Life With Corona: Everyday Stories and Reflections – Buy Less, Save More // WITHコロナ ~日常の話と反省~ 買い物を減らすことが、思いやりに

Hello, everyone! It’s Gavyn, the CIR for Seika Town, checking in after a long absence from this blog. I hope you’re all doing well in these uncertain times.


Speaking of, a lot has changed in the world since my last post. Of course, the most pressing issue on everyone’s minds is one that needs no introduction. The coronavirus pandemic has hopped in the driver’s seat of all our lives in the last few months and it looks like it will continue to steer our every movement for the foreseeable future.


I remember first seeing it on TV news in December and recall thinking that it wasn’t such a big deal as long as we practiced caution. My feelings started to change when the situation escalated in January with the cruise ship story. However, things really hit a fever pitch around late-February, and that’s when the effects of the virus started to hit home.


It all started with a toilet paper shortage. Fueled by false information spread on social media platforms, the toilet paper shortage felt like the first real, nationwide impact of the coronavirus in Japan. For much of March, many stores in moderately populated areas were sold out of toilet paper, most of it purchased out of fear of a rumored shortage caused by the coronavirus. Even in Seika, a modest town with approximately 37,000 residents, experienced bare shelves in stores that regularly stocked toilet paper.

Throughout March, shoppers looking to get a pack of toilet paper were met with empty shelves.


Manufacturers released tweets like this in an attempt to discredit rumors.

Manufacturers spoke against the rumors and insisted that there was more than enough stock, and that there was no coronavirus-related shortage. Unfortunately, that message came out after the panic buying started, so the damage had already been done. The panic buying of toilet paper slowed as April came around.


As a person with no car and few shopping options in their immediate area, I found myself in tissue trouble around this time. Luck would have it that I was on my last two rolls of toilet paper when the panic buying started, so I was in the market for toilet paper. I went during my lunch break and after work to check the stores around me for toilet paper, only to find empty shelves time after time. I was starting to lose hope.


Fortunately, on a trip to a dermatologist (five stations away and in another prefecture), I managed to come across a small drug store that had an ample stock of toilet paper, the first I had seen in over a week. Being slightly a ways from home, I briefly considered how embarrassing it would be to carry home a pack of toilet paper on the train for everyone to see. I discarded that shame as soon as I realized how many of us were in the same, paper-less predicament.


Sellers on this popular marketplace app listed toilet paper and regular tissue for several times over their store price.

This shortage pattern repeated itself with masks, then hand soap and anti-bacterial products. Then, when the public got wind of nationwide school and business closures, foods like pancake mix started to sell out. Not all of these items were bought by families who needed them. Part of the shortages were caused by unsavory people buying up necessities and selling them on auction sites at a large mark up to make a quick profit. At the height of the panic, sites were littered with listings of toilet paper selling for thousands of yen.


An empty shelf of anti-bacterial gel products in an American supermarket.

This phenomenon was not limited to Japan, of course. Back home in America, panic-driven shortages of the same goods occurred. Like Japan, the shortages were exacerbated by bulk buyers looking to sell the goods for much more than they’re worth rather than for personal use. You needn’t look hard in these times to see how cruel humans can be to each other even in their most dire hour.


Masks are back in stock! For now, at least…

More than half a year after the discovery of the coronavirus, while the virus continues to spread, the stock situation for most items in Japan has gone back to normal. For the most part, even masks, which have been hard to find for a few months, can now be easily purchased. Not long ago, people lined up before the drug store opened or entered lotteries just to get a box of masks!


During a pandemic, it’s hard to parse through the morality of your own actions, especially when it’s something as simple as buying extra of an item you might need just in case. It’s important to take a moment to factor in the needs of the neighbor you know and the neighbor you don’t know in addition to your own. Buying only what you need could be of great help to families or people with just a couple rolls of toilet paper or a few pumps of hand soap left.


Remember to practice empathy and only buy what’s necessary. Leave the rest for someone in need. Sometimes that’s all it takes to be helpful to others.


You can help out by simply buying less!

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