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How to survive hotel quarantine

While a nice view can help, it won’t get you all the way through a long hotel quarantine.

It’s been almost two years since the start of the pandemic. You probably think you’ve got everything COVID-19 related down pat. But trust me, if you’ve never experienced it, a good, long hotel quarantine can make you second guess just how “resilient” you are on a whole ‘nother level.

Whether you’re single or not, have kids or not, at some point or another the COVID fairy will probably touch your life too and that’s when you’ll be glad you got these tips.

Those travelling to the U.S. can probably skip this article — for better or worse, the U.S. doesn’t require quarantine for anyone! Not even those who tested positive after arriving.

But all travelers to Japan will “enjoy” a hotel quarantine of anywhere from 3 days to two weeks or longer, depending on the complicated algebra of who in your party has tested positive and when. In any case, my big take away is to prepare for the worst before you arrive in Japan. Once you arrive here, you will have little freedom to make the preparations you wish you had.

Prepare for boredom

Being stuck in the same room for days will make you bored on a level you may never have encountered before. So whatever you did to prepare for that “long” flight? Do that, times ten.

Identify some of your favorite content and leave it untouched until you reach the hotel. If you’re not working, you’ll have way too much time. You’ll be thinking about how long you can sleep just the pass the time. Even if you sleep 10, 12 hours, you still have 12-14 hours left to fill.

This is the perfect time to binge watch or read … anything.

Find joy in little routines

We all have our routines and hotel quarantine is a great way to ruin them. Instead, create new routines. Like to go for a run? Do one, or two, or even three online exercise classes a day. Not only will moving your body help cut through the monotony, it will help you feel better and give your day structure.

You can even *gasp* take a bath once or even twice a day just because you feel like it. For bath lovers, this might be one of the rare advantages of hotel quarantine.

Set small, achievable goals each day

Who says you have to put your life on hold because you’re in hotel quarantine? Actually, I’ve been keeping up my job search and professional studies during quarantine. It’s key to not set your goals too high so you don’t risk disappointing yourself but just high enough so they’re still motivating.

Connect with friends and family

The loneliness and isolation of quarantine, even just a few days, is real! Don’t hesitate to set up video chats with friends and family to connect and make your day a little brighter.

Get the good stuff

Love cookies? A particular type of herbal tea? Potato chips? Well, you most certainly won’t get them in quarantine. So whether you pack them in your bags ahead of time or order them through an e-commerce site, make sure you have some of your favorite comfort foods on hand just to get through the long days. This is doubly true on the days when meals are distributed late.

Mine are chocolate and coffee by the way. Yes, our hotel didn’t even have coffee ;(

In Japan, they’ll give you mountains of green tea but you have to supply the coffee yourself.

Use new-found time to start a new healthy habit

Like working from home, hotel quarantine creates a lot of new time because, well, you’re not going anywhere. Is there a daily habit like yoga, writing or meditation you’ve been wanting to start? Now’s a great time.


If you are one of the lucky folks who get to quarantine with family, well, welcome to the club. Quarantining with small children who don’t understand boundaries, aren’t good at entertaining themselves and may not respect your need for relaxation time can make it even more challenging. While there is no perfect solution, doing some of these things can help make it better:

  • Find something you can both enjoy doing together. For my daughter and I, it is online dance lessons
  • Rotate toys and suggest things for them to do at any time of morning, afternoon or evening. Even a bath might keep them entertained.
  • Be willing to break rules about screen time, snack time, etc. Consider this an emergency situation with exceptions that need to be made to maintain everyone’s sanity!
  • Be ready to stop what you want to do to accommodate their wishes, though it might feel like the hundredth time.
  • Set up video chats with other family members when they can entertain the child by reading books, etc.

Time can pass slowly while quarantining, especially with family, so those who can master their mental state will come out of quarantine feeling much better. As the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” In other words, find ways to make quarantine work for you. Looking at it another way, is there any better time to create quality time with your children? Teach them how to read? Potty train them? Figure out a way to make quarantine work for you and you’ll be much happier.

Everyone’s quarantine experience is different, so these tips won’t work for everyone. The important part is to not give up in despair during quarantine. With a little flexibility, even quarantine can be a positive experience (even if barely!).

Perhaps the most important tip:

When entering Japan, there’s always the chance your hotel quarantine could be extended by an unforseen positive COVID-19 test. So plan and pack with that in mind.

It’s good practice not to promise to meet anyone in person for the two weeks after you arrive, but it will also keep you from having to change plans on the off chance you test positive at the airport upon arrival. This also goes for what you pack. Make sure you have whatever you might need to stay happy during a two-week stay, or that you’re willing to buy it online.

Have any tips from your hotel quarantine? Let me know in the comments!

Some other tips from social media:

Cafes bustle while sento disappear — how is your neighborhood changing?

It’s been over four months since the explosion of COVID-19 infections around the world. While you’ve been cooped indoors, how has your neighborhood been changing?

One of the bright spots of social distancing is walks. That time we might have spent commuting to some other area, we now spend traversing the roads and alleys connecting back to our homes, maybe taking the time to greet the local cats.

Local cats seem to be properly cautious, maintaining social distance.

What have you discovered? How has your neighborhood changed?

My neighborhood in northwest Tokyo is a an old shitamachi, a traditionally residential neighborhood populated with independently run shops, restaurants, and Japanese-style snack stands. Private business owners have been hit hard by the pandemic, yet our neighborhood seems to be bustling.

Low infection levels in Tokyo mean that businesses can operate with almost no restriction, though all restaurant staff wear masks and do the best they can to distance diners, ventilate, and separate.

Thoroughly branded protective sheets at a Tully’s in Sunshine Aquarium in Ikebukuro.

At Ueno’s Ameyokochou, an outside market launched during World War II as a black market, there is a whole new stand dedicated to COVID-19 protective equipment.

Protective equipment stand in Ueno’s Ameyokochou market

Any retail store seems to offer masks, hand sanitizer, etc. Even vegetable stands in the Japanese countryside are offering handmade cloth masks as a sort of new-normal handicraft.

At the same time, prevailing trends are slowly but surely underway. Privately-run B&Bs and restaurants with elderly owners in Japan have decided to shut their doors early as the risks of operation have exceed the rewards.

Sento, or public baths, have always been run on razor-thin profit margins. In just 15 years, the number of sento in Tokyo have dropped by 50 percent.

A sento being demolished in Arakawa Ward, Spring 2020. Hand-painted mountains are a staple of sento design.

“Corona bankruptcy” has been warned against by experts in Japan, but as of yet, less than 500 businesses have reported COVID-19 as a reason for their bankruptcy since January 2020. Amidst this, Tokyo has the highest number and some experts predict the surge is yet to come.

But some businesses will continue to thrive — essential businesses, obviously, but even non-essential “third-place” businesses seem to be going strong.

Ironically, while I write this in my local coffee shop, masked up, I am surrounded by full tables of locals to whom I will never speak. Working from home frees us to spend more time in our neighborhoods. At the same time, public health restrictions have eliminated festivals, events, parties and any other opportunity to organically meet and get to know new people.

We are in the same place, but we are, quite literally, socially distant.

Our local cafe on a Wednesday afternoon

Our attention, which might be turned towards networking and getting to know our neighbors, is instead directed towards our physical environment and the movement of people around us. The writer continues to observe.

How have you observed your neighborhood changing? For better? For worse? Let me know in the comments or in the poll up top.