OSAKA – Fears that COVID-19 could lead to shortages of daily items sparked incidents of stockpiling from Thursday night through Saturday, causing drugstores and supermarkets in several cities to run short of toilet paper and other items.
But local officials and an industry association of tissue and toilet paper makers said there was no reason to panic and that there were sufficient supplies of both.
Social media posts and TV reports Friday showed long lines in front of supermarkets and drug stores in several cities.
In Kumamoto, residents on bicycles were filmed loaded down with toilet and tissue paper.
The hoarding was apparently sparked by social media rumors that said stores were running short on both because they were made in China and would no longer be exported to Japan.
On Thursday and again on Friday, Kumamoto Mayor Kazufumi Ohnishi tweeted that the rumors were groundless.
“Tissue and toilet paper are almost entirely manufactured in Japan. There is no need to stockpile. Everybody should just calm down, please. The rumor isn’t true,” the mayor’s tweet said.
On Friday, the Japan Household Paper Industry Association, a group of companies that make toilet and tissue paper, said there were no problems with supplies.
In other parts of Japan, including Tokyo, Yokohama and the Kansai region, social media reports said stockpiling of toilet paper, tissues and other household goods was occuring in anticipation that shopping could get hard next week if people are urged to stay indoors.
At one supermarket in Nara Prefecture, the shelves were noticeably empty of toilet and tissue paper on Friday afternoon.
Such bouts of panic-buying have occurred in the past.
In 1973, after Arab countries embargoed oil exports to Japan, there were sometimes violent scenes of panicked buyers grabbing toilet paper. There were also buying sprees after the March 11, 2011, mega-quake and tsunami.