Back to Contents of Issue: August 2001

A Frozen Blueberry what? Cocktails are in these days. When the Eikoku Izakaya pub chain conducted a survey of 16 of its branches in Kanto and four in Kansai, it discovered that imbibers of beer and mixed drinks were split evenly at 45 percent each of all customers, while whiskey and soft drinks combined for the remaining 10. Apparently demand for whiskey has dropped by about half over the past five years. While the precise figures on how many mixed drinks were actually served were not provided, Kunihiko Kobayashi, who is in charge of menu development, generously served up readers of Nikkei Business his chain's top 10 list of cocktails, as compiled over the period April 1-10. They are, in descending order: Gin and Tonic (far and away the leader), Tequila Sunrise, Cassis and Soda, Tarantula, Bailey's Irish Cream, Dynamite Kid, Salty Dog, Frozen Blueberry Cassis, Frozen Vitamin C, and American Bloody Mary.

Take me to your project leader. A publication entitled Businessman Research Vol. 12 asked 145 males on the career track what title they would most like to see printed above their name on their business card. The most frequently given reply was "Project Leader," given by 15.7 percent of the respondents. This was followed by (with percentages in parentheses) bucho (general manager, 12.9); shacho (president, 11.4); torishimari yaku (director, 10.0); manager (using the English word, 8.5); producer (also in English, 5.7); kacho (section manager, 4.3); director (in English this time, 2.9); and kakari-cho (assistant section manager, 2.9 percent).

The graying of the Net. A survey of so-called "active users" of the Internet in Japan, tracked by Nikkei Net Business since 1999, shows steady growth among Japanese age 35 and above. From 15.7 percent in December 1999, the ratio of users age 36 to 40 had risen to 18.1 percent in June 2000 and 19.7 percent by the end of the same year, making it the fastest-growing segment. The 40-45 age group also took off, from just 9.2 percent of total users at the end of 1999 to 13.4 percent one year later. Smaller but equally significant gains were posted by the age segments beyond 60.

Land sakes. Better highway access doesn't necessarily translate into higher land values. Take Kisarazu City in Chiba. One would think that its favorable location, perched as it is just at the terminus of the Aqualine tunnel and bridge across Tokyo Bay, would have boosted prices. Alas, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport, the city's land prices underwent the sharpest drop in the nation last year, down by 27.7 percent in the Fujimi district and 27.6 in the Chuo district. Indeed, five out of the top 10 decliners were in Chiba, on Tokyo's eastern doorstep. (With one exception, in former prime minister Yoshiro Mori's home prefecture, Ichikawa, the rest of the sharpest decliners were in Hokkaido.) As Tokyo's land prices return to affordability, it seems the neighbors are becoming less appealing.

Out in the (not-so-cheap) pasture. A survey by the Nikkeiren (Japan Federation of Employers' Associations) determined that the average corporate retirement pension for a 60-year-old man with a university degree was ¥25,630,000. This marked a decline of 1.3 percent from the same survey in 1998. The difference in pensions between college grads and those with just a high school diploma was about ¥2.75 million. Companies that linked the amount of pensions to annual salary raises were still in the majority (54 percent), but this was down by 10 percent from the previous poll. The overall trend is toward retirement allowances that reflect ability and performance.

Sign of the times. Wanna know what's moving? From July, you'll be able to make purchases at a new type of store that tells you what the other customers are buying. To be launched by the Tokyu Railways Corp., the store, which has been named "Ranking Ranking," is a market researcher's dream. The first branch, located in Tokyo's Shibuya Station, will feature an in-store display that tells visitors which items (e.g., compact discs, books, videos, et cetera) are the hottest sellers. In addition to items sold by the Tokyu railways, the shop will stock items from various members of the conglomerate, including the Tokyu Department Store, Tokyu Hands (a popular hobby shop), and the Tokyu Store supermarket chain. The shop will also allocate space to manufacturers to set up their own sales corners and conduct promotional campaigns. Open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., the store will appeal to office workers who lack time to shop during weekday working hours.

Web worries. When the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Bureau of Citizens and Cultural Affairs conducted a survey about purchasing habits, just 15 percent of the respondents said they had the experience of shopping for goods via the Internet. Why so few? Well, 64.8 percent said they felt "slight anxiety" over such transactions. Another 24.7 percent said they were "extremely anxious." The main reasons for refraining included concerns over safety in making payment; worries that the appearance or quality of the item purchased would not meet their expectations; and fears about personal information being leaked.

Really pumped up. Over the past year, Japan's self service gas stations, where you can actually pump your own petrol (under the supervision of an expert, of course), slightly more than doubled in number. As of the end of March, 417 of them had opened for business since the controls were dropped in April 1998. The largest concentration is in Chiba prefecture, which is home to all of 48 stations. Nagasaki prefecture still lacks even one such facility -- there's a business opportunity for somebody. Does pumping your own gas enable a savings? Indeed it does: roughly ¥2 a liter. My Radio Shack metric conversion calculator tells me that amounts to about 6 cents a gallon. The outlays for new equipment to permit customers to realize these savings typically run a station about ¥20 million, by the way. No wonder there aren't very many.

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