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  • Jasmine Norwood-Dioulo

Navigating COVID-19 as an expat family in Tokyo

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Described by the World Health Organization as, “Public enemy number one.”

The following Q & A was taken from a flyer put together by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

1. What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)? Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.

2. What are severe complications from this virus? Many patients have pneumonia in both lungs.

3. How can I help protect myself? The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Um…Okay (?)

So I did a quick “Coronavirus” Google search this morning (as I do most mornings these days) and the dark, daunting headlines are endless.

CNN: “WHO chief warns 'we are in uncharted territory' as number of coronavirus cases worldwide passes 90,000”

CNBC: “WHO says new coronavirus cases outside China are 9 times higher than inside over last 24 hours”

And here in Tokyo, front page of The Japan Times looks like this:

Last Friday, the Japanese government closed most public schools, cancelled sporting events and festivals for the month of March, and CLOSED DISNEY!

As one of my girlfriends out here put it, "I knew this was serious when they closed Disney!"

The last time Disney shutdown was in 2011, following a massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan.

Many companies now have their employees working from home, and as for toilet paper? It's flying off the shelves faster than it can be restocked.

In fact, local markets and stores on US military bases in Tokyo are rationing goods.

Oh and the masks! Despite, information from medical experts: “We don't need face masks for coronavirus. But there are other ways to protect ourselves.”

Masks are sold out damn-near everywhere! And the ones you can find on Amazon are going for hundreds of dollars! Seriously?! The price gauging is getting out of hand.

When stores here in Tokyo do get a few more shipments in, you see families and elderly people waiting in lines wrapped around buildings for hours, just to get one pack of masks per family.

Breaks my heart.

One of my expat #momfriends and fellow #blogbabes, Rupal, (Hey girl hey!) sent me this link and I’ve been glued to it -- Constantly refreshing it throughout the day. Its a live count of the COVID-19 cases in Japan, and the severity of each.

As I type this, nationwide, there are 237 people being treated for the virus, that’s 9 more than yesterday, and 6 deaths in total.

So I read all the stats multiple times a day, I see the numbers rising all over the world, but I don’t feel panicked.

Of course our little fam is taking precautions, but we’re putting just as much energy into maintaining as much normalcy and positivity as possible.

We so appreciate everyone who’s reached out to check on us. Its not lost on us that there are families dealing with major setbacks and heartache because of this virus, be it economic or health-wise, and we’re just grateful that our biggest disappointment so far has been a few cancelled flights and hotel and AirBnb rezzies.

As an expat family, one of the big questions we are faced with in times of international emergency and uncertainty is — do we stay in a country where there may be a language barrier and cultural differences, or do we “head home” and go back to a country where family, friends, and healthcare are familiar?

We have expat friends here who have done both — Some are staying and some have already left.

And while I truly believe there’s no right or wrong answer to this question because every family is different, our family has decided to stay. As we see it, this is our “home” right now, and we love it here!

That being said, we totally feel the weight of this being a fluid situation so we're aware there could come a point when we need to revisit our decision.

But you know what, I have to say, as scary as the uncertainty can be with all of this, there’s something special about the way people come together in times of elevated concern, despite differences.

My heart was just overflowing with joy after our family and friends day in the park last weekend -- Checkout some of the recap I shared on my IG stories below! (IG: @lovealwaysjas_)

Now, don’t get me wrong, for all the positivity and joy, the reality is — a lot of people are on edge right now. There were even reports of a man pushing an emergency button on a train here after another passenger coughed! (read full story here:

So yeah. The hysteria is real. All over the world, and to me, that's the unnerving part.

Good news is, eventually, we will be on the other side of all of this! In the meantime, pleeeeaaaase, let’s just wash our hands, cover our mouths, stay home if we’re not feeling well, pray for health and discernment, and hell, wear mask if you want to, but make it fashion.

Love Always.


*For fellow Japan expat fams or people who are planning to visit Tokyo in the coming weeks, visit to see what's open! There's still plenty to do, beautiful things to see, and creative ways to keep the fambam entertained!

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