It’s Tough Being a Japanese Fire Fighter

I see these fire fighters jogging back and forth in front of their fire station almost every day. They run about 100 meters, up and back on this really narrow sidewalk, and I reckon they go back and forth about 50 times. If there’s a slow-moving senior citizen blocking the way, they have to hop the barrier and run onto the road. I guess they can only do it here because they’re not able to get very far from the fire station in case there’s an alarm, but you’d think there must be a better way. Can’t Bunkyo-Ward spring for a running machine for these guys?

Salariman Spending Money

In Japan, women usually control the purse strings, and men are given a monthly allowance that they use to buy lunches, go drinking, and purchase daily items. My wife’s brother recently had his spending money cut, so I’ve been interested in the topic of how much people get. I found this interesting article on the subject, so I’ve translated it below. It’s from an online technology and lifestyle blog called Maikomi jaanaru and is based on a survey by Shinsei Financial.

Salarymen’s average total spending money decreases by 5,000 yen from last year to 40,600

Shinsei Financial released the results of the “2010 Salariman Spending Money Survey” on June 8. It was conducted on 1,000 salarimen between the ages of 20 and 50. The average amount of spending money decreased for the third year running, and salarimen are cutting back on things such as buying bento boxes and eating out, making efforts to maintain their lifestyles and increase their savings.

Salarimen’s average spending money decreased by 5,000 yen to 40,600 yen, going down for the third year in a row. 56.8 percent reported that they had not had pay increases between last year and this year. The number who “received no pay raise” outpaced those who “received a pay raise” last year, and the trend has continued.

When it comes to how allowances were spent, the average year’s amount is 500 yen, but last year it decreased sharply by 90 yen. It has been dropping continuously from 710 yen in 2001, and this year’s amount was the lowest in 10 years. When asked how many times they brought their own lunch in a five-day period, the number who answered that they brought lunches from home, refraining from eating convenience store lunches, going to the employee cafeteria, or eating out, increased from 1.3 times last year to 1.5 times this year.

The number of times salarimen ate lunch out decreased from 1.1 last year to 0.9. Going out eating and drinking after 5 PM decreased from 3.3 to 2.9 times per month, the third year in a row it has gone down. The price paid for drinks decreased by almost 1,000 yen this year to 4,190. Shinsei reported that “The long deflationary spiral seems to have affected the amount spent on lunches and drinking, and at the same time, it can also be said that salarimen’s desire to save money may also have increased greatly.

The original article is here.

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The Preschool Sports Day

I’ve been wanting to attend a school sports day for years, but I was always afraid that a lone foreigner taking photos would be looked on more than a little suspiciously at one of these events. Now that I’ve got a baby of my own, I was finally able to attend, and it was no disappointment.

Back in Canada, sports day was just a bunch of boring sack races and hurdle events, but Japanese sports days are far more fun.

The kids do really cute dances, and the teachers have obviously really gone the extra mile to make their costumes and props for the races.

Actually, there seemed to be some people at the event who weren’t parents, so I guess I could have gone to one years ago if I wanted.

Most sports days are held in May, September, and October.

Mimikakiten: The Next Maid Cafe?

Remember how when you were a kid they told you to never put  anything in your ear at all because it’s really, really dangerous and could give you permanent hearing loss? Well, no one has ever said that in the entire history of Japan, and most Japanese people have an ear cleaning kit at home.
A husband lying down with his head on his wife’s lap having his ears cleaned is an image of domestic bliss in Japan, and it’s said that when a guy has no one to clean his ears, it can be a lonely experience to do it for himself.
Well, never fear, because now there’s a shop called the Yamato Mimikakiten where you can go to get your ears cleaned by an attractive young woman. A woman’s lap is often called a “hizamakura,” (you’ve probably seen the popular lap pillows sold to lonely otaku), and this shop lets you rest your head on the girl’s lap during the session.

The company calls its employees komachi, which means “beautiful woman.” Each one seems to be required to keep a blog which they update daily with pictures of themselves and chatter about their daily lives. (Here’s a sample, but it’s in Japanese only.) You can choose your komachi for an extra 500 yen per half hour.

Here’s a video:

A cleaning costs 2,700 for 30 minutes and 4,800 yen for one hour.
If you’d like to check it out, there’s a branch in Ueno. From JR Ueno Station, go out the Central Exit and turn right, walking past Keisei Ueno Station. You’ll pass Yodobashi Camera and AbAb Department Store on the other side of the road. Keep going until you see a JTB travel agent. The ear cleaner’s is in the next building, a pachinko parlor and capsule hotel which says “Treasure Hunting” on it.

The address is 2-6-11 Egg Biru 6F
Taito-ku, Tokyo.
Tel. 03-3839-8100
It’s open from 12 to 10 every day.

The shop’s website is at: