The mood of self-restraint that has swept Japan in response to the devastating events of the 11th march has been palpable on the ground in Tokyo. The lights are still dimmed, the governor of the dity has called for a cancellation of the annual hanami parties and by all accounts the karaoke parlours are still struggling for business.
However, as the country begins to emerge from the collective shock of the disaster it faces a choice: whether to continue holding back in a show of solidarity for those in Tohoku who are struggling to piece their lives and communities back together or whether to get back to life as normal and try to get the country back on its feet?
On some level there is a real need for restraint. There are some vital supplies that really have been needed for relief efforts, say petrol or water. With the nuclear power plants at Fukushima down and out, the need to conserve electricty will be a concern for perhaps years to come.
However, if taken too far this spirit of self-denial in support to those who have no choice could begin to back-fire by depressing the Japanese economy, adding further economic woes to the already long list of challenges facing the country.
In recognition of this fact – and in an effort to lift their own sales – some brands have kicked off initiatives to try and get people buying again.
Clothing brand United Arrows have launched a campaign called ‘Moving on Together for Japan’ in which they are offering discounts for customers and donating 5% of all prceeds to the Red Cross.
In a more touching demonstration of how the self-restraint might actually be harming those it is aimed at supporting, one sake brewer from the Iwate region has recorded a YouTube video calling on the nation to go ahead with their spring hanami parties – and show their support by buying sake from the affected regions. The fact that the video now has over 350,000 views on You Tube is perhaps a sign that he’s not the only one who feels that way.