Keeping your Social Distance while in Japan

ByJason Gatewood
Apr 28, 2020

Keeping your Social Distance while in Japan

While the “lockdowns” that are seen in many countries are currently impossible to put into effect in Japan because of how the laws are interpreted, it is still up the upmost importance to follow the recently unveiled San Mitsu Rules (三密対策) and avoid the following:

  1. 密接 Misetsu – avoid talking with people up close.
  2. 密閉 Mippei – avoid non-ventilated enclosed spaces
  3. 密集 Misshu – avoid congregating in crowds

his is pretty easy to do if you live in the countryside, but most of Japan’s cities are very dense and tightly packed. Services like grocery stores and laundromats are usually half to a third of the size of their Western counterparts. My first thought was “how can we stay 2 meters apart in Tokyo?”

Mind the gaps

Thankfully, helpful markers like signage, dividers, and floor markers are posted in places like supermarkets and post offices. Trains and buses are running their HVAC systems at maximum while keeping the windows down to ventilate the vehicles. Many restaurants have started takeaway and delivery service if they didn’t have them before; many are doing it for free. Even with these rules, we need to stay vigilant.

Tips to flatten the curve without going bonkers

  1. Go shopping once a week, only one member of the household, and if possible, do so during off-peak hours. I have been known hit the local 7-11 at 2 am before “the ‘rona” hit; I see no reason to stop now.
  2. Even if it’s possible, don’t do it! Unlike my hometown in the USA, parks around Tokyo are still open and up until recently, most beaches and mountain recreation areas were seeing summertime-like crowds. Don’t become a victim just because you’re dying for a day at the park.
  3. Make sure your in-country paperwork is up-to-date. There will be various financial supplements coming soon that will rely on your being properly registered in your town’s resident registry. Also, you’ll want to make sure your health insurance is together, whether it’s one of the national schemes or you’re using a private insurance policy from your home country. My advice is if you’re eligible for Japan National Health coverage, get it.
  4. Make your home as comfortable as possible; you’ll likely be spending lots of time there. Many of us are working from home now, and if you’re like me, sometimes being stuck in the same 4 walls drives you batty. Make sure to make your space cozy and if you’re lucky enough to have some outside space, be it a small patio or balcony, add that to your livable space too. Many of my neighbors can be seen on their balconies with laptops and a hot cuppa, getting work done these days.
  5. Make sure to get some exercise at every opportunity. Thankfully, Japan is a relatively safe country, so going for a quick midnight jog is doable. Walking a few blocks while taking the garbage out is a thing, and skipping the convenience store 2 minutes on foot and heading for the supermarket that’s 15 minutes away can be done. Just make sure you’re keeping your distance from others while you’re out there.

These are just a few of my personal tips I’ve been following for the past month or so; if you have any to add, please drop ‘me in the comments below.


image via Via Tokyo Metropolitan PR Dept

About the author

Jason Gatewood subscriber

Our Tokyo based collaborator is a tech nerd, Japanophile, train nut, and a veritable fountain of information on Japan. His current goal is to watch Evangelion and actually "get it", sing every permutation of "Hotel California" at any karaoke gathering, ride every bullet train line, and sample all varieties of ramen throughout Japan. Catch more of his musings at ·