The COVID-19 pandemic is no laughing matter. Governments across the globe have been enforcing lockdowns to differing degrees during limited commerce and tourism. Similarly, Japan recently ended a protracted state of emergency that lasted about two months and saw infection rates drop to 0.5 per 100,000 individuals.

While Japan remarkably achieved the reduction with voluntary measures alone, the country did not escape unscathed. The country’s thriving tourism sector effectively evaporated as other indicators point to periods of prolonged contraction and pay cuts to come. Underlining the solemnity of the outbreak, beloved comedian Ken Shimura passed away from the respiratory disease in April. He was 70-years-old.

For old time’s sake, here he is with Leslie Nielsen.

In the skit, Shimura's character and wife sit down on a train across from a Westerner, Nielsen. They order a few drinks, pay, and start to enjoy them when they pass through a tunnel. Before they know what happened, the wife's beverage has been drunk. They look across the seat; it couldn't have been…The same joke occurs with the other drink, the sandwich, and so on. Nielsen tells the couple they should be more careful with their belongings.

Getting a Laugh from Drivers

Although Japanese residents feel the pandemic's pressure, their sense of humor is far from lost. Recently, amusing photos trended online, underlining the absurdity of the lockdown and social distancing measures.

As The Mainichi Shimbun reported, 72-year-old Choya Takahashi's signs making light of lockdown conditions trended on Twitter after user Sebastiano Tazawa, @vigosebagenova, posted photos online.

Tazawa's tweet featured two signs posted along the highway. Translated, they read "(This is) just the right distance from my wife," and "My heart has been distant from my husband since long ago." Both signs played off the English-borrowed word ディスタンス, “distance,” to drive their point home.

The signs are common fare for Takahashi, the store owner responsible. With the intent of getting a chuckle from drivers, he began posting signs over ten years ago to mark special occasions. His Valentine's Day placard read, "Even a worthless husband deserves chocolates," while he wrote, "Wives are the most important, husbands a passing thought," for Hinamatsuri, girls festival.

Neverhtheless, it seems Takahashi's social distancing signs have been a hit. Twitter users lauded:

  • ”ROTFL”
  • ”These signs are going to cause a pileup.”
  • ”These would make me laugh so hard while driving. Scary!”

Others Using Humor to Pass the Pandemic

Indeed, it seems comedy is the greatest trump against corona. For a good reason, consumers across Asia are understandably dealing with heavier emotions throughout unprecedented times. A study conducted by VICE revealed that many younger Asian residents were experiencing high or very high levels of “stress” and “fear.” While some positive emotions like "empathy" experienced an uptick, "uncertainty" was undoubtedly the most reported emotion. As such, 64 percent of young people responded that “memes/humor” were the most important content needed to survive the pandemic.

Content produces seem to naturally understand this. Website PANDAID, founded by Eisuke Tachikawa, features elucidating graphics on appropriate social distancing. They include reminders to residents to stay serparated by the length of a tuna fish, or the extended stride of two members of the Beatles. Why, of course.

On his Note page, blogger fujita244 collects amusing anecdotes and stories featuring novel ways of adapting to the pandemic. One featured article includes a socially anxious singleton using a drone—in a non-creepy way, honest—to flirt with a neighbor. You’ll have to see for yourself.

Regardless, to ware off the evil corona-spirits as well as the blues, humor is integral. As content producers up their game, we can hope for a few more laughs even as the pandemic drags on.

By - Luke Mahoney.