text by Ryoko Kuwahara

Self Isolation Issue : 「問題提起をやめない、問題提起をする時には必ず解決策の発見をゴールに置いておく。沢山の“難しい”を諦めない」世武裕子(映画音楽作曲家・演奏家)/How to Survive -Hiroko Sebu

ーーHow has the spread of coronavirus affected the initiative’s lifestyle and creative activities?

Sebu: My work consists of composing songs and singing them. For example, in 2018 I wrote a range of songs for films and in 2019 I did a ton of shows and tours to perform. From everything that is expected from me and what I want to do, I choose to work on the things that matter most. In 2020, I wanted to revert back to a life that revolved around making music for films.
However, luckily I have not experienced a drastic change in my work life . The music I was composing for a commercial has become on hold, that is about it in terms of what has changed in my work schedule.

If we are talking creatively, at the end of last year, I had an instinct that our gen-eration would change drastically and a strong urge to reconsider my work ethic, It really aligned with what was happening as the hours pass without any decisions being made, and COVID-19 is worsening as the pandemic was officially an-nounced. In all honesty, from spring I wanted to move abroad and even attained a visa to go. I am writing this on April 1st and I voluntarily started to refrain from societal activities a little while ago and now I can live comfortably in this situation. I changed the angle of my piano by 90 degrees and now the scenery I can see from my window has changed and a fresh feeling towards performing has now bloomed.

Then it snowed. Playing piano almost as if the clouds and snow was inviting in the sound, I became to naturally see how I wanted to convey my messages through music. That was the ‘aha’ moment. I wrote this big step down because personally this was a turning point that I will never be able to forget. I felt that deed of expressing oneself really does follow the change of nature and society.

—Is there anything that you have realized or want to be more aware of during the current situation ? If there is, please share them.

Sebu : There are experts within every field and they are helping us in terms of our living situation from all different areas. In the medicine sector, there are countless peo-ple who are saving lives and their contribution is priceless, but there is also peo-ple who will continue to use their knowledge to its full extent to ideate and re-search. The people who continue to work in supermarkets and convenience stores as well as pharmacies are supporting our lives like we cannot imagine. In terms of material needs, deliveries can only be delivered with the help of people. There are people who want to refrain from going outside, but have to go outside everyday to work with the constant fear on their backs.

Our world can only function with the help of the contribution from all types and sectors in society. In the film ‘A hidden life’ by director Terrance Malek, a quote that states ‘Only the good work of an unnamed person can create a peaceful world made by George Eliot is cited in the film.

In terms of recognition, the way in which I filter information has become more sensitive. I am the type of person who would rather be handed the truth no mat-ter how bad the news is when something bad goes down. However in this situa-tion, there are people from each end of the spectrum and temperatures. When we divide information into false or real, there will always be rumors that spread no matter what. If it is rumors that spread in result of the news or rumors that were already existing, I do not know. There are time when rumors end up true. I try to process the information by keeping a cool head but I have noticed that trying to control how we handle information in our head is harder than we think.

The real difficulties lie ahead. The more people who become the other, the truth becomes even more tangled and more people become addicted to finding out the truth, trying to blame others for their wrong doings. But even in these times it is important to never stop facing our problems and when we do, we have to find a solution and a end to our means. We cannot give up by giving an excuse that ‘it’s too hard’.

ーーAs a person in your position or a creator, how are you trying to prepare yourself menatlly and physically for the lockdown?

Sebu : This was mentioned earlier but making your home as comfortable as possible is very important. Your feelings are valuable. Adapting our minds quickly to a reality that can not be escaped and trying to playing your cards right to maximize their potential, is very important to create a good time.

I am a person who likes sunshine and breeze so I like my house very much. I like decluttering as well. I live by minimalism so having as little as possible and a one room apartment is not so bad I have always thought this but when your feelings become heavy, taking off extra weight in terms of what you wear or have around you helps sometimes. When you are having difficulty controlling your internal feelings, it helps to illustrate a desired internal state from the outside.

Also the existence of friends and alliances is very strong. During my time refrain-ing from being outside has made me realize the amount time we actually spend communicating unconsciously. The extra time that I have now is spent communi-cating online. When I think somebody’s grandmother is in hospital and worried about them or concerned about someone’s job, I not only think about them but actually reach out and I contact them. Sometimes I feel empowered when I was trying to cheer someone else up and I feel better, myself. These are things that we couldn’t do when we were drained by our busy lives so I would like to utilise phone and emails even more.

ーーIn light of your own activities, what kind of ‘creation’ or artistic endeavors are possible indoors?

Sebu : I am in a position of freelancing for my job so I have been faced with a different type of fear I have in terms of my career but I have thrown away the pressure of having to do something with meaning or making the most out of my time to cre-ate something useful already in March. For the time being, I am collecting infor-mation, emailing friends and interviewing people. I am actually living a life that does not involve a lot of musical activity, to be honest.

The ability to learn by being exposed to resources is our most valuable asset. If you consider your life to be a creation, the time to learn and grow that has been created due to the lockdown and refrains of outdoor activity can also be consid-ered a type of creation. There is no need to go behind your own heart’s instinct to call for cultural action. If there is room in your heart and want to change that murky feelings that lingers in the atmosphere, maybe read a book or watch a movie. These are conventional suggestions but they are still very rich.

Recently because of the textbooks from school, I have been rereading the books by Natsume Soseki and Akutagawa Ryunosuke that I had been putting off. Works that are timeless can change their expressions by their receivers. Also 『Amazing Spot Dictionary』is amazing. The world is amazing. The earth is amazing. They are mostly photographs so if you are tired of reading text, this is the book for you. You can spend a time entransed and immersed in a dream in your bath !

Netflix and Amazon Prime need no mentioning but the online film festival that the company I work with is hosting is very interesting as well. They are hosting a short series on YouTube as a Stay Home Edition, free of charge. There are subti-tles in a range of different languages. so there is no need to understand French either. Surprisingly, the times we are exposed to short films is very little so a new experience can be made I can assume.

ーーDuring this time is there anything you or the initiative would like to challenge yourself with?

Sebu : I have been honing my knowledge in nutrition so I am curious as to how my body changes in light of this new lifestyle. I have parts of my life that I have seen a change in, and those discoveries are fascinating. The thing that is being affected is my own body so it influences my mental state in a positive way. From now on I want to be conscious about physical things as well.

Our society has been faced with a dilemma, and it will take some effort and time to overcome. The number of victims have been increasing. But I have hope in terms of the changes we are having to make to endure the pain. We need to learn and grow from the pain and sorrow that we experience. Unless, this tragedy will go unrecognized by our history books. We have to confront society’s problem and we have to learn from international economic policies. With these new chal-lenges, I am looking forward to everyone trying to deepen their understanding of each other.

ーーAfter situations concerning COVID-19 improves, what would you like to do?

Sebu : I want to go eat dinner with friends. Go to the cinema and read a book in a cafe. I want to ride my favorite community bus. All things that are pretty small and sim-ple.
I want to go eat dinner with friends. Go to the cinema and read a book in a cafe. I want to ride my favorite community bus. All things that are pretty small and sim-ple.

I want to live in a society where the people around me don’t have to live in fear and live happily and be themselves. When the pandemic dies down, I believe it is important to have a flexible and kind mindset to help one another. I want to play the piano like swimming in a pool of society’s change. To not be captured by the speed of the unknown and value the feelings that inhabit within ourselves.

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?

Sebu : Even in Japan, there are countless people leading different lifestyles. I understand the difficulty of having to take the wheel of a ship that is too big to control. I don’t want to constantly be complaining about inequality and shouting out my concerns. But I cannot help but hope for a political system that is more transpar-ent and clean. If we do not have that solid foundation first and foremost, then the important times we will end up crying wolf. In short, the people who never be-lieved the stories will go down as well when it ends up becoming the truth.

There is no right way to tackle quarantine. I live by myself but would like to continue to work and stick with my current job. On the other hand, if this lifestyle becomes too hard to continue, some-times I strangely think about alternative work I could find for my part time job. It doesn’t necessari-ly have to be in Tokyo.
However there are a lot of business owners, self employers as well people who are the breadwinner of the family. Apart from the above, there are citizens who are mentally or physically disabled and they are people who still hold concern. Even if I live by myself, I do not want a life where I have to wonder if I have eaten the last meal of the week or cannot pay my rent. Rather than hang-ing by a string everyday, I would like to live comfortably to enjoy moments of it.

I hope that the possibilities that cinema holds and the world that it creates continues and I would like to be a part of it. Both film and music have been by my side since I was a little child. They are long time friendships I have made and I am sure that there is something that holds a similar place in everyones hearts as well.

We must hold hands and help each other by understanding the true meaning of quarantine or refraining to overcome and face the pandemic. I do not want any-one to take this lightly. I want everyone to take this as a guarantee. Workers are not only the people with human rights. We must understand that the world is comprised of an unimaginable amount of a diverse range of people.

From the perspective of an individual’s everyday life, we have to treasure our health. When the government puts all effort and emphasis on the olympics I can-not help but think that they are jeopardizing the health and safety of their citi-zens.
No matter the decision made, I long for a government that has respect towards their citizens. And on top of this, a strategy can then be made.

Hiroko Sebu
instagram @sebuhiroko

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