Saturday, 29 November 2003

Saturday night

What with the Rugby World Cup over, what is a chap supposed to do? Everyone in Blighty has had it easy - games at 9am mean that the rest of the day is free for drinking and falling over, so when the cup finishes, nothing much has changed. Us poor souls in Japan are now faced with empty evenings staring at the bottom of a bottle of red....

oh ok, not all that bad then.

But it does leave a gap, so what better way to fill it than with stories from this week's press to delight and amuse (if I'm lucky), or just give me something to write (much more likely). All these taken from this week's Daily Yomiuri.

First up is a delightful new scam that some of the youth of Japan have been practising recently. Imagine a spotty adolescent/young hoodlum phoning up a random old person:

"Hi, it's me [pretending to be errant offspring]"
"Er hello [in a slightly bewildered fashion], how are you?"
"Not good, I've crashed my car/got to have a abortion/need to pay off gambling debts/etc, can you give me 10,000/100,000/500,000 yen right now?"
"Er... [still bewildered]...ok. How?"
"Pay it into this bank account."

And they did. To the tune of lots of millions of yen, apparently. Makes you wonder, really, along the lines of, why didn't the old persons tell their 'offspring' to come and collect the money? Or why didn't the old persons mention any names during the exchange? Or even, didn't any of the old persons wonder about the strange voices at the other end of the line? But there you go, but there are plenty of good scams that take in old 'English' persons as well, so we shouldn't wonder too much.

Interesting news, perhaps even ground breaking, about crime in Japan. Since 1995, the number of robbery cases has increased threefold, as well as injurous assault, sexual assault, fraud and embezzlement all on the increase as well. Not that ground breaking, you may think, but, this is the first piece of reporting asbout crime that I have ever read in Japan where the main focus of the article wasn't about foreigners commiting crimes. In fact, of the 4 columns, the word foreigner appears only once at the bottom of column three. Those of you reading this outside Japan may thing I am being a little over sensitive about this, but it is odd to be a foreigner in a country and every report you read about increasing crime is about foreigners. Oops, could turn into a rant here, so let us move on.

Those of you who have read this blog for a while may well remember a rant I had a while back about the government putting tax payers money into a failing bank. [if this rant was at the start of August it may well no longer exist. Blogger seesm to have swallowed these for some reason. Apologies]. Anyeay, the point is is that the govt is at it again. This time it is Ashikaga Bank, which apparently has overstepped its adequacy limit, or something, so it may well be off down the tubes if someone doesn't give it a helping hand. Now I'm all for helping out needy banks in times of trouble [actually I'm not, but bear with me here], but this is after Ashikaga has recieved 30 billion yen in 1998 (that's maybe 150million quid) in 1998 and 105 billion yen (oh lordy!) in 1999...of taxpayers money.

So let's put this into perspective. Some punk kid scams a little old lady out of 100,000 yen and gets put in prison for a year or two.
The Japanese government skims 130 billion yen out of the country and gets to do it again next year.


These stories were of course mixed in with then usual reports of white collar crime (Kobunsha Exec in 22million yen embezzlement), non foreigner related muders ('Man shot Grandson, killed self), really dull political news (Govt, Parties spar over pension reform) and an unusually large number of people doing silly things on mountains (Man dies after plunge on Mt Fuji; 4 rescued, plus 30 Hikers found safe after n ight on Mt Kiyosumi).

Last but by no means least is a another story about the government and money. In a report published on Tuesday, it apperas that over 40% of central government employees still receive all their salary in cash. Yes, in the most technologically advanced country on the planet, 40% of salaries are paid by one of the Office Ladies (and rest assured, it would be a female member of staff) popping down to the local Sumitomo-Mitsui on a friday lunchtime and collecting enough cash to pay everyone in the office in a smal brown envelope. I think it's fab that you can walk around with a very large amount of yen in your purse ad not worry about it.

Anyway, as I read the first aprt of this article I was scoffing at the backwardness of these silly Japanese. But then I read on. Actually, 40% have their salaries paid in part or all in cash. Now, as you may well know, your average salaryman doesn't actually control his salary. It goes straight into the bank account, an account for which he probably doesn't have a bank card, and his good lady wife doles out a kind of weekly pocket money...

What better way, therefore, than to have most of your salary paid onto your bank account, to keep the good lady wife happy, but a part paid cash-in-hand to do with what you will?

And there was me thinking these guys were stupid. Just goes to show....

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