Spoiler – five days with nothing but cup noodles and whiskey makes us oddly thankful.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, it’s safe to say that daily life has changed, and people have started growing nostalgic for the pre-lockdown days. At first, we were sad that we couldn’t go abroad. That turned into lamenting the fact that we couldn’t see our friends and family in other cities. That turned into “Everywhere is closed, so I have to do my telework at McDonald’s now,” which then turned into “Ah… I miss the days when I could even go to McDonald’s to work…”

While many countries are strict about its citizens staying at home, in Japan it’s not as severe. People are requested to stay away from places with a lot of people, but there’s no way to enforce anything. However, the number of spaces that are open for telework are becoming fewer and fewer. Cafes, restaurants, Internet cafes and even karaoke joints are all closed. Many people are looking for a place to do telework that won’t bother other people. Working from home is usually the best option, but for some people, it can be hard to fully concentrate and get into a working mindset when you’re in your own home.

With this in mind, and feeling nostalgic for our ‘normal lives’ before the pandemic hit, our Japanese-language reporter Ikuna Kamezawa decided to try the ‘Work From Home’ plan at Tokyo’s APA Hotel. For 15,000 yen (USD$140), you can spend four nights and five days (in total 108 hours) in the hotel, with the plan designed especially for those who need a place to work remotely. Hotels offering ‘working from home plans’ are becoming more and more common, but usually cost around 5,000 yen (USD$45) for eight hours. With the APA Hotel’s plan, Ikuna was getting a real bargain!

Ikuna wasn’t just content with just staying at the hotel and working, though. We at SoraNews24 are never ones to back away from a challenge, so Ikuna decided to do a self-imposed ‘Isolation Experiment’ — during her stay at the hotel she would not allow herself to leave the hotel. While APA Hotel’s ‘Work From Home’ plan didn’t specifically state that she wasn’t allowed to leave, she decided to set herself this task to see if she would be able to cope with a stricter type of lockdown.

The Rules
1) No leaving the hotel room at all for five days, except to receive takeout food
2) …that’s it

108 hours without setting a single foot outside the hotel room. 8:00 a.m on day one to 8:00 p.m on day 5. Could she do it??

DAY ONE – 108 Hours Remaining

Her heart pounding, Ikuna started the experiment at 8:00 a.m. Her hotel room was pretty spacious and stylish, with a super soft bed.

The view from the hotel room was also pretty nice – a great view of the concrete jungle that is Shinjuku. This would be Ikuna’s only ‘contact’ with the outside world for the next few days.

The desk from where she’d be teleworking was spacious and well-lit. No danger of getting tired eyes here!

So without further ado, Ikuna unpacked her stuff and got working right away. Honestly, at this point she felt like she could work here for at least another 12 days. She was in excellent working condition! Maybe this isolation thing wouldn’t be so bad after all!

DAY TWO – 92 Hours Remaining

As a rule, no matter how drunk Ikuna may be, she always has a shower and brushes her teeth before she goes to sleep, but yesterday she fell asleep without doing either. It already started to feel like normal life was slipping away. She also didn’t get much sleep last night, probably because she kept the TV on. Each time she woke up, it felt like someone was watching her. If this is the first day, how would she be able to cope with another four days?

This was Ikuna started day two of the Isolation Challenge. She wanted to go outside and get some fresh air to clear her head, but unluckily for her any window on a floor above the 25th floor can’t be opened, so she couldn’t get even a bit of fresh air. The only way to change your mood is to wash your face or eat something, so she just ended up just eating snacks and cup noodles even though she wasn’t hungry. It’s just something to do that’s different.

Ikuna also started thinking weird thoughts. “Who the hell would want to read an article written by a scruffy, chubby four-eyes like me?” she thought to herself. Today she felt a lot of self-loathing.

Plus, that feeling that someone was watching her? She started feeling it worse than she did last night. Was it an illusion? Paranoia? Is this what isolation does to you…??

▼ This isn’t a war zone, it’s a workspace.

In the end, Ikuna figured that the mirror was the one to blame. She was wearing pajamas, with no make up on and unkempt hair, and her room was a complete mess. If you have to work whilst seeing that kind of thing in the reflection all day, of course you’re going to end up hating yourself. And Ikuna is not the kind of girl who can just improve her mood by wearing make-up, so…

She decided to just hide the mirror completely.

And guess what? It worked. Ikuna’s mood improved instantly, and she could concentrate much better. Pro-tip for those who are working from home – hide any mirrors in your workspace!

DAY THREE – 68 Hours Remaining

In contrast to the first two days where Ikuna ate anything and everything, today she had absolutely no appetite. She began to work and before she knew it, it was late afternoon. Ikuna decided to Facetime her friend; usually they don’t do video chats, but she was feeling lonely. However, she couldn’t stop thinking about her workload and couldn’t fully concentrate on the call, so it ended after just 15 minutes.

To further add to her pain, Ikuna received a message from her mom. “You’re not working as much because of the coronavirus, right? Do you have enough money?? Let me know if you’re having trouble, ok?”

Ikuna’s heart felt like it was about to break. Once you hit 30 years old, there’s an expectation that you should be financially independent. Relying on your parents to help out with money troubles really feels awful. If you’re going into isolation, be prepared for these kinds of heartbreaking moments where you feel close to tears as a result of someone else’s kindness.

DAY FOUR – 44 Hours Remaining

By day four, Ikuna was absolutely exhausted. By far the scariest thing about isolation is the intense feeling of loneliness and alienation. Ikuna is used to being by herself, but she couldn’t stop thinking, “Everyone has forgotten all about me.”

One of the reasons why Ikuna was tempted to try out this isolation experiment was that she thought it’d make her more of a ‘writer’. You often hear about famous writers in the past who would hole themselves up and create literary masterpieces, but thinking about it, they were probably allowed to leave their ‘inn’ or wherever they were staying. They probably went for walks every now and again to clear their head, too.

Ikuna’s advice to anyone who is isolating is this: Don’t feel you need to use your time to accomplish something. You don’t need to learn a new language, or write a masterpiece, or suddenly become a work-out fanatic. Isolation is stressful, and we shouldn’t push ourselves too hard.

While Ikuna was reflecting, she decided that today she’d go for a stroll up to the top floor. The original rule to this challenge was ‘no leaving the room except to collect take-out food’ but APA Hotel rules state that ‘the bed sheets must be changed every four days’. So, with about thirty minutes to kill, Ikuna decided to go to the large communal bath, telling herself, “it can’t be helped, I guess.” The bath was on the 28th floor and was an open-air bath. Being able to take a bath above Kabukicho was pretty amazing, to say the least.

For the remainder of day four, Ikuna decided ‘screw it, no more work today’ and watched a movie. “Only one day left! I can do this!!”

DAY FIVE – 20 Hours Remaining

On day five, Ikuna barely had the energy to even watch a movie. She just wandered aimlessly around her room like a bear in a cage. When she stopped to check the clock, thinking “Wow, I’ve walked for a while,” Ikuna was shocked to see that only two minutes had passed. So, when 8:00p.m. finally arrived, it was with unbridled joy that she left the hotel room. The air outside, which she had not experienced in five days, felt especially fresh.

Ikuna always used to think, “I wish I could spend a whole week doing nothing but watching Netflix and playing video games.” But she realised that the “nothing but”, were it to be reality, would need to include mundane things like “I’ll just pop to the convenience store”, “I’ll water the plants,” or “I’ll have yesterday’s leftovers for dinner tonight.” Ikuna grew to appreciate things that she previously thought were dull or monotonous. It wasn’t the fun things, but the run-of-the-mill daily life that she missed. Even though you might feel a certain longing for life before the coronavirus hit, it’s also important to appreciate the kind of life that we have now, because it could be a lot worse. Ikuna couldn’t wait to get home and do things like washing the dishes, or chilling out on her balcony. She was especially looking forward to sleeping in her old futon with the mysterious stains!

Ikuna also felt she became more understanding and kinder to other people because of this experience. Whenever something tough happens to her in the future, she can always think “Is this harder than isolation“?

Upon reflection, Ikuna learned a lot through this experience. That being said, it was an experience she never wants to go through again. Hopefully readers who are not currently experiencing lockdown can read this and understand just how tough it is for those who are isolating due to the coronavirus. We hope that Ikuna’s story will encourage more people to understand the loneliness that self-isolation can bring, and appreciate the people who are doing so. And for all of you who are currently self-isolating at home, know that you’ve got our support! We are all looking forward to a time in the near future where this sort of thing will be just an experiment, and not a part of everyday life.

Images: ©SoraNews24
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