Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Dollar Falls

I've been watching the fall of the dollar compared to the yen with very mixed feelings.

I mean, 80 yen to the dollar? Well, if you're lucky enough to be traveling back to the States or paying US bills, you're probably doing a little leprechaun jig. It certainly becomes much cheaper, 20% cheaper than a year and a half ago. So that $25 dinner I bought in the spring of 2009 will now cost an effective $20 (big spender, that's me!). If I had bought my Kindle today, it would have cost me 2000 yen less than four months ago ($25 dollars at today's exchange). Companies that I special order some food items through are now giving 10% discounts across the board. CostCo's even cheaper than usual - too bad it costs me over 2000 yen in tolls to get there and back.

But the other side of the coin worries me. A lot. This drop against the yen means that all Japanese products, from electronics to bulk steel, cost more in the States, Japan's primary trade partner. So customers look elsewhere. I know, you're thinking that I'm just an English teacher, what do I care? Well, that trickles down very quickly. Actually it doesn't trickle. It's a virtual avalanche of shit rolling downhill.

Sales drop, so big companies reduce their production. Employee bonuses, a big part of the Japanese salary system, fall. Subsidiaries also have to reduce production and reduce their employees' salaries or bonuses. These folks spend less, and that hits everybody, including me, like a Mike Tyson roundhouse in the wallet. Fewer tourists come as well, hurting souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels in hot spots like Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo.

English, while considered an integral part of their children's education by many parents, still can't equate housing and food.

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