As lifestyles and attitudes around the world have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rakuten Insight took a deeper look at how Japan’s citizens are weathering these turbulent times. This summer, the research company surveyed over 3,000 Japanese people between the ages of 20 and 70, to reveal a renewed focus on family, friends and community.
New Normal, new priorities
Based on their social values and what they consider most important in life, respondents were grouped into the following nine categories: excitement, community perception, fun, stability, self-fulfillment, family, human relationships, purpose and self-respect.
Rakuten Insight compared the distribution of these nine categories with a previous survey from December 2019, revealing some significant changes in attitude. Most notably, the biggest increase was in the Family category, which represents people whose values are centered around family and friends, with 11.2% of respondents claiming it as their most important life value. While this was an overall increase from 9.8% in December 2019, there was a more dramatic increase among women in their twenties, forties and fifties.
Has the pandemic prompted people to reevaluate their priorities and focus less on themselves? It’s worth asking the question as the Self-Fulfillment category saw the largest decline overall, from 13.6% to 11.6%. While men in their sixties shifted away from the Self-Fulfillment category by about 5 points compared to last year, the Excitement category rose by almost the same amount. Perhaps for older gents, the novelty of being stuck at home for months on end didn’t take long to wear off.
On the other hand, a striking departure of female respondents thirty and above from the Excitement category may reflect the uneven weight of the strain women are experiencing due to disruption at home, school and work.
A community-centered approach
When asked about the pandemic, respondents in all nine categories highlighted the importance of “accurate information,” “mask-wearing” and “gratitude towards medical staff” as the top three statements they agreed with. And the level of agreement is high: averaging over 80%. Here too, the data suggests a nation concerned with keeping each other informed, protected and thankful — much like a family responding to trying times.
Other findings from the survey support these community-centric findings. For the Community Perception group, mask-wearing was considered even more important than accurate information, suggesting a readiness to ascribe to social mores. The Human Relationships group, meanwhile, showed overwhelming agreement with the idea that “society should work together to tackle this pandemic.”
Of course, every family has a rebel or two. The Excitement category revealed themselves to be less enthusiastic about pandemic countermeasures. Only 69% in this category agreed that masks and social distancing were important, and around 60% said that they were taking better care of their own and their family’s health and refraining from unnecessary outings and travel.
It can be tempting to make sweeping generalizations about the attitudes and opinions of a given country, especially in times of rapid societal shifts. But Japan is a diverse mix of individuals, each with their own opinions and attitudes toward society, life and, by extension, COVID-19.
Nevertheless, whether from a sense of duty to society or a simple desire for things to return to normal, Japan’s people are taking the pandemic seriously, and working their way through it — together.