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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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Calligraphy in the Landscape: Breathing of the land

Here is another Lady English Blogger, tho in Kyushu, not in Nara, Calligraphy in the Landscape.  Beautiful photography and poetry. Somehow these days, poetry and flowers seem to soothe my soul. In fact, it is only when I see the flowers or read the poetry, that I realize how thirsty my soul is.

The quiet smile lingered by itself in the shade of fresh verdure.
 Time to wait for somebody.

 I forget the moment.

The cheerful air will warm all.
 … become active.

 The throbbing pulse of life reminds of new situation.

Each of these is lovely… 

Breathing in the Land

"Each of these is lovely..." Breathing in the Land, by Calligraphy in the Landscape

via Calligraphy in the Landscape: Breathing of the land.

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Spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi – Martyn Williams’ posterous

Here are the latest images from TEPCO of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The video and images 1 through 3 show the sampling of water in the spent fuel pool of Unit 4 on April 12. The pictures make more sense when you’ve seen the video, so I recommend you watch it first. TEPCO used a crane to lower a vessel into the pool to collect water.

Images 4 and 5 were taken on April 14 from the concrete-pumping vehicle that’s being used to direct water into the spent fuel pool at unit 3 and show the pool.

Images 6 and 7 come from the T-Hawk remote controlled helicopter and show reactor building 1 on April 14.

via Spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi – Martyn Williams’ posterous.

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Guerrilla Hoarding – Wendy McElroy – Mises Daily

A timely article on the libertarian site on hoarding. Although it is not directly related, and makes no reference to, the Japanese disaster, it is a pertinent topic.

Maruetsu store, Tokyo, 19:18, March 16th, 2011

No bread, but most Japanese eat rice anyway - photo by Mike Rogers

After the Japanese disaster in March, it soon became apparent that there was a) a dire need for certain goods, and b) that there was a growing shortage of these goods in an ever-widening area of Japan. This was because people were either buying them for themselves or buying to send to needy relatives and friends in disaster-hit areas.

Even in areas unaffected by the disaster, such as Kansai or Kyushu, batteries and torches and bottled water were soon sold out and unavailable. People in disaster-hit areas were obviously buying these things like crazy because they needed them immediately. People in more distant areas were also buying up these and similar items and sending them to needy friends and relatives. Yet more people also bought these kinds of items “just in case” and because they could see that these items were quickly running out and who knows when supplies would be restored?

Inevitably, government officials came out and urged people not to buy certain desperately needed items in bulk, such as batteries and bottled water. Of course, the temporary scare of radioactive iodine in the Tokyo water supply did not help matters, and the government had to hand out bottled water to mothers with infants.

However, the Japanese government was not chiding people for stock-buying, but making a pretty sensible request and for a reasonable reason that most people could agree with: the people directly affected by the disaster need these items more than you do; please help avoid short supplies by not buying more than you immediately need. The same was true for electricity. The shortage of electric power may be felt most strongly in the coming summer, even more than now.

Below is an article that explains why governments tend to criticize hoarding in general. This is not exactly the case in Japan at the moment – most people understand the need the refrain from hoarding or panic buying at this time, and are willing to go along.  However, the principles revealed in the article remain true pretty much across cultures.

The argument is really the old one of “who, whom?” Who gets to tell whom what to do? The Japanese way of doing things blurs this issue because rather than giving direct orders, they prefer people to come to a common agreement autonomously. So commands become requests.

A common example of hoarding is stocking up on durable grocery items — such as canned goods, rice, or pasta — when they are on sale, so that your family has a years supply of staples in the house. In rural areas, this is known as “keeping a good pantry.”Historically, governments have frowned upon hoarding. Especially in bad economic times, stigmatizing the hoarder for “causing” high prices or shortages because he buys more than his “share” serves a useful political purpose. They divert attention away from government policies, such as tariffs, that are the true cause of empty shelves and high prices. By stirring up resentment toward neighbors who own one more can of peas than you do, politicians avoid the full and just brunt of public anger…

Hoarding, like any other human activity, can become obsessive. But in its common form, hoarding is nothing more than preparing for the future by laying aside a store of items you and your family may need. This is an especially valuable practice during economic instability, when necessary supplies can become scarce or suddenly double in price.

The Austrian investment counselor Jack Pugsley once explained another perspective on hoarding: it is an investment. A low-income family may not be able to afford precious metals, but they can afford to invest in dry or canned consumables. Last year, with some frequency, my grocery store sold a 900-gram package of pasta for 99¢. With wheat shortages, and with the American government diverting almost 30 percent of corn crops into producing ethanol, food products dependent on grain have skyrocketed. The same package of pasta now regularly costs $2.99. If a struggling family bought 60 packages of the 99¢ pasta for a future consumption of one package a week, then their hoarding would have knocked perhaps $100 off their grocery bill. By consistently buying more than they immediately need of bargain items, the family can build a solid pantry to sustain them through unemployment, inflation or scarcity.

A key point is that it is sensible to prepare: do so well ahead of time, and without drawing undue attention to yourself.

The navy man’s fate is a cautionary tale in more than one way. The store of food for his family was discovered because a grocer and neighbors informed upon him. Thus, a sad corollary to the wisdom of hoarding food for your family is the need to do so with discretion. This is sad, because the natural impulse of people in a community is to assist those in need. Measures like the Food and Fuel Control Act mean that sharing food with a neighbor who has hungry children is no longer simply a gesture of compassion and generosity; such government acts make sharing into a danger to your safety and your own children’s well-being.

There is still time to hoard the items upon which your family depends. Prices are rising, to be sure, but the full force of inflation and shortages is probably several months in the future. Hoard now; hoard quietly.

via Guerrilla Hoarding – Wendy McElroy – Mises Daily.

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One Time One Meeting: Sakura・・・・・

Another Nara lady English blogger with beautiful photos. Cherry trees in full bloom. I’m so glad they are not restraining themselves.

A deer is quietly eating petals of Sakura. Photo by narastoryteller

Sakura or cherry blossoms have been long loved by people in Japan. Sakura bloom and fall. And they love from the beginning (even before the beginning) to the end, every phase of Sakura. They see beauty in those blooming Sakura, and admire scattering Sakura as 花吹雪‐flower blizzard. Fallen petals on the water are appreciated as 花筏‐flower raft.

via One Time One Meeting: Sakura・・・・・.

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Stardust English Talk: My World: Castle ruins with cherry blossoms

Here I introduce a blog by a Japanese lady in Nara. The photos are stunning, and soothe the soul in these troubled times.

This is my favorite place. Only nature, stone walls, and moats witnessed the fleeting prosperity of each feudal lord

I had thought that I couldn’t enjoy myself at this time when the nation is in the crisis for the first time after WWII and Tohoku people are suffering the most, but I think I enjoyed…, not the same as usual but being more thankful, finding more pleasures, and feeling inspiration, consolation, and calm energy radiated by the cherry blossoms.

via Stardust English Talk: My World: Castle ruins with cherry blossoms.

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