2009: The Year in Review

At about 4 pm, I became suddenly aware of my massive jetlaggedness, so I will keep this brief, and as a writerly affectation to represent my mental condition in text, also long-winded and “run-on.”

I am back in Japan after a few weeks at home in the “States.” Ian gets back soon and then we’ll be getting the team together to think up some more funnies and contents for this site we run called Néojaponisme. Be patient and read other sites on the internet while we are hard at work. (I say this every time, but you guys never listen.) Things will probably get kicking with some book reviews.

(Also, all those haters on the Girl Talk piece: here you go.)

America is getting to be like Japan in small ways. The economy has melted down, for example. My niece asked for a “bento box” next Christmas. The soap opera Guiding Light now looks exactly like prime time fare in Japan: cheap video, cheap lighting, location shoots and sound rather than studio-controlled conditions. If you Americans stop buying the products advertisers are advertising, all TV could fall to Japanese TV levels. Soon, every single American comedian will come from a single management company or something.

A big plus to America: food and clothing are dirt cheap. I am sure there are some kind of sophisticated reasons why prices in Japan are so high, but it always feels like highway robbery to see a necktie in Ginza, for example, at 250% the price of the American tag. I had been refusing to buy some Kiwi black shoe polish in nearby Lon Lon for 700 yen, and hey, looky haters, I got it for $2.99 at Target. My misplaced miserliness saved me nearly $4, which I will reinvest into the overpriced Japanese apparel industry.

Also, Japan needs more egg nog.

Here’s to a year of savings, post-materialism, and finding new uses for all the tattersall shirts you wore at age 18.

W. David MARX
January 6, 2009

8 Responses

  1. M-Bone Says:

    For food…. perhaps you now have a “yen brain”? About 18 months ago, when it was something like 125 yen to the dollar, I thought that food in Japan was really cheap. Now that is it more like 90, Japan seems really expensive. For people who don’t move between one country and the other, I guess it seems pretty “normal”. Back before the dollar tanked, factoring in sales tax, there probably would not have been a big difference in the shoe polish either (especially since you can get it at Jusco or Matsumoto Kiyoshi for 495 yen).

    Clothes may be expensive in Japan, but books are cheap. I have my recession reading already lined up.

  2. W. David MARX Says:

    Books are definitely cheaper in Japan, that’s for sure. Although knowing how the advance system works, it seems it’s because they pay a lot less and print much cheaper.

  3. M-Bone Says:

    “it seems it’s because they pay a lot less and print much cheaper.”

    For mainstream stuff, often that is the case, but I’m not convinced that many non-fiction authors in the US, etc. are being paid well. The real kicker comes with academic books. Japanese academic books are mostly quality hard covers in the 2800-5000 yen range. US and UK – can run you up to $200 (or more) even with an Amazon discount.

    Check out this monster -
    http://www.amazon.com/Cambridge-History-Japan-Vol-Ancient/dp/0521223520/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1231239361&sr=8-2

    None of these publishers really pay their authors anything either… Its just a gouge. They know that libraries will pay so they don’t even try to sell to real people. Reading is getting priced out of the culture.

    As for printing, I think that shinsho have better quality paper than the US paperbacks that fall in the $10-15 range. I also appreciate the small size of bunko.

    I’m back in NA myself. It strikes me that people are having one last go with super credit card fueled shopping orgies. Shocking how cheap some things are (especially electronics) as retailers are dumping surplus in 2 week long (soon to turn into month long) “Boxing Day” sales. On one level, this seems to be the retail strategy that Japan never got on board with – slash prices to get more people to throw money around. On another level, it seems delusional as people clearly know how screwed everything is, but just can’t resist throwing that new laptop on their already bulging credit cards.

    Japanese have a big advantage going into their recession (apart from cheap books) – they already have lots of experience with not spending.

    On the culture front – this new huge hit seems like he worst kind of Japanese movie http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0822832/

    We’re seeing it all go to the dogs…

  4. Patrick Macias Says:

    Yes, but Lon Lon excites…

  5. Adamu Says:

    Yes you were right about Girl Talk, I am sick of it already :(

    I am confident 2009 will be a good one for NJ, partly because there will be lots more interesting things to cover than 2008 as things get worse before they get better.

    Yomiuri smacked down Japan Times for posting unauthorized translations of shukanshi (an act of desperation no doubt). So after WaiWai that’s the second competing product to fall in less than a year. So as long as you don’t get sued for copyright infringement NJ is in for a good year.

  6. Durf Says:

    I was going to sue this blog for copyright infringement, but then I decided it would be a better use of my time to sue it for reminding me of my lack of egg nog. Oh the psychological trauma! Oh the punitive damages!

  7. M-Bone Says:

    I actually had to Google Lon Lon. I’m such a nerd.

  8. M-Bone Says:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090107/ap_on_bi_ge/discount_holiday_hangover

    This is about the “end of the party” that I mentioned.