Back to Contents of Issue: July 2002

Ve are driven. Japan's imports of new passenger cars reached 266,487 last year and as usual German car companies continued their dominance. The top three brands for fiscal 2001 were Volkswagen (with 60,133 units sold), Mercedes-Benz (50,793) and BMW (35,391). Two other German brands -- Opel and Audi -- finished in 6th and 8th place, respectively. The biggest gainer in terms of percentage was South Korea's Hyundai, whose 1,298 models sold represented an 875.9 percent rise over 2000. Among domestic models, Toyota's Corolla led the field with sales of 231,651 units. Five Toyotas, three Hondas and two Nissans made up the Top 10. Suzuki's Wagon R compact remained the best selling sub-mini vehicle for the seventh straight year, selling 218,228 units.

Top of the heap. In its third annual survey, Nikkei Business magazine announced the top two brands in various fields most favored by consumers. (Vote percentages are included in brackets.) Passenger cars: Honda (67.4) and Toyota (67.1). Personal computers: Dell (55.0) and Epson Direct (47.3). Cellphones: J-phone (29.8) and Tsuka (26.3). Prefabricated homes: Asahi Kasei (60.5) and Sekisui House (43.1). Broadband Internet providers: DTI (76.9) and Purara (62.9). Digital still cameras: Sony (45.8) and Ricoh (36.8). Air conditioners: Matsushita Electric (45.0) and Daikin (44.9).

Cleaning up their acts. ASCII Net J magazine sure knows how to ask probing personal questions. Take the subject of bathing, for example. A poll of 136 people conducted back in February determined that 36 percent of the subjects bathe in the mornings, 62 percent before bedtime and 2 percent both times. Most people said they changed their bath towels after two or three uses. While in the bath, 48 percent said they pick their noses; 16 percent admitted to urinating; 15 percent to diving under the surface; and 13 percent to expectorating phlegm. And here's something to consider before you hop in an onsen: some 26 out of the 136 said they typically go a week or more between baths. Eewwww.

Let's pee sensibly. 14.7 percent of Japanese males urinate while seated, according to Toto, a maker of home ceramics. Not surprisingly, this information wasn't obtained by interviewing the men, but their wives. The survey, conducted last December, posed the question to 1,000 housewives. The main reason for some men peeing this way, according to the housewives, was that it avoided splashing on the commode and toilet seat. More than 70 percent of the wives who said their hubbies sit while urinating also denied that they had told their husbands to do so.

Hot sheets. According to Takashi Kadokura, author of the White Paper on Japan's Underground Economy, approximately 1.85 million couples make use of the nation's love hotels each day. How do they all squeeze in? Police data indicates Japan has roughly 7,100 hotels, but actually, writes Kadokura, if you count the respectable hotels also used for short-term sexual dalliances, the real figure is closer to 37,000. Kadokura arrived at this figure by estimating that love hotels average 20 rooms per facility and that each room is turned over at least 2.5 times a day, assuming the rooms are occupied by two people on the average (multiple participants will have to be counted separately), this accounts for 3.7 million people, or uh.... roughly 3 percent of Japan's entire population that, at an average of JPY7,000 per visit, leaves behind JPY12.95 billion a day, or JPY4.7 trillion a year.

Don't leave home without it. Shukan Asahi magazine reports that growing numbers of major Japanese companies now require their employees on the promotion escalator to achieve a high score on the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC). At Japan Airlines, for example, employees are expected to achieve a score of 730 or above within three years of joining the company. Travel agent JTB pays a cash award of JPY50,000 to employees who score over 950. Other conditions vary from company to company, but many firms have high expectations. Here are some of them (with their test score expectations in parentheses): Pioneer (730), Shiseido (650), IBM Japan (600 for managers, 730 for assistant general managers and above). The highest possible score in TOEIC, by the way, is 990. Under 220 is regarded as flunking.

Take-home pay. Japanese who want to earn a high salary should join a TV network. According to the Japan Company Handbook published by Toyo Keizai, the seven best-paying companies in Japan are all TV broadcasters. In descending order, they are Fuji -- where the average annual salary is JPY14.9 million -- TBS, Nippon TV, TV Asahi, NHK, RKB Mainichi Hoso and Nagoya-based Chubu Nihon Hoso (lowest of the broadcasters, but still JPY11.67 million per year). Here are the rest of the top 15: Mitsui & Co., Mitsubishi Corporation, Eizai (pharmaceuticals), Sumitomo Corp., Chubu Securities Finance, Mitsui Real Estate, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Mitsubishi Real Estate. We note that the top 50 contained only one publisher (Kadokawa Shoten at 27th) and one insurance company (Aioi, 42nd). Telecommunications giant NTT was ranked 32nd and Sony 39th.

Pale shade of green. A survey by Dentsu found that while 84.3 percent of Japanese consumers expressed concerns over environmental problems, only 9.5 percent actually make an effort to determine whether the item they purchase is eco-friendly. The same survey found that the greatest environmental concern, voiced by 63.3 percent, was atmospheric pollution, followed by toxic wastes (61.1 percent) and global warming (59.8). @

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