Many in Japan start new hobbies amid pandemic

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kotaro Tabata from Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, looks through an album as part of research for his autobiography.

A growing number of people are starting new at-home hobbies as they cocoon amid the pandemic.

Vaccinations started last month as a key move to contain the coronavirus, but there is still a long way to go before the majority of the public is inoculated. Cocooning to avoid human contact for a while seems to be providing many people with a good opportunity to look back on their life or try something new.

Time to reflect

“I wouldn’t have started this if I wasn’t affected by the pandemic,” said Kotaro Tabata, 80, from Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, who has been busy working on his autobiography since September last year.

He launched the project when his volunteer work, which he’s done for 10 years, was suspended due to the pandemic. Tabata used to visit local hospitals and facilities for the elderly at least three times a week, listening to patients and residents who wanted to share their personal stories. Since last spring, however, he has not been able to visit those facilities, amid efforts to prevent infections.

Wondering what he could do at home, Tabata discovered a class last summer about how to compile a self-history. He decided to take the course “to learn to write solid sentences.”

The man began compiling his diaries and photo albums for review. His diary entries, written for many years on things like the back of leaflets and pieces of paper, filled 20 thick file folders. He also had 15 albums with pictures of his family and of himself working at a major electronics company. He began turning their pages every day in his study.

“When I was working, I thought it was natural for my wife to prepare meals and clean. I felt bad, when looking over my diaries, that I didn’t feel grateful about that,” Tabata said. “It’s more important to look at myself than to have someone read my history.”

He expects to finish his autobiography as early as this month.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kumi Nakanishi in Tokyo arranges flowers in her room.

A gorgeous room

“This is about the right distance between the flower and the branch,” said Kumi Nakanishi, a Tokyo office worker, 44, as she picked up some purple sweet pea in her living room and carefully arranged it in a vase.

Nakanishi said she liked to go to the gym but stopped once the pandemic began. She now spends many hours in her house, especially since she began working from home. She started attending flower arrangement classes in November last year because this hobby “can be done at home, and flowers make my room look gorgeous.”

She takes home the flowers she used in class and re-arranges them in her vases. She sometimes buys her favorite kinds of flowers to arrange them.

“I can lose myself in arranging them, and looking at the flowers soothes my mind,” Nakanishi said. “It’s a perfect hobby amid the coronavirus disaster, and I want to keep doing it.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Toshiyuki Kashiwagi in Tokyo plays the piano.

Hidden talents

Playing the piano has been a good diversion for Toshiyuki Kashiwagi from Ota Ward, Tokyo, since he started teleworking in April last year. He began studying piano four years ago.

In June, the 60-year-old company employee joined an online farewell party for a colleague who was moving to another department, and played “When You Wish Upon a Star” on the piano at home to surprise his co-workers. His colleagues did not know that he could play, and his performance drew enthusiastic applause.

“If we weren’t in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, I wouldn’t have had a chance to perform in front of my colleagues,” Kashiwagi said.

He used to skip lessons sometimes after work, but recently he’s been at the keyboard every day, aiming to learn to play The Beatles’ “Let It Be.”

“There are many painful things caused by the disaster, but I see it as a good opportunity to enjoy what I can do now,” Kashiwagi said.