Archive for the ‘Products’ Category

This tax’s for you

Friday, October 16th, 2009

So many beer-like beverages, so little time

So many beer-like beverages, so little time

Last week, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama ordered the tax ministry to review the alcohol tax system, specifically in relation to beer and so-called beer-like beverages. The announcement immediately sent the major breweries into a tizzy, since the likely outcome of such a review will be a higher tax for “Number 3-type” (daisan) beverages, which are responsible for most of the profits that alcohol manufacturers have enjoyed in the past year or so.

Though Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan’s manifesto didn’t mention beer, the party’s policy, according to the Asahi Shimbun, is to look at the possibility of pegging the beer tax to a beverage’s alcohol level, which is the way liquor taxes tend to be determined overseas. At present, daisan beverages and happoshu are taxed at much lower rates than beer, even though the alcohol levels of all three are comparable. If the DPJ does peg tax rates to alcohol levels, then the prices of all three beverages will likely become the same or close to the same; a situation that would essentially render daisan and happoshu meaningless, since the only reason they sell so well is that they’re much cheaper than beer. A 350-ml can of daisan, for example, is on average about ¥80 yen cheaper than an equivalent-sized can of beer.

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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.

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Annals of cheap: Garigari-kun

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

garigari2a

The two original flavors: “soda” (top) and “muscat of Alexandria”

It’s been a relatively cool summer overall, and while the temperatures have had something to do with the drop in sales of beer (or “beer-like” beverages) and air conditioners, it doesn’t seem to have had much of an adverse effect on Japan’s favorite packaged frozen snack, Garigari-kun, which added a few new flavors this past season.

Garigari-kun is classified as “bo (stick or bar) ice candy,” which means it has a lot of competition. Ice candy is more popular in Japan than ice cream owing to its associations with the traditional summer treat kakigori (shaved ice), and if you look in your local convenience store freezer you’ll find a large and confusing array of ice candy, both bar and cup types, that seem interchangeable. But Garigari-kun always outsells them all by a huge margin, and one of the reasons is the price: only ¥60. The Sankei-Fuji website says that the dairy company Akagi Nyugyo sold 255 million Garigari-kun bars in 2008.

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