Today marks one month since the terrible earthquake and tsunamis that caused so much devastation in Japan. It’s been a month of great sadness for many, but also a good time for counting one’s blessings and realizing the importance of not taking life for granted. Although things in our part of Japan and Tokyo have largely returned to normal, you can still see signs of recovery all around. Companies are trying to save power by darkening electrical signs, turning off escalators in train stations, and even turning off the interior lights inside train cars, since plenty of light comes in through the windows. Even Osaka, unaffected by the earthquake and the current power problems, scaled back its power use in a show of solidarity, and the famous Glico “Running Man” sign went dark for a few weeks. Now Japan is facing a new problem. In the face of so much sadness, it’s hard for people to cut loose and have fun, and many Japanese are practicing jishuku, or self-restraint, avoiding going out for meals or spending money. Advertisers deemed it “inappropriate” to show television ads during these sad times, and for weeks there were almost no sponsors for TV programs, resulting in a stream of bizarre public service commercials from Japan’s Advertising Council (aka “AC”) , and the loss of advertising must be hurting the television networks terribly. April is also the season for hanami (flower viewing), spreading a tarp and having a party with friends beneath the sakura trees, and many vendors are economically dependent on this custom. This year most formal flower viewing events have been cancelled, with signs posted asking individual groups to show self restraint with their own private celebrations. I certainly understand where they’re coming from, but I’ll be doing my best to do the opposite, enjoying the beautiful cherry blossoms and spending as much money as I can on beer and yakisoba noodles. Me not taking my family out to see a movie or to eat at our favorite ramen restaurant isn’t going to help people in Tohoku, and will only make the economic recovery that much more difficult.
“Self restraint” is hurting Japan’s economic recovery.