Core CPI in Japan Worst since 1981. Food Inflation Worst since 1976. But Energy Prices Plunge

BOJ’s Ueda promises to fuel inflation further, hopes for wage growth. Clearly, the strategy is to let raging inflation bring Japan’s debt-to-GDP ratio back in line.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

The Bank of Japan has been the total outlier in its reaction to the surge of inflation: It’s still practicing QE under the guise of yield curve control, which keeps the 10-year yield below 0.5%; and it’s still pushing its short-term yields below 0%. It’s clearly doing this on purpose, because these folks aren’t blind; they’re clearly going to resolve Japan’s sovereign debt problem, the biggest in the developed world, by fueling inflation to devalue that debt — along with everything else denominated in yen — the classic way. And it’s working.

Underlying inflation beyond energy has been relentlessly getting worse. Japan’s core Consumer Price Index – all items less fresh food and energy – spiked by 4.3% in May compared to a year ago, the worst since 1981, out-spiking easily the brief spikes caused by the consumption tax hikes, according to data from Japan’s Statistics Bureau today:

Core CPI blew through the BOJ’s 2% inflation target in April 2022. Since then, the BOJ has essentially just laughed about it, and patted itself on the back for finally making some headway in achieving its 2% target or whatever.

On a month-to-month basis, core CPI has reached an entirely new level. The three-month moving average, which irons out some of the huge variability of the month-to-month data, is now at 0.53%, for an annualized rate of 6.6%.

Food inflation spiked by 8.6% year-over-year, the worst since 1976.

Month-to-month, the CPI for food overall jumped by 0.6%, after the 1.1% spike in April. The CPI for fresh food spiked by 1.5%.

In the US and many countries in Europe, food inflation, while still high, has been backing off. But not in Japan.

Energy prices have been plunging for months, as they have around the globe. In May, the CPI for Energy on a month-to-month basis, plunged by 3.8% (-37% annualized!). Year-over-year, it plunged by 8.2%.

This includes electricity, manufactured & piped gas, liquefied propane, kerosene (used in common household space heaters), and gasoline. The index for electricity alone plunged by 17.1% year-over-year. As everywhere in the world, this drop in energy prices pushed down the headline CPI.

The overall headline CPI, thanks to the plunge in energy prices, rose on a month-to-month basis only 0.1%, after the 0.6% jump in April.

On a year-over-year basis, the overall CPI rose 3.2% in May, same as in March, but down from 3.5% in April.

Major categories of inflation, year-over-year in May:

  • Food: +8.6%, worst since 1976. Fresh food: +5.2%. Food less fresh food: +9.2%.
  • Meals outside the home: +6.4%.
  • Housing less imputed rent: +4.4%
  • Repairs and maintenance: +7.7%
  • Energy (gasoline, electricity, piped gas, propane, kerosene): -8.2%
  • Furniture, appliances, furnishings, bedding, etc.: +9.6%
  • Communication services: +7.5%
  • Clothing and footwear: +3.9%
  • Culture and recreation: +3.4%.

Governments hold down inflation where they control prices.

  • In Japan’s universal healthcare system, the government largely sets what consumers pay; but that too is now rising:
    • Medical care: +2.1%
    • Medicines: +2.2%
    • Medical supplies and appliances: +6.8%
    • Medical services: +0.5%
  • Public transportation: +2.5%
  • Education: +1.3%

The BOJ loves it, pats itself on the back.

Two days ago, Bank of Japan governor Kazuo Ueda preempted any handwringing about the surge of underlying inflation and reiterated the BOJ’s long-running standard language that it would maintain the ultra-loose monetary policies to sustainably achieve the 2% inflation target, accompanied by wage growth. And he said that core inflation is expected to back off later this year for some magic reason.

This further confirms and clarifies the intent of the BOJ to let inflation rip, to keep fueling it, with wages hopefully sort-of keeping up, and for this inflation to eat up the purchasing power of the yen, and therefore of the government debt denominated in yen, the majority of which is held by the BOJ, and another big pile is held by governmental or quasi-governmental institutions. Enough years of raging inflation, and Japan’s debt-to-GDP ratio will come back in line with other developed countries.

That’s the hope. And the hope is that the BOJ will be able to control this inflation when it threatens to blow out completely, and not end up where Argentina is, with decades of intractable debilitating double- and triple-digit inflation. Reckless monetary policies have a way of exacting their pound of flesh.

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  86 comments for “Core CPI in Japan Worst since 1981. Food Inflation Worst since 1976. But Energy Prices Plunge

  1. jon says:

    Thanks WR for this report.
    Kudos to BoJ to stand firm no matter what the inflation is.

    I feel bad for Japanese people who are not able to afford to form a family and raise kids due to them being priced out of life’s essentials.

    • andy says:

      I think they call it “hikikomory”, i.e. young men just walked away and don’t even look at women anymore. How did they manage to have inflation in such environment?

    • Leo says:

      It’s a few decade of ZIRP mass Karma that is coming back to bite Japan. I feel Japan will have hyperinflation because:
      1. Population is aging and losing productivity.
      2. Fewer young people now have to work to repay huge debt for many old guys who didn’t carry their weight. So higher interest rates are no longer possible.
      3. All assets are fake, ie retaining value only due to central bank purchases of stocks, bonds, etc.

    • Flea says:

      This includes china usa and probably a lot of countries in this world

  2. Phoenix_Ikki says:

    How do you say transitory in Japanese? LOL…oh well at least Kuroda never frame it that way..

  3. AGXIIK says:

    When I read that a BOJ governor ‘premptied’ any handwringing about inflation concerns, it conjures up a picture of Ueda juggling overflowing chamber pots, trying to keep them from hitting the floor and drenching all within range with scheisse.

    Maybe Japan plans to enter the Summer Olympics with this activity as a new sport.

  4. Peter Sherman says:

    Can a Central Bank get away with this?
    Intentionally propagating Inflation that hurt the majority of people, causing great suffering and I assume populist anger against the government will be created.

    When the USA had the raging inflation in the 1970s it led to a new and much different President.

    As I recall, Jimmy Carter didn’t want to put Volcker in as FOMC Chair but felt he had to. Public anxiety was high over Inflation.

    • HowNow says:

      In Japan, the government controls the corporations. In America, the corporations control the government.

  5. Matthew Scott says:

    What would it look like if they started to loose control of inflation and it started down the road to hyper inflation? What would be the early warning sign to look out for?

  6. Crabby says:

    From my observation, wage growth usually ends before inflation does.
    We need to find a new and better solution for ending inflation.

    • Not Sure says:

      We already have an excellent solution… QT. After over a decade of QE, we have trillions of anti-dollars sitting on the Fed’s balance sheet. If you want to tame inflation, you make the currency more scarce. If the Fed wanted to speed up disinflation, they could make it happen very quickly with more aggressive QT. Instead, they stall us with “transitory” this and “quarter point rate hike” that (plus a pause to see how things play out). Meanwhile, they keep QT at a trickle until they get scared by their own shadow again and find some excuse to pause that too. At least the BoJ is blatantly honest about what’re doing. The Fed spits in our face and tells us it’s raining.

    • spencer says:

      Exactly, money is not neutral.

  7. Beardawg says:

    Quite fascinating. It’s amazing Japan does not already have double-digit inflation like most of Eastern Europe. I was not aware their Debt to GDP ratio was worst in the world. Is it 2X worse than USA ? More ? Less? Sounds like a good follow up topic !!

    • Doctor_ECE_Prof_Old_Fa_t says:

      But the debt is held by their citizens, not outsiders like us. Remember, we even contemplated selling Maine to them in the late 1980’s

      • Wolf Richter says:

        The majority of the debt is held by the BOJ itself after 10 years of massive QE.. Additional piles are held by the Government Pension Investment Fund, Japan Post Holdings (majority state-owned), and by some other government entities. The banks hold a bunch too.

        So yes, most of the debt is held internally, and therefore indirectly by the citizens.

        • Beardawg says:

          And yet – the Japanese thrive. I guess their citizens don’t own as many McMansions as Americans – but they’ve tried to blow up their currency and they can’t. It makes ya wonder if Debt to GDP really does matter at all.

        • Occam says:

          The Japanese government debt held by BOJ itself doesn’t support retirement plans or anything else other than low interest rates. In a pure fiat currency regime it is just a book entry, and rather than selling the debt or letting it roll off, BOJ could in theory forgive it all, because the Japanese government owes it to itself. Devaluation by inflation isn’t the only way to reduce the debt to gdp ratio, but intragovernmental loan forgiveness might break the fiat spell by exposing central banking as the ultimate confidence game in the developed world.

        • Doctor_ECE_Prof_Old_Fa_t says:

          Another important point that may be known to only few. In the last 70 or so years, hoarding dollars literally under pillows has been the norm among elite folks in the so called developing countries and even black market for them. When those dollars come washing ashore, we will be in deep sh_t :) How about an article on that!
          I am glad you are not using ChatGPT or whatever to monitor the comments, yet. I think SeekingAlpha started doing it. Perhaps Barron’s too.

  8. William Leake says:

    Japan is a strange country. I think they are psychologically still reeling from that big real estate bust, back in the 1980s. The Japanese came over here buying commercial real estate left and right, and then got their butts handed to them. 1989 saw the highest the Nikkei ever got. Losing WWII also didn’t help. In a culture where people do not like to lose face, that’s a lot of lost face. Nonetheless, the Japanese make quality products now. In the 1960s they made crap. I think they were (are?) just not ready to deal with an economic Godzilla.

    • George says:

      I suspect you’re right — I remember reading an article in Bloomberg or the Times 9-10 years ago about how Japanese investors preferred govt bonds to stocks, despite a negative yield. (I distinctly remember there was even an advertisement reprinted in the article, showing an idealized successful young businessman holding up a double-handful of govt bonds.) I can’t find the article specifically but this article supports your thinking about how Japanese investors invest, and why:

      • William Leake says:

        Thanks for your comments and the link.

        • HowNow says:

          Yes, thanks, George, for the interesting link. I wouldn’t have ever imagined that Japan had a relatively low level of financial literacy. Lower than Americans? Hard to imagine. I feel bad for having underestimated our financial savvy.

    • anon says:

      William Leake wrote “… I think they [Japan] are psychologically still reeling from that big real estate bust, back in the 1980s.”

      I think that is 100% correct.

      Also, anecdotally per friends of ours who have visited Japan on a number of occasions, Japan may still also be psychologically reeling from losing WWII!

      They never lost a war before. And losing one to barbarians from ‘the West’ was just too much. Especially ones who had such hugely destructive weapons.

      Dunno if that is true or not.

      But there is a very funny (to me) meme floating around named ‘A Short History of Japan’.
      It shows a Samurai Warrior, an Atomic explosion, and a very weird looking Japanese young woman.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        …losing WWII not the first big shock to Japan. Commodore Peary’s more-or-less forced visit in the 1850’s spawned a breathtaking adoption of modern industrialization unmatched anywhere else in contemporary Asia (…and, perhaps, even Russia and the Balkans…).

        may we all find a better day.

  9. Depth Charge says:

    Central bankers are the scourge of the planet. They have destroyed everything, yet there is no talk of even neutering them, much less holding them accountable for their economic terrorism.

    • CSH says:

      Governments and their addiction to excessive deficit spending has played a huge role too.

      • Jon says:

        CB is part of government.
        Govt can’t create deficit without CB as interest rates would go up a lot of CB does not buy government bonds.

        • DawnsEarlyLight says:

          Exactly, CB’s are the government’s ‘tool’ to deficit spending!

        • phleep says:

          Deficit spending can be an innate and proper feature of government: investing in public goods that do not yield a focused, near-term profit, but yield productivity gains long term. As in, ports and freeways, the military, the silicon chip and Internet basic research and development, and basic public schooling, if real and not a boondoggle. The line between real and boondoggle can never be perfectly drawn in advance. But the political abuse of this has such a huge overhang now. Voters slit their own throats long term. CBs like Congress are just a tool of these forces.

        • Einhal says:

          Yes, it can be a source of good. But borrowing and printing money to hand to people to splurge on flat screen TVs and handbags as in 2021 doesn’t qualify as good.

  10. Flea says:

    If you think food inflation is bad now,wait a year ,entered drought conditions in Midwest last year,in Minnesota only a 1/4 “ of rain as reported on news . If it doesn’t rain soon hyperinflation has no choice but to rear it’s ugly head .Also ethonal is made from corn .people better start gardening and canning food .Also could be 7 years hard times

    • Apple says:

      Climate change is changing weather patterns all over the world.

      Time to end the use of corn for fuel anyhow.

      • mol says:

        Corn as a green alternative motor fuel is a red herring. Energy density vs toluene is like 3x lower and it takes so many energy inputs to produce that we might as well burn gasoline. But, we use it as a fuel to have an excuse to grow it. It is like the strategic oil reserve- if we ever needed lots of shelf stable calories without relying on imports or coastal areas in range of marine artillery, say in case of WWIII, it is there for us. If we cannot refine enough diesel during WWIII, it is an alternative fuel. We can even turn it into ethylene for plastics. But we can’t plant it fast enough right when we need it, so we start now. None of this is likely to matter much, since WWIII is likely to go nuclear.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          mol – the tightrope walking of economic ‘efficiency’ vs. the prudent, but less-profitable, need for redundant operational systems on Spacecraft Earth…

          may we all find a better day.

        • RH says:

          Yes. However, as to the future, Japan apparently has GREAT future planning.

          Japan’s HTTR reactor, used not just for industrial processes but also for HYDROGEN production, may be the future, particularly if those reactors can also run off thorium. Inherent safety and encapsulated waste with rapid deactivation of the worst radioactive waste (as few as hundreds of years only if thorium is used) mean that these plants producing power and red hydrogen are the answer to powering future electric cars AND base load power generation.

          The apparently accurate limits on the availability and production of materials for batteries and electric cars, with Russia and Ukraine out as producers, can then be avoided. Suddenly, Japan’s hydrogen internal combustion engine makes perfect sense: it will use cheap, plentiful materials, like gasoline internal combustion engines, not needing rare earths or other material which are not available in adequate quantities for years, until their production ramps up. It or Germany’s hydrogen paste may give Japan a full, self sustaining energy system for their industries and cars. I love the electric car, but now, thanks to Japanese planning, if the supplies of necessary materials limit their production, clean red hydrogen powered cars, even if we must park them outside and refill them twice a week due to leaks, will be in the future.

      • phleep says:

        The US economy and mentality is skewed toward cheap nifty conveniences right now with no worries ever. So too a “right” to go anywhere and nowhere instantly and cheaply.

      • Ervin says:

        Once the starch in the corn is turned into alcohol the high protein distillers grain is used for animal feed for our hamburgers, pork chops and our chicken wings. So not a problem.

        • Occam says:

          The use of spent grains for animal feed is an ancient agricultural practice. In agriculture and animal husbandry almost nothing goes to waste; if only the rest of society were so conscientious about full utilization of resources.

    • vecchio gatto veloce says:

      The Twin Cities and surrounding areas had a very snowy winter and through April, we had a fair amount of rain and some flooding of the rivers. But since then, it’s been extremely dry. Farmers need rain as soon as possible, and there’s some rain forecast for this weekend.

      Local newspaper headline this morning:
      “Driest spring in 5 decades leaves Minnesota farmers with withered crops.” “Farmers are waiting for “priceless” raindrops as the state slips deeper into drought.”

      Minneapolis gets its water from the Mississippi, and she’s still running nicely from the winter’s melt off. However, late summer-early fall last year, Wolf wrote about the slowdown and stoppage of barge traffic on the river from very low water levels. Every day when I ride, I check the water mark on a few places to keep track of how it is. Shoreline is emerging pretty fast.

      On the home front, every other morning I water my apple trees; twice a day my garden; and every morning my raspberry forest. First harvest of raspberries was today. Life is good.

      Wolf, your last sentence is well stated. “Reckless monetary policies have a way of exacting their pound of flesh.” I feel the same way about reckless fiscal policies. But Japan has somehow managed to stay out of trouble from having a huge sovereign debt. Until now, anyway.

      Best regards to your wife’s family.

    • SoCalBeachDude says:

      No. Commodities have been plunging all year and the plunges will intensify as the world drowns in excess commodities for which demand is continually falling.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        In terms of price, WTI plunged in the second half last year but has been roughly stable all this year. At around $70 it is right where it was in Dec 2022.

        Other commodities followed different pricing patterns. What spiked and then fell were futures prices, not demand.

      • The Real Tony says:

        Next year is an election year in America which means interest rates by hook or by crook will fall thus pushing down the value of the U.S. dollar and spiking commodity prices.

    • spencer says:

      Stagflation will become an enduring feature on the landscape.

  11. old school says:

    The Japanese bubble was one of the top 3 bubbles in modern history. I think the stock market hit PE of 70 or an earnings yield of 1.4%. Takes a long time to clean up the mess I guess.

    • phleep says:

      The USA pressured them mid-80s to trim exports and skew toward a go-go domestic consumer economy, right? There was a craze to financialize. There was a huge appearance of cheap easy credit across that economy. Corporations borrowed a lot. Real estate prices went vertical. It presaged gimmicks tried here in the early-mid 2000s and early 2020s: pump-priming. I look at that, and the decline of the British empire in the 1900s, and shudder for how we might go.

    • spencer says:

      Actually, the “clean up” process is quick. You just apply reserve requirements to transaction accounts (like Volcker did to NOW accounts).

  12. Doctor_ECE_Prof_Old_Fa_t says:

    Warren Buffett getting into Japanese stock market, it seems. Perhaps he feels that we have inflated ours enough already!

    • RH says:

      This is true. Our risk-loving Wall Streeters and bankers will soon demand another series of gigantic bail outs, with few or no strings attached, of course, for their many, insolvent banks, hedge funds, and other over leveraged companies. They love to gamble, because after the latest “reforms” they bear no risks and must get bailouts or see depositors bailed in; and our panicked depositors then cause our banking system to collapse (as planned, unless the “reformers,” who “coincidentally” got sweetheart treatment personnally thereafter, were retarded.)

      The US government, which has unfunded liabilities estimated many years ago at $211 trillion, which compounding would have at least doubled, cannot help much. Hence, it will be up to the “Federal” Reserve (a privately owned banksters’ cartel) to create even more US dollars “to infinity and beyond” to bail out their owners and their cronies.

      I predict that the presidentially appointed leaders of the “Fed” cartel will not just get $200,000 to $400,000 per speech for doing that (which “coincidentally” it seems prior leaders got) per boring speech. With the inflation they are creating, I predict the “Fed’s” current leaders, effectively in charge of looking out for and bailing out the bankers and Wall Streeters, will get over $1 million per boring speech.

  13. Gary Fredrickson says:

    China is the beneficiary of Japan’s inflation problem. As the Japanese companies get weaker, they can partner and sell their intellectual property to China. The Japanese elite can make immediate money on the stock bump of the apparent profit increase. A win-win.

    • Dog says:

      Good point, this has been happening for years. Sharp Electronics is a great example, though that is now owned by the Taiwanese

  14. LordSunbeamTheThird says:

    Japan has very high inheritance tax. Over the next twenty years the assets of the boomer Japanese are going to be sold overseas and converted to yen and then highly taxed.
    The ECB has asked the BOJ to keep them informed because the Japanese are such an important component of global savings.

    I can see the interest rate differentials particularly between the UK and Japan so now 1 GBP is 180 yen which is over-valued. Not as over-valued as when its been properly manipulated I was there once when it was 240 and everything was dirt cheap, but 180 I think is still too cheap.

    Japanese national health insurace requires you to pay but then the insurance scheme tops up, after 70 years your contribution doubles. The state pension scheme is derisory. It is the aging of Japan itself that prevents inflation imo, no matter what happens to prices the old Japanese have to hang onto the money. It penury there if they don’t and they all know it.

    For all the faults of Japan it must be the largest per capita holder of external savings in the world, so I think personally or I am inclined to be of the opinion, that the yen will hold up. All of the external assets are future yen purchases.

  15. JGold says:

    The BoJ has had an ultra-loose monetary policy for over 3 decades, but it’s only now they have purported inflation, which is still lower than the European countries.

    The BoJ’s decisions have as much to do with other central bank policies (US, Euro, UK), than their own inflationary issues.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The BOJ did QT before anyone knew what to call it. Between Jan 2006 and Dec 2007, over those two years, the BOJ reduced its balance sheet by 30%.

  16. DownFed says:

    According to Deloitte, the BoJ is the only purchaser of sovereign debt, because they want 0.50% in a 3% inflation environment.

    In a way, the BoJ is acting as the QE bank of the world, since they free up Japanese investment in foreign debt. That puts downward pressure on our interest rates, at least for the while.

    And it seems, at least lately, we can get more and more yen for the buck.

  17. SocalJimObjects says:

    I went to Japan earlier this year for sakura season and I am planning to go again later this year, so the lower the Yen gets, the better it is for me.

  18. David Brewer says:

    Mathematical error? 3.8% a month fall annualised is minus 37% not minus 56%. (3.8% a month rise would be plus 56% annualised, but that’s different)

  19. longstreet says:

    In 2013, BOJ owned about 12 percent of Japan’s debt
    NOW, over 50%.
    How long can lending money to yourself persist?
    The “new wave” of central bankers are really rolling the dice here…..pulling wealth from the future to fluff the present.

    • spencer says:

      In the circular flow of income, unless the upper income quintiles’ savings are expeditiously activated, i.e., put back to work, then a dampening economic impact is generated (secular stagnation).

      Dr. Philip George corroborates this in his “The Riddle of Money Finally Solved”

      Bernanke’s “wealth effect” doesn’t work. Link: “Changes in Wealth and the Velocity of Money”.

      • longstreet says:

        But Ben won the Nobel!

      • The Real Tony says:

        Bernanke’s “wealth effect” and Charles Ponzi one and the same. Bernie Madoff gets locked up and Bernanke is crowned a hero. I fail to see any difference in the two?

        • Depth Charge says:

          Bernanke makes Madoff look like a saint by comparison. Madoff didn’t force anybody to do anything – he preyed upon their own foolish greed. Bernanke destroyed society for people who had no choice in the matter. Bernanke is an evil, filthy man.

    • Einhal says:

      I have a very hard time understanding how that even works.

    • Flea says:

      Everyone knows debt is never paid off,it just causes WARS

  20. spencer says:

    You can now feel recession in the air.

  21. Bobber says:

    The world seems to be operating under the assumption that central banks will reduce their balance. That’s why long term interest rates are only 4% when inflation averaged 6 to 8% the last three years.

    Sorry to those folks. The central bank balance sheets represent printed money that already set new price levels in the economy. Once prices go up, they can’t come down, given the way central banks avoid recessions at all costs.

  22. eg says:

    I’m not sure about comparing Japan to Argentina? Japan is exercising about as close to a permanent ZIRP regime as you can get, including exerting yield control as far out as the 10 year. Argentina’s bank rate is something in the order of, what, 97%?

    And yet Japan has among the lowest inflation rates in the world while Argentina’s annual rate is somewhere around 109%.

    Wolf, is there an explanation for your thinking behind this comparison, or is this just indulging in a little hyperbole for the groundlings?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      1. Here is what I said about Argentina:

      “And the hope is that the BOJ will be able to control this inflation when it threatens to blow out completely, and not end up where Argentina is…”

      So it would have been helpful for you to read the whole sentence, and not just “Argentina.”

      2. Look at the first chart. Where do you think that is going? Japan no longer has the lowest core inflation rate in the world, far from it. In terms of core inflation, Japan is getting pretty bad, and it’s STILL getting worse, and the BOJ is fueling it with QE and NIRP. Was this so hard to miss?

      • eg says:

        Well, OK — I admit that Argentina and Greece can be trigger words for me, given how often they are bandied about irresponsibly elsewhere. And while I understand the premise of your warning about the Japanese direction of travel, the yawning gap between them and the Argentinians still strikes me as jarring.

    • The Real Tony says:

      You know what they say. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Zero interest policy has turned Japan into a basket case and demoralized all it’s citizens for 25 years straight running.

    • Hairy Gaijin says:

      Electricity rates are NOT dropping , they’re up 30%!

  23. David S says:

    We can witness two examples of fairly large countries not following common economic principles. Japan with a shrinking population and growing nationalized debt and Turkey with runaway inflation while also refusing to raise interest rates. I think most of us believe they are on a path to collapsing, but these things always seem to take more time than most would predict.

  24. The Real Tony says:

    We all know when something is artificially held down in price it eventually spikes exponentially higher. Such is the case with energy prices around the world today. Energy costs/prices are set to bust out dancin’ (correct spelling). Bust out dancin’.

  25. LouisDeLaSmart says:

    It all looks like one of those “lose 15 pounds in two weeks” ideas that look great on paper but…The yoyo effect…

  26. Japan is Best says:

    My comment about the ranting of inflation in Japan is: so what.

    Are the factors that are increasing prices in Japan based on factors that are temporary or a permanent basis?

    Are the factors pushing up fresh food and meals outside the home based on weather and other one time events or will they be permanent?

    Does the fact that the BOJ buying bonds push up food prices or not?

    Does the fact that the BOJ is buying bonds and has a low interest rate policy cause the price of energy to increase in Japan and is that price of energy under the control of the BOJ.

    My answer to those questions is no except for the influence of the BOJ on the yen exchange rate.

    And over the long run the rate of inflation in Japan is still much lower than many other countries including the USA.

    And a few more interesting facts about prices, inflation, and the overall quality of life.

    I am sure that most here know about various rankings put out by entities tha measure such things as the Worlds Most Liveable Cities, the Highest Cost Cities, the Top 50 Restaurants in the World, etc.

    As the owner of this site is based in San Francisco, lets compare it to cities in Japan and Japan/USA.

    Not once has a US city ever come in the top 10 of the EIU rankings. Best city in the USA IIRC was Honolulu at number 25 this time. In fact San Francisco is usually down around 50 or so in the world. This year it was number 49. Japan usually gets one or two in the top. Osaka came in number 10 this year. Tokyo number 15.

    Cost of living?

    Okay, well San Francisco beats out a lot of places and usually comes in the top ten there with many surveys placing it at number 3 or 4 most costly city in the world..

    Japan? Well despite all that glorious inflation Japan is cheap compared to the USA and the rest of the world. I will just use Mercer data for one example and there are others that have the same conclusion.

    Mercer shows San Francisco at number 14 most expensive in the world. Just ahead of Honolulu at number 15. Tokyo comes in at number 19. Osaka comes in at number 93 (EIU number 10 best city!!) What is surprising is that Sydney comes in at nuber 56 and Melbourne at 71 despite them ranking as number 3 and 4 in the EIU list of best places to live…..


    That top fifty list came out the other day and Japan had two in the top 50. San Francisco? Zero.

    How about Michelin star restaurants?

    Tokyo tops the list with a little over 200; Kyoto has a little over 100; Osaka just under 100; and how about San Francisco?

    A whopping total of 31……………. They tie with Bangkok of all places.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      LOL. You don’t even live in Japan, not in the US. You’re just googling around for a few minutes. So let me help you fill in a few gaps:

      1. Median household income in San Francisco = $126,000, meaning 50% of the households here make over $126k and 50% make less than $126k. $126k = 18 million yen

      2. Tokyo median income of working households (not retirees) = ¥8.8 million = $61k. That must be close to the poverty line in San Francisco.

      3. Yes, Japan is “cheap” — for people with US incomes, and especially for people with San Francisco incomes, it’s really a good deal. So that’s good for us when we go to Japan and spend out San Francisco USD incomes, but it’s terrible when Japanese visitors come to San Francisco to spend they yen incomes.

      4. Yes, mass transit in Japan is a gazillion times better than anywhere in the US. No one is going to argue with that. Mass transit in the US sucks.

      5. Yes, food is delicious in Japan, and in the big cities there are a lot of great restaurants. But in term of restaurants on anyone’s list, I don’t give a hoot. San Francisco (with a population of only 810,000) has a huge number of excellent restaurants, whether they’re on anyone’s list or not, and a lot of them are within a comfortable healthy walk from our place. In addition, the temperature is mostly cool, and so you don’t get to the restaurant after that nice walk, all sweaty, as you would for a big part of the year in Tokyo, Osaka, and elsewhere.

      6. We don’t even need to have A/C. Just open the windows.

      7. I go swimming in the Bay several times a week. I admit the water isn’t exactly pristine, but it’s pretty decent, and has gotten a lot cleaner over the past five decades. I would never ever swim in the Tokyo Bay (for the Olympic open-water swim events that jumped off at Odaiba, they did a lot of extra things to keep sewage away from swimmers, but that was only for the brief period of the events).

      8. My wife and her Japanese friends here have voted with their feet.

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