Archive for September, 2009

Many happy repairs

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

New Wave

We tend not to buy a lot of stuff any more because we have almost everything we want, which isn’t a lot in the first place. Moreover, if something breaks we’re likely to have it fixed, even if the warranty has expired. Maybe that sounds quaint, but in more than half the cases where we did have something repaired post-warranty, the manufacturer charged only a nominal fee, and in some instances they charged nothing, not even for parts.

Companies would probably prefer we throw the old thing away and buy a new one, but, of course, there’s no guarantee we’d buy their model again. And I’ve found that in Japan, especially, pride in one’s products usually trumps any short-term financial consideration, even if the manufacturer isn’t actually Japanese.

A recent example. In 2003 we bought a Bose Wave Music System, one of those small integrated radio-CD combos you often see in dentist offices. A few months ago the CD player went on the blink, as CD players tend to do after the warranty expires. It would be easy just to hook up an auxiliary CD player or, more practically, an MP3 player, because the sound is so good. But we decided it was worth it to get it fixed, and packed it off to the Bose service center.

Continue reading about warranties →

Annals of cheap: Gyoza no Osho

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

The Nishi Nippori branch of Osho

The Nishi Nippori branch of Osho

Only a handful of businesses have managed to actually increase sales during the current economic downturn. Two are no-brainers: fast-food Leviathan McDonald’s and cheapo clothing retailer Uniqlo. Less generally known is the fact that the restaurant chain, Gyoza no Osho, has enjoyed 74 consecutive months of sales growth. Revenues for the quarter ending in June were ¥15.5 billion, which is 23 percent more than sales for the same quarter in 2008. Some months have even seen a 100 percent increase in revenues over the previous year.

As the name indicates, Osho’s specialty is gyoza (pot sticker), but it’s more of a general purpose Chinese food chain than a restaurant that pushes ramen — which is prominent on the menu, but stir fry seems to be more their bag. The first Osho opened in Kyoto in 1967, and now there are 533 outlets nationwide, though almost none in northern Japan, which doesn’t seem that interested in Chinese food.

Continue reading about Gyoza no Osho →

Japanese public housing: It’s not just for poor people any more

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

The entrance to East Core Hikifune, a new UR high-rise in Sumida Ward, Tokyo

The entrance to East Core Hikifune, a new UR high-rise in Sumida Ward, Tokyo

Many agree with the new regime in Nagatacho that the bureaucracy needs to be reduced, but some of us may be more selective than others. I sincerely hope that the Urban Renaissance Agency (Toshi Saisei Kiko) remains untouched, because I rent an apartment from them. I could understand why the Koizumi administration wanted to privatize the agency, but was more than relieved when they failed. Renting a public apartment is much, much easier than renting a private one: there’s no need for a guarantor, no gift money (reikin), and no rental contract renewal fees (koshinryo), a “custom” that has been legally challenged but doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.

Read more about public housing in Japan

Super-fluous banking perks

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

The "super futsu" entry is the fourth line

The “super futsu” entry is the fourth line

The other day I was looking at one of our bank passbooks after some bills were paid and noticed an entry term I’d never noticed before: “super futsu.” It refers to the the type of account, and the entry listed the most recent interest we received for the balance in that account. Futsu means “regular,” so what exactly does “super regular” mean?

Apparently nothing. It’s simply a means of distinguishing a deposit account with Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ’s All One system from a regular passbook deposit account. The interest is the same: 0.05 percent. The difference between the two types of accounts is that with the All One system, they don’t charge a fee unless the balance falls below ¥100,000. The main reason we signed up for All One was so that we wouldn’t have to pay a handling fee when we use TMUFJ ATMs during non-business hours, but we eventually found out that there are still some instances when handling fees apply. The fine print is there to be read — or not.

And as you can see by the photo on the right, the most recent interest payment we received — ¥182 — would mostly be wiped out had we incurred a single handling fee of ¥105 during the appropriate period of time, so I fail to see what’s “super” about this account. You have to remember that 0.05 percent interest means you multiply your balance by 0.0005. And then you have to subtract an additional 20 percent from the result for taxes.

Instead of “super regular” maybe they should call it “super insignificant”; or, more poetically, a susume no namida — tears of a sparrow — account.

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