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Japanese Heartful Story on Mother’s Day

August 1, 2020

Akari Odagiri

What do you select as a gift for Mother’s Day?

According to a survey conducted in 2019 by Rakuten Insight, approximately half of those respondents who replied they gave a present to their mothers gave flowers to their mother. Especially, young people tend to choose flowers as gifts.

In a language of flowers, red carnation means “love for mother” or “true love.” That seems to be a reason why it became a well-known gift of Mother’s Day in Japan.

Birth of a New Collaboration

During the “Stay Home” period due to COVID-19, sales of flowers and ornamental plants have fallen because of a lot of cancels or postponing of public events (see Figure 1). The price of per cut flower was the lowest in the past five years.

Figure 1: Price Fluctuations of a Flower in Japan

Source: Japan Agricultural News, April 18, 2020

From May 8, the largest chain of gyudon (sliced beef-on-rice bowl) restaurant Sukiya in Japan started to sell red and pink carnations for one hundred yen (about $1) per cut. This support for carnation project for Mother’s Day was held at approximately 700 stores in Japan.

Why Did the Restaurant Decided to Sell Flowers?

This campaign was born from the mass disposal of flowers because the purpose of use has disappeared. Japanese farmers were disappointed that carefully grown plants were thrown away. Also, compared with other gyudon chain restaurants, Sukiya has targeted not only busy office workers and single men who tend to eat quickly but also families that enjoy longer meal time. 

According to Sukiya’s website, one of its strengths is that it has table seats so that family and group customers can use it widely. This famous chain store said “we hope it will be an opportunity to warm and brighten a self-restrained Japanese families. Why don’t you take this opportunity to give your Sukiya’s carnation as a gift and express your gratitude to your mother?” 

Changes of Our Lives

This campaign became a hot topic on SNS and many words of praise were posted on Twitter.

“It's a wonderful attempt to sell out un-used flowers at a beef bowl restaurant!”

“I am impressed that different industries join forces to counter corona and I want to support.”

During this COVID-19 circumstances, Sukiya took only take-out orders, so many customers would have paid attention to the flowers when they visited the restaurants. Some customers even came to the store for flowers, which also contributed to the increase of gyudon product sales.

Joel Mokyr, a professor of Economics and History at Northweastern University, suggested that national crises such as wars and pandemics of infectious diseases have historically generated many innovations. For instance, the search for methods of treating smallpox in England in the 18th century. The latest pandemic could also bring humans to develop innovative technologies. 

A new life style like a take-away meals system is gradually being established now. We can flexibly create our new life styles depending on the degree of COVID-19 infection rates.

Other Activities for Flowers and Plants

Kushikatsu Tanaka, a Japanese chain restaurant mainly selling Osaka traditional food kushikatsu (skewered cutlet, deep-fried foods), also carried out a campaign for Mother’s Day similar to Sukiya. The sales of carnations are also contributed to store sales, which helped protect both the food-service and gardening industries in emergency.

In addition, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Japan has conducted “A lot of flowers project.” This activity aims to bring spring beautiful flowers at home and at work in order to increase the consumption of flowers, whose demand is decreasing due to the COVID-19. MAFF staff have provided information of agriculture in Japan through unique videos in official YouTube channel “BAZZMAFF.” The humorous video about “A lot of flowers project” became hot topic in SNS. If you are interested in this video, you can see it at the link below.

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