TOKYO (AP) — Takeout menus. Directions for attending a funeral. A leaflet from a local shrine, announcing the cancellation of summer festivals.
These humble, everyday artifacts of life in the pandemic have found a home in the Historical Museum of Urahoro, in Hokkaido, northern Japan, a town of just 4,500 residents that lacks a McDonald’s or movie theater.
But thanks to the museum’s curator, Makoto Mochida, it has a repository of the dross of the moment, stuff that may tell future generations what it was like to live in the time of COVID-19 — how life was profoundly changed with social distancing and growing fears over the outbreak.
“I am fascinated by how things connect with people,” Mochida said.
Some people are surprised he’s hoarding what appears to be garbage, said Mochida, who has problems throwing away things at home, too.
He is planning a big exhibition of his finds next February to follow up on the smaller display now at the museum, located in the Urahoro library, showing how masks have evolved in a short time.
At first, masks were hard to find in Japanese stores. Handmade varieties were primitive, concocted from old shirts and stockings. Then came innovations, like draping masks that allow for eating and drinking, or sheer plastic ones. They eventually became fashion statements, some with fancy embroidery.
Cases of COVID-19 have been growing in Japan, but they have not reached the levels of the hardest hit nations like the U.S., Brazil and parts of Europe.
Urahoro has not yet recorded a single case. At first, the community brushed the outbreak off. Then fears began to creep in, especially toward outsiders, and households with adult children working in Tokyo or nearby cities, who could come home to visit.
Then came the adjustments. For the tiny town, takeout — including the local specialty “spa-cut,” or meat-sauce spaghetti topped with a fried meat cutlet, usually pork — has become the rule after restaurants shut to in-person dining. Before the pandemic, it wasn’t even an option.
Shoko Maede, who was born in Urahoro and works as a cook at a nursery school, feels she can almost picture people decades from now trying to remember life amid the pandemic.
“They may think, ‘Oh, so this was the way it was,’” she said, after visiting the museum.
“Things do reveal how people think.”
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter: https://twitter.com/yurikageyama
While nonstop news about the effects of the coronavirus has become commonplace, so, too, have tales of kindness. “One Good Thing” is a series of AP stories focusing on glimmers of joy and benevolence in a dark time. Read the series at https://apnews.com/hub/one-good-thing