Recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new Japanese slang term has been coined, called “自粛警察 (じしゅくけいさつ, jishuku keisatsu)”, which literally means “self-restraint police”. This post explains what the new term and 自粛 (jishuku) exactly mean during the pandemic in Japan.
Meaning of 自粛 (jishuku)
自粛 (じしゅく, jishuku) is arguably one of the most heard Japanese words during the COVID-19 pandemic, which means “self-restraint” or “to refrain from doing something at one’s own will”. This word has been frequently used by the government to “request” Japan’s citizens to refrain from going outside and stay home. However, many people argue that what the (local) government has been asking by, for instance, making a list of the pachinko parlours that continued to operate during the pandemic and crucifying them on the internet, is not quite jishuku, “self-restraint”.
Meaning of 自粛警察 (jishuku keisatsu)
自粛警察 (じしゅくけいさつ, jishuku keisatsu), also known as 自粛ポリス (jishuku police), is a brand new slang term that literally means “self-restraint police”. It ironically describes those people who perform a “patrol” meticulously either online or offline, and severely condemn people or organisations that do not follow jishuku, “self-restraint”. Their main “duty” is to report and shame people or shops that are doing the wrong things (e.g., not wearing a mask, opening a bar late at night), which goes as far as to call the emergency number; to put up warning notes on their storefronts; and/or to troll their social media account. Obviously, these extremely moralistic deeds of jishuku keisatsu are irrational and even illegal, which cannot be justified by any means.
On the flip side, however, these acts somewhat mirror the stereotypical national traits of Japanese people — keeping an eye on each other while being careful of how they are seen by others — and potentially have contributed to Japan’s enigmatic (provisional) success in containing the virus, despite the lack of the strong lockdown and restrictions imposed in many other countries around the globe.