Wednesday, February 27, 2013

[jules' pics] Cash Society

The Japanese economy runs on the belief that all the futons of all the octogenarians are stuffed with 10,000¥ bills. This belief enables us to believe that the country is not, in fact, bankrupt. If the exchange rates are anything to go by, we've conned the rest of the world too. However, there is no doubt that Japan is a cash-based society. We always warn our visitors of this, but there is still sometimes the odd one who arrives with just one of those useless little plastic things they call "credit cards"***.
We have 6 scientists from foreign visiting us in a couple of weeks. Of course I have already warned them about the cash thing, so this is just an illustration. Yesterday afternoon I got a dental implant. I took James along. For support? Perhaps partly, but mostly he was there to carry the cash. I really didn't want the double stress of being operated on and also looking after the equivalent of 3000 USD.
We do have little plastic cards in Japan. Many of them. In fact all my hospital details are on one. In order to pay, I slide the little plastic card into the machine, and then the machine asks for the cash:
Cash please!
It was a lot of fun feeding in all the notes. So to be fair there is a button on that screen labelled "credit" and another labelled "debit", so there was probably some way of paying by bank transfer, or at least of paying in installments. However, I couldn't see how one could use an actual credit card.
And here's Dr Ueno-san, looking forward to the money filtering down to him.
The flip-side is that he has to work in Tsurumi, which is one of those weird suburbs, that doesn't even have a Starbucks. I suppose it can't be all bad, with so many bicycles.
***Credit cards are not actually entirely useless in Japan. They can often be used to pay for large items in big stores, but it is usually cheaper to use cash. Most hotel chains probably take them too. However, they are generally not accepted at smaller places, and can only be used to obtain cash at the Post Office ATMs, so they are definitely not the tool of convenience that they are in most other 1st world countries.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/27/2013 04:13:00 PM


EliRabett said...

Back in the 70s we had exactly the other issue with post-docs coming from Germany (which was all cash then). We found one guy, who is now a big cheese, walking around with about six months salary in rough neighborhoods.

Steve Bloom said...

So can we now say that from James' POV you are even more toothsome than before? :)

Steve Bloom said...

Apparently the Japanese will be able to skip right past plastic to the next big payment thing.

James Annan said...

Toothsome in a sort of lopsided chipmunk stylee...or perhaps a boxer after a beating.

There are a variety of cashless payment systems here, the most common requires one to charge up a card with cash which carries the same risk of loss but at least speeds the transaction (originally introduced for ticket barriers at train stations, now widespread).

EliRabett said...

That may be coming in the US. A major problem here is the rip off on fees of prepaid debit cards which are required for many government programs, that or a bank account. If the transit agencies start offering them with lower fees it may be a plus.

JohnMashey said...

Have you any insights on *why* the emphasis on cash in Japan?

jules said...

The reason is that in Japan no one ever asks why.


EliRabett said...

Maybe because you don't have to worry about carrying a huge wad down a dark alley?

James Annan said...

That (and the lack of inflation) may be part of it, as people have no worries about keeping stashes of cash under the bed and in their pockets.

Also, the lack of traceability is probably quite handy for the yakuza. Though the govt did actually introduce some weak anti-laundering laws a few years ago.

But honestly, jules' answer is probably closest to the mark.

Steve Bloom said...

Looks like bad news for Ueno-san, eventually.

James Annan said...

Oh I dunno, I expect he (or his heirs) will pick up the new technology, and charge even more for it!