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Washington’s coronavirus revolution

17 1 3

Washington – Every springtime, without fail, the blooming of the sakura binds Tokyo and Washington despite the vast distances that separate them in so many other ways.

Nestled both on the northeastern rim of their respective continents, the cherry trees of the American and Japanese national capitals often bloom in unison. Hanami parties under the blossoms are a venerable tradition for both Ueno Koen and the Tidal Basin.

This year the sakura season has been unusually beautiful and enduring here in Washington. The skies have been clear, with little wind or rain, and the weather unseasonably cool. The petals, however, began floating gently down, in the sakura fubuki that nostalgically signals the bitter-sweet end to an unusually radiant spring.

This year, despite the magnificent weather, Washington has had few hanami parties. When the sakura were beginning to bloom, Washington’s restaurants ironically began closing. The traditional Sakura Matsuri, a highlight of the U.S.-Japan cultural calendar, was abruptly canceled.

By late March, virtually all commercial establishments except drugstores, banks and government offices were shuttered. Washingtonians remain blissfully untouched by the pandemic, compared with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City. Yet life in the shadow of the virus has nevertheless changed profoundly for Washingtonians of late, sharply contrasting with the relative continuity of Japan.

During my last visit to Tokyo in mid-February, I noticed many people wearing masks, especially in closed spaces such as restaurants and bullet trains. The pattern in Washington, despite the rising shadow of the coronavirus, is decidedly different. Almost no one, except pharmacists preparing medicine for patients, wears a mask.

Washington banks have long forbidden them, as they also forbid hats, since such facial coverings allegedly obscure identity. Both bank tellers and many common citizens fear that masked people could be bank robbers, terrorists or possibly themselves infected with the........

© The Japan Times