVID-19, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.