Sunday, 10 February 2013

Difficult Sums

January's paypacket slightly less than the month before. The new tax to pay for the disaster went into force at the start of the year. It means that income tax has gone up by 2.1% but in my case it's only a  few hundred yen, not as much as I thought it would be. The tax will go on for 25 years.

The budget for Fukushima prefecture has just been announced and I've been wrestling with the figures. Not with the content of the budget but with the maths. I feel innumerate. For a company CEO this is not good. You see, the papers quote the figures in units of 100 million and 10,000 yen - that's oku and man. And it's driving me crazy. When I first inherited my husband's business, all the figures were in man, units of 10,000. Eventually I got the financial information stated in units of 1,000 yen but the sales department held out for another 10 years before eventually changing over. Now the company figures are all the same, the commas are in the right place, and the figures mean something.

I have a mental picture of 1 oku. It's 100 million yen, that's 700,000 GBP or at 100yen/$, 1 million dollars. 10 oku is one billion. So far so good. But I have a real problem with man, or 10,000's, and when in the paper you come across figures like 21,859,515 man (the amount allocated for decontamination) then you really have to think. For your information it's 218,595,150,000 or 218 billion yen. You see what I mean? Sorry about the rant. My Japanese is fluent but at times like this I realise that to be truly bilingual you need to absorb the concept of counting in 10,000's with your mother's milk. Do they count like this in China? Does anyone know?

Anyway back to the budget. Let's not mention figures! Suffice it to say it's roughly double what it was in normal times, before the disaster. But 53% is to be spent on measures to deal with the disaster. So considering all the extra work involved and the fact that the prefecture's emergency reserves are depleted, this is not as generous as would first appear. The figure above for decontamination work is 12% of the budget, only slightly less than the education budget. 

In addition to basic things like paying for the police and building roads, there are numerous projects to speed up the recovery such as building affordable housing, support for mothers and children, new measures to support agriculture, small businesses and tourism, and money to promote new forms of energy. But the amount of money being spent in the aftermath of this accident is shocking.

It's still very cold and icy here. There was a 75 car pile-up the other day on a brand new road in Kitakata. Fortunately no one was killed but the cars were slipping around all over the place. 


  1. Hi,
    I have the exact same problem with man, compounded by the fact I always forget that oku is 100 millions ! (For some reason, I integrated that oku was one million early on and I can't shake the notion… even though I'm fluent in Japanese too). I know perfectly well that hyakuman is one million, but every single time I pause myself and thinks "wait… does that mean that hyakuman and oku are the same thing ?!"
    Just reading you blog entry I once again was reminded that oku does not mean what I think it means. I'll probably never shake that embarrassing erroneous notion… And the difficulty that comes to have to convert any number that has a man or an oku slapped to it. -___-
    I sympathise.

  2. Thank you. I was a bit embarassed about my rant but I see I am not alone!