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WIT Life #20: 買わない生活


WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Interpreter/Translator/Writer Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken, 2000-03).  Recently she’s been watching the news in Japanese and sharing some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.

The above title Kawanai Seikatsu, or purchase-free lifestyle, describes a money-saving phenomenon taking over Japan. In the midst of the economic doldrums, people are looking for creative solutions to maintain the lifestyles they are used to without spending as much money. What they have found to be indispensible in this pursuit are a variety of websites accessible by keitai (cell phone) and computer that allow them to access goods and services through a system of sharing.                                                       

One such site is ShareMo (shmo.jp) whose catchphrase is “With just one keitai, you can share anything.” This site has a variety of offerings, from frying pans to Halloween decorations to video games, which are lent out among members. No money exchange takes place, but members receive points for carrying out transactions and can then use this currency to borrow items listed on the site. A Tokyo customer profiled showed the items throughout her house that she had rented from ShareMo. They ranged from a tea whisk to a New Year’s tablecloth, and she explained that especially in terms of seasonal items it made more sense to rent them then to buy them and use them only once a year.

Another site is Cariru (cariru.jp), the Japanese word for borrow romanized with a “c” as opposed to the usual “k”. This is a sister site to Bag Borrow and Steal, the source for expensive handbags that was featured in the Sex and the City movie. In fact, SATC costume designer Patricia Field has been promoting Cariru in Japan! A young female site user said that with a monthly income of 200,000 yen and her 1K apartment’s 70,000 yen rent, in order to satisfy her craving for designer goods it made more sense for her to rent than to buy them. For example, the Chanel bag she showed the reporter would retail for more than 100,000 yen, but that she was able to rent it for only 20,000 yen per month.

It is not only goods that are being exchanged but services as well, as is the case with ride sharing site のってこ (notteco.jp).The customers featured were two men who were traveling together by car from Nagano to Tokyo. The one who owned the car advertised on the site with an ad called “Return from Ski Weekend,” and the two met for the first time in the parking lot of the ski resort. They shared the costs for all gas and tolls, and it was a beneficial arrangement for them both despite the fact that the passenger had to take his smoking breaks in the cold as he didn’t want to offend the driver by smoking in the car. For those uncomfortable with entrusting their lives to a stranger, the site provides a way to confirm safety by accessing the driver’s history via a license confirmation system.

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In other news, 500 schools in Yokohama will be incorporating toilets into students’ cleaning routines for the first time in 30 years. Across the country this currently takes place in over 90% of schools, but the students at a school where it is being introduced on a test basis struggled to find the correct cleaning methods. When their mothers were asked how they felt about this new addition, they unanimously expressed their approval.

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