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Tweet of the Week #70: Hand sanitizer out of stock because of the coronavirus? Vodka works just as well.

By 3 min read

Since the coronavirus broke out in Japan, Japanese daily news feels like a bad あさドラ (morning drama). One that we’d like to be canceled before it airs on primetime TV. Along with fear spreading, store shelves seem to be wiped out when it comes to supplies like masks, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper.

Out of stock

First to go were Japan’s beloved hygiene masks. The panic buying frenzy hit Japan like a bullet train and in the blink of an eye, every store was sold out. Things went pretty far when 6,000 hygiene masks were stolen from the Japanese Red Cross hospital in Kobe.

While masks’ efficiency to protect you from getting sick is debatable, they’re lifesavers when it comes to hay fever. With the weather warming, the allergy season has started and people are now desperately seeking out alternatives.

After the authorities encouraged people to use hand sanitizer frequently and wipe surfaces with alcohol wet wipes at restaurants, these too disappeared from shelves. Hygiene products have been thoroughly cleaned out with nothing left but dust and out of stock signs.

Despite experts trying to reassure people that 30 seconds of scrubbing your hands with good old soap and water is the best precaution to take against the coronavirus, the obsession with hand sanitizer hasn’t died down.

This offered a perfect window of opportunity for liquor stores.

What does hand sanitizer and liquor have in common?

The answer is a high concentration in purified ethanol. In @D_s54’s picture, you can see Spirytus, a famous Polish rectified spirit amongst the strongest in the world. In its undiluted form, Spirytus contains no less than 95% alcohol by volume.


= Finally, the real alcohol sanitizer came out, lolol

Above the Spirytus bottles, sold for ¥1799 before tax, the store added a little note: 消毒液しょうどくえきとしてもご利用りよういただけます” = “You can use it as an antiseptic solution too.” 

If you go down that road, don’t forget hand cream or soon, your skin will turn into sandpaper.

Finally, they made a decision

Yesterday, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abo called for elementary, junior high and high schools to close. While the decision triggered confusion, for some it felt like finally, the government was addressing parents’ concerns.

In Japanese, you’ll find many words for “at last” or “finally.” Let’s quickly review a few of them and their nuances.

  • ついに emphasizes an outcome, good or bad, after you’ve worked toward accomplishing something (ex. finally, I solved this problem)
  • いよいよ emphasizes that you’ve built up expectations about the outcome (ex. finally, we’re heading towards the finale)
  • やっと (and more formal, ようやく) emphasizes a long gradual build-up, without expectations or particular effort toward the outcome (ex. finally, exams are over)
  • とうとう rather than the process to reach a certain point, the focus is on the outcome (ex. finally, I quit smoking)

We cannot wait for the COVID-19 to finally be behind us.

Wait, toilet-paper is out of stock too?!

Empty shelves in Shinjuku where toilet paper should be… Jesus take the wheel.

Earlier this week, rumors about a toilet paper shortage country-wide pushed people to panic buy, disrupting the supply chain. This turmoil was caused by nonsense news that Japan imports most of its toilet-paper from China and that the makers wouldn’t be able to meet the demand. The industry leaders have entirely denied the allegations and are asking people not to panic. Too late.


Japanese Romaji English
あさドラ asadora year-long morning Japanese TV drama
ついに tsui ni finally, at last
本当ほんとう hontou real
アルコール arukooru Alcohol
消毒しょうどく shyoudoku antiseptic
でてくる detekuru come out
わら wara lol
消毒液しょうどくえき shyoudokueki antiseptic solution
としても toshitemo  as (as well as)
利用りようする riyou suru use
いよいよ iyoiyo finally, at last
やっと(ようやく) yatto (youyaku) finally, at last (more formal)
とうとう toutou finally, at last

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