Will marijuana become the next tapioca?


Last year when sales of marijuana became legal in Canada and California, these made big headlines in Japan, where it is treated the same as dangerous narcotics. One of the most outspoken proponents of pot in Japan is actress Saya Takagi. Two years ago, Takagi, now 56, was found guilty… Read


People living on ¥1 mil a year: How do they manage?


“Kenta Ochiai” – all the names in this story are pseudonyms – lives in a storage locker. Floor space is 1 ½ tatami mats. There’s no window. The ceiling light bulb is on 24 hours a day. It can’t be turned off. “Without my cell phone, I wouldn’t know if… Read


Manners of inconsiderate auto campers called into question


A wag once quipped, "Camping: where you spend a small fortune to live like a homeless person." Japan's first boom in auto camping began in earnest after the widespread adoption of the 5-day work week, from the early 1990s. Now the country is in the process of a second boom, which… Read


Confusion sure to rise as consumption tax hike looms


The Japanese verb kakekomi is typically used to describe passengers who make a frantic dash to catch a departing train.  Recently, however, kakekomi has been applied figuratively to consumers who engage in 11th hour outlays on various items to avoid paying an additional 2% in consumption taxes, which will be… Read


What motivates Japanese to move overseas?


“Why am I living this way?” Ayumi Tomita kept asking herself. It wasn’t only her. Work in Japan seems to leave a person no energy or time for anything else but sleep. She vacationed in Guam. The sun shone, the sea beckoned, time seemed to stretch wide enough for all… Read


Depending on locale, single moms in Japan can depend on social support


Whether due to divorce, loss of spouse due to accident or disease or out of lifestyle choice, being a single mother can be difficult, and much has been reported about the economic, social and emotional burdens on women who raise children on their own.  But when some males offer words… Read


Some local governments successfully reintegrate 'hikikomori' back into society


Fujisato is a small town (population 3,214) in Akita Prefecture. Mountains enclose it. In winter, snow fairly buries it. Nearly half its population (47 percent) is elderly. In 2006 two elementary school children were murdered there. Generally speaking, when you’ve said that about a place in the remote hinterland, you’ve… Read


U.S. casino operators seeking to get in on Japan's nascent gambling resorts


A year has elapsed since the approval of the law permitting the creation of so-called integrated resorts, which will incorporate Japan's first legal gambling casinos. Expectations are high that the new IRs will contribute to tax revenues and provide new employment opportunities, although deep-rooted resistance remains due to concerns that… Read


Embarking on a 2nd career post-retirement makes economic sense


Two numbers will help us get our bearings: 100 million and 20 million. The first refers to a Japanese ideal that took shape in the immediate postwar period: a middle class that included the entire population. By the 1980s it seemed largely realized. The second figure is the amount of… Read


A part-time job stint for the adventurous, on Iwo Jima


Looking for a part-time job someplace off the beaten track? How about this, asks Weekly Playboy (Aug 26). Twice a year, the small base operated by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force on Iwo Japan flies over part-time kitchen help, who serve two-week stints. The famous World War II battlefield, perhaps… Read

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