The Mitsukoshi cashiers are very polite, as one would expect from staff in an organization that has strived for over three centuries “to nurture a ‘customer first’ corporate philosophy” (according to the department store chain’s website).

However, one polite expression the cashiers use jars me: “Go kyōryoku arigatō gozaimasu.” They chirp it out when I refuse a Mitsukoshi plastic bag and show my own “eco bag.”

Perhaps I don’t understand the deeper meaning of this Japanese expression, but in English “Thank you for your cooperation” implies that the receiver of this expression has responded to a request from its sender. In the Hoshigaoka (Nagoya) Mitsukoshi store, there has been no call for shoppers to bring their own bags; instead, the shop continues to shower them on customers for free. And in 10 years of shopping at the above-mentioned branch, I have seen only a single customer refuse a bag.

Which brings me to my second observation. Out of a class of 70 pharmacy students, a day after the White Island volcanic eruption, only seven had heard the news from New Zealand. And on Dec. 12, not a single student knew that this was the day of the British general election. The point is that most of my students are ignorant of current affairs.

Which brings me back to the plastic bag issue. Perhaps it is not that my fellow Mitsukoshi shoppers do not care about the environment, but rather they may just be unaware of what’s happening in the world. I suppose we should hope it’s the latter.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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