National JishikuAfter the tragic March 11, 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami the entire nation fell into a long period of jishiku. Spring cherry blossom parties and graduation ceremonies all over the country were cancelled.
(hanami parties in Tokyo usually look more like this)
Even summer festivals were cancelled that year. For example, approximately half of Tokyo's big summer festivals were cancelled in the name of jishiku.
Self Promotion and JishikuJishiku isn't just about cancelling celebrations. It's also considered bad form to engage in self promotion while in mourning. This encompasses things like publicity stunts and aggressive sales tactics. In fact, it's generally better to tone down money making activities altogether while in mourning.
Walking down the shopping streets of Shibuya in the weeks after the 2011 Tohoku disaster you'd immediately notice that shops had softened their sales tactics. The shop staff with megaphones were gone. The normally lively sales girls at women's department stores looked sombre. Sure, lights were turned off to save electricity (after the nuclear crisis at Fukushima had created a regional electricity shortage) — but it was also jishiku at work.
Some foreign observers have criticised jishiku as irrational. After all, the economy needs stimulation after a national tragedy. Time to get out and spend, spend, spend. The Japanese would consider this to be in bad taste.
Personal JishikuJishiku is sometimes misunderstood as being a group activity. For example, if a company executive dies a company may cancel all parties for a month for jishiku. However, jishiku can also be a personal thing.
Ask a friend out for drinks in Japan and they might say they can't because their grandmother died last month. There's no social pressure to engage in jishiku. It's a personal choice. That's why it's usually translated "self restraint".