Why Mr. and Mrs. Komuro’s frugal lifestyle is lamented as a “symbol of Japan’s downfall | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Why Mr. and Mrs. Komuro’s frugal lifestyle is lamented as a “symbol of Japan’s downfall

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Although she has left the imperial family. “Even though she has left the imperial family, the apartment is too simple for a former princess to live in…. I feel it is a symbol of today’s Japan.

says Fumiko Akiyama, a real estate agent in New York who mainly deals with properties in Brooklyn. What does this mean?

The rent for a typical apartment in New York is between $5,000 and $9,000, so it is very modest,” said a Japanese resident of New York (photo: Afro).

The couple’s apartment is considerably less expensive than the market rate.

When Mako first came to New York, there was a bit of media coverage here. However, since she is so plain and unobtrusive, she is not talked about these days. In Japan, it is said that they are spending a lot of taxpayer money on luxuries, but the rent for the apartment they live in is about $4,500, which is very modest since the market price for an apartment with a certain level of security in New York is $5,000 to $9,000.

Hell’s Kitchen, where the apartment is located, is not a very safe neighborhood. It is an area with many restaurants, and during the shutdown of the Corona Disaster, the area became a ghost town and the number of homeless people increased dramatically.

If anything, it’s a place where there are all sorts of difficulties in raising children. The rent in New York is generally high. A new high-rise apartment with full services can cost as much as $6,000 in another area.

The other day, when Mr. Akiyama offered a 2-bath/2-bedroom apartment for $4,800 in Brooklyn, a popular residential area with convenient commuting to Manhattan, he received as many as 300 inquiries, attracted by the low price.

In New York, a tenant’s annual income of 40 times the rent is a reassuring factor for a lender; a simple calculation shows that a tenant would need an annual income of at least $190,000 (approximately 25 million yen) to live in a $4800 (approximately 630,000 yen) apartment. It is unthinkable in Japan that there are many people with annual incomes of over 25 million yen who would consider 630,000 yen rent to be inexpensive.

In the end, the price of this property rose to $5,500, and a tenant was found. The renter of this property is also a millennial IT professional with an annual income of $400,000 (about 52 million yen!). The partner is in education and earns $100,000 a year. The female partner is in education and earns $100,000 a year, both of whom are exceptionally wealthy from a Japanese point of view.

It is said that 10% of the population has 70% of the wealth in the United States. The gap between the rich and the poor is so great that it is difficult to determine an average annual income. Even so, if an ordinary working person gets married and has two incomes, he or she can afford to pay this level of rent.

Even a first-year working adult with a college degree would make at least $50,000 a year. If it is less than that, no one will come even if you have a job offer. If you are a middle class person, I think you can get $60,000 a year.

New York City rents are skyrocketing, partly due to inflation.

Even at the highest earning age, Japanese cannot afford to rent a decent apartment in New York!

According to the “Basic Survey on Wage Structure,” the median annual income for Japan as a whole was 3,967,314 yen in FY2020. The average annual income of those aged 55-59 at its peak was 5,041,200 yen. The average of the highest earning group is below the starting salary for college graduates in New York.

In addition, when 500 second-year working adults in Japan were asked about their “target annual salary at age 30,” the average was 5,250,000 yen, also lower than the annual salary for new graduates in New York (from Sony Life survey conducted in March 2022).

Japan is no longer an economic powerhouse. When did this happen?

I came to New York in 1986, at the beginning of the bubble economy. It was the beginning of the bubble economy. At the time, I wondered why everything was so much cheaper in New York than in Japan. My Japanese friends seemed to be making a lot of money no matter what they did, and I envied Japan.

I was envious of Japan, but then I thought, “What? I remembered that about 15 years ago, when deflation probably started. That was probably when deflation started. After that, deflation in Japan continued for a long time, and now it has completely reversed itself. When I go out to eat when I go back to Japan, I feel that the prices are about half of what they are here. I feel that.”

Wage growth in OECD member countries shows that while other countries are increasing wages, Japan’s wages seem to be crawling along at a crawl. With the declining birthrate and aging population, the number of workers is decreasing and the number of non-regular employees is increasing, so it is not surprising that average wages are not rising.

When I saw this, I thought it was the number of people infected with coronas, no joke. Here are my impressions (calculated from the OECD Average Wage Survey / survey by period.co.jp)
It is sad that the target annual income for 30 year olds is 5.25 million yen, and it is also sad that even at its peak it has not reached that target at all… (Source: 2020 Basic Survey on Wage Structure (6) Wages by Employment Status / survey by Jidanko.co. jp)

Is it a luxury to want an income that matches the quality of work?

When asked in various countries, “Which country would you like to travel to now?” Japan is ranked No. 1 in terms of popularity. The reason is not “because Japan is nice. It is because it is cheap. The number of people who want to travel to Japan is increasing, based on the same feeling of inexpensiveness that Japanese people had when they traveled to Southeast Asia and other places in the past.

The only difference is that although it is inexpensive, the quality is high. I think that is the pride of Japan. That is what I feel Mako’s rent symbolizes about Japan today. Japan is such a frugal country that a princess would live in an apartment with a rent of $4,500. The couple is very modest and unobtrusive, and they are probably very considerate of their surroundings, so the paparazzi probably don’t come here very often.

The Japanese are frugal and humble, performing a high standard of work for low wages. Conversely, they are not paid enough for the quality of their work.

Young Japanese should join a foreign-affiliated company. Lifetime employment is good, but it is a waste not to change jobs when you can double your salary elsewhere. If you have special skills, you should change jobs more and more to foreign-affiliated companies and abandon the companies in your own country, then maybe Japanese companies will make a little more corporate effort.

If we are forever stuck in the past of being an economic superpower and lifetime employment, we will never get out of this quagmire.

Japanese people living in New York see the Komuro couple’s lifestyle in light of Japan’s current state of downfall.

Fumiko Ak iyama has lived in New York since 1986. After working in restaurant management and restaurant business management, she joined one of the largest real estate companies in New York. She has been involved in the real estate business for about 10 years.

Click here for Fumiko Akiyama ‘s website.

■Period.co.jp, “[2022] What is the average and median annual salary in Japan? Comparison of salaries by occupational age” is here.

  • Interview and text by Chimasa Ide Photo Afro

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