Japanese Media March 2013

What You Missed in the Japanese Press

Targeting Insular and “New Yankee” Consumers

The Japanese term “Yankee” used to be applied mainly to delinquent youths, in reference to their dress, mannerisms and behaviour.

More recently, however, Japan’s Yankees have become a bit more respectable. So much so that a serious publication such as the Shukan Toyo Keizai (2 March) is looking to them for guidance on future consumer marketing.

The article advises readers to shrug off the term’s old negative stigmas. Today’s Yankees are a segment of new conservatives—aged 25 and under—who love their home turf, and revel in kizuna (close emotional relationships) with their peers.

According to researchers at the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living, the members of one subgroup—called jimotozoku (homeboys) and aged between 15 and 35—tend to stick to within a radius of 5–10km from their home base.

The phenomenon was first observed around 1997, and can now be found nationwide. Rather than seeking out new relationships, they make use of social networking sites to keep in contact with their old companions.

This group’s close ties to home was reflected in their responses to a questionnaire circulated by TOWN WORK, a free publication that runs help wanted ads.

The response “close to my home” was given by 71.8% of respondents to queries regarding “work you are seeking”, and by 78.9% regarding “the job you want to do”.

This homing tendency, said TOWN WORK editor Kaoru Nakagawa, tends to result in people having a narrower perspective.

For example, on the course of a trip abroad, should they not find the food tasty, they are likely to make the snap judgment that all foreign food is unpalatable.

In terms of consumption within their own circle, they tend to favour outlays for items that are shared, opposed to those used only by themselves. Along with a generally limited disposable income, this makes it difficult, at times, to differentiate their outlays from those of their parents.

An analyst has observed that marketers are still targeting an older consumer segment, the so-called dankai junior (children of post-war baby boomers), who were born between 1971 and 1974.

This group, which has been credited with spurring numerous consumption booms in the past—particularly those related to beauty and health—is now facing an “expiration” of its “consume-by” date as its members turn 40.

Saddled with mortgages and the cost of educating their children, their consumption is declining. Thus, there is a need to devote more marketing effort to younger segments.

Cycling Overnighters

Banking on heightened interest in health and outdoor exercise, the transport-related arm of the Kokusai Kogyo Group is planning to double to 40 the number of cycling bus tours it plans to organise during 2013.

Starting on 9 March, the Nikkei Marketing Journal reports (8 February), customers will be able to load their two-wheelers onto the baggage area of tour buses that depart from Tokyo Station for nearby prefectures.

Those going on the season’s first tour, limited to 30 individuals, will stay overnight at an onsen (spa) hotel in Namegata City, Ibaraki Prefecture, on the shore of Lake Kasumigaura. Over the two-day tour, participants will cover about 130km.

Taking advantage of a promotional subsidy offered by the prefecture, the firm will charge the unusually low rate of ¥12,800 per person, based on a room occupancy of four.

Additional tours—appealing to employed people in their thirties and forties—are planned for the southern part of Chiba’s Boso Peninsula and other rural areas of the Kanto region.

Department Stores, Railways Cater to Foreigners

Commuter rail firms and department stores have been making an effort to bolster their services for individual foreign visitors to Japan.

The Nikkei Marketing Journal (25 February) reports that Odakyu Electric Railway Co., Ltd. has renewed its website which can now be viewed in Japanese, Korean, Chinese and English. In addition, the firm’s limited express Romancecar (type 50000 and 60000) have screens which display destinations and station names in the four languages.

Meanwhile, by the end of March, Keikyu Corporation will install more multilingual machines to facilitate fare adjustments at Shinagawa and 11 other stations. It eventually expects to phase them in at all 72 stations on the line. In addition to cash transactions, the new fare-adjustment machines will be fully IC-card compatible.

Another development to watch is the start, on 16 March, of a direct rail service—via a new station deep underground at Shibuya—linking trains from Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and beyond to Yokohama’s Motomachi Chukagai Station, via the Tokyu Toyoko line.

Taxman Targets Expats

According to data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, in 2011 about 1.18mn Japanese were residing outside their country for three months or longer—enough time for them to qualify as long-term foreign residents.

While it is not certain whether the Great East Japan Earthquake had any bearing on the figure, the total number was about 3% higher than the previous year.

As more Japanese move abroad, however, the government has begun to take measures to close tax loopholes relating to foreign assets, in particular those that apply to inheritance taxes.

In the Shukan Diamond (23 February), tax accountant Eiji Miura writes that, from April 2013, the revised inheritance tax—up to a maximum of 55% of the inheritance—will be applied to family members living abroad. This will also affect gifts of money and property.

The tax, moreover, will apply even in cases when the recipients have acquired foreign nationality. According to the Ministry of Justice figures, 880 Japanese gave up their citizenship in 2011—although it is not known how many did so to avoid paying taxes.

While many of the tax law’s new provisions will be applied in the 2015 calendar year, the loopholes for moving money abroad—including the requirement to report all foreign assets exceeding ¥50mn (at the risk of fines or imprisonment for violations)—are expected to start on 1 April.

Pack Rats: Enemies of the Economy

Japanese people may no longer be living in a mono-amari jidai (age of excess), but too many possessions may still be putting a damper on consumption.

The Nikkei Marketing Journal (4 February) reports the results of an internet survey conducted by Macromill of 300 Tokyo females in their twenties to forties. They were asked what items they had discarded during the past year (multiple replies were accepted).

The online marketing research firm found that 80% of respondents had thrown away Western-style clothing and fashion accessories. This was followed by books and magazines (58.7%); and food and beverages, including alcohol (50.0%).

The pollees were also asked what they are planning to dump this year. The top priority for 2013 was also Western-style clothing and fashion accessories, cited by 38.3%. This was followed by excess flesh (36.0%), and lounging idly around the house (15.0%).

Fully 89% said they completely or partially felt that they needed to reduce their possessions.

In addition, the survey asked subjects which of the following two statements applied best to them: A) I have no more space to put things, so I’ve cut down on buying things; or B) I think it’s all right to think about where to put something after I’ve purchased it.

Of the respondents, 22% agreed with A, 50% leaned towards A, while 23% leaned towards B and 5% agreed with B.