Back to Contents of Issue: October 2001

On wage disparities, car thefts, bargain burgers, and more.

The high price of deflation. Which consumer products have fallen the farthest compared with their 1990 price levels? According to the Fuji Research Institute, the biggest loser is VCRs. Compared with their average price back in 1990, a VHS is now 75.3 percent cheaper. The second biggest price drop was in TV sets, down by 56 percent, followed by stereo systems, 55.2 percent. The remainder of the top 10, with percentages of decline shown in parentheses, included video cameras (50), microwave ovens (47.7), electric rice cookers (47.8), refrigerators (44.2), film cameras (43.9), washing machines (41.4), and hamburgers (41.1). Even at these bargain prices, consumers aren't going for the bait. De-mand for clothing and appliances fell 4.8 and 18.1 percent on the year, respectively, at department stores, and 9.2 and 19.1 percent at general retailers.

Hokkaido Rules. Known for its milk and beef, Japan's northern giant also leads the nation in such manufactured products as refined sugar (89.9 percent of total products); butter (83.9); condensed and powdered milk (53.5); frozen fruits and vegetables (43.0); newsprint (40.4); concrete conduits (37.2); dried fish (36.5); cream (35.5); veneer panels (26.2); and wood building materials (25.9). Hokkaido is also the source of 54.1 percent of the nation's potatoes.

Look Sharp. According to a survey of 3,400 retailers by the Nikkei Marketing Journal, four of the top 10 PDAs on the Japanese domestic market are made by Sharp. They are the Zaurus MI-E1 (2nd place), Zaurus MI-L1 (4th place), Zaurus Aigetti MI-P10-S (6th place), and Zaurus Aigetti MI-P1. The best seller was Sony's Clie PEG-N700C, introduced in April at a street price of just under JPY50,000. All the non-Sharp models except one incorporate the Palm OS. (The 7th place Sigmalion from NTT DoCoMo runs Windows CE.)
Brother, can you spare a yen? According to Shukan Diamond magazine, five prefectures in the nation may be considered on the brink of financial ruin: Osaka, Nagano, Okayama, Hyogo, and Hokkaido. As for municipalities, the impact of the economic blahs has been even more severe. Hardest hit financially were Kobe -- still climbing out from its disastrous 1995 earthquake, Yubari (Hokkaido), Izumi Sano (Osaka), Ashiya (Hyogo), and Gose (Nara). The national government is currently keeping them on life support.

Some are more equal than others. The Japan Institute of Personnel Administrators found that 63 percent of the companies it surveyed have already adopted policies that enable an increase in wage disparities between employees with the same levels of seniority. That's a 19.3 percent rise from the previous survey taken in 1997. More specifically, at 32.3 percent of the firms surveyed, annual wages varied by "JPY4 million or more" among staff in their 50s. Among staff in their 40s, a disparity of between JPY500,000 to JPY1 million was found at 30.8 percent of companies. And at 55.6 percent of the companies, the disparity had reached JPY500,000 among workers in their 30s.

Thinking of a small business startup? Shukan Diamond polled franchise operators throughout the country to find out which companies achieved the highest satisfaction. Ranking criteria encompassed business performance, advertising contribution, training, royalties, market conditions, technology, and customer trust. The top 10 were, in descending order, Kutsushita-ya (sock retailer); Fujicolor Palette (photo developing and printing); Seven-Eleven (retailing); Magical Garden (retailing); Nihon Sawayaka Group (transport); MOS Burger (fast food), Aizu Kita Ramen Sakauchi (food and beverage); Tachinomi no Mise Honnjitsu Kaiten (food and beverage); Ninniku Genkotsu Ramen Kagetsu (food and beverage); and Three F (retailing).

Certified employable. When Recruit asked white-collar workers what qualifications were most likely to ensure their continued employment, here were the replies (with percentages in parentheses). Among males: TOEIC -- Test of English for International Communication (37.5); Small Business Analyst (26.6); MBA (25.0); MCP -- Microsoft Certified Professional (14.1); Social Welfare authority (12.5); LLB degree (10.9); CPA (10.9); and Financial Planner (9.4). For females, the nod went to passing the "P-ken" (a test for computer literacy) (15.3); bookkeeper (12.0); MOUS -- Microsoft Office User Specialist (12.0); TOEIC (11.3); color coordinator (11.3); practical English ability (8.7); system administrator (8.7); and "child minder" (5.3). The last item, apparently, is a term for a baby sitter with a diploma. But don't mind me.

Gone in 60 seconds. Car thefts have been soaring in Japan. The latest data from the National Police agency notes 56,205 incidents of theft during 2000. The figure has risen sharply from 35,884 in 1998 and 43,092 in 1999. Consider yourself at highest risk if you own a Toyota Land Cruiser, Celsior (also from Toyota), Mercedes-Benz, or Crown (Toyota again) that's less than 3 years old. The two prefectures where your set of wheels is most likely to be ripped off, by the way, are Osaka and Chiba.

Potpourri: * The firms that have added the most staff over the past year: Yamato Unyu (46,832); Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi (5,754); Orient Corporation (5,611); Jusco (5,125); Yamazaki Bakery (4,567); Sakura Bank (4,653); Sekisui House (4,338); Sharp (4,191); Ito Yokado (3,863); and Canon Sales (3,518).
* Countries with the largest number of resident Japanese nationals: USA (293,606); Brazil (79,560); UK (55,224); China (43,997); Australia (33,188); Canada (30,681); France (24,658); Singapore (24,186); Germany (23,270); and Thailand (21,400).

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