It will soon be one month since the Great East Japan Earthquake struck the nation on March 11. The prevailing atmosphere in Japan is one of serious and sombre jishuku (self-restraint).
Various artistic activities, sports events and even traditional festivals have been canceled or postponed.
A great many people died in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. An even larger number are still missing, and many people are being forced to endure difficult living conditions at evacuation facilities.
In the Tokyo metropolitan area, there is a serious power shortage due to the accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.
We understand how, given these circumstances, people tend to think everything should be conducted in a subdued manner.
However, too much self-restraint will strip away peace of mind and plenitude from everyday life, and destroy the nation’s vitality. This will drag down economic activity, which will hinder recovery efforts in areas hit by the disaster.
For the entire nation to recover its energy, it is important to return to the normal rhythms of everyday life.
While taking care to save power, we must cast off this atmosphere of excessive self-restraint and proceed with scheduled events. That is the quickest way to facilitate Japan’s recovery from the disaster, despite the great damage we have suffered.
The cherry blossom season is now advancing from south to north, but moves to refrain from cherry blossom viewing have been spreading throughout the country. The Tokyo metropolitan government has been asking people to refrain from holding cherry blossom-viewing parties in parks under its administration, including Ueno Park, one of the most famous cherry blossom-viewing spots in the nation.
It would of course be out of the question for people to sing loudly and display shameful behavior at such parties, under unnecessary bright lights at night.
However, what is wrong with families and friends gathering in daytime to view the flowers?
Throughout the country, traditional festivals have been canceled or reduced in scale, including the Sanja Matsuri festival in the Asakusa district of Taito Ward, Tokyo, and the grand spring festival at Toshogu shrine in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture. Events planned during the festivals have mostly been canceled.
However, some festivals are being held as scheduled, so prayers can be said for the recovery of disaster-hit areas and the repose of victims’ souls. One example is the Inuyama Matsuri festival held in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, on Saturday and Sunday. Donations to help survivors were collected at the event.
We believe holding festivals in such a manner will boost the significance of the events.
The Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra, based in Sendai, temporarily suspended its regular concerts after the quake. Since late last month, however, it has been giving small ensemble performances of music on street corners and other places in Sendai. It plans to perform in the worst-hit areas as well.
The start of this year’s professional baseball season has been delayed, and Tokyo Dome is studying how to save electricity by adjusting lighting and air-conditioning.
Even in adverse situations, culture, art and sporting activity enrich people’s minds. They will certainly provide great encouragement to those who have suffered as a result of the quake and tsunami.
Nevertheless, the cases of the Inuyama festival and the Sendai Philharmonic are exceptional. The mood of self-restraint remains strong, hindering people from buying things or traveling.
Even though the spring sightseeing season has arrived, many individuals and groups have reportedly called off trips and canceled their bookings at hotels.
In the Tohoku region, in particular, even tourist spots and business sectors not directly hit by the quake and tsunami are being affected seriously. Some are calling these developments secondary damage following the direct impact of the massive quake.
How should we support these regions and industries?
Yoshiyasu Ono, an economist and adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, has said excessive restraint will hinder post-quake reconstruction efforts. He advocates what he calls a “Buy Tohoku” campaign to actively purchase goods produced in the Tohoku region.
Abundant in both marine and agricultural products, the Tohoku region is also known for its rice production. It produces many traditional crafts with rich local color. If people actively buy these products, it will provide a marked boost to the economy.
Kan should take the lead in sweeping away the mood of self-restraint. He must call on the people to stop being overly sensitive to the situation in the wake of the disaster and resume their normal lives.
(The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 8)