How Japan's creative community is dealing with isolation

Kiko Mizuhara, CHAI, Yuka Mizuhara, Imma, and more reflect on how COVID-19 is affecting them and their industries.

by i-D Team
|
28 April 2020, 7:37am

Much like the rest of the world, Japan's response to the COVID-19 crisis was to slow the spread of virus by essentially shutting down the country and isolating the population. However, unlike other countries, Japan began their isolation period a little later in the coronavirus timeline, with the government declaring a state of emergency on April 4. Now, a few weeks later, Japan is getting used to life under isolation and uniting in solidarity around the #stayhome cause.

The ripple effects of this period will be felt for a long time, particularly in Japan's creative community of models, photographers, musicians, artists, etc who are largely self-employed and have lost their capacity to work. Here, we speak with a range of young creative people in Japan about how they're handling the COVID-19 crisis and the effects it'll have on their industries long term.

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Kiko Mizuhara, model and actress

What is the impact of COVID-19 on your industry? What can people do to support you?
The main bulk of my work is photoshoots or filming. My overseas jobs have been postponed or cancelled. A photoshoot supposed to happen in the US has been postponed, as has a film I was due to shoot in Europe — and there’s a chance it might be cancelled completely. At the moment, I’m using Zoom to have meetings and do voice training for a film scheduled to be shot in Japan in the summer.

Can you give people who are self-isolating at the moment some recommendations for things to do or ways to entertain themselves?
Read the books and manga you’ve got at home. Watch films. Cook. Putting some distance between you and your phone and using that time to draw or create takes on a meditative quality — it’s very calming. Do stretching, or yoga. Try doing something you’ve not done before! Attempting something new fosters a feeling of achievement, which makes you feel great. I’ve recently been making storyboards, and shooting with a green screen for the first time! [laughs]

What would you like to tell yourself back in February 2020?
Get your driving license!

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Masumi Ishida, photographer

What is the impact of COVID-19 on your industry? What can people do to support you?
Magazine photoshoots involve a number of people, so they’ve virtually ground to a halt. There’s no photo-shoots or reporting being done — everything’s at a standstill. I know it’s hard to go to bookshops right now, but it’d be great if people could at least keep on buying books and magazines online.

Have you started doing anything new since you began staying at home? Has it brought any positive influences or changes?
With fewer shoots, I have more time on my hands, so I’m spending more time looking at magazines and watching films. It takes me back to being a high school student, which reminds me how much I used to want to do the job that I currently have. Also, spending more time at home during the day, I remembered how much I like the light as it comes filtering into my room.

Can you give people who are self-isolating at the moment some recommendations for things to do or ways to entertain themselves?
Rather than watching or reading new things, tackle the things you’ve been meaning to rewatch or reread but haven’t got round to.

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Seiho, musician

What is the impact of COVID-19 on your industry? What can people do to support you?
Of course, there are currently no live performances of music, so people in related industries are really struggling. I also run an oden stall in Shibuya, which we’ve closed for the moment. And yet, I feel that one of the brilliant things about being a musician is that you can still work when removed from society. Rather than thinking about ways I need help and support, I think every day about what I can do to help others — so if there’s anything I can do to support those in trouble please let me know!

Can you give people who are self-isolating at the moment some recommendations for things to do or ways to entertain themselves?
Free yourself from the feeling that you have to do something, from the pressure of studying, or films, or books. I’d like people to feel as little guilt as possible about the fact that they can’t do anything in society, that they can’t accumulate anything.

How would you express your current mood or feeling in terms of music?
I want to listen to the sound of the river and the birds in the mountains.

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Kousuke Kawamura, artist

What is the impact of COVID-19 on your industry? What can people do to support you?
In terms of the people in my field, I guess the financial impact of events not happening and sales dropping off is the biggest. But everyone’s financial situation is different, and I don’t want people to overstretch themselves (prioritise your own financial wellbeing). If you do have the capacity, then try ordering from the shops in your neighbourhood or those you often frequent.

Are there any ways in which the Coronavirus has changed your way or thinking or your perception of society?
In the last few years there have been lots of natural disasters and other events, and I don’t think this pandemic particularly has changed my perception of things, but something I’d say more generally is that I think we need to get to a place where people aren’t overexerting themselves or shouldering excess stress, and where those who have a little left to offer can get together and help out those who are more in need.

Can you give people who are self-isolating at the moment some recommendations for things to do or ways to entertain themselves?
Turn off the alarm clock and sleep in as late as you want!

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Licaxxx ,DJ and model

What is the impact of COVID-19 on your industry? What can people do to support you?
On a global scale, there’s been a huge impact on club culture. It’s not just DJs and clubbers that make up the culture, but the clubs themselves, booking agents, promoters and so on, most of whom are self-employed people putting great passion into their work. Not only is this going to mean a decline in club culture at large, but we’re also definitely going to see people really suffering when places go out of business. We’re also seeing businesses that are vanishing entirely as a result of this. Currently, there’s a list on Resident Advisor of relevant information and ideas about how to save the scene. You can help by purchasing music and merchandise right away on Bandcamp, and also take part in the innovative broadcasting and virtual events that are taking place right now. On Tokyo Community Radio, which I’ve been leading since last year, while we’re really hoping that the club scene revives as soon as possible, we’re planning to add the regular Thursday program with an interesting programme of broadcasts and livestreams from various DJs’ houses.

To ensure that club culture isn’t lost entirely, people need to go back to basics and look at the cornerstone of their livelihoods and the political structure. It should be a natural thing as a citizen to have more interest in politics—to study it, and to make one’s voice heard. This includes all those working in the industry who I mentioned above, and also the fans. In our life from now on, we need to realise that everything we have can be lost this quickly.

What would you like to tell yourself back in February 2020?
You were right to splurge on all kinds of gear at the end of February!

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Loveli Shirahama, artist and model

What is the impact of COVID-19 on your industry? What can people do to support you?
Generally speaking, people are out of work. Personally, I feel like the pandemic has given me more opportunities to engage in different kinds of work. Sharing, taking on new things into my own way of life. Enjoying my own answers.

Are there any ways in which the Coronavirus has changed your way or thinking or your perception of society?
I think people are remembering that we have the right to make choices. I feel like the directions people are taking right now are divided broadly in two depending on whether they are able to think about and find answers to the question of what they personally can do in response to the Coronavirus.

Can you give people who are self-isolating at the moment some recommendations for things to do or ways to entertain themselves?
Put down some of your own words, start writing about how you want the future to be, how you imagine it will be, what you can do right at this minute.

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Imma, virtual model

What is the impact of COVID-19 on your industry? What can people do to support you?
Most of my work is in the fashion or advertising industry and my scheduled photoshoots have been cancelled. It’s a strange situation though, because there’s also been a surge in the number of requests for virtual jobs.

Have you started doing anything new since you began staying at home? Has it brought any positive influences or changes?
Well of course, the amount of time I’m spending at home has increased. When I wake up in the morning, I open the window to let the pale light into my room, drink in the wind, listen to some nice music, read a book. On the balcony I bathe in the sun, hang out my washing, vacuum my room. Being at home so much, I find pleasure in these kinds of everyday activities. It’s a weird feeling. I’m also having good input in the form of books I like and things on Netflix I’ve wanted to watch. I’m trying to see the bright side to it all.

What would you like to tell yourself back in February 2020?
I had this sense of danger. On the fourth of February, I put on a mask and posted on Instagram about prevention against the coronavirus. Although of course I never thought it would get this bad.

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Yuka Mizuhara, musician and model

What is the impact of COVID-19 on your industry? What can people do to support you?
In my case, my DJ slots have been cancelled and my modelling work postponed. For the moment, I can’t go out and do creative work outside. I feel increasingly sad that, for the time being, I’m not going to be able to feel that sense of unity that I get on the dance floor. For the moment, I have to try and bring people important music that will lead to people feeling joy, through live streaming.

Can you give people who are self-isolating at the moment some recommendations for things to do or ways to entertain themselves?
I feel like my awareness of the importance of self-care and my curiosity toward the things that I like is growing daily. Recently I’ve started doing yoga several times a week to build up my fitness, going out to the local park on sunny days and reading books I like, and as a result I feel like my concentration has improved. When I want to cheer myself up, I just dance like crazy. My mission is to create more music I like, and paint pictures of my favourite things.

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Yoshirotten, designer

Have you started doing anything new since you began staying at home? Has it brought any positive influences or changes?
I try to make something every day. When I make new work I feel better, and I look forward to it making its way into the world some day. I’ve also started to make music under the name YATT.

Are there any ways in which the Coronavirus has changed your way or thinking or your perception of society?
I’ve felt the preciousness of going out into the outside world and meeting people. I want to be able to take that feeling with me into the post-corona world.

Can you give people who are self-isolating at the moment some recommendations for things to do or ways to entertain themselves?
Listen to lots of different kinds of music and enjoy a world of dreams and fantasies. Do the things you haven’t been able to do. Have meetings to work out how to do what you do want to do, with yourself and friends.

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Chai, musicians

What is the impact of COVID-19 on your industry? What can people do to support you?
Mana: We’re musicians, so I guess not being able to give live performances is the biggest thing. But that also means we can make lots of music at home. We’ve got lots of time, and so we can do all the things we haven’t had time to do until now, which is great!

The crisis means giving up lots of different things, and having your life affected in various ways, but we also need to realise that there are actually a surprising amount of things which you can only really do at a time like this. Like forgetting about time, and listening properly to your body and your feelings, rather than going out when you don’t need to. You can reconsider the things that you forget about when you’re too busy, spend more time with your family, make more phone calls. Try doing all those things that you’ve been wanting to do, in whatever format that’s possible right now. Sleeping’s good too! Eat loads!

Can you give people who are self-isolating at the moment some recommendations for things to do or ways to entertain themselves?
Kana: I’m growing flowers and vegetables in my garden. I’ve got some indoor plants too, which I’ve always loved, but now I’m really appreciating growing things. Being in the house and taking walks, I find I’ve got more time with myself, and I feel like I’ve got to know myself better. I’ve always liked cooking, but I’m adding to my repertoire — it’s really fun ^_^

Are there any ways in which the Coronavirus has changed your way or thinking or your perception of society?
Yuuki: I’ve been influenced in lots of ways by Corona. Before, environmental concerns and issues of protecting wildlife seemed very distant to me, but I’ve noticed how important they are. I’ve realised that our individual actions can cause disease. Plants, animals, humans — we all share a planet, so I’ve started trying to live in a way that’s kinder to everyone. I want to carry on changing for the better!

What would you like to tell yourself back in February 2020?
Mana: Be in contact with lots of people who matter most to you! Go and spend time with all those people!


Credits

Interviews by Sogo Hiraiwa
Translation by Polly Barton

This article was originally published on i-D Japan and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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