As Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike likes to remind us, we should be spending our summer trying to get on top of COVID-19 infections.
As a result, residents of the capital are scrambling to salvage what they can from a vacation period in which attempts at traveling, visiting relatives or catching up with friends all risk becoming targets of scrutiny and criticism.
In times of such uncertainty, what can be done? According to photographs posted on social media, people have indulged in a wide range of luxurious goods at home in an attempt to console themselves. For instance, some are buying regional delicacies online (sea urchin, oysters and crab top the list) and are getting them delivered right to their front door. Others have invested in personal camping equipment, heading to the nearest park with gourmet dishes from a department store stashed in a cooler box.
Others, still, have taken it to another level. “I couldn’t travel overseas this summer, so I decided to treat myself and enjoy life in a hotel for two days,” Twitter user @Ryo Nakazawa wrote alongside photos of Tokyo Disneyland Hotel.
Back in April and May, many Tokyoites were generally OK about staying home and exercising self-restraint. Once the metropolis started to open up, however, the mood began to change. According to a survey in PR Times that was published on July 22, half of the respondents said they felt like treating themselves to a little something special after struggling to cope with pandemic-related stress and anxiety for many months.
Indeed, a number of companies are now starting to target such consumers, offering cool masks to beat the heat, gourmet frozen foods, virtual travel experiences, artisanal coffee and packets of tea to re-create a cafe experience at home.
It’s worth noting that not all of the luxuries are online. As soon as the national state of emergency was lifted in late May, Tokyoites started to line up to buy products that were mundane but pricey, like the white and pillowy square-shaped bread generally called shokupan, which can cost up to ¥1,500 a loaf and has spawned numerous Instagram photos.
What’s the fuss over plain bread? These loaves are baked with certified organic flour, with crusts browned to perfection inside state-of-the-art ovens. High-end loaves make excellent toast and pair wonderfully with wine, too. The author of the Wonderful Life blog was reportedly content to have waited in line for just an hour at the storied Centre The Bakery in Ginza, Tokyo, before getting her hands on one of its coveted plain loaves.
Some had experimented with products that weren’t actually that popular with consumers before the virus emerged, purchasing devices that make soft drinks and fresh pasta and even table-top grills you can use to make okonomiyaki.
A blogger writing under the moniker Madame Fukuda warns readers to be quick. Seeking to make her life at home as comfortable as possible, she had tried to purchase a grill online but found that both the grills and okonomiyaki mixtures were sold out.
Meanwhile, Kabushiki reports that Nitori Holdings’ revenue shot up nearly 50 percent in May and June, with mattresses and pillows proving popular in addition to the interior store’s aromatic candles and bath products.
As temperatures soar, what about those times when you just need an ice-cold beer? On Twitter, @Senbero alerts readers to watering holes all over Tokyo that are open early in the morning and cater to drinkers who have just finished night shifts, have the day off or just want to blow off some steam.
On that note, an increasing number of bars are opening earlier in the day and shutting down their operations earlier in the evening in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 and give bars a healthier image.
Self-pampering aside, the pandemic appears to have fueled some people’s desire for conspicuous consumption.
In a group interview conducted by President Woman, university students discussed how their spending patterns had changed during the state of emergency, with most coming to the conclusion that they wanted more comfort and entertainment in their lives.
“Since we have to be in front of our computer screens all day for online classes, I figure that we’re no different from office workers who are working remotely,” one of the students said. “We suffered back pain as well, and so it makes sense to buy a chair better suited for long hours of sitting. After lectures, we found ourselves scanning the internet for products that make home life more enjoyable.”
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