ーーHow has the spread of coronavirus affected the initiative’s lifestyle and creative activities?
Asai : I run two cinemas (Shibuya and Kichojoji) but as our governor has advised people to refrain from going out, I decided to close the cinema for two weekends (29th and 29th of March and 4th and 5th of April).. Due to this new policy, our sales dropped by 90% especially on the 30th of March (weekday) compared to the sales on the regular weekday, so it has a considerable impact.
ーーIs there anything that you have realized or want to be more aware of during the current situation ? If there is, please share them.
Asai : I have rediscovered that the world is one.
ーーAs a person in your position or a creator, how are you trying to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the lockdown?
Asai : We are planning to apply for a guarantee and interest free loan. We do not know when these circumstances will come to an end so we are planning to borrow as much as possible now as a loan unredeemable for 1 year.
ーーIn light of your own activities, what kind of ‘creation’ or artistic endeavors are possible indoors?
Asai : Transferring (moving) is considered to be one of the conditions for “freedom”.We can all think, write, draw and write music in studio, or indoors. But we cannot say we are free without being able to transfer. Even if we are allowed to freely express ourselves in a confined space, there are limits making it a disadvantage.
ーーPlease share any recommendations or ideas on how to use digital platforms to their full extent during the circumstances regarding COVID-19 or any measures that one can take themselves to use this opportunity for better and not for worse.
Asai : We have been using ZOOM for our meetings and I have realized that it works fairly smoothly. How about to take this chances to stop going on the internet or watching TV and take this time to just ‘think’. We should all get rid of the constant voices in our head reminding us we should be doing this or that… .
ーーDuring this time is there anything you or the initiative would like to challenge yourself with?
Asai : I would like to dive into the sea.
ーーAfter situations concerning COVID-19 improves, what would you like to do?
Asai : I would like to ride in the Diamond Princess ship and go on a world tour.
ーーDo you agree with the measures taken by the government in your own country? If not, what other measures would you recommend taking?
Asai : The Japanese government has released a statement stating that the policy telling people to refrain from going outside without providing compensation. Therefore it forces us (as a small-medium company) to make decisions as to seek the balance between running a business whilst taking into account the dangers of spreading the COVID-19so honestly speaking it is extremely tough.. At Uplink, we decided to close cinemas during the weekends and to open on the weekdays. We have started a new service where you can watch 60 films that we have licensing rights to for 2980 yen, limitlessly for three months. Whether we should tell people to stay home, or should be ask to come to our cinemas on weekday, or to suggest watching our VOD at home, we couldn’t help but sending out a pretty ambiguous strategy because of these government measures.. As the representative of a company, I would like to propose to the government that all taxes, social insurances, pensions be exempt this year. This will prevent companies from having to cut down employees’ salaries, leading to an increase in their disposable income. Andthis is an idea with a despiration, but I would llike government to allow us to pay back theloans in 15 or 20 years’ time instead of three or five. I would like to think that there is no dawn that never breaks and that better times are coming. However we have to realize that something similar and a worldwide pandemic is bound to reoccur again. The idea of a ‘new normal’ must sink in surely. We are having to think of tactics to survive but from a different perspective now. Of course, we will need to foster a society in light of those new tactics because what we saw as ‘normal’ is now in the past.