Stockpiling and panic-purchasing has hit Japan hard since Covid-19 coronavirus captured the nation’s attention. First to go were Japan’s beloved face masks, which now sell out almost as soon as they hit the shelves. Next, for no good reason at all, is toilet paper, with panicky shoppers clearing out drugstores and supermarkets. It’s at the point where shops are even limiting purchases to one pack per customer.
Toilet paper is a surprising thing to hoard since Covid-19 coronavirus isn’t known to cause any gastrointestinal problems. The source of the hysteria is a few rumours circulating online, including one claiming toilet paper will no longer be available because it is made in China. Although, as The Japan Times was quick to point out, most toilet paper on sale in Japan is actually produced in Japan.
What about the idea that face masks and toilet paper are made of the same material, so a shortage of one means a shortage of the other is on the way? The Mainichi reports that ‘toilet paper commonly used in Japan is made of mostly domestic pulp and other raw materials plus some imported from North America, and which are completely different from those used in the production of face masks.’ According to The Mainichi, if anything, Japanese toilet paper manufacturers are currently overstocked, having ramped up production before the tax increase in October 2019.
So don’t be selfish, and keep others in mind when making purchases. Masks should go to people who are already sick, to avoid infecting others, or to those most vulnerable, like the elderly. Toilet paper and tissues should go to everyone – and there’s plenty to go around. The best way to protect yourself from Covid-19 coronavirus is to be vigilant, avoid touching your face, wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, and avoid packed trains if possible.
If you are in Japan and not feeling well, call the Japan Visitor Hotline (inside Japan 050 3816 2787, from overseas +81 50 3816 2787) in case of illness or emergency. The hotline provides services in English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.
Here is a list of attractions in Japan and Tokyo that are currently closed due to Covid-19 coronavirus.