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<nettime> Ken Belson, Norimitsu Onishi: In Deference to Crisis, a New Ob
Patrice Riemens on Tue, 29 Mar 2011 09:12:54 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Ken Belson, Norimitsu Onishi: In Deference to Crisis, a New Obsession Sweeps Japan: Self-Restraint (NYT)

original to:
bwo Multitudes-infos/ Frederic Neyrat

In Deference to Crisis, a New Obsession Sweeps Japan: Self-Restraint
New York Times, March 27, 2011.

TOKYO ? Even in a country whose people are known for walking in lockstep,
a national consensus on the proper code of behavior has emerged with
startling speed. Consider post-tsunami Japan as the age of voluntary
self-restraint, or jishuku, the antipode of the Japan of the ?bubble? era
that celebrated excess.

With hundreds of thousands of people displaced up north from the
earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, anything with the barest hint of
luxury invites condemnation. There were only general calls for
conservation, but within days of the March 11 quake, Japanese of all
stripes began turning off lights, elevators, heaters and even toilet seat

But self-restraint goes beyond the need to compensate for shortages of
electricity brought on by the closing of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear
plant. At a time of collective mourning, jishuku also demands that
self-restraint be practiced elsewhere. Candidates in next month?s local
elections are hewing to the ethos by literally campaigning quietly for
votes, instead of circling neighborhoods in their usual campaign trucks
with blaring loudspeakers.

With aggressive sales tactics suddenly rendered unseemly, the giant Bic
Camera electric appliance outlet in central Tokyo has dropped the decibels
on its incessant in-store jingle, usually audible half a block away. At
the high school baseball tournament in Osaka, bands put away their
instruments; instead, cheering sections have been clapping by hitting
plastic horns together.

There are also doubts about whether it is proper to partake in the
seasonal pleasures that regulate much of Japanese life.

?At this time of the year, we?d usually be talking about going to see
cherry blossoms,? Hiroshi Sekiguchi, one of the country?s best-known
television personalities, said on his Sunday morning talk show.

In fact, cherry blossom viewing parties and fireworks festivals have been
canceled. Graduations and commencements have been put off. Stores and
restaurants have reduced their hours or closed. Cosmetics and karaoke are
out; bottled water and Geiger counters are in.

It is as if much of a nation?s people have simultaneously hunkered down,
all with barely a rule being passed or a penalty being assessed.

?We are not forced or anything,? said Koichi Nakamura, 45, who runs a
karaoke shop in Kabukicho, Tokyo?s famed entertainment district, where
customers looking to sing their lungs out have all but vanished. ?I hope
it will somehow contribute to the affected areas.?

The almost overnight transformation is likely to continue for months, if
not years. The hot summer ahead is expected to further strain the nation?s
electrical network, leading to more disruptive blackouts that make it hard
for business to be conducted the Japanese way, face to face and often into
the night. The vast entertainment industry that greases corporate Japan,
including sushi bars and cabarets, is likely to be deeply hurt.

As effective as the self-restraint has been ? conservation measures have
allowed Tokyo Electric Power to cancel some planned blackouts ? the
continued scaling back is likely to have a corrosive effect on Japan?s
sagging economy. While the government will spend heavily to rebuild the
shattered prefectures to the northeast, consumer spending, which makes up
about 60 percent of the economy, will probably sink; bankruptcies are
expected to soar.

Had the disasters hit a more distant corner of the country, things might
have been different. But because Tokyo has been directly affected by the
blackouts and the nuclear crisis, the impact has been greater. The capital
and surrounding prefectures, where so many companies, government agencies
and news media outlets are located, account for about one-third of the
country?s gross domestic product.

Japan has gone through spasms of self-control before, including after the
death of Emperor Hirohito in 1989. This time, though, self-restraint may
be a way of coping with the traumatizing scale of the loss of life as well
as the spreading fears of radioactive fallout, according to Kensuke
Suzuki, an associate professor of sociology at Kwansei Gakuin University
in western Japan.

?With the extensive coverage of the disaster zone, jishuku has become a
way for people in Tokyo to express solidarity at a time of crisis,?
Professor Suzuki said in an e-mail. ?Jishuku is the easiest way to feel
like you?re doing something, though perhaps there isn?t much thought put
into how much these actions make a difference over all.?

It is not surprising then that the national obsession with self-restraint
has bled into political circles. In several prefectures, like Gifu, Aomori
and Akita, candidates have agreed not to campaign too aggressively, by
limiting their appearances and not calling voters at home.

In Tokyo?s luxury shopping district, Ginza, on Sunday, Hideo
Higashikokubaru, 53, a politician and former comedian, practiced
jishuku-style campaigning by riding a bicycle and eschewing a bullhorn.
?I?m trying my best in my own voice,? Mr. Higashikokubaru said, surrounded
by voters on an intersection overlooked by Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Cartier
and Bulgari.

Political analysts have said that such campaign constraints will favor
incumbents like Shintaro Ishihara, the three-term Tokyo governor Mr.
Higashikokubaru is trying to unseat.

?That?s right,? Mr. Higashikokubaru said in a short interview. ?That?s why
I have to try even harder.?

But outliers, like Japan?s Communist Party, have explicitly rejected a
calmer tenor to their campaigning, saying that it would rob voters of
valuable information about candidates.

Another objector was Yoshiro Nakamatsu, 82, who despite a past draw of
only a few thousand votes was running for Tokyo governor for a fifth time.
Mr. Nakamatsu ? an inventor who claims credit for hundreds of gadgets ?
campaigned in front of his truck in Ginza on Sunday, standing on top of
what he described as a stretching machine that would prevent deep vein

As a loudspeaker played a recorded speech, he described campaigning by
walking or riding a bicycle as something from ?another era.?

There were other opponents of self-restraint. While the ethos has been
strongest in northern Japan and in the Tokyo area, western Japan appeared
split. Kobe, the site of a 1995 earthquake, was firmly in favor.

But Toru Hashimoto, the governor of Osaka, Japan?s second-biggest city,
said too much holding back would hurt the economy. Echoing President Bush
after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Hashimoto urged people to spend
even more, so as to support the economy; some businesses are helping by
donating part of their proceeds to affected areas.

In Tokyo, though, there was no debate.

At Hair ZA/ZA, a salon in the Shin Koenji neighborhood, appointments have
dried up because so many school and corporate ceremonies have been
canceled. The rolling blackouts could also make it hard for customers to
keep reservations, according to Takayuki Yamamoto, the salon?s chief hair

This has upended Ayaka Kanzaki?s plans to pass the salon?s tests for new
stylists. The exam includes three components: cutting, blow-drying and
hair coloring. Ms. Kanzaki, 21, passed the cutting section, but to qualify
for the hair coloring test, she must recruit 20 models. So far, she has
managed just seven and is worried about getting 13 more.

The salon?s efforts to reduce electricity use have made it difficult to
practice after hours, too. In addition to turning off the lights, training
with blow dryers has been stopped. Ms. Kanzaki, however, keeps any
frustration to herself.

?I?m not the only one in this condition,? she said, in a remark that
typified Japanese selflessness. ?Others are, too.?

Reporting was contributed by Ayasa Aizawa, David Jolly, Harumi Osawa,
Fuhito Shimoyama and Hiroko Tabuchi.

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