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【Tenant's Story】Sharing times together as a big “family” is the best cure for loneliness during quarantine

I’m Danielle and I’ve been living in Borderless House in Kyoto since January of this year. It’s been a month since the state of emergency has officially been lifted from most of Japan and life seems to almost have gone back to what it was like before COVID-19, but concerns and fears still loom over us as the pandemic is still active and borders are still (mostly) closed.

It must be hard or nearly impossible to imagine what life is like in a sharehouse during the pandemic, maybe even scary to think that 10-20 people all live under the same roof. How do we keep safe, what measures did we take and what did our daily life look like? Here’s my story from our sharehouse!

Every day was a different kind of interesting and fun experience

The Nationwide State of Emergency was declared mid-April and with it, we were requested to stay home. Right before the declaration, we planned on traveling together but all these plans were ultimately canceled as the situation grew worse and were instead replaced by events and “parties” mostly inside the house. There were only very few times we went outside and we did our best to keep the social distance.

The house mostly consists of students who had their classes moved online or canceled completely, and all of us became “hermits”. Some of us had our daily routine reduced to sitting in front of the computer all day and occasionally going out to the supermarket or the close convenience store. More and more, we would spend time together in the kitchen cooking together, sharing a meal, and talking about daily struggles and aspirations for “after this is all over”. The living room became lively with daily tourneys of “Smash Brothers” on the Switch or a quiet study session. Every now and then we had a different type of food “party”. And sometimes there would be quieter days where everyone’s in their rooms: studying, job hunting, or working. Every day was a different kind of interesting and fun experience.

Of course, we tried our best and took the measures we deemed necessary to protect ourselves as much as possible: everyone who leaves the house wore a mask, outside and in the house, or made sure to reduce direct interaction with those who are always in the house, we had (and still have) an alcohol dispenser we use frequently especially while in the kitchen, and of course, we make sure to air out the house and wash our hands often. Those of us who felt these measures weren’t enough simply stuck more to their rooms and avoided the crowded spaces, also keeping the recommended social distance.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t tension between housemates due to the situation and our decisions, so we ended up sitting down and sharing our difference in opinions, personal suggestions, and decided our own house guidelines. We came to the conclusion that “canceling having fun” is not necessary and will not guarantee our safety in such a big house, and those who are worried should take the extra measures they see right for themselves.

Looking back, that was the best decision, sharing these isolated times together as a big “family” is the best cure for loneliness so many people must have felt during quarantine, I’m glad I have people I shared those times with!

Share time together at “cleaning parties”

One of the bigger struggles for the house was when the toilet paper panic happened. In a house with 15+ people who due to the situation are all always staying at home, one pack of toilet paper wouldn’t last even half a week. Luckily, as we’re all from different nationalities, we could easily buy more than one pack of toilet paper even when there was a restriction of one-per-household. Alongside the toilet paper shortage, there was also the mask shortage so for a while some of us walked without masks (we really searched for them everywhere!) until one of our kind housemates sewed everyone their own washable trendy masks!

Another thing we did both to keep the house clean and to share time together is “cleaning parties”. Usually, we have the essential cleaning duties each member must do every week, but once in a while we’d gather everyone who’s free and host a cleaning event - we clean all the areas of the house in-depth to make sure we live in a hygienic and healthy environment as we’re always home.

Don’t forget: fun is not canceled!

One way to go out but also to avoid the crowds is to go out into nature, where there are almost no people and a lot of fresh clean air. That’s why whenever we wanted to go out to experience Kyoto and take a breather from the narrow walls of our house, we would go to places like Kiyotaki River, or Katsura River (close to Arashiyama) which were almost empty of people.

In these times of uncertainty and worry, the housemates were all actively sharing their knowledge and information from their respective countries and all of us were open to discussion. We would compare the different strategies of our countries to handling the situation and share bizarre stories that the situation caused in different places. Thanks to the flow of information we were able to have proportions on the situation but also be aware of the dangers. Most importantly, we are grateful that in such dire times when some people are forced into isolation we were able to spend time with so many people and realize that we’re not alone.

Life in a sharehouse ultimately didn’t put us under more risk, it helped us stay strong and know that we’re not alone. These times at home made us realize how much more time we have for ourselves and others when we do our work or classes from home but also how important it is to have something that will keep you busy: a job, a project, a hobby, or even just company. During this time, I learned to appreciate my time with others but also my time alone, I picked up new hobbies and read more, I learned to appreciate the outside and just taking a stroll down our quiet neighborhood felt like a breath of fresh air. I learned new things about Japan, other cultures, and myself. All of this and more was thanks to the sharehouse. These past months were a blur, but it’s a blur of good memories with people I grew to love and care about for the rest of my life.

Stay safe everyone and don’t forget: fun is not canceled!



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