New country, same old ****
Every country has their status symbols. The US and the UK seem to share an obsession with housing and leasing cars they can't afford. The UK uses holidays as conspicous consumption, while the US seems more into toys: boats, snowmobiles, etc.
Japan is no different.
So what does keeping up with the Suzukis involve? Here are a few things I have noticed:
1. People carriers
These might make sense if you have four or five children, but most people I know that buy and drive one of these monstruosities only have one or two (or none!).
Really expensive, people carriers like the Voxy or Alphard burn fuel unnecessarily and take up far too much of the road. They seem to be the 'in' thing to own at the moment.
I hate them as much as I do SUVs, and that is saying something :)
2. Designer handbags (or manbags)
Japan is still one of the largest markets for luxury fashion goods, although I am sure China is giving them a run for their money. I can maybe understand buying something like this if you have the money and enjoy quality items. Doing so when you have to spend several months salary on it is INSANITY.
3. Expensive pets
If I wanted a new pet I would go to an animal shelter and get one for free, reducing the number of unwanted strays in passing. In Japan the aspirational thing seems to be to go to one of those horrendous pet shops (you know the ones in shopping malls that keep the kittens and puppies in glass cages that are slightly too small, and then go and drown them out the back once they get too big to sell) and pay several hundred thousand yen for some tiny creature. Madness, I tell you, madness.
4. Private schools
This one is a bit of a grey area, as I can think of some good reasons to want to send your child to a private school. For some people though, it is just a status thing.
We've actually had people make comments about the fact that our granddaughter goes to a nursery (保育所) instead of a kindergarten (幼稚園) along the lines of 'poor thing, I would never send my children somewhere like that. Couldn't you afford to send her to a good school?'
5. Professional level sporting/hobby gear
Japanese hobbyists are notorious for having excellent/expensive gear. Whether it is overweight guys on carbon road bikes or hapless divers crashing into coral reefs with top end dive computers on their wrists, there doesn't seem to be a concept of doing it cheap and cheerful to start off. The whole country is just that annoying kid that gets a Nimbus 2000 in the owl post for no reason.
What do you think? Are you outraged by my mischaractirization of your essential spending? Am I just a grumpy old guy now (like Clint Eastwood in Grand Torino)? What other status displays are common in Japan?