Archive for October, 2009

Annals of cheap: Takeya

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Takeya's main store on Showa-dori

Takeya’s main store on Showa-dori

The discount behemoth Takeya, located near Okachimachi Station, may not be the cheapest place to buy anything you want, but it’s probably the cheapest place to buy everything you want. Comprising half a dozen purple-painted buildings clustered together along Showa-dori, the store gets by on volume and an almost neurotic obsession with using space effectively.

The food sections, which take up the bottom floors of two neighboring buildings, are usually impossible to move through, since the aisles barely  accommodate two bodies standing abreast of each other. And when the buses discharge the Asian tourists, as they do several times a day, the place turns into writhing mass of nylon-coated humanity, reaching and pushing and grunting and paying. The announcement are provided in Japanese, Chinese and Korean. No English. They know who shops there.

There’s more: all the electronics you can think of short of computers; expensive leathers and high fashion at discount prices; four floors of furniture; a full liquor store that charges the lowest prices in town; a huge pet store set right next to a full-service bicycle shop; cosmetics and drugs and stationery. There’s even a jewelry store.

Continue reading about Takeya →

Got JAL miles?

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Spend ‘em while you can.

If new transport minister Seiji Maehara has anything to say about it, Japan Airlines will not go bankrupt, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the country’s flaship carrier is out of the woods or won’t someday merge with some other airline. Because of all the panicky speculation, no one had brought up the touchy subject of all those frequent flyer miles that JAL customers have socked away.

Is it possible they could be rendered useless? There are precedents. When it was liquidated in 2002 Australia’s Ansett Airlines suspended its frequent flyer program and since no other airline came in to pick them up, all points that were accumulated completely lost their value.

In a recent article, Shukan Post offered some advice for JAL Mileage Bank members. For one thing, if you’re planning an overseas trip any time in the near or even distant future, book it now and use your miles, since you’re more likely to get the best value for them. You’re allowed to book up to 330 days in advance for an international flight, and though you can change the date up to a day before you leave, you can’t change the route.

Continue reading about JAL miles →

The blacklist — excuse me — the database is back

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Soon, getting into one of these will be harder...or easier!

Soon, getting into one of these will be harder…or easier!

Last month, we reported on a plan by a group of rental guarantee companies to develop a blacklist of renters delinquent with payments. This would presumably help landlords screen potential tenants for scofflaws. The plan was temporarily shelved after rental guarantee companies that didn’t belong to the association complained, saying that business was bad enough without alienating potential renters. Nonprofit organizations involved with the poor also protested, saying that such a blacklist would only create more homeless.

According to the Asahi Shimbun, the association has turned around again. They are now dead set on making sure the blacklist becomes a reality, though now they insist it should be called a database, since it will list not only people who have repeatedly been late with rent payments, but also people who have been consistently on-time.

At a news conference to announce the association’s new resolve, one of the officials said that they decided to revive the idea because of support from “tenants” who think it’s a good idea, including many “foreigners.” The database, he continued, is useful for helping the “socially vulnerable” who are not normally “welcomed” by many landlords due to their economic situation or their “nationality.”

Presumably, having a good record of rental payments in the past will make these landlords suddenly agree to accept tenants they wouldn’t normally countenance. What should probably be mentioned, though, is that people who resort to guarantee companies to provide the co-signer all landlords demand are usually poorer to begin with, since they apparently don’t have family or employers willing to be guarantors.

Motherhouse: beyond Fair Trade

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

The new Iriya store

The new Iriya store

There isn’t much that individual consumers can do to right the economic balance between the developed world and the developing world. Promoting sustainability in poorer regions basically amounts to paying local producers higher prices for products they export than what they are getting, something that multinational companies, which usually do the exporting, are not prone to doing. Given the gulf of distribution that separates the average housewife in Chiba and the average tea plantation worker in Sri Lanka, there’s very little the former can do to directly help the latter.

Except buy Fair Trade-labeled products. Various world organizations certify producers who guarantee, among other things, that their employees earn a decent working wage and give them some say in the operations of the farm or factory. Thus, when that housewife buys some black tea at her local Ito Yokado with a Fair Trade label on it, she can feel assured that more of her money is going to the people who produced it rather than a host of middlemen-multinationals.

Continue reading about Fair Trade and Motherhouse →

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