Hakone Gardens

Since we haven’t been going on vacation during the pandemic, we’ve been instead taking the occasional day off here and there. We did so today and went out to breakfast and then to Hakone Gardens, a Japanese garden in the south bay. We’ve been a couple of times before, usually in the winter, which means not much was flowering, but I thought I read that they had some cherry trees in bloom now.

It turns out that there still isn’t much flowering, not the cherry trees, not the wisteria arbor, but it was generally greener than we’d seen before. And it was sunny but not too warm, which made for a nice outing.

Hakone Gardens main gate
The main gate

Due to COVID, they arranged the paths so you had only a single long path you could walk along (with two shortcuts), which probably makes sense when the place is busier, but on a Friday morning there were only a few other people visiting, and we didn’t pass or get passed by anyone else.

The “cultural exchange center” building was open, which I don’t recall it being before – but it’s been several years since our last visit. The main displays inside concerned the creation of the gardens between the two World Wars, and then the internment of the gardener and caretaker and his family in the Japanese concentration camps in which the United States imprisoned most residents of Japanese descent during World War II, as well as memories of a few other people of their or their parents’ imprisonment. This American shame has gotten more attention in recent years through the efforts of people like George Takei, and the photos and personal memories here were pretty moving.

We spent an hour or so walking the garden. Here are a few photos:

Michael in the wisteria arbor at Hakone Gardens
Me in the wisteria arbor
Panoramic view from the Moon Viewing House at Hakone Gardens
Panorama from the Moon Viewing House
The bamboo garden at Hakone Gardens
The bamboo garden
Waterfalls ay Hakone Gardens
Panorama from below the Moon Viewing House at Hakone Gardens
Panorama from below the Moon Viewing House

It was a nice outing. We ran a couple of errands, and played video games (remotely) with some friends later in the day. We’ve had a bunch going on recently so taking a vacation day to not do much of consequence was something we needed.

But now, to close things out, I’m sure what you really wanted in this entry was a close-up of me, so here you go!


Fully Vaxxed

And three weeks after our first shots we went back to Levi’s Stadium today for our second shots of the Pfizer vaccine. So in about 2 weeks we should be as immune to COVID-19 as we’re going to get. Well, for this round, anyway. And no nasty side effects yet for either of us!

I think it’s still going to be a bit of a roller-coaster for the next year or two. I’m confident the vaccines will provide excellent protection against the main strain of the virus, and – much like the flu vaccine – against many of the variants. The problem is they might not protect against all of the variants, and until we are able to roll out vaccines worldwide to 80% or more of the planet, we’re going to keep seeing new mutations pop up.

The reluctance of a significant fraction of the population to get vaccinated is likely to prolong the virus. As a result I think we’ll see some regions achieve “herd immunity” until some mutation from an under-vaccinated region breaks past the vaccine. (This is my own extrapolation from this article. Not that I am not an expert in these matters.)

Uneven Willingness to Get Vaccinated Could Affect Herd Immunity

I’m optimistic that scientists will improve the vaccines in the future as well. And I expect we’ll need a booster shot each year, perhaps rolled into the annual flu shot.

Maintaining this pace for the whole world every year is going to be a challenge, no doubt about that. Things are very bad in India right now and I doubt it will be the last country in such dire straits. Lots more people are going to die. It’s horrifying. I hope the world can pull together to limit the damage.

In the United States it will also be interesting (that’s a word for it) to see the struggle to get everyone vaccinated, persuading the holdouts to get their shots (except people who have a good medical reason not to, of course). I suspect the luddite Republicans in many states will try to force things so people are not pressured to get vaccinated in any way, but I also think – and hope – that there will be overwhelming forces against them. For example, large companies refusing to employ or serve people who aren’t vaccinated. Insurance companies raising premiums for unvaccinated individuals. Airlines refusing to let unvaccinated people fly. And, you know, people getting sick and dying from COVID, especially newer strains. I think it will be slow going, but hopefully reason and science will prevail and the vaccines will become a natural thing for all citizens.

Anyway, on that cheery note.

Today was Debbi’s birthday, too, so getting vaxxed was a nice way to mark the day. She took part of the day off, and spent much of it watching Star Wars movies, too. Things are looking up – for us, anyway.

Debbi & Michael after getting vaccinated
Obligatory selfie after getting our shots!