As recession-wary Americans adapt to a new frugality, Japan offers a peek at how thrift can take lasting hold of a consumer society...
The economic malaise that plagued Japan from the 1990s until the early 2000s brought stunted wages and depressed stock prices, turning free-spending consumers into misers...
Today, years after the recovery, even well-off Japanese households use old bath water to do laundry, a popular way to save on utility bills. Sales of whiskey, the favorite drink among moneyed Tokyoites in the booming ’80s, have fallen to a fifth of their peak. And the nation is losing interest in cars; sales have fallen by half since 1990.
workers age 24 or younger... who came of age during a tough job market, tend to shun conspicuous consumption.
They tend to be uninterested in cars; a survey last year by the business daily Nikkei found that only 25 percent of Japanese men in their 20s wanted a car, down from 48 percent in 2000, contributing to the slump in sales.
Young Japanese women even seem to be losing their once- insatiable thirst for foreign fashion. Louis Vuitton, for example, reported a 10 percent drop in its sales in Japan in 2008.
“I’m not interested in big spending,” says Risa Masaki, 20, a college student in Tokyo and a neighbor of the Takigasakis. “I just want a humble life.”
It seems the Japanese people are off-message - they are forgetting that "greed is good" and have reverted to the old discredited doctrine of "living within one's means" and "saving for a rainy day".
The article claims that this attitude is "disasterous" and makes the people a "dead weight on Japan’s economy" - it goes on to woffle about the "fear" of deflation, that "scary" economic scenario where saved money becomes more valuable over time, where everyone shuns getting into debt, and where our spiraling use of the scarce resources of the planet decreases and thus starts to come under control ...
VERY scary.. I don't think... what really IS scary is the prevalent view of such mainstream journalists, government economists, politicians, and other retards, that the only way forward for the human race is to consume ever increasing resources in an exponential fashion - the very scenario that is guaranteed to destroy our "civilisation" in very short order.
My parents grew up in the UK during the second world war and its aftermath when there were extensive shortages and rationing of food and clothes and other consumables, and an economic meltdown from which we were rescued only by huge loans from the US.
The result was that they learned to be thrifty - their parents kept hens, a cow, grew their own vegetables, made and mended their own clothes, reused everything and learned to waste nothing.
I am Scottish. We Scots have long been famed for our thriftiness. Our detractors term it meanness or "miserliness", but Scots are typically very generous people - we are not mean, but by tradition we are thrifty - we do not like wastage.
In modern economic and capitalist thinking, the traditional virtues of "make do and mend", "waste not and want not", are portrayed as sins - we are meant to consume conspicuously, and trash "old" things with ever increasing frequency. We are expected to discard good food, mountains of plastic packaging, fully functional machines and furnishings, unworn clothes and shoes. If our consciences irk us, then we are advised to give our unwanted items to charities, and to throw our packaging into "recycle" bins.. just so long as we get rid of them and buy some new stuff.
I was taught, as a child, that it is sinful to waste things, and that it is a virtue to make the most of what we already have. I no longer believe in the Christian concept of sin, but I still base my life on ethics and this means I base it on virtues. For me it is still virtue to take (buy) only what I need, and to use it until it is no longer useful - in other words, "to waste not" is a virtue. It is similarly virtuous to share what I have with others. And virtue brings its own reward, which in this case is "to want not", in other words "to need nothing". Along with this comes peace of mind. Contentment comes from being happy with what we have, and enjoying that, whereas the desire for constant newness brings only a feeling of emptiness and dissatisfaction.
Contentment comes from accepting and appreciating what we have. Acceptance is a virtue. Appreciation is a virtue. These virtues bring happiness. Desire for that which we do not have brings discontentment - commercialism has sold us the lie that happiness comes from feeding our desires. But in reality when one desire is sated, another one arises immediately - there is no end to desire. Desire is not a virtue.
The coming economic Tsunami will force us back to virtue - we (the lucky amongst us) will learn once again to live simply and humbly, appreciating what we have and sharing it with each other. This will be a life of grace and contentment, in sharp contrast to our current lives of depression and satiety. We will relearn what our ancestors knew - how to enjoy the simple things in life.