Spring has arrived and the cherry blossoms have started to bloom. If only the 新型コロナウイルス (shingata koronauirusu, novel coronavirus) could be as fleeting.
Instead of the usual revelry, authorities are encouraging a 自粛ムード (jishuku mūdo, air of self-restraint) when it comes to this year’s 花見 (hanami, blossom viewing) parties: “飲食を伴う宴会を控えて頂きますようお願いいたします” (“Inshoku o tomonau enkai o hikaete-itadakimasu yō onegai-itashimasu,” “We humbly request that you refrain from parties accompanied by eating and drinking”), was the 要請 (yōsei, request) that came from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, though a few people indulged anyway.
The 自粛 suggestion hasn’t just been for 花見 alone. 大規模なイベントだけではなく、 小規模なイベントの開催もどんどん難しくなっています (Daikibona ibento dake de wa naku, shōkibona ibento no kaisai mo don-don muzukashiku natte-imasu, It has become more difficult to hold not just large-scale events but also small-scale events). That means sports events, graduations and even smaller home parties have to be either 中止 (chūshi, canceled) or 延期 (enki, postponed).
What I’d like to know, however, is why 自粛 isn’t being practiced at my local 薬局 (yakkyoku, pharmacy). マスクだけでなく 、トイレットペーパーもほとんどない (Masuku dake de naku, toiretto pēpā mo hotondo nai, Not just masks but there’s also hardly any toilet paper). And last week, panic-buying began to hit the supermarkets as well.
自粛 seems to be being applied in a bit of a scattered approach, in the big cities at least. Concerts are off, but many nightclubs and bars are open. People are encouraged to telework, but the morning trains are still packed. The Olympics are being postponed, but Fuji Rock Festival seems to be still on.
Another thing that seems to be 中止 are vacations. The word 自粛 pops up in the term 渡航自粛勧告 (tokō jishuku kankoku, travel advisory), and as of last week 日本からの渡航者に対する入国制限 (Nihon kara no tokōsha ni tai suru nyūkoku seigen, restrictions on entering countries are imposed on passengers/travelers coming from Japan). The government has now asked people here to 海外への渡航の自粛 (kaigai e no tokō no jishuku, refrain from travel overseas).
This works both ways and Japan has asked those coming from overseas, citizens included, to self-quarantine at home for 14 days. As a result, 外国人観光客のみならず 、国内旅行者も激減している (gaikokujin kankōkyaku nominarazu, kokunai ryokōsha mo gekigen shite-iru, not only foreign tourists but [the number of] travelers inside the country have plummeted).
As of March 29, people in Japan are at least still able to leave their homes. Other countries have seen 都市封鎖 (toshi fūsa, city lockdowns) and some here worry there could be a 首都封鎖 (shuto fūsa, lockdown of the capital) if a 緊急事態宣言 (kinkyū jitai sengen, state of emergency declaration) is called by the government. For now, the authorities are just asking that people できるだけ在宅勤務 (dekiru dake zaitaku kinmu, work from home as much as possible), especially if your work is considered 不要不急 (fuyō fukyū, nonessential and nonurgent).
自粛ムードは経済にも影響している (Jishuku mūdo wa keizai ni mo eikyō shite-iru, the air of self-restraint has also had an effect on the economy).
The new term that Japanese economists are starting to throw around is コロナショック (korona shokku, coronavirus shock). This is often mentioned side-by-side with the リーマンショック (rīman shokku, Lehman shock), the name the Japanese gave the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis due to its connection to the bankruptcy of financial services firm Lehman Brothers. Though the “ショック” tag dates back to the オイルショック (oiru shokku, oil shock) of 1973.
Economists have watched the 日経平均株価 (Nikkei Heikin Kabuka, Nikkei Stock Average) go down as the 感染拡大 (kansen kakudai, spread of contagion) rise. Headlines reading 株価下落 (kabuka geraku, drop in stock value) have led to fears of a likely 不景気 (fukeiki, recession), and if the coronavirus doesn’t affect you, the bad economy will.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.