COVID-19, diversity and art were among the things we were talking about in 2021

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Well, another year has passed and COVID-19 is still with us. The topic also stuck around in many of the interviews conducted for the 20 Questions column this past year as people across the country tried to figure out how best to deal with the situation we find ourselves in. Did any of their words ring true for you? Let’s take another look back at the people we met for this column in 2021.

On the COVID-19 pandemic …

What do you think is the most important thing we can do to prevent COVID-19 and stay healthy? Although “staying home” is suggested, going outside and soaking in the sunlight is very important. Only staying at home may bring about negative thoughts and weaken your muscle strength, especially for elderly people. I recommend walking outside while keeping socially distant from others. — Kaede Yasuno, nurse, March 3

Do you think the pandemic will influence architectural preferences? Even after the pandemic, remote working will call for blurred boundaries between exteriors and interiors. The partitions between rooms will disappear for better flexibility. And accessory dwelling units are already trending in Los Angeles as people try to make the most of their home and space. — Yoshihiro Makino, photographer, Jan. 31

What is dating like during the pandemic? There are fewer opportunities to meet people, so every encounter is now much more valuable. See this as a positive, and take the opportunity to develop deeper relationships with fewer people. Most importantly, continue to take strides forward. — Koji Arano, dating coach, Feb 12

Do you think COVID-19 has changed clothing trends? I think COVID-19 upended fashion trends for the better. It has been a call to the fashion industry to slow down, move away from mass production and take positive action. Besides, consumers are stocking up on comfortable loungewear to work from home and are shopping less. — Mima Osawa, sustainable fashion designer, April 11

On being inclusive …

Imagine a fully inclusive Japan. What would society look like? A fully inclusive Japan is having those with special needs and abilities attending the schools they want to, working in jobs they love and receiving equal pay. It’s two dads dropping off their child at school with the other parents, it’s celebrating each other’s diversities and differences without prejudice. It’s non-Japanese taking their proactive part in learning Japan’s beautiful language, history and culture, while the Japanese accept our learning curve and background. It’s barrier-free, judgment-free and full of mutual cultural understanding. The best thing is, I feel our generation has the ability to bring this closer to a reality. — Jason Hancock, Paralympics announcer, Aug. 1

In your opinion, how does Japanese society deal with transgender people? There’s no outright violence or discrimination like in the United States. On the other hand, there are no rules that are sanctioned by law, to protect trans women and men. The U.S. has that. I admit to being a little envious. — Sari Kaede, architect, June 13

What should people keep in mind when they go to a drag show? Don’t touch without asking, and never touch a performer’s hair. Try to avoid talking to your favorite queen right after a show, she’ll be drenched in sweat. But do tell us we look gorgeous! — Yukiro Dravarious, drag queen, Oct. 28

What is the current situation for women in Japan with podcasting? Women are underrepresented in podcasting in general and Japan is no different. Women may struggle to get started and a lot of podcasts never make it from idea to reality. I often see “best podcasts about Japan” and if you look closely, they are mostly shows by men. — Jayne Nakata, podcaster, Nov. 28

On the foreign experience …

Foreign residents don’t have the right to vote. What is one way they can give back to the community? Ask what needs to be done and take action. For example, there are many older farmers that could really use the help of a spry young foreigner that wants to lend a helping hand. Sometimes, listening and lending your support is the best thing you can do to help someone in need and will bring you closer to your community as well. — Nour Eldin Sultan, local politician, Dec. 11

Is loneliness and isolation that big an issue among the non-Japanese community? I believe so. And the scariest thing is that you don’t notice until you also become isolated, both physically and mentally. Especially in Tokyo, it is very easy to feel so lonely surrounded by the crowds. And as a foreigner, once you come here without family — or if you don’t have friends who can emotionally support you — things can get way too overwhelming. My personal way of coping was watching cheesy shows and running 10 kilometers three times a week. — Khamida Malianchinova, podcaster, June 27

On the Japanese arts …

Calligraphy and Zen often seem to go together. Would you say there’s a special mindset you have to get into before picking up a brush? To write beautifully is to solve a fundamental problem of art. The line must be unerringly placed; it must be in exact relation to its fellows; and though it may pass from strength to softness, it must never look weak, but must remain alive throughout its length. There must be a seamless transition of energy from the shoulder to wrist to paper. The trick is to think nothing about any of that when you write. — Marc Davies, calligrapher, May 24

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