For the last few weeks, the coronavirus lockdown has been in full effect across Japan. Although criticized as "toothless" by many—the power of the government to enforce quarantine-like measures is limited by the Constitution—there are encouraging signs that the steps are having a positive effect. As Bloomberg reported, residents are mainly heeding the prime minister's call to stay home. Train usage has dropped, and GPS data show a decrease in public activities. These effects, among others, have likely helped the country avoid an explosive increase in infections.
That's all well and good, but those figures gloss over the struggle of many individuals. Parents currently have their hands full as children stay home from canceled schools. Married couples are also struggling to cope as work from home orders keep them confined to close-quartered home offices. As stress mounts, many are finding it too much to take. Sadly, #coronadivorce is trending online.
Yet, much less has been said about those living by themselves. In Japan, a growing number of working adults are perennially single. Retirees, too, often find themselves living alone throughout old age. With an estimated 34.5% of residents leading solitary lives—estimated to be 39.3% by 2040—many are likely feeling isolated as work schedules and business activities remain on hiatus.
In order to see a smiling face and get some much needed human interaction, many are looking to social media and online broadcasts to fill the void. Yoga teachers and spiritual gurus are holding online workouts and retreats while giving advice about dealing with loneliness. Celebrities and influencers, on the other hand, are inviting their followers to join in on the minutiae of their everyday lives during the 2020 coronavirus lockdown.
Comedian Naomi Watanabe
Naomi Watanabe is a famous comedian and actress in Japan. Known for her outlandish impersonations, she is commonly known as the "Beyonce of Japan" after her renowned impression of the pop diva.
The comedian, however, has a complicated past. Half-Taiwanese and half-Japanese, she grew up poor with her divorced mother in Ibaraki. After failing to enter high school, she worked at a fast-food restaurant for several years until running away to Osaka to become an entertainer. After a short stint in a manzai comedy group, she found herself invited to perform on variety shows. She became a regular on the variety show "Warratte Iitomo!," and eventually met Beyonce through this role. During this same period, she also appeared on a comedy sketch show helping to cement her fame.
Nevertheless, as a plus-size figure, she had other aspirations. As perhaps you can imagine, Japanese women are notoriously slim. As retailers cater to this common body type, it can be exceedingly difficult for larger shoppers to find appropriately sized outfits. Naomi herself claimed that she often resorted to wearing men's clothes or even using dresses as a top.
In 2014, she launched Punyus, a fashion brand offering an exceptionally wide range of sizes and styles. The brand was immediately successful, given the comedian's international online credibility. After her brand's rollout, she soon became the most followed person in Japan. Indeed, from high school drop out to superstar influencer, she has experienced a whirlwind of success.
#StayHome with Naomi Watanabe
Nevertheless, no matter how famous anyone is, the coronavirus has a way of stopping life in its tracks. Like in other countries, talk show hosts, musicians, and performers of every walk are finding ways to work online, employing technology to address their audiences.
Under the #StayHome (#家で一緒にやってみよう in Japanese), Naomi Watanabe is holding casual online dinner parties. The slapstick comedian starts each episode by introducing her dish. She has cooked up a meat and vegetable stir fry, mentaiko and butter spaghetti, ginger pan-fried pork, and several other savory entrees.
The episode below features homemade Japanese fried chicken as well as the company of guest Gen Hoshino, a famous artist and actor in Japan. While he eats a plate of sweets and nuts, the two talk about various things and interact with fans watching live.
After introducing their food and getting settled, the two talk about taking some time off from work due to the current situation, SNS, and just joke around and have a good time.
Another video is just with Naomi:
The performer sits down with mixed vegetables as well as grilled chicken, and a scrambled egg dish. The vegetables are in ponzu sauce, while the chicken has a side of minced garlic and mayonnaise. She goes on to explain how her diet has changed while she has been staying home. Throughout the two-hour live stream, she interacts with viewers, talking about whatever comes up.
If you, yourself, are feeling lonely, keep an eye on Naomi's social media accounts. Her live stream dinner parties are randomly scheduled but often. Why not tune in?
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