In 1973 OPEC sparked the oil crisis by stopping the export of oil to the West to protest the support offered to Israel. Oil prices immediately sky rocketed to record levels from around $15 a barrel to about $60 a barrel at the height of the crisis ( 2011 adjusted for inflation prices).
As can be expected this caused an economic turmoil around the world including Japan. One surprising affect of the crisis was the Toilet Paper Panic of ’73 that hit many parts of Japan. When news that oil prices were sky rocketing a rumour spread that the all important Japanese shipment of toilet paper, which was and still is mostly imported, was being delayed. Even though this was totally false, alarmed Japanese housewives swarmed the department stores snapping up all the toilet paper they could … just in case. This rush to buy TP created an actual toilet paper shortage and a vicious cycle where whenever TP hit the shelves shoppers would buy out the whole store’s stock and set off another round of panic buying. This continued until eventually everyone had a few years supply and decided they were safe finally allowing the “crisis” to end.
However whenever you talk to someone who went through the crisis they talk of the horror of not having toilet paper or lining up for hours in the hopes that they can get a roll. Thus when rounding out your investment portfolio in Japan its always a good idea to have some wine, stocks, bonds, works of art, some even say silver but don’t forget toilet paper!
Right now oil is $120 a barrel almost twice the cost it was in 1973. Japan is due for another Toilet Paper Crisis and someone can make a lot of money if they’ve got a spare roll or two they can sell on the streets.
Read more of Yosomono’s Japan insights in How to become big in Japan and Groper Train: Search For The Black Pearl.