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kuchikomi

Charges are hidden, sometimes small enough, that you don't notice how they're adding up

8 Comments
By Michael Hoffman

A plump child, she grew into a plump adult. It would not do. She must reduce. She tried dieting. But food is so tempting! But a society geared to satisfy every desire recognizes even the curbing of desire as a desire to be satisfied – at a price of course, but is there anything new in that?

Goods and services have always cost money, but never have there been so many of them, so easily accessible in such bewildering variety in such beguiling packaging, so maybe Spa (April 9-16) is justified in lamenting, as though it were a new evil, what it calls “cost hell.” You start with one thing and it leads to another, then to another still, an endless ladder of benefits and costs until, by any sane reckoning, the costs so outweigh the benefits that the whole process can only be thought of as a kind of addiction.

“Rie Fukuhara” (all names in this story are pseudonyms), now 30, was 20 when she stepped on the first rung, drawn by an online plug for “weight loss while you sleep.” She dropped into the aesthetic salon in question for a free trial. “Simple and effective” were the watchwords. All right, she’d try. Buy now, she was told, while the special bargain price holds. Fair enough. One session a week for a year: 300,000 yen.

It worked. She lost 5 kg. “But if you stop now,” she was told, “you’ll only gain it back.” What a waste that would be.

Her salary as a part-time juku teacher permitted few luxuries. For additional income she went to work as a cabaret club hostess. “All the other girls were so slim!” Client comments on a club bulletin board included snide remarks about her plumpness. Mortified, she decided,” I’d better lose more weight ”– following up with a slimming regime (700,000 yen spent so far), special diets (100,000), liposuction (300,000) and so on.

One is never, it seems, slim enough, or educated enough, or beautiful enough, or rich enough; there is always one step farther to go and then another and another; or if it’s social contact you seek, with friendship, sex or marriage in mind, to quit discouraged with no one met is perhaps to miss the golden, fated encounter that awaits just one more attempt at one additional fee, or the one after that; or if it’s online gambling, gaming or investing, all it takes is one win – next time perhaps! – to sweep all the losses into oblivion and turn anguish to triumph.

It’s hard to know exactly what “Yuto Naganuma,” 47, was seeking when he wandered into a “concept cafe” some years back – companionship presumably, fun certainly, eternal youth apparently. Popularly known as “concafes,” concept cafes are a kind of intermediate stage between cabaret and conventional coffee shop or bar, usually structured around a particular theme or anime setting. The famous “maid cafes” of Tokyo’s Akihabara district are the prototype they grew out of. Naganuma spends three evenings a week and some 19 million yen a year at concafes. He can afford it – he earns 100 million yen annually, we’re not told at what. None of our business. Admitted.

Can he afford it? He’s beginning to wonder. His resources are ample but not infinite, as his need for social relations of the concafe type seems to be. What began as an amusement has become a necessity, a habit he can’t break. “It’s so easy to be accepted there,” he says; “all you have to do is be ready to spend tens of thousand yen on a bottle of champagne without batting an eye.”

Pleasure is one thing, frivolity maybe, but the education of one’s children is something else altogether. It’s serious business. Can a conscientious parent cut corners here? At what cost to the child’s future?“ Ryota Nakamura,” 48, an advertising executive earning 12 million yen a year, has two children, the older one having just started junior high school. In fourth grade of primary school half her classmates were attending after-school juku classes. “Why not me, daddy?” Her friends were making fun of her, she felt left out and humiliated. Juku would improve her chances of getting into a private junior high school with university affiliation. Passing its entrance exam would smooth her entry into the sort of university that prospective employers respect.

Resistant at first, Nakamura relented. The child had a point. All right then, juku – 100,000 yen a month. Was that enough? Nothing is enough. For maximum effect, juku should be buttressed with a back-up supplementary program: 1.1 million yen a year. Various other things too, so that getting her into a desirable junior high school, not her first choice but her second, which is almost as good, ended up costing altogether, Nakamura reckons, 12.92 million yen.

And the younger child, now a third-grader, waits in the wings.

“Yuna Sato,” at 24 deep in the “cost hell” of cosmetic surgery, rounds out our story. Rie Fukuhara’s dieting reflected a body fixation, Sato’s issue is a facial one. Her own face disgusted her. She had no chin. Her classmates teased her. Where could she hide? It was her mother who first suggested surgery. Her first operation, a chin prosthesis, was performed when she 14. If she’d stopped there perhaps all would have been well, but one problem solved highlights another problem crying for solution. Were her eyes all they could be? Her skin, her teeth? If one operation, why not two, three, four? Total cost to date: 6.62 million yen.

No more, she vows. She’ll soon turn 25. “Time,” she says, “to work on my inner self.” She’ll study and qualify herself to help people like herself with “looks complexes.” That’s a start. It’ll get some people, at least, (maybe) out of Spa’s “cost hell.”

Michael Hoffman is the author of “arimasen.”

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

8 Comments
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Signs like a lot of people with mental illnesses. Gotta feel for the parent, though, who needs to pay for juku for the juku.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

*Sounds like

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Juku would improve her chances of getting into a private junior high school with university affiliation. Passing its entrance exam would smooth her entry into the sort of university that prospective employers respect.

Do employers respect an escalator school? The top universities in Japan are public ones.

As a father of a soon to be 19 year old, I think its all overblown and lots of cramming is due to parental fears, not due to the difficulty of exams or severity of competition for places. This is not the 1980s any more.

12 million gross income is probably about 9 million takehome. Unless the wife is a high earner, this family cannot afford to spend 13 million yen per child. 12m gross income has appearances to keep up.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Charges are hidden, sometimes small enough, that you don't notice how they're adding up

Breezed through this but didn't see mention of hidden fees, or of people not noticing those adding up.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

There seemed to be more mental instability here than financial. Aside from the cram school one, but seems more like peer pressure. Also getting your kid plastic surgery at 14 and then them becoming obsessed with making their face “perfect” who could have seen that coming…

2 ( +3 / -1 )

What a bunch of dummies.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

You can become addicted to anything, so become addicted to fiscal probity. Keep track of your finances, limit how much you allow yourself to spend each month, and work at increasing your income with side-hustles. If your spending worries you, switch to cash. When you have spent it, you can spend no more. Above all, avoid credit cards.

A cheap hobby is a very good idea.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

One is never, it seems, slim enough, or educated enough, or beautiful enough, or rich enough;

Exactly. Sooner, better than later, accept who you are and politely (?) tell detractors to take a hike. You'll feel better and realize those people aren't your friends and are not there to help you.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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