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Reflections on lockdown - with Vanessa Oshima

Following on from our first post in a series about life in lockdown, we chatted to Vanessa, a business owner living in Tokyo about her experience of the last few months.


Pre-lockdown I was working weekdays in an office and running my Marketing and Branding Consultancy business. I employ talented freelancers from around the world to solve branding and marketing challenges for large and small companies. My husband and I were empty nesters and enjoying our lives together as a couple and the monthly “family dinner” with our sons. They live nearby but the busy schedules of 20-somethings meant that aligning a date that suited everyone was a mammoth of a task. We live in Tokyo and love sports so the countdown to the 2020 Olympic Games was on. I had won tickets in the lottery to some pretty cool events!

I am a cancer survivor for three years now and I take hormonal medication known as Tamoxifen. Due to a cyst growing rapidly in my uterus I was also on a 6-month course of injections to get it all under control.

I’m from New Zealand originally and I have lived in Tokyo since 2001 and I watched in dismay as international flights were slowly cancelled one by one. I was saying a silent prayer of thanks that we took the opportunity to visit home for the Christmas just past. I was dealing with the sad realisation that I may not see my family in person and all the while praying that they stayed safe. I spent countless hours phoning round my cousins and the wider family to make sure my mum and dad would have a support network in place in necessary. Then Tokyo shifted from a general feeling of “we are going to be okay” to the domino effect of the cancelled Olympic and offices closures bringing the entire city into lockdown. The impact was staggering. My job was impacted, my husband was working on projects specifically tailored to the upcoming Olympics that suddenly became obsolete. My compromised immunity put me at risk. So, we made the decision to move to our house 90 minutes outside of Tokyo. The house needed to be set up for remote working – we needed Wi-Fi boosters, chairs, desks and, most importantly, Starbucks coffee beans! Then my sons arrived home and suddenly “the band was back together”. My husband and I went from empty nesters to full nesters! Our dinners for two or business luncheons at local Tokyo restaurants was replaced by a dinner roster of home cooked food every night with my sons. Board games and Netflix series (the last dance was a favourite of the family).

My consulting business slowed to a halt. I began to feel bad for the freelancers I employed. But so many companies are surviving and in time, I hope they will see the need to have a rethink for “the new normal”. We need to think how we can start connecting again.

I remember at the end of April I needed to go to the hospital for my monthly injection. I was nervous about being there and I felt scared to touch anything. I could feel everyone else’s anxiety building in the air. My doctor thankfully suggested pushing the next injection out until June which lined up with a breast examination and then I only had to make one trip.

Throughout lockdown our shopping moved completely online. I buy only the necessities. The role of a new pair of sneakers and a sweatshirt means more to me than looking good for others. No make-up except a touch of mascara and I blame poor Wi-Fi connection for not sharing my video 😊 I started to realise that what I missed most was human conversation; brainstorming, riffing off one another over dinner or over a glass of wine. It just doesn’t feel the same over zoom.

The hardest thing about lockdown has been being away from my family in New Zealand for so long and not knowing when I can see them again. But then, the most enjoyable thing about lockdown has been having my sons nearby and close.

The strangest thing about lockdown has been the contradictions we deal with - the path back to normality is unknown and we are all just making this up as we go along. Everything is being questioned.

I also have been running as much as possible and driving energy into #outruncancer, an initiative I started with my school friend Caroline Steer. We launched this together after our respective diagnoses and we realised we need to celebrate being alive and instead of simply surviving cancer, we wanted to thrive after it. Head to to find out more.

Vanessa Oshima

This series was the brainchild of Georgia Lombard. Editing and compiling has been done by Bex McKinty - a Belfast based blogger writing about anything from food and films to people and politics with the underlying aim of empowering womxn from all walks of life. Follow her at @girlscantthrow

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