Detective Note

Vol.009 – Days with the Light: My 21-Day “Retreat ” from the COVID Regulations


Reiko Kasai
Lighting Design Producer

I am now cramped in a packed economy class flight from Bangkok back to Singapore with my laptop open. I am amazed at the number of people passing through the airport. The reason this scene feels like a dream is that I am still vividly remembering my flight from Japan only a year ago, when the airport was deserted, and I was the only passenger.

On the return “private” flight from Haneda to Singapore, I enjoyed strolling around the cabin, chatting and playing cards with the five amiable cabin crew members who were working for just one passenger. The anxiety of the mandatory 21-day hotel stay that awaited me after landing had disappeared.

Once again, I was the sole passenger on the bus that ferried me from the empty and lonely Changi Airport, where there were more staff in protective suits than passengers. I was nervous because I was not told where we were going, but we arrived at a high-rise 5-star hotel with a balcony in the center of the city.

My prior fearful and pessimistic imaginings – 21 days isolation in the locked hotel room, boredom, stagnation, ill-health, and madness – were completely misled as I spent the next 21 days in peace, comfort, leading healthy regulated time schedule, and happiness. I can say with absolute certainty that what brought me happiness was the view from the room; windows that fully opened to the balcony on the 9th floor, I was connected to the outdoors and natural light throughout my stay.

The morning started with sunlight streaming onto my bed, morning yoga, breakfast delivered out the door a slightly after 7:00 a.m., coffee in the dazzling light, Zoom meeting with the team that starts at 9:00, followed by the daily work. Lunch time. Evening bath time. Reading. Sleepiness comes naturally to me.

From my working desk facing the window, I could enjoy the 180-degree view of the city outside the window, the constantly changing light and clouds, a sense of unity with them. The night view of the city after dark was also beautiful, and I enjoyed the quiet time alone with the windows open.

I haven’t spent a day like this, just watching the light change and the clouds move, since I was sitting by the window in a boring class in the third grade of junior high school, perhaps?

I was surprised to find myself spending such a peaceful and comfortable time alone in a hotel room in a city that was everyday to me.

The reason I had returned home to Japan even with the mandatory 21 days of hotel isolation, was to vacate my late father‘s house, which was overflowing with his belongings. He had passed away six months earlier and it was a great relief to have managed this daunting task in a few days.

When I returned to Singapore and recounted to my aunt in Tokyo from my hotel room about the chartered flight and pleasant stay, she replied that, “Your father must have rewarded you for all the hard work”, which made me cry.

Reiko Kasai
Lighting Design Producer
/ Director of Lighting Planners Associates, Singapore Office

Reiko is an active contributor to numerous publications in Japan on architecture/design and lifestyle in Singapore and the region.