Back & Forward

By Ken Worsley

Back and Forward is a regular column that takes a slightly irreverent look at some of Japan’s biggest business stories.

 

The iPod Touch has landed...

The iPod Touch has landed...

On the otherwise lukewarm morning of October 7, Apple launched its new iPod Touch in Japan. About 100 diehard Apple fans waited outside the firm’s Ginza shop to be the first to get their hands on the iPhone-like media player. One is forced to wonder what Apple might have up their sleeve for next year’s planned release of the iPhone in the Japanese market.

 

...and the I-pot has tanked

...and the I-pot has tanked

Speaking of gadgets, recent news reports tell us that Japan’s growing number of elderly simply aren’t interested in high-tech consumer goods that are meant to give them a hand in their daily lives. Home appliance maker Zojirushi learned this the hard way after only selling 3,300 units of the I-pot, an electric teapot with a radio transmitter that emails relatives to let them know when baachan (grandma) has made tea.

 

Can anyone afford an iPhone anyway?

Can anyone afford an iPhone anyway?

45% of respondents to the Bank of Japan’s Standard of Living Survey said that their income had fallen in the past year. On the other hand, 8.1% said that their income had increased over that time. 34.1% stated that business conditions had worsened, while 60% replied that prices are higher than they were a year ago. Tellingly, 58.1% reported that the BOJ’s public policy statements are confusing.

 

And they thought the BOJ was confusing!

And they thought the BOJ was confusing!

Apparently, government statistics are confusing in general, if not downright inaccurate. To address this problem, the Cabinet Office has set up a Commission on Statistics, which has been tasked with resolving the problem of overlaps and contradictions in officially published figures. Japan currently reports 55 basic statistics that are compiled by seven different government ministries, if you trust that number.

 

They weren’t spending it on I-pots...

They weren’t spending it on I-pots...

Whether or not we believe the numbers, it was reported that core consumer prices fell 0.1% in August, while household spending was up 1.6% and retail sales up 0.5%. At the same time, average income per household was down 1.7%. These figures were pulled out of thin air over at the Statistics Bureau and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

 

Finally, an afforable iPhone solution?

Finally, an afforable iPhone solution?

As product recalls are set to ship hundreds of thousands of dangerous products from the US back to China, officials from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry intend to crack down on the number of pirated Japanese goods being manufactured and sold in China. Can’t wait to see the choice omiyage (souvenirs) coming back from this goodwill trip. Hope they bring me an iPhone!

Ken Worsley runs JapanEconomyNews.com. He can be contacted at ken@japaneconomynews.com

J@pan Inc Magazine, Nov/Dec 2007

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business