In Japanese the term “Gogatsu-byo” (五月病) – literally “May sickness” – refers to a sort of malaise that comes over people during May who have started a new life at the beginning of the year, which is the 1st of April here in Japan (no joke). Whether you are someone starting a new job, a student entering a new year or perhaps a new school, or whatever, it happens across the spectrum. On a whim I checked the Japanese wikipedia page and was surprised to see a link to an English page, but what it linked to – “post holiday blues” – seems slightly different!
Anyway, it is something I have seen happen with new teachers and students at my school when the excitement of starting something new wears off and reality kicks in. This year, as you might probably guess, is different.
The last class I taught was in the middle of February, nearly three months ago. The last actual work I did (marking entrance exams) finished mid-March. Since then I’ve basically being doing… nothing constructive. Malaise on.
As you probably know, here in Japan, unlike most places around the globe, we were issued a very late “State of Emergency” (despite coronavirus being transmitted in Japan very early) but without any lockdown nor penalties for defying it. In other words, things are continuing somewhat as normal.
From mid-March until mid-April I basically went to my workplace and – because there was nothing much to do – ended up doing weights, suburi, iai, research, practising guitar, and – up until about a couple of weeks ago – occasional keiko with one or two colleagues. At the same time my FaceBook feed showed my friends being trapped in their houses with little freedom and, of course, no kendo. It’s hard to know what is the best course of action in the current situation, but the difference in my friends situation to my own was startling (= worrying).
In mid-April my daughters nursery asked us politely (there was not and currently is not any requirement) to stop taking her in. This allowed me to get a leave of absence from work, and now I basically look after her from morning until she sleeps at night. Scrub
kenshi 24/7 welcome to daddy 24/7. She’s two and a half, and I am her slave.
Today, the 2nd of May, I should’ve been at the Kyoto Taikai demonstrating koryu, and tomorrow kendo. This year I am sitting my flat drinking beer and writing a K24/7 article. I am about 4kgs heavier than I was in February. As someone who’s identity is closely tied to kendo, this has been hard. I am guessing there are not a few kenshi 24/7 readers out there who are in a similar boat.
Bloggers generally feel a pressure to write content. Yours truly as well. This has been the longest – I think – that I have not posted anything. It’s partly because of my daughter but, if I am honest, it’s mostly because I have lost motivation. Suburi sessions on zoom simply won’t cut it.
However, saying all that, I do know that things will return to normal. I don’t know when. But even if it is a year from now, when looked at in total, this will be but a blip in my (our) keiko schedule, so we needn’t feel so down. Heijoshin – the ability to be in control of yourself at all times no matter the situation – is paramount.
Stay safe everyone, we will get through it!