Back to Contents of Issue: November 2000

blowfishBottoms up! "T'was a woman who drove me down the road to drink," humorist W.C. Fields once reminisced. (Adding, "I never wrote to thank her.") A recent survey by Kirin made the less than amazing discovery that married females are more eager consumers of alcohol than their single counterparts. The brewer asked equal numbers (200) of women ages 24 through 36 about their drinking habits. From the responses, it noted that as opposed to the singles' 3.2 occasions to imbibe alcohol per week, married gals hit the bottle an average of 4.1 times. Apart from the venue itself, while in their cups, only 4.7 percent of singles talked about their families, as opposed to 45.7 percent among those with spouses. But married females also talked more about their work than singles, by 43.6 to 38.7 percent. The statistics on seduction, alas, were not forthcoming.

Sparing the rod. According to a survey taken by the OMMG, 59 percent of mothers in the 30 to 49 age group said they dealt out physical punishment to their kids. What form did these disciplinary measures take? The most popular was a good old-fashioned whack across the backside, cited by 63.8 percent of the respondents. This was followed by such classics as smacking the head or face, "using psychology," ignoring them, forcing them to assume the uncomfortably formal seiza position (i.e., kneeling, with both palms flat against the thighs). Less popular techniques included locking them in a storage shed, punching them, pinching, tossing judo-style, and kicking.

Old Cedrics never die. Japan being the world's most rapidly aging society ... "Boo -- come on you dork, everybody knows that!" Hey, wait a second, will ya? I wasn't referring to people, but cars: by 2005, it seems, the number of used cars on the market will have swelled by 26 percent. This according to the Sanwa Research Institute, which adds that in 1999 slightly under 60 percent of the 11,950,000 passenger cars (including minicars) sold in this country were used. Based on projected ownership and new vehicle replacement patterns, that means used cars five years down the road will approach 9 million units. This increase does not bode well for new car sales in the long run. Consumers of used models, meanwhile, are expected to seek those with the best maintenance records.

Sales, where is thy sting? The Kokumin Seikatsu Center, a consumer advocate organization, issued its recent white paper listing the largest numbers of those who feel they were victimized by unscrupulous business practices. First was telephone solicitation, with 41,641 incidents, followed by door-to-door sales (38,816) and multilevel sales or pyramiding (15,737). In all, the elderly were most vulnerable to so-called SF sales, swindles of bedding and other sleep-related goods whose victims were taken for an average of ¥275,063. People in their twenties were most vulnerable to subscription sales; while the complaints received were relatively few in number (6,875), such scams took victims for an average of ¥1,314,238.

Don't tell 'em Groucho sent you. An Internet poll conducted by Nikkei BP asked which types of products had been most disappointing to the consumers who purchased them after being enticed to buy in TV commercials. Out of the 1,764 respondents, the greatest number of letdowns were apparently felt by buyers of cosmetics, 179 of whom cited these products. Second was comestibles, particularly instant or semi-prepared foods, so named by 161. The top 10 was rounded out by personal computers (157); shampoos, rinses, and other hair preparations (132); soft drinks (108); stereo boom boxes (103); VCRs (89); passenger cars (88); beer (88); and TV sets (57).

Frets over freeters. Japan's Ministry of Labor noted that the number of part-time workers nationwide known as "free arbiters" -- furiitaa -- more than tripled between 1982 and 1997. These people are conspicuous for their refusal to become regular staff, rejecting such status for such reasons as "the job doesn't match my personal goals" or "the company is not prestigious enough." In a sorry commentary on the protestant work ethic in this country, the ministry also noted that the percentage of young Japanese who opted to become unemployed of their own volition was 82.1 percent. This compares with 33.3 percent in the US and just 4.8 percent in France.

As further evidence that the practice of lifetime employment is on the wane, the Labor Ministry announced that 20.3 percent of white collar workers in publicly listed firms had taken up their job through a mid-career move. In 10.2 percent of the companies surveyed, mid-career hirees accounted for more than half of the work force. Over the next three to five years, four times as many companies said they expected to bring in mid-career staff (28.1 percent) than new graduates (6.3 percent), the main incentive being that an experienced worker provided an immediate boost where needed.

As long as you're up, get me a loan. There's an am/pm convenience store nearby where you can secure loans of up to ¥500,000 at an annual interest rate of 18 percent. From July 27, Sakura Loan Partner Co., an affiliate of the Sakura Bank, began dispensing unsecured loans from ATMs at the am/pm branch on Shinjuku Dori in Kojimachi, Chiyoda-ku. By year's end, some 30 loan ATMs will be in operation, and within another 15 months, the figure should be up to 1,000. The company is a joint venture of the Sakura Bank, am/pm Japan, the Sumitomo Bank, Sanyo Shinpan, and life-insurance giant Nihon Seimei. Its interest rate, by the way, is about 10 percent below that charged by "sara-kin" firms.

Non-Nipponese need not apply. In a survey of Japanese businesses, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun determined that only 14 companies employed foreign researchers to the extent of exceeding 10 percent of all research staff. Aiwa, a Tokyo-based audio-visual manufacturer with extensive overseas production, was by far the leader, with some 200 on board. Second and third were Aishin Precision Instruments (with 60) and Toshiba (40). But 144 firms out of 253 gave their number of foreign researchers as zero. Nor does the future look promising. As opposed to 2.5 percent of Japanese firms that indicated they would "energetically" seek to employ foreign staff at their corporate headquarters, slightly more than 20 percent said they would consider employing foreign researchers at affiliates and overseas subsidiaries. But 33 percent indicated they had little enthusiasm. Period. And when asked if the number was likely to increase five years from now, only 17 percent replied yes. This was eclipsed by the 18 percent of companies that responded they employ no foreign research staff at present and "have no intention of doing so" in the future.

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