Golfing gauge

Thursday saw the Nikkei close at its highest level in over 5 years, indicating that after numerous false starts the Japanese economy is now fairly racing down the road to recovery. But along with the Nikkei and rising land prices proving that Japan’s battered economy is on the mend, another reliable gauge is rather surprisingly golf – or more accurately the sport’s fluctuating club membership fees.

koganei country club

While the game of golf itself is no different in Japan, the leisurely sport has had a few teaks here and there, giving it a very different feel – both physically and financially. To begin with, playing 18 holes from start to finish is simply not possible, as regardless of what time you tee-off, it’s 9 holes followed by lunch and a few drinks. Then with a heavy stomach and a considerably lighter head, it’s out on the course again to finish off the round. Yet any club choice or shot confusion brought about by lunchtime excesses will be gently eased by the wise words of your ‘caddie-san’, a middle-aged lady wearing unusual headgear who will clean your balls, wipe your shaft, and offer words of advice and encouragement during your trials and tribulations. All for a modest fee of course.

japanese caddie

However, it’s the aforementioned membership fees that really separate the Japanese game from its international cousins, and as mentioned prior to the digression, they are a good indicator of economic health. Mirroring the rise of land prices, the average membership cost of around 300 courses in the east of the country used to be 2.7 million yen (13,000 pound), but since November that has jumped considerably to a rather more hefty 3.5 million (17,000 pound).

These prices though are at the cheaper end of things, and it’s at the middle and high ranking clubs that a bigger increase has taken place; retiring baby boomers causing costs to more than double from their post-bubble lows. The Tokyo Yomiuri Country Club is a prime example of this trend, as after membership bottomed out at a not exactly insubstantial 18 million yen (87,000 pound) in 2003, it now stands at a mind boggling 43 million (210,000 pound).

Yet even such figures pale into insignificance when compared to the Koganei Country Club – where incidentally the accompanying pictures were taken, although sadly surreptitiously and not during a round. This most exclusive of courses in western Tokyo being the leading barometer when it comes to the overall market, and during the bubble its membership soared to a truly astronomical 450 million yen (2 million pound), not surprisingly making it the most expensive club in Japan. Now, although times have obviously changed, ensconcing oneself in the plush Koganei clubhouse will still currently cost a cool 65 million yen (317,000 pound). A figure that despite its almost other-worldly qualities looks set to continue rising, with analysts keeping a close eye on its movements.

koganei golf course

While almost everyone else looks on in open-mouthed disbelief.

Obligatory blossom

It’s a well-known fact that during a lifetime, the Japanese take on average approximately 7,312 pictures of cherry blossom.

cherry blossom

Of which, 93.7% are as badly executed as the one above.

ifish flap

After the rather surprising success of the idog, Sega has made moves to further cement its position as the leading light in the world of MP3 player compatible plastic animals (and now aquatic vertebrates), by introducing the ifish.

ifish

As well as its much vaunted ‘touch a lot’ attributes, the little white wonder flaps its tail to music – a fishy frug of sorts – and even has the ability to glow different colours; its incredible variety of moves and hue set to have users mesmerised for seconds, even minutes at a time.

sega ifish

Yet not content with merely a flap here and a flash there, the ifish is also capable of composing tunes of its own, although whether these original ditties will match their alleged ‘healing’ properties remains to be seen.

The ifish will set you back a fairly modest 5,229 yen (25 pound), although iPod nano owners may want to hold back a while and see if the much rumoured nano-only iamoeba ever materialises.

ifish

Card con

In a bid to beguile fawning and fleeceable customers, UFJ NICOS has released a new credit card featuring singer, actress and all-around ‘idol’ Asami Abe.

asami abe credit card

However whilst the inclusion of the 21-year-old’s name may well be enough to entice many fans, the card’s main allure is the chance to speak to Abe-san herself. Yes, for those willing to forgo economic security and ratchet up a ridiculous amount of points, their dream girl will be kind enough to indulge in a little one-on-one chit chat.

asami abe

But it won’t be over dinner or a nice long coffee. No, instead it’ll be a rather less intimate affair; namely on the telephone – for a measly 5 minutes.

abe asami

Which isn’t much to smile about.

Coffee categorization

Considering the name of the drink below, what image could be more appropriate in summing up its apparent origin than, erm, a busty young lady lying lasciviously on a car bonnet? The stars and stripes in the background presumably added as an afterthought for those somehow unable to grasp the connection.

japanese coffee

Rather surprisingly, the company’s ‘English Tea’ brand featuring a bowler hat and pin-stripe wearing businessman sat primly atop a mini was sold out – hence the lack of a picture.

Bungling blogger

A former police administration officer in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, has been reported to prosecutors for violating the Swords and Firearms Control Law after taking pictures of handguns and using them on his blog.

gun
a gun

Whilst on duty in September 2002, the 33-year-old unlocked a firearms cabinet and selected two particularly photogenic weapons, then after surreptitiously taking a few pictures he posted them on his blog – twice as it turns out. Yet despite cleverly applying a mosaic pattern to the photos, a prefectural police worker later recognized the guns and promptly reported his findings.

The unnamed blogger was given a 10 percent pay cut as punishment, but being understandably embarrassed by the whole affair, he resigned on Wednesday, explaining his behaviour by saying, “I posted [the photographs of the guns] because I wanted people to take an interest in the home page.”

An excuse that will presumably carry little weight with prosecutors, as everybody knows that it takes hard work and good writing to attract people to a blog. The random posting of pictures,

japanese beauties

takes no skill or talent whatsoever,

fujiwara

and regardless of the content it’s a lame and unimaginative way to try and boost traffic.

waka inoue

He ought to be ashamed of himself.