Apologies on store notices during the Covid-19 pandemic in Tokyo

Authors: Yuko Kano (University of Tsukuba, Japan)
Speakers: Yuko Kano
Strand: Ethnographical Language Work
Session Type: General Session


“This presentation qualitatively analyzes, from the perspective of linguistic anthropology, the store notices posted in about 100 establishments in Tokyo under the declaration of a state of emergency in April 2020. Briefly summarizing the situation in Japan during the Covid-19 pandemic, I will reveal how store workers responded to the series of events through the notices that occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic and how they created public discourse.

By analyzing the notices, some locally embedded cultural patterns are found especially in stores on bustling streets. Most of those are with expressions of apology though their closing or inconveniences were obviously not stores’ fault. As Wagatsuma & Rossett (1985) pointed out, in Japanese cultural context, expressing apology is either to restore a ‘harmonious relationship’, or to defend the claim. Ide (1998) focused on the metapragmatic usage of sumimasen (a conventional expression of apology in Japanese), and revealed seven types of its metapragmatic functions ranging from sincere apology to gratitude. In this presentation, I will consider the social and cultural discourse which constructed the pattern of closing notices with expressions of apology including sumimasen during the Covid-19 pandemic in Tokyo.
Kampf (2012) described that ‘we are living the “age of apology”’ (p.1), which I assume, would not be irrelevant with the global system such as “Liquid modernity”” (Bauman 2000), “”Liquid surveillance” (Bauman & Lyon 2012); words of apology are generated and consumed within its global fluidity. I conclude that while facing dynamically changing circumstances, people have had witnessed this fluidity through physically pasted store notices.

References Bauman, Zygmunt (2000). Liquid modernity. Malden, MA: Policy Press. Bauman, Zygmunt & Lyon, David (2012). Liquid surveillance: A Conversation. Malden, MA: Polity Press. Ide, Risako (1998). “”Sorry for your kindness””: Japanese interactional ritual in public discourse. Journal of Pragmatics, 29(5), 509–529. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(98)80006-4 Wagatsuma, Hiroshi, & Rosett, Arthur (1986). The Implications of Apology: Law and Culture in Japan and the United States. Law & Society Review, 20(4), 461–498. https://doi.org/10.2307/3053463 Kampf, Zohar (2012). Rituals of Apology in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Bulletin du Centre de recherche français à Jérusalem [En ligne],23: 1-8. http://journals.openedition.org/bcrfj/6824.”

Keywords: Apology, Store notices, Covid-19 pandemic, Tokyo