Running at night without wearing a mask

Author: Chiharu Kawasaki

Teikyo University School of Medicine




"With Corona" is a phrase that appears in the Japanese media as a slogan for coexisting with the coronaviruses. It has been a year and a half since "with corona" became a familiar phrase.


However, I still have to wear a mask wherever I go. I know some people wear masks when running outdoors, but I take off my mask when I run at night. And that’s the only time when I’m mask-free outside home.


Every time I run, I feel the sensation of air filling my lungs and expanding my chest cavity, and I realize how good it feels to breathe. Even if the air I breathe in is the air on the side of the main street in Tokyo, it still feels much better than the air in my mask, which is always contaminated with the air I exhale. When I take off my mask, I can smell the supper from the houses I pass and the detergent from the laundromat, and I realize that people from all walks of life are here.


I have thought that what I lost in this pandemic was the opportunity to go far away. I love traveling, but my university still requires voluntary restraint in domestic travel and prohibits international travel. But running without a mask has taught me that not only have I lost the chance to go far away, but I have also lost the chance to be present.


The feeling of taking a deep breath into my chest and the slightest change in people's facial expressions, the smell of the city, the scent of flowers, and the humidity were something that colored my days. Even the lower half of a stranger's face was too the element necessary for me to fully exist here.


I have been vaccinated three times. But I am still not allowed to go far or be fully present in this moment. Where am I now, and what am I living? I run through Tokyo at night, thinking of the graveyard of countless senses that are being lost from the present Japanese society, where everything is shrouded in a haze that can never be either with-corona or without-corona.

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