By Ken Worsley
Back and Forward is a regular column that takes a slightly irreverent look at some of Japan’s biggest business stories.
Prices on the rise
Although wages did not rise in October, the consumer price index saw its first rise of the year, climbing 1.0%. Though this may seem like good news for those looking for an escape from deflation, the rise seems to have been driven by higher oil prices and electricity bills. Japan includes energy, but not food, as part of its core CPI data. With energy costs stripped out of the figures, CPI fell by 0.1%. When food is tossed into the index, it shows a rise of 0.3% in October.
One of the most significant rises that will target the pockets of the rich or lazy is in taxi charges. A hike of 7.2% will mean that Tokyo taxi rides will have a new base rate of Â¥710. Unfortunately, we can still expect to see confused looking faces when asking to be taken to obscure landmarks such as Tokyo Tower. On the other hand, Japanese taxi drivers are still the most polite members of their profession in the world, rarely using curse words or telling racist jokes.
Michelin sells out
For those for whom money is less important, the launch of Michelin’s first ever guide to dining in Tokyo gives plenty of good ideas of places to take a taxi to. Eight Tokyo restaurants received the coveted three star ranking from the guide—this ensures making a booking will be almost as hard as getting the taxi driver to find the right restaurant. The guide sold out in two days.
Ratings agencies in trouble?
Hirotoshi Hiramatsu, whose group of restaurants received five one star ratings, told the Nikkei, “Like Moody’s ratings for industry, these stars are a sign of excellence and directly influence the restaurant business.” It was also announced in November that an international organization of securities regulators will be reviewing the role of credit rating agencies in connection with global market woes caused by the US subprime mortgage crisis.
More junk for sale!
Should you have any ‘subprime’ assets lying around the house, it’s going to get easier to sell them. Yahoo! Japan and eBay have announced that they will link up their online auction sites, which should make it easier to sell goods across the Pacific. Does this mean we’ll be seeing even more Hollister T–shirts around Tokyo?
Finally, in case anyone was worried, it has been confirmed that an article published in the South China Morning Post in early December entitled “Why Japan Inc is a bad investment” was not referring to this fine publication. And, contrary to market trends in Japan, our subscription price has actually been getting lower!
Ken Worsley runs JapanEconomyNews.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com