“In more ways than one,” says Shukan Bunshun (Dec 25), “this is one dark night of a Christmas season.”
It is dark in the sense of sinking hopes and rising fears as the recession deepens; dark also in the sense of the absence of light. Where are the beautiful “illumination” light shows that dazzle the eyes of evening shoppers and night-time revelers on their year-end rounds? For that matter, where are the shoppers and revelers? The lights have dimmed, and the crowds have thinned.
This year so many stores have shut down that we couldn’t raise enough money to cover the electricity costs of our usual illumination,” Shukan Bunshun hears from a Tokyo shopping center store owners’ association chairman. “So we used LED bulbs instead, which are cheaper, and also reduced the scale of the display. I don’t know if we’ll be able to do even that much next year.”
It’s the same story in Osaka. “Our best corporate clients have cut back drastically,” laments a local vendor of illumination products.
Apparently swimming against the dark current is Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills office and residential complex, which added 10,000 bulbs to its usual display. However, “That’s only because the branches of the [zelkova] trees we hang them on have grown so big,” explains a Roppongi Hills spokesperson. “It’s not that we’re expanding the scale of the display.”
Not only light but color, too, is on hold this holiday season. What’s a Japanese Christmas without colorful poinsettia flowers? Bleak, in Shukan Bunshun’s view, and yet “sales this year have been incredibly bad,” reports the owner of a Yamanashi Prefecture nursery.
First-class Tokyo hotel restaurants, normally overflowing around now with high-end diners, are 20-30% empty this year. Look at the bright side -- they’re 70-80% full. A goodly proportion of the ultra-rich have evidently yet to feel the pinch.
Hard times make people dream of better -- of winning a lottery, for instance. Somehow, it’s not happening this time around. “You can tell just by looking at the lines at the Chance Center at Tokyo’s Yurakucho,” the magazine hears from an economic journalist. “Lottery ticket sales are way down.”
“Dark times indeed,” grumbles Shukan Bunshun, “when you can’t even afford to dream.”© Japan Today