by Meg Mimura
Miyabi Inoue didn’t feel a thing when the monumental earthquake and tsunami hit the Northeastern region of Japan on March 11, 2011. She was working in a well constructed building on a college campus located about 30 miles north of Kobe. She still remembers the Kobe earthquake vividly and the general consensus in the Southern region is that Kobe never recovered.
Miyabi felt the aftermath of the March 11 quake when she went to a local store about a week later and couldn’t buy batteries and disposable hand-warmers.
Retailers have no idea how to deal with this unprecedented ordeal. Although the U.S. media seems to be impressed with the absence of looting, and gives the Japanese credit for respect for people’s property, the issue is selfishness in a different format: panicked consumers all over Japan are hoarding goods.
Grocery as well as convenience stores cannot keep rice, water, batteries, and toilet paper from flying off the shelves. People buy extra items for their friends, relatives, and even colleagues in all of the affected areas and try to ship them in one way or another.
Hoarding is rampant in spite of repeated televised pleas not to hoard made by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.
Retailers said this is the worst panic buying since the oil crisis in the 1970s.
“The needs are surging because people are suddenly preparing for emergencies and stocking up on bottled water, cup noodles and other items with a long shelf-life,” said Shoko Amesara, spokeswoman for Daiei Inc., a major supermarket chain.
Family Mart convenience store owner Kazuhiro Minami said he would have to close early because of electric utility rolling blackouts.
“I’m really, really worried,” he said. He blamed hoarding, distribution problems and the possibility of another quake.
Since the Japanese rejected vegetables imported from China for fear of contamination, together with the existing shortages, people in southern Japan are afraid they may have to start growing vegetables on their balconies and in their yards.
(Aquapour wished to welcome Meg as a contributor. She is from Kobe, Japan, graduated from San Diego State university with a M.A. in Television and Film. She is a full time TV Critic/Writer and is a Member of the Television Critics Association as well as the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. You can find her at megmimura.com. Ed.)
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