Back to Contents of Issue: December 2001

The cost of making money, Japan's tastiest H2O, jailbirds, spending that company bonus, and things we don't like about ourselves.

Windfall bonus. The summer bonus packet taken home by Japan's wage earners averaged JPY548,451, according to Arujan's "21st Century White Paper on Money." Broken down by amount, the largest percentage (38.63) got between JPY500,000 and JPY800,000, followed by another 25.27 percent who received from JPY300,000 to JPY500,000. Only 2.17 percent received over JPY1.5 million. And how did they put this windfall to use? 69.0 percent said they squirreled away at least some of it. This was followed by 39.4 percent who invested, 31.9 percent who shopped, and 30.6 percent who used it to take a trip. (And yes, the above reflects multiple replies.) The same survey indicated beliefs that neither retirement pensions nor social security nor current levels of savings would be adequate for retirement, by percentages of 68.4, 90.2, and 90.4, respectively.

Water, water everywhere. Earlier this year, the Mitsukan Center for Water Culture queried 466 people in the Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya areas on the quality of their tap water. On a scale of 10, Tokyo-ites rated their water 5.7, up 0.3 points from a similar survey in 1995. Osaka residents gave their water a 5.8, up 0.8 points. H20 in the Nagoya area topped the others with 6.7, but posted a 0.2 point decline. Overall, respondents said they consumed an average of eight bottles of mineral water monthly, for which they paid an average of about JPY1,600. The prefectures with a reputation for having the tastiest water, by the way, were Nagano (cited by 27.3 percent), Hokkaido (16.5 percent), and Shizuoka (7.1 percent). The respective percentages of those who said they drink their local tap water: Tokyo, 14.7; Osaka, 19.8; and Nagoya, 40.7.

Hitting the books. With unemployment at an unprecedented high of 5 percent for the consecutive months of July and August, more wage earners have begun to take measures to hone their skills in other areas. Nikkei Business' Internet survey of 414 males and 141 females, conducted during the week of August 31, showed that 68.8 percent of the respondents were engaged in the study of some topic. The main reason given for such study was "To enhance my current job skills." Another 62 percent of replies included "Want to learn something I'm interested in, or for personal development, irrespective of my job." And about 37 percent said "To acquire job skills to enable me to support myself if I were to leave my current employer." On the average, nearly half (47.9 percent) of respondents said their study time did not exceed one hour per day. And 14.1 percent said they made use of online sources.

Silver linings. A total of 400 male and female subjects in the Tokyo and Osaka greater metropolitan areas told OMMG magazine that their greatest shortfalls involved time (stated by 50.7 percent), money (47.8), absent-mindedness (35.8), and not having a lover or dependent (31.3). Another complaint, voiced by 37.8 percent: that they were more forgetful than what's considered to be normal for their age. On the other hand, respondents felt most blessed (with percentages in parentheses) by friendships (56.7); material goods and food (54.5); love of their family members (38.1); and sources of information or means of expressing themselves (23.9).

Public nuisances. There's been lots of talk about getting rid of special public corporations that help themselves to tax money like there was no tomorrow. Where are they all? The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport serves as the umbrella for the largest number with 35. This ministry is also home to the nation's top money loser, the Japan Public Highway Corporation, which is in hock to the tune of JPY35.61 trillion. Want more? The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry oversees 15 special public corporations; the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, and the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture oversee 12 each; the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries has 11; and the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts, and Telecommunications rides herd over nine.

Law of diminishing returns. Outlays for the raw material (aluminum) plus smelting and processing mean the Bank of Japan's Mint pays approximately JPY3 to produce each JPY1 coin. A JPY5 coin costs JPY7. These and other fascinating tidbits about the cost of goods can be found in a book published earlier this year entitled Mono no Genka ga Wakaru Hon. Incidentally, the same tome notes that a JPY10,000 note is estimated to cost slightly less than JPY23. When the present design made its initial appearance, it cost about JPY20, but adoption of new ink with special iron oxide -- needed to help vending machines foil forgeries -- pushed up the price an additional JPY3.

No rooms at the pen. The Ministry of Justice reported that in April 2001, the number of people incarcerated reached the highest level in 35 years. Jailbirds exceeded prison capacity by 105 percent. The limited number of detention facilities for females were bursting at the seams, at an average rate of 119 percent. Factors behind the rush on cells include greater unemployment. This apparently includes efforts by ex-cons who have grown conditioned to life behind bars and commit crimes in the hopes of being readmitted.

Jobs in search of people (and vice versa). The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry says there are still some job categories going unfilled. These include sales (new accounts), with only one worker for every 9.95 positions; sales (existing accounts) (1:7.51); sales management (1:7.09); sales (individual customers) (1:5.63); and sales (new individual accounts) (1:5.31). Occupational areas with more wannabe-workers than jobs include medical facility clerical staff (0.05 jobs for every applicant); product development (0.07:1); product planning (0.08:1); service-related management (0.10:1); and marketing (0.11:1). @

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