Photo by Joachim Theis on Unsplash

There is No Toilet Paper Crisis in Japan

They knew this was coming all along

Do you have enough toilet paper?

Ah, human beings…we are funny creatures.

We think we are rational, intelligent, sensible and well informed, yet, crisis strikes and all of a sudden we are hoarding enough rolls to cover the distance between the earth and mars…twice…double sheet of course!

Well, for a start we are not rational. Whoever told you that, was being irrational.

We are social animals, we have a herd mentality.

If your neighbor is buying shampoo or toiler paper by the pallet, you better go and do the same.

It may seem stupid but, is it?

The thing is, this kind of mentality has saved our lives for millennia and even though sometimes is not the most efficient thing to do, it gives you peace of mind which in these situations can be very important.

So, if you think you are an extremely rational individual and think you can do better than the herd, I’ve got news for you. Not only you are on denial but also you might end up much worse.

We are sheep.

I know this is not an appealing metaphor and we rather identify with Lyons or Wolves but, it is what it is.

There are evolutionary reasons to behave like this — those in the periphery get eaten, those in the center survive.

Although this tendency can be maladaptive in situations like the stock market, in other scenarios, like the current crisis, where nobody knows what to do, pays off to be a sheep.

If nothing else, it releases oxytocin — a neurochemical that triggers a bliss response in the brain. This makes us feel safe and content and just for that, it can be a life saver in panic situations.

So, instead of buying Prozac, buy toilet paper. Whatever makes you happy.

There is a country where this kind of group thinking is more prevalent than anywhere else: Japan

Japan is well know for its herd mentality- they travel, take pictures, shop and eat always in big groups. You must follow the guy with the umbrella!

In Japan, this is part of the culture, the group is more important than the individual.

It has served them well as a nation, not many countries can show such a remarkable recovery after being devastated during WWII.

All we admire about Japan, has to do with crowd thinking. Out of respect for the group they go a long way, not to inconvenience others. Everybody is quiet, polite, clean, tidy and efficient in a way that would not be possible if they were individualistic.

So, when it comes to crisis they are better prepared than the rest of us, not only because they have practiced but especially due to their herd mentality.

Advantages of the Japanese mentality:

  • They listen and obey government guidelines. This alone can save a lot of lives.
  • They don’t panic, or at least they do it in a controlled way
  • They were prepared. If you don’t help yourself, you are also hurting others. It’s very irresponsible not to be ready for SHTF situations
  • They accept that sometimes Shit happens and there is no point of losing your marbles over it. There is a word for it: Shoganai
  • Shame and honor are a big part of their culture. They rather die than being publicly ashamed, literally. That works wonders for the group, not so much for the individual.

I’ve been traveling to Japan for the last 20 years and I have to say, it seems like they knew this was coming:

  • They’ve been wearing mask like…forever! I used to make fun of them, well, they proved me wrong. As I’m typing this I’m wearing a mask. Who’s laughing now?
  • They don’t use toilet paper. Ah, the famous Japanese woshuretto (washlet) — a toilet that cleans you behind (or front) with hot water, then blows air to dry it off and therefore makes toilet paper obsolete. You can find this toilet everywhere in Japan, including public places. It’s also self-cleaning so is very hygienic.
  • All restrooms are touchless. There are no doors, the tap, soap and hot air is motion activated and so is the flush. We are beginning to see this in the west now but they’ve had it forever. There is nothing worse than wash your hands only to touch something full of bacteria like a door knob.
  • They are very hygienic. They use hot towels in restaurants, all professional drivers wear gloves, everybody carries a handkerchief to dry off sweat or water, they shower before they bath in the furo and they don’t shake hands, they bow instead.
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I’ve always been impressed with the Japanese way of doing things, their systems and discipline. Now, all of a sudden we all have to be like that if we want to survive this crisis.

They have been doing this forever, that’s why I think, collectivist cultures like Japan or Korea are going to fare much better during this Coronavirus than most countries. We should learn something from them.

So, if you desperately need toilet paper and your local supermarket has run out, go to Japan, they still got plenty, or even better get a Woshuretto.

They used to imitate the west, now it’s our turn.

Student of life. Trying to make sense of it all, be happy and help others achieve their dreams. Join me at:

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