Housewife Matsuko Mitsui had been meaning to buy a new air conditioner for years, but it took the looming consumption tax hike in October to spur the 64-year-old to finally make the purchase.

Like many people in Japan, she isn't planning to splash out again anytime soon, leaving the economy teetering on the edge of recession. And that was before the spreading coronavirus gave yet more cause for caution.

"These days, I really scrutinize the price tags," Mitsui said.