JIN-340 -- No Free Lunch...Unless...

T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News

Issue No. 340
Thursday October 6, 2005 TOKYO

+++ VIEWPOINT: No Free Lunch...Unless...
1. "Lies, damned lies and statistics"
2. Schemes for eating cheap

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+++ VIEWPOINT: No Free Lunch...Unless...
1. "Lies, damned lies and statistics"

"There are three kinds of lies -- lies, damned lies and statistics,"
said Disraeli. Statistics are pliable creatures, easily bent to fit
a political agenda. Now the Japanese government and the Bank
of Japan have released statistics showing robust consumer
spending and an economy aroused from its recent torpor.
Do they really suggest economic recovery? The "Asahi," a major
daily, turned to the grass roots to gauge consumer spending.
Specifically, the newspaper looked at Japanese spending on lunch.

The newspaper's monitors, about 8,400 (2,893 responses)
nationwide, revealed a strong inclination to save at lunchtime.
More respondents (28%) said they spent 1,000 yen than any
other figure. However, more than one-third of respondents said
ideally they would like to spend no more than 500 yen.

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2. Schemes for eating cheap

Various are the schemes for eating cheap at noontime.

"I always eat a handmade bento [lunch box]," said a 44-year-old
woman from Kanagawa Prefecture, adjacent to Tokyo. "It's kind
on your purse and body." An 18-year-old male in Osaka confessed
to sharing an "omori" (king-size) lunch with a friend. Another Osakan,
a 32-year-old woman, said she brings rice from home and buys side
dishes in the employees' cafeteria. Admitted a 38-year-old Tokyo
man: "I always eat in the cafeteria of a local university. It's cheap
and delicious." Some of the schemes are shameless. "When
my pocket money runs low, I go to lunch with a senior worker
knowing he'll treat me," said a 39-year-old Tokyo male.

More respondents (983) chose price as their principal criterion in
selecting lunch, trumping nutritional balance (677),
atmosphere (475), and calories (162).

Respondents preferred to eat lunch alone (31% of the total) to
eating with friends (23%), colleagues (22%) or family (20%).
Perhaps they desire at a minimum to have their lunch break to
themselves. The least desirable lunch mate was the boss,
with only 1% of respondents saying they eat with him or her.
Respondents unleashed scathing comments about the boss.
"Before I retired, I almost always ate the set meal in the employees'
cafeteria," recalled a 67-year-old man in Aichi Prefecture, centered
on Nagoya. "Nothing was more distasteful than lunch with the boss."
A 50-year-old woman comments: "I used to eat while bad-mouthing
him. But after he began coming to the cafeteria, I was no longer
able to vent my stress."

The lunchtime crowd is part of the deflationary trend in Japan. It is
hardly indicative of robust consumer spending. Thirty-seven percent
would like to spend no more than 500 yen (less than 5 dollars)
on lunch. But they realize there is no free lunch...unless they
should grin and bear the noon meal with the boss.

--Burritt Sabin

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Written and edited by Burritt Sabin (editors2@japaninc.com)

(C) Copyright 2005 Japan Inc Communications KK. All Rights Reserved.