TAXING TIMES

There is a bonus interview today on growing the rugby game around the world. Please click here to hear about how it is developing in Poland from Mark.

Today may be a rest day for the teams competing at the World Cup, but it certainly isn’t for people working in retail. Japanese sales tax has gone up from 8% to 10%, which many fear could push Japan into recession.

It’s not as straightforward as a simple two percent increase across the board. The idea is supposed to be not to increase the price of necessary commodities. How transport fares, utility bills and toilet paper are not considered essential is beyond me however.

The majority of food will remain at 8%, but alcohol will go up to 10%, so your celebratory/commisatory beer will be even more expensive.

One of the strangest anomalies of the tax hike is that you have to pay 10% for food you consume on convenience store premises but only 8% if you eat it outside. Could this lead to more people eating on the streets? It seems unlikely, as it is still a little taboo.

The tax increase is supposed to help Japan rescue its pension scheme, which is in deep trouble due to the ageing population, but with company and income tax both being reduced at the same time, mainly to the benefit of large companies and already wealthy people, it will probably have little to no effect.

Although the wealth gap in Japan is not as big as in other countries, it’s getting bigger and it does bother me that a significant amount of my salary goes into paying for other people’s pensions. The only way I will ever get any of that back is if I live in Japan my whole life. A nomadic existence does have its drawbacks.

When times are taxing, there are few things better than visiting an onsen. Japan’s multitude of volcanoes, although dangerous, mean that there are thousands of natural hot springs all over the country.

Your cares melt away the second the warm water engulfs you and following it up with a bowl of ramen and a beer is a truly blissful combination.

I really would love a vegetarian version of ramen. Someone should get onto that.

One idea for an onsen trip is Nozawa Onsen in Nagano, where the vast majority of the village hot springs are free of charge and all offer slightly different hot water experiences. There’s plenty of skiing in the winter there, too.

Tomorrow’s matches will almost definitely see New Zealand and France defeat Canada and the US respectively. Both games will be taking place on the island of Kyushu. New Zealand and Canada will be in Oita, which boasts legendary hot springs. France and the US will be in Fukuoka (also known as Hakata), legendary for its pork bone ramen.

Tomorrow’s Matches
France vs USA (1645 JST) (Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka)
New Zealand vs Canada (1915 JST) (Oita Stadium, Oita)

Expression of the day
いくらですか (ikura desu ka)
Which means…
How much is it?

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