Back to Contents of Issue: November 2002

Sportsmen and women, the millionaire club and the benefits of math.

No rest for the weary. On the national average, Japanese are accorded 18 days of annual paid leave. This compares with 31 in Germany, 24 in the UK and 13 in the US. The problem is the average Japanese worker uses up only half that figure. Why, for heaven's sake? No one else is available to do the work, say 42.1 percent. Too much work to do, can't slack off, say 36.8 percent. Another common excuse was that they would "prefer to save the leave time for sickness or some other contingency." Now get this: A report issued jointly by two ministries estimated that if workers were to use up their leave time, the economy would receive a boost in the neighborhood of JPY12 trillion.

Scientific method. HILL, the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living, surveyed 364 adults holding university degrees about certain activities and came to the conclusion that science majors are much more precise in their habits than those who pursued liberal arts in college. Contrast these examples: When asked if they read a product owner's manual carefully after purchase, 42 percent of liberal arts majors replied in the affirmative, as opposed to 56 percent of science majors. A few other liberal arts/science contrasts: Prefer numerical data to long-winded verbal explanations: 43 percent to 78 percent; place importance on advertising: 34 percent to 40 percent; and place importance on the contents of television dramas: 17 percent to 22 percent. In related news, a research team headed by economics professor Kazuo Nishi of Kyoto University surveyed some 4,000 graduates of the institution. Those who stated on a questionnaire that they "liked math" also boasted higher average incomes. While proportionally fewer, physics and math majors earned an average of JPY7.89 million, as opposed to liberal arts majors, whose average income was JPY6.23 million. Nishi's conclusion: "The more math you learn and the earlier you learn it, the more you'll earn on the job."

Playing catch-up. How well are Japanese faring at sports these days? Not too well, based on teams or individuals involved in sports that issue international rankings. Japan was 17th place in soccer, for example. Interestingly, women outranked men in most sports: 29th in women's professional tennis, 209th in men's pro tennis; 10th and 13th, respectively, in women's and men's volleyball; 22nd and 42nd in women's/men's table tennis; 17th and 50th in women's/men's triathlon; and 6th and 21st place in women's/men's sailing. The one exception, according to a survey taken by Dime magazine, was in-line skating, where "The Japanese Bullet" Takeshi Yasutoko was ranked at the top of the standings. Yasutoko's brother Eito was ranked in 2nd place.

Cheap digs. Where are the least expensive cities to live in Japan? According to data from the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications, with Tokyo pegged to 100, the consumer price index in Naha, Okinawa, was 88.5. In general, central Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku were lower than other parts of the country. Here are the next nine in descending order, with their price indexes in brackets: Matsuyama (89.4), Miyazaki (89.4), Tokushima (89.8), Saga (90.5), Oita (90.6), Maebashi (90.9), Hiroshima (91.0.), Kumamoto (91.1) and Yamaguchi (91.6).

Meet the Beetles. In 2001, Japan imported some 680,000 rhinoceros and giant stag beetles from 25 different countries, according to the local branch of the World Wildlife Foundation. Of these, 62 species were brought in legally and 10 species illegally. Collectors are known to pay as much as JPY400,000 for prime specimens of rare breeds, such as Dorcus Antaeus, a stag beetle native to Malaysia. WWF Japan is opposed to such imports, asserting that introduction of foreign breeds will have a detrimental impact on the local environment.

Out of pocket expenses. When GE Consumer Credit asked 471 salarymen in Japan's two largest urban areas if they had received a raise the previous spring, only 43.7 percent of the respondents in Tokyo replied in the positive. In Osaka, the figure was 58.5 percent. This may explain why Osaka white collar workers' average outlay for lunch was JPY730, compared to a tightfisted JPY680 for Tokyo. While the monthly average kozukai (pocket money) among bachelors was JPY66,900, for married men, the figure was a low, low JPY48,600.

Tokyo is Japan's biggest municipality, right? Well, no, actually it's Yokohama, with 3,403,077 people. When counting heads, Tokyo treats its ku (wards), cities, towns and other municipalities as independent entities. The largest Tokyo community, Setagaya Ward, had just 783,152 souls during the 2001 fiscal year, putting it in 15th place overall nationwide. Behind Yokohama are the following: Osaka (2,474, 579), Nagoya (2,104,911), Sapporo (1,811,165), Kobe (1,470,607), Kyoto (1,387,729), Fukuoka (1,289,915), Kawasaki (1,230,896), Hiroshima (1,109,824) and newly incorporated Saitama City (1,018,525).

Your honor, I object. Tokyo is home to no fewer than 3,203 law offices. I don't know what big-name attorneys like Alan Dershowitz or Johnny Cochran are raking in these days, but I did find a listing of the nation's most successful attorneys in a recent issue of Dacapo magazine. The nation's best-paid lawyer, Hidetoshi Masunaga, is believed to have earned JPY935.76 million during 2001. Other top earners were Shogo Abe (JPY527 million); Shin Ushijima (JPY450.84 million); Takashi Ejiri (JPY384.81 million); Hideki Matsushima (JPY349.32 million); Hiroyuki Kawai (JPY323.2 million); and Tadashi Shimizu (JPY381 million). We would like it noted for the record that all of the above earned more than 10 times the average income among the survey subjects, which according to a June 2000 survey taken by the Japan Bar Association was JPY31.63 million. That compares to a JPY27.64 million a year salary for a justice on Japan's Supreme Court, and JPY20.81 million for the prosecutor general.

One point two million and counting. According to Merrill Lynch, at the end of last year some 7.1 million individuals in the world possessed assets equivalent to or greater than $1 million. This was an increase of 20,000 over the year before. Of these, Japan had roughly 1.2 million individuals entitled to join the club, or roughly 70 percent of the total 1.73 million residing in Asia. @

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