Posts Tagged jishuku

The Japanese abandon “jishuku”. And about time

There’s been a lot of talk about “jishuku” in Japan, especially for the first month after the earthquake. Although the word simply means “self-restraint”, as usual in Japan the term is intimately linked to “what other people (might) think”. So jishuku, like so many things in Japan, has a tendency to turn out to be a principle that is actually a form of peer-pressure in disguise.

There may be people of principle who perform jishuku naturally, as a form of self-discipline, as part of their integrity, but I suspect they are few and far between.

As I’m a rugged Western individual who will never, ever, ever succumb to peer-pressure (what’s that dear? Yes. Yes, I’ll be finished with the computer soon. Yes, you’re right, an hour is quite long enough, yes dear), I never really liked the jishuku, such as dimming lights or wearing dull clothes. What is this? A wake? Indeed, there’s a case to be made for the recent post-earthquake jishuku as an expression of mourning.

On a recent trip, I noticed something missing in the landscape  – these:

Putting up carp streamers

Koi nobori - Japanese carp streamers in May

Where the heck where they all? At this time of year, end-April/early May, they are usually all over the place. It must be jishuku.

Then, way out in the sticks, I saw some. Not just 1 or 2 or 3 on a single pole, but what looked like hundreds strung across a river. Ha-ha! Yaa-boo-sucks to tsunami-gloom and earthquake panic and nuclear-crisis-neurosis, they seemed to say. I looked at them and cheered, not just the carp-streamers themselves but the folks who had abandoned that silly old jishuku and boldly celebrated life and colour, and tradition. Don’t they look great?

carp streamers across a river, by Ruma

Photo by Ruma at Calligraphy in the Landscape: Children's Day in Wind

Then on May 5th, I saw a news item about a high-schooler in the tsunami-hit area who had lost his family in the disaster, and who put together a long line of koi-nobori streamers and hoisted them above the town. Yay! (I can’t find the news item online, maybe someone can? I did find these though):

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BBC News – Japanese unite in show of self-restraint

“Solidarity” is the word used in some news articles to express or explain the respect for the feelings of others that characterizes much Japanese behaviour, and that puzzles so many Western observers. I’m not sure it is the best English word: in Japan, solidarity is more than a spontaneous expression of empathy, it is closer to an ideology; and there is a lot of peer-pressure mixed in with it. To be Japanese is to be bound by solidarity with other Japanese, whether you like it or not.

It is also fear of what others might think (if they went ahead and partied, for instance) that makes many Japanese show self-restraint. It is a kind of self-censorship.

Just a handful of people were sitting under the cherry blossom in Tokyos Ueno Park, and most were sombre.”Before, the picnic blankets would entirely cover the ground,” said one man. “And youd hear people singing karaoke, even this early in the day.””I think a lot of people would feel guilty about those affected by the disaster if they had fun and partied,” added a woman. Normal life A month after Japans earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent nuclear crisis, the country has entered a period of what is known as jishuku, or voluntary self-restraint.Out of solidarity with those in disaster-hit areas people across the country are making cut-backs.

via BBC News – Japanese unite in show of self-restraint.

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