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Why you shouldn’t worry about receiving a pension

by Amy Chavez

Worried about all those years you have, or haven’t, contributed to the Japanese pension system? Worry no more! The good news is that you won’t need a pension from the Japanese government anyway. In honor of Respect for the Aged Day, I’ll explain why.

With the bubble economy days relegated to history books and new austerity measures in place, I predict Japan will return to Japanese traditional values, mainly those of a fish-based diet, walking around in yukata and geta sandals, and living on the tatmami mat floors. What’s the draw? It’s cheap!

Remember, when it comes to survival, all you really need is food, clothing and shelter.

Food: It has been proven that your body can survive without food for much longer than it can without water. Luckily, fresh water is plentiful in Japan and you can even drink straight out of most streams. And it’s free! Your body can survive for weeks without food, so as long as you have enough money to eat once a week, you’ll be fine.

Besides, why do you think so many Japanese people choose “fishing” as a hobby? It’s not just a hobby, it’s a life skill. They’re preparing for retirement on the Japanese pension system.

Clothing: This is a no-brainer. All you need is a few yukata, and you’re set for life. The versatile yukata can be worn by either females or males, and they’re basically a one-size-fits-all garment. One yukata for each day of the week will be plenty. What could be easier, and more economical? You can even sleep in a yukata! If you’re a male, add a jinbei into the mix and you have a wardrobe for all occasions. And one pair of geta sandals will match everything.

Shelter: This is the biggie. No, I’m not going to recommend you move into a tent. But I do recommend you go back to living in a Japanese-style house with tatami mat floors and futon. This will cut your expenses because you won’t need any furniture. Forget all that furniture maintenance too: wobbly tables, broken-chairs legs, drawers that stick, coffee-stained sofas, creaky beds and worn out mattresses.

I know what you’re thinking — but what about my rocking chair? You can’t put a rocking chair on tatami mat! Don’t worry. You won’t have the funds to buy one anyway.

And let’s not forget the health benefits of tatami mat either. There is a good reason the Japanese get nostalgic about it and hold a special place in their hearts for the stuff. Most people’s grandmothers still have tatami mat in their houses. The benefit is, of course, that it keeps you pliable well into old age. Elderly Japanese people can easily stand up after sitting on the floor or sleeping on a futon. They can squat over Japanese toilets. They can still crawl under fences, harvest rice, and carry grandchildren on their backs.

A lifetime of living on the floor insists you stay physically flexible, and you’ll retain that flexibility even into old age.

Foreigners who have not grown up on the floor, however, may find it difficult. They haven’t developed that flexibility and proper muscles getting up and down off the floor. Take my husband — once he sits down on the tatami mat, you need a spatula to scrape him off.

If your body stops having to bend and stretch, it stiffens, which is a good indication that you are close to death.

Body weight, or lack thereof, is another thing that helps Japanese people remain flexible. Surely I am not the only one who has ever noticed how graceful Japanese women sit in chairs. They just fold over at the waist with nothing, such as fat, in between.

I often marvel at the fact that you can so often see a Japanese woman’s pelvic bones through her clothes. Why they don’t give birth to square babies, I’ll never know.

I would not be lying to say that many Japanese people are so thin, they’re flat. Maybe it’s a modern strategy for survival — if you get run over by a car, you can just get up and walk away.

But this is what will allow them to live well on Japan’s pension system. They’ll be able to live in a house with a tatami mat floor, drink lots of water, and eat once a week.

The next time you’re looking for a place to retire to, just look at the floor.

Lastly, regarding shelter, is that Japanese people can always return to their ancestral homes in their old age. If you’re married to a Japanese person, they surely have an abandoned home in the countryside that is decrepit and wasting away. It will have tatami mat floors. If you’re handy, you can bring the house back to life. And, even if you’re not handy, retirement offers plenty of time to pick up the necessary skills.

If you’re not married to a Japanese person who has one of these houses, you can just move into someone else’s abandoned house. Believe me, they’ll never know!

If, however, you can’t bear living on tatami mat the rest of your life, or you’re just not very good at fishing, you still have one more option: Give up all material possessions, become a Buddhist monk, and retire to the forest.

See you in the forest!

Twitter: @JapanLite. Facebook: www.facebook.com/amychavezjapan