Animal House

Back to Contents of Issue: January 2002

by Editors

Bumper to bumper.
When it comes to illegal parking on the street, Osakans are by far the worst offenders. According to data compiled by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport, they pack the roadside to the tune of 29.4 cars per every kilometer of roadway -- about twice the rate of Tokyo and 7.5 times the national average of 3.99 cars per km. But the very worst spot in the country to find a parking place is the Mita 3-5 chome area of Tokyo's Minato ward. Here, you'll find 260 cars lined up on every km of roadway, which roughly translates to a car every 7.7 meters.

Enjoy your fright.
From 1993 to 2000, Japan had 44 documented cases of "economy class syndrome." Of these, four proved fatal. The victims were overwhelmingly female -- 40 out of the 44. All incidents occurred on international flights of durations ranging from 8 to 13 hours. The average victim's age was 61. Out of the total, 31 suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes, or other chronic ailments. Six flew in business class.

Animal house.
Yes, those Japanese do love animals. According to Pola cosmetics, 30 percent of respondents to its survey of 910 women said their lives would be more difficult without a pet, up from 20 percent who said so in 1991. A survey by Konica found that 22.2 percent of Japanese white-collar workers in their 40s include pictures of pets in their nengajo (New Year's greeting cards). Strangely, however, the corresponding figure for all other age groups that engage in this practice was below 10 percent. Other revelations: Those who said they preferred photos of their pets to people: 36 percent; those who carried photos of their pets together with their commuter pass: 19.3 percent; those who always included their pet in family photos: 15.5 percent; and those who have produced prepaid telephone cards bearing their pet's photo: 11.8 percent. A survey by the Tokyo metropolitan government, meanwhile, noted that 23 percent of respondents in the Big Mikan say they have pets. Three-fourths, however, say they favor at least some restrictions on the keeping of pets in apartment buildings or condominiums, whereas 20.9 percent were adamantly opposed to the practice, even with controls.

And crown their good with motherhood.
When an institute entrusted with the formulation of educational policies surveyed about 13,000 mothers of small children, it learned that while 44 percent of the mothers of children age 18 months felt they were "not cut out to be a good parent," this perception rose to 53 percent among mothers of 3-year-olds. More than half conceded that "it is easier to judge a child's capabilities by means of the school from which he or she graduates." The institute concluded that Japanese parents "combine a strong tendency to correlate anxieties over their child's upbringing with the urge to encourage educational advancements from an early age." The message here: Get that thumb outta yer mouth, junior, and hit the books.

Eye of the mirror-holder.
The Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living polled 424 people between the ages of 18 and 76 on their interest in cosmetic surgery. They discovered that the percentage of women who said they were inclined to fork out money for facial repairs, 52.2 percent, was eclipsed 0.3 percent by males. The procedures most desired (with age group in parentheses) included removal of spots (30s); whitening of teeth (teens and 20s); rejuvenating of skin (30s and 40s); removal of wrinkles (30s and 40s); orthodontic procedures (teens and 20s); reducing of sagging cheeks (over 30); and removal of moles (30s). In a separate survey of women by Pola cosmetics, the most desired procedures (with percentages in parentheses) were removal of spots and freckles by laser (38); liposuction and other fat removal procedures (25); removal of wrinkles beneath the eyes (13); surgery to create "double-fold" eyelids (10); and injection of collagen, et cetera, to reduce appearance of aging (9).

Traveling light.
Since it's regarded as patriotic to spend, we note here that airlines are now offering round-trip tickets from Tokyo to New York, departing on weekdays, for between JPY63,000 to JPY76,000. But some local discounters are said to be offering single destination tickets for as little as JPY19,800 (limited to one to a customer, who must be a "member" of the particular agency). Foreign visitors to Japan, meanwhile, can avail themselves of JR Group's one-, two-, and three-week passes that entitle the bearer to ride the deluxe Green Car on the bullet trains for prices starting at JPY37,800. The special passes are also available to Japanese citizens who can show evidence that they are long-term residents abroad.

Butt of everybody's joke.
After years of giggling at, uh, creative forms of English that appear on shopping bags, T-shirts, and product labels in this country, your finny correspondent is pleased to report that such efforts are also alive and well in cyberspace. Take the Okamoto footwear company, which recently introduced a cute mascot named "Dr. Assy." You can see him at and also join the "Assy Club," which entitles you to receive the Assy email magazine. (Explanatory note: The Japanese word for "foot" is ashi.) Other hilarious examples of strange lingo can be viewed at, where contributions from readers are welcome. But be sure to read the rules first. @

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