Just like the rest of the world, Japan has been hunkering down. Unfortunately, the latest economic issues here are just an extension of what has now been a 20-year slump. So how are Japanese people reacting? The luxury-bag-rental business is booming. It seems everyone has a "zero " beer, fruit juice, gum or pot noodle. Walmart's supermarket chain, Seiyu, has had tremendous success with the country's first real comparative-pricing promotion and the most successful company of the last two or three years has been Uniqlo, which has managed to master the art of good-quality, stylish garments sold at bargain prices. Everyone it seems is either cutting back or trying to fortify for the future. Here are a few of the more interesting trends people are using to cope.
TRADING DOWN TO GET AWAYTrips to Europe and the U.S. are way down, but travelers to Korea have boomed in the last two years, thanks to day-trippers. You can jump a morning flight in Tokyo to Seoul. Be there in two hours, and then do the essential shopping -- luxury goods, cosmetics and so forth. Because of the low exchange rate for the Korean won, luxury items are selling for up to half of the price in Japan. Tokyo Disney Resort, grabbing folks who may have gone to Guam or Hawaii before, recently recorded its highest visitor levels in its 25 years. But the most interesting trade down has been from vacations to "daycations" at outlet malls, which, unlike their European or American outlets are fashionable, have large arrays of top brands, entertainment -- such as playgrounds and spas -- restaurants, movie theaters and are increasingly seen as family-entertainment destinations.
THE PETIT-AGRICULTURE BOOMStarting earlier this decade, we saw more and more people "pulling out" of the city to get back to agricultural roots. First there was a boom in balcony and even flower-box farming among young single women who would grow plots as small as a square foot in any space that got some sunlight. Agriculture has also taken off as a favored weekend leisure activity among recording artists and celebrities. These aren't weekend hideaways but actual working farms, where they spend their days off getting their hands dirty. More and more people are "dropping out" of professional careers to go develop farms specializing in unique crops. This has linked with a deepening interest in returning to varieties of traditional vegetables that nearly died out as Japanese food production went mass in the late 20th century. New interest in fresh, unique vegetables has also seeing the growth of ultramini vegetables. Sumika, a grill-style restaurant in Tokyo's Minato Ward, serves a plate of pearl-size tomatoes, yellow tomatoes and fifth-fingertip-size white turnips.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
Dave McCaughan is regional strategic planning director-Asia Pacific McCann Worldgroup, and a frequent Ad Age contributor.