Advertorial supplements are pretty common these days in newspapers, and often they focus on one subject. A topic I see a lot lately is assisted living facilities for seniors, sometimes two or three times month. Despite Japan’s storied respect for the aged, old age homes, derisively referred to as rojin homu, were never very popular until the last decade when the kaigo hoken (nursing care insurance) system was enacted, thus directly and indirectly providing government assistance for start-up businesses. With the economy lagging and the population aging faster than you can say “hip replacement surgery,” assistant living facilities have become a growth business, though if you take a look at the ads in the supplements it’s easy to get the feeling that all old people in Japan are rich.
The main sticking point is the “moving in fee” (nyukyohiyo), which tends to run anwhere from ¥50 to 90 million; in other words, the price of an expensive house or condominium. These fees are “deposits” to a certain extent. Usually about 10 percent are automatically deducted when a contract is signed, and then over the next 10 years it is treated like depreciation. If you “leave” the facility before the 10 years elapses an appropriate portion of the deposit is returned to you or our heirs depending on how long you have stayed. Of course, “leaving” in most cases means “dying,” so you get the idea. On top of that, the “tenant” pays a substantial monthly rent for his or her unit, which can be a simple room or a full apartment with kitchen. Then there are lots of add-ons, the main one being meals, but, of course, with assisted living there tend to be different grades of “care.” That’s where the real money comes in. One’s monthly rent can double or triple depending on one’s physical condition.