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Osaka
Kanayo Ueda, Poetess

The coronavirus pandemic may be prompting people to reassess their globalized way of life and livelihoods. They may also be thinking more deeply about their encounters with others, developing an awareness of social rifts and inequalities or a sense of solidarity. At any rate, I’m convinced that our todays won’t resemble our yesterdays anymore.

By Kanayo Ueda

Kanayo Ueda © Yasufumi Murayama

What would you say are symbols of your current situation or the current situation in your country?

Our ability to endure a state of uncertainty is being put to the test. We are as though petrified as our thoughts lurch back and forth on whether to give up or continue thinking for ourselves. We holler what we deem to be the right opinions at those who think differently. Might it be due to a rigid internalized notion of "how everything should be" that we vent our anger even on those who are toiling on the front lines? After all, the present state of affairs resulting from the coronavirus is an outgrowth of everyday life until now. I think it’s becoming clear now that people in all kinds of situations – at school or at work, in the family, in certain places and in the public sphere – even if they’d always felt a certain malaise, haven’t articulated it or given it much further thought – let alone talk about it with others.

I’m based in Osaka, and I think people in Kamagasaki, an area in Osaka’s Nishinari ward inhabited for the most part by day labourers, the homeless and the poor, have hardly changed since the coronavirus outbreak. The residents are poor, so they don't travel to faraway places and mostly live alone in a poky room. Living this way probably keeps their risk of infection pretty low, despite their advanced age in many cases. Family members have typically refused to collect the body of those who’ve died here, and often as not, no mourners have shown up at the funerals. This is what initially kindled our campaign to join together in saying goodbye to our dead. (Unfortunately, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, we can’t gather for funerals anymore at the moment.) Some people are actually glad that no YouTubers or travellers are coming these days and that the city is so quiet. We are told to stay home, but people living on the street don’t have a home. Most of them are day labourers, and in the current situation they are told to apply for income support. These people live at the very bottom of the ladder, with no social contacts – which is why they don’t catch the virus. 

How will the pandemic change the world? What do you see as long-term consequences of the crisis?

The world is constantly changing, like a river that keeps flowing as long as it isn’t dried up or dammed up.

The coronavirus pandemic may be prompting people to reassess their globalized way of life and livelihoods. They may also be thinking more deeply about their encounters with others, developing an awareness of social rifts and inequalities or a sense of solidarity. At any rate, I’m convinced that our todays won’t resemble our yesterdays anymore. But I don't want to forget that, even before the coronavirus havoc, there were and still are plenty of people in the world who are ignored, neglected, who live with the expectation they might die tomorrow. I’d like to learn from these people, from the wisdom with which they have survived so far, from their survival skills and their courage. 

What gives you hope?

All this is nothing new, which is why we should learn from our ancestors. What gives me hope is that people exist who don’t believe it’s already too late, who think things through and want to act now.

What is your personal strategy for dealing with this situation?

The Democracy of the Individual
It starts with the individual
The individual carries hope within himself
To accept ordinary loneliness and take the trouble to carry on tirelessly doing what you yourself believe in
It would be nice if this were mutually articulated and evolved into an attitude towards a certain malaise

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