Jan 30, 2021
[Column] Arts and Culture are also Essential

Monthly column in Asahi Newspaper Hokkaido version

Jan. 30, 2021.   Noyuri Mima


 We often hear the term “essential worker” in the news. Essential is “必要不可欠な” in English and worker is “労働者”. They are people who provide essential services.

 In the pandemic situation, essential worker is the people involved in medical care; the people at the grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores who handle the food and daily necessities of life; the people who make them, deliver them, and dispose of the garbage; the people involved in the operation of the trains and buses that we use to go to work or the hospital.

 Educational institutions, from kindergarten to university, are also essential. It is often thought that students only need is to be able to take classes, but lately, the effects on the mind, such as mental stress, have started to show up due to the continual taking of online classes.

 Online classes seem all good stuff. Student can take a class from anywhere with the net connection, student can repeat the material according to her/his level of proficiency, and s/he don’t have to spend time commuting to school. But there is not only good thing.

 Think about when you learn something. It seems that you are learning alone, but there is more to it than that. The best way to sustain it is to have a peer to work with. You can feel ambient presence of people, and you can even peek next to you and talk to them. That’s the kind of environment you have.

 With fewer opportunities to shop, eat out, and interact with others, it has become more difficult to maintain the rhythm of life, and cultural activities such as art are essential to keep our minds at ease and enriched. But now we have to avoid going out unnecessarily.

 Recently, museums and galleries in Japan and around the world have begun to put their collections online. Some of them use virtual reality technology to make you feel as if you were there. This is an experience that cannot be had in real life, in the sense that you can zoom in on the work and see it from behind or from the bottom.

 Concerts, RAKUGO (comic storytelling) and other entertainment events are also becoming more and more available online. You need to buy a ticket, but no travel expenses needed. We can support each other in this situation for those who make a living from cultural activities.

 Unfortunately, the difficult state to interact with people is not going to go away anytime soon. However, when we are able to get out of this situation, if you visit the places you visited on the net in real life, you will be able to feel the presence and breath of the people there, which you had not noticed before, and the scenery around you as well as the artworks will look different