Easy money – is there really such a thing? There is. But the pursuit of it, says Spa! (Sept 1) is not for the morally squeamish. If moral squeamishness is not your problem, if you don’t care whose vulnerabilities you exploit, whose rights you trample on or what pain you cause, then the field is wide open.
There’s nothing new in that, except maybe the rising numbers: an estimated 56 billion yen ripped off from the unwary in 2014, according to police figures cited by the magazine – up from roughly 27 billion in 2004.
Something else that may be new is the degree to which this underground economy has gone freelance. You don’t need to be a gangster anymore. All you need is a good idea. Lots of people have them, apparently.
Symbol par excellence of the modern scam is the notorious “ore-ore” fraud, in which fast-talking telephone hucksters pose as family members in trouble and persuade bewildered seniors, dialed more or less at random, to help – “Quick! Please! It’s urgent!” – by sending money.
That’s old hat by now, though still going strong. But there’s so much else! A certain “Mr Yamamoto” (Spa! uses no real names) noticed how attached women in particular have grown of late to their dogs, and how much they grieve when the pets die. Many people of course have noticed that; it’s very noticeable – but how many would have had Yamamoto’s subsequent brainwave: that of offering himself as an intermediary between mourners and a company in Switzerland that allegedly turns pet ashes into synthetic diamonds?
“Actually,” he smiles, “I don’t ship the ashes to Switzerland at all. I just have a synthetic diamond made here for a few million yen” – and everyone’s happy: the customer for the supposed dog-become-diamond, Yamamoto for his presumably substantial share of the profits. One only hopes his customers don’t read Spa! – imagine their chagrin if they do.
“Hinkon business” is a spreading neologism. “Hinkon” means poverty, and preying on the poor can be good business. The poor don’t have much money, but they do have urgent needs, and they receive some benefits – as, for example, “Mr Suzuki.” A member in good standing of the “lost generation,” Suzuki toiled nights at grinding part-time jobs leading nowhere, and drugs became his escape from an increasingly intolerable reality. Addicted and ill, he lost his grip, lost his job, and found himself on the street, helpless. A private facility took him in, gave him a bed in its dorm, and filed his welfare applications for him.
So far so kind and helpful, but the welfare payments were actually paid not to Suzuki but to the head of the facility, who doled out 1000 yen a day to Suzuki and kept the rest. “To tell you the truth,” Suzuki tells Spa!, “I don’t even know how much I’m entitled to.”
He wants to leave the facility but doesn’t dare – “they tell me they’ll have my benefits cut off.” And so, against his will, he stays on, a poverty-stricken but valuable cash cow for his supposed benefactors.
Another neologism increasingly encountered is “JK business,” and it’s on the same moral plane. “JK” stands for “joshi kosei” – high school girl; the “business” in question commercially exploits, it almost goes without saying, the sexual attractiveness of girls to men old enough, as likely as not, to be their fathers. JK business entrepreneurs, Spa! says, often recruit the girls under false pretenses, telling them they’re wanted as part-time telephone operators, data inputers and so on. Supposedly the customers just come to look. If the girl is willing to go further, the thinking is, that’s her business.© Japan Today