Food for thought?

Back to Contents of Issue: September 2003

Our favorite fulsome fugu takes a good hard look at gluttony, lust and crime as he surveys some freshman salarymen.

THE MORE OBSERVANT OF you will have spotted that I'm rather rotund. The gentler of you will say that round is just the standard shape of a fulsome fugu. The more critical will mutter that I could probably do with losing a few piscine pounds. That advice, however, will be nowhere near as brutal as the lecture dished out by the management team of Kyoto-based electronics firm Omron. In a move that smacks of being a touch too parental, the company has laid out a dieting regime to make sure its workers remain lean, mean and hungry for profits. "Go easy on rice, bread and other carbohydrates," it unnecessarily rattles, "limit consumption of deep fried dishes to a maximum of three times a week; in restaurants, order Japanese-style foods; when eating donburi don't eat all the rice; avoid sweet carbonated beverages; limit confections and between meals snacking; don't eat for at least two hours before sleeping; don't consume any more food after dinner; eat vegetables at least twice per day." Just reading it feels like exercise.

CONVENIENTLY FOR THE CORPORATE fat-busters, Nikkei Industrial News (clearly tired of reporting on actual financial developments) has provided a useful listing of the number of calories you can expect to load-up with in a typical visit to an izakaya. Edamame rack up 125 kilocalories, fried chicken rates 497kc, Chinese style bangbang-ji 215kc, ika geso age 253kc and tebasaki kushiage 318. Of course we all know that booze is the real reason we totter out of those lovely places a somewhat bloated is the booze. Nikkei, as a handy afterthought, kindly points out that an average mug of beer offers up a 160kc hit.

AND WHAT IS THE effect of this gradual widening of the salaryman's girth? Diminishing interest in their delightful ladyfolk, it seems. Shukan Asahi magazine recently posted the results of a survey of 149 salarymen in their 50s regarding their marital relationships. The initial findings gave an early, but false, sense of security. 45.5 percent of the men unreservedly said they loved their wives. After that, it all seemed to get a little more vague. 46.1 percent came up with the line "dochira ka to ieba, aijo ga aru," which translates as, "when it's all said and done, I guess I do." Hardly the stuff of Mills & Boon, but anyway...

THE SURVEY QUICKLY SLID from bad to worse. 7 percent felt that in a pinch they probably didn't love their wives, while 1.4 percent flatly stated they did not. 70.5 percent of loyal lads claimed that their wife was their sole sex partner, leaving a confusing 14.4 percent who admitted to having romantic interests outside the home. The survey did shine a bit of light onto the big Japanese falling birthrate problem. 22 percent sighed that they were too busy, 21 percent complained of a gap between sex drives, 15 percent went for the old paper-walled cry of "lack of privacy" and a mighty 70.4 percent said they weren't physically up to it any more. In spite of it all, 20 percent pronounced themselves satisfied with their sex lives, 34.5 percent said they were reasonably satisfied, 33.8 percent said they were "somewhat dissatisfied" and 11.7 percent professed to being "quite dissatisfied."

SO IF GREED AND lust aren't your deadly sins, perhaps other crimes have crossed your mind. If you're considering a career as a mugger, however, you should probably learn who is carrying the cash at the moment. A survey of new company entrants suggests that Japanese yuppies are just about the worst lot to go for. 31.7 percent typically carry a paltry JPY4,000 on their persons at any given time. Less than 5 percent of the so-called "disposable income" generation carried more than JPY20,000 and some claimed than they mostly wandered around with only coins jangling in their pockets.

THE FUTURE -- CRIME FREE or not -- is a regular preoccupation of the major Japanese companies, and those ever-eager corporate freshmen make excellent material for surveys. Mitsubishi Electric hired 269 new employees this past spring and asked them about what language, besides English, was likely to prove most useful for Japanese in the 21st century. 82.2 percent went for Chinese, followed by very meager showings for Korean, French, Spanish and Italian. The same bunch of fresh-faced youths predicted that the lifetime employment system would soon disappear from Japan, 57.6 percent said a majority of Japanese manufacturers would move their plants abroad and 66.5 percent said household appliances linked to the Internet would become ubiquitous. In their gloomiest look into the crystal ball, more than half said that smoking while walking on the public streets would likely soon be prohibited by law. @

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