|

Unforgiving system leaves family mired in debt

Couple say that advice from local city officials to defer paying health insurance payments left them owing millions and facing asset seizures

by

Aside from the fact that they are in an international marriage, there is nothing that really makes Taka Hirano and his American wife, Brandy, stand out from the other families in their suburban neighborhood in Wakayama Prefecture. Like most of their friends, they are just doing their best to juggle work and family commitments and keep their heads above water in the current economic climate.

However, the couple have recently found themselves entangled in a stressful battle with the local city office over health insurance payments. Shell-shocked from the events of the past year, they decided to share their story with The Japan Times in order to draw attention to a system that they say has left them feeling like criminals.

Finances have always been quite tight for the family and they are used to living frugally. Taka is some years older than Brandy and his age has meant that employment options are limited. He currently teaches English and does freelance translation and consulting work. Brandy limited her working hours so that she could be home for her children when they were smaller, but now she too works long days as an English teacher.

Paying their health insurance premiums started to become a problem after the birth of their third child. Since neither Taka nor Brandy are salaried employees, they are enrolled under the national health insurance scheme (kokumin kenkō hoken) for the self-employed and their families. Enrollment in one of the country’s health insurance programs is mandatory for all Japanese citizens, as well as foreign nationals on long-term visas.

“I went down to city office to explain the situation and said we couldn’t pay the full amount each month. It was about ¥25,000 per month at that point as I recall,” explains Taka. “They were understanding, and told me, ‘Just pay whenever you can, hopefully monthly,’ and so we were paying ¥5,000 to ¥10,000 each month.”

As the children grew and Brandy was able to work more hours, the family’s financial situation improved and they gradually increased payments. However, the unexpected arrival of their fourth child, now an elementary school student, threw their family finances into confusion again. Around this time, the family’s health premiums suddenly shot up.

“We were shocked when the health insurance bill more than doubled to almost ¥60,000 a month at one point,” Brandy recalls.

The health insurance bills are a complicated mix, based on both the total residence tax paid by the household and the number of insured members. A “nursing care premium” payment is added once a person turns 40. Calculations vary by municipality.

In 2013, the couple were surprised to receive a rather ominous letter from the Health Insurance Division demanding that they pay the amount owed to date in full.

“I went down to see them yet again.” Taka says. “Every time we got a letter of warning or went in for a consultation if we were having problems, we got the same response: Pay what you can.”

Things carried on in this vein until summer last year, when another letter arrived from city office, notifying the Hiranos that because they had failed to pay the amount owed, their case had been handed over to a debt collection agency. A few weeks later a notice came from the agency informing them they had two weeks to pay up in full or their assets could be taken.

Hiroyuki Shimokusu, manager of the Taxation Department at the Hiranos’ local city office, responded to questions with an emailed statement. He explained that there is no set figure at which delinquent payments are handed to the collection agency.

“It varies by municipality,” he wrote. “In addition, the decision is based on a comprehensive review of the case, and not just the amount in arrears.”

In Taka and Brandy’s case, they were presented with a bill for ¥3.4 million.

“Half of this amount was interest!” says Brandy. “We understand that we have a duty to pay the amount we owe, but charging us interest on top of this?”

The couple say the debt collection agency then tried to put the hard word on them.

“They said, ‘Other people manage to pay up. Why can’t you? Borrow the money from your family or friends,’ ” says Brandy. “However, we weren’t prepared to do that. It was our responsibility and we had to figure it out.”

The agency authorized to deal with the Hiranos’ case is known as the Wakayama Local Tax Collection Organization, one of a network of governmental agencies throughout Japan that are charged with following up on delinquent payments.

The situation took a more serious turn in the autumn when a bank called Taka to inform him that the debt collection agency had come in and cleared all the money out of his two accounts.

“We were told this was legal. It had never crossed our minds they could do this,” Brandy says.

“One of the accounts was for paying our bills, while the other was one in which we tried to set aside money for the children. We had been hoping to use that for when our son entered college. It was like they were saying, ‘Go ahead, have kids and try and raise them — but we’ll keep kicking you.’ ”

The couple’s next step was to seek free legal advice for citizens.

“We got some sense of relief when we were told they could not take any money in my wife’s accounts,” Taka explains. “They would only target me, as the head of the household. And if they did come to our house, they would only take my items, not those belonging to Brandy or the kids.”

Considering there were dependent children in the household, the couple asked the lawyer if there was a system in place to safeguard the family’s income. In fact, tax law stipulates that a family must be left with ¥100,000 as subsistence-level income, plus around ¥45,000 for each member of the household. However, this only applies to income earned as salary (kyūryō). For freelancers like Taka, remuneration is generally categorized as “reward” (hōshū) and there is no such provision, making it fair game.

In separate email statements, representatives from both the Wakayama Prefectural Office and the Hiranos’ local city office confirmed the difference in the law based on income type. However, they declined to comment on the fairness of the situation in relation to the Hirano family on the grounds that they could not discuss a citizen’s personal information.

At the beginning of this year the agency approached Taka’s employers, demanding that any income be sent directly to the agency.

“His employers were sympathetic but it was very stressful, with the workplaces wondering how it would affect their businesses. What if they hadn’t wanted to deal with it and refused to give him more work? Our position would have been made even worse!” Brandy says indignantly.

The couple originally shared their story with The Japan Times in mid-June, at which point they hadn’t heard from the collection agency for several months. They were cautiously hopeful that it was end of the matter, but unfortunately, their ordeal was far from over.

Three weeks ago, six employees from the agency suddenly showed up at the Takanos’ home in two vehicles, brandishing a copy of a law that allows entry to a citizen’s home. The agents then proceeded to search the entire house.

“I had been keeping some money in my pajama drawer — money that I had saved up for my children’s school expenses, and the recent kodomoteate (child-raising allowance) money we had received, as well as some rent money my oldest daughter gave us. They took it all, and claimed there is no way to determine whose money it is, and therefore they were able to claim it,” Brandy says.

“Towards the end of the visit, our daughter came home from her part-time job and asked them why they were taking the money she had given us to help pay the bills, and they again said that because money can’t be labeled as to whom it belongs to, they are allowed to take any cash they find.”

The couple now feel as if they are in limbo.

“We can’t put money in my bank account and I hesitate to look for new work in case the debt collection agency harasses a new employer. This has seriously affected our ability to plan for the future,” Taka says.

“We looked at different options,” Brandy adds. “We couldn’t declare bankruptcy for this kind of public debt. At one point, Taka suggested I should just divorce him and take our youngest back to the USA but ultimately we decided to face this together.”

When asked for advice on what citizens in a similar situation can do, Hiroyuki Kunibe of the General Affairs Department at the Wakayama Prefectural Office says, “If you cannot make payments, we advise prompt consultation with your municipal tax department to plan a course of action to resolve the issue.”

Ironically, this is exactly what the Hiranos have been attempting to do all along. Taka and Brandy reiterate that they never tried to get out of paying what they owe and want to do the right thing as citizens.

“I feel that the root of the problem is the current setup of the national health insurance, which uses the same uniform method of calculating premiums regardless of whether citizens are wealthy or poor,” says Taka.

Brandy adds: “If they could have forgiven us the interest and worked with us, we could have negotiated a payment plan. We can’t pay anything right now.

“I feel like I’ve lost the will to move forward. Knowing that government tipped our lives into disarray like this — it destroys something within you.”

Names have been changed to protect the family’s privacy. Your comments and story ideas: comunity@japantimes.co.jp

Where to go for help

According to figures released in January by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, some 3.6 million households nationwide, or about 17 percent of the total, fell behind in health insurance payments at some stage last year. Of these, 260,000 (7.2 percent) were subject to seizure of assets, like the Hiranos were, suggesting that it’s a fairly common occurrence.

A spokesperson from the Japan Federation of Labor and Social Security Attorneys Association suggests that foreign residents who find themselves unable to pay their health insurance premiums should first speak with their local city office.

“It may, however, be difficult for the average person to know where to turn,” the spokesperson said. “In this case, the best thing might be to consult with an expert on labor and social insurance laws (sharōshi).”

The federation’s website (Japanese): www.shakaihokenroumushi.jp

  • zer0_0zor0

    Like the student loan scenario in the USA regarding the collection agencies and usury interest.

  • John

    Why don’t they just get the F out of that predatory country and move somewhere where the gov’t treats people decently.

    • Todd Strickland

      Yeah, right…
      I’ve heard far worse debt collection horror stories from the US. I do feel sorry for the Hiranos, though.

      • John

        “Yeah, right…Todd”, the debt collection agencies in the US do not work IN COLLUSION with the government as they do in Japan, so THBBBT!

    • Yo Han

      Which country do you suggest? Which country is offering long-stay visa and working permits, helath insurance etc.? Teaching English and arriving with 4 children? To go where? Russia? China? India?

      • John

        The country of Anyplacebutjapandonia. Yeah–“helath” insurance. Why don’t you proofread your own ocmments??

      • John

        The country of Anyplacebutjapandonia. Yeah–“helath” insurance. Why don’t you proofread your own ocmments??

    • Yo Han

      Which country do you suggest? Which country is offering long-stay visa and working permits, helath insurance etc.? Teaching English and arriving with 4 children? To go where? Russia? China? India?

  • Carl MacIntyre

    Perhaps they should of thought of their finances before they had their fourth child.

    • R0ninX3ph

      Honestly, this is the only point I got from this. Yes, they’re in a crappy situation now… But, if they weren’t financially stable for multiple children, why did they have multiple children?

    • Yo Han

      Exactly, I fully agree with your comment.

      Man (Japanese) and wife (USA) – both with low and irregular income – creating a family of 4 children!

      How can they be surprised to get an invoice by the Japanese National Health Insurance of a monthly premium of yen 60000,- (about USD 500,-) for a family of 6.

      They decided to pay a little and sometimes maybe even nothing over years and now the invoice including interests is over 3 Million Yen and of course this is all the ‘fault of the Japanese system’.

      In Japan salaries are not so low and if you are willing to work whatever work is available, it should be possible to pay for your health insurance on time.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        English teaching does not bring in a substantial “salary”

      • Yo Han

        What did they do to increase their income, why are they teaching English? They are married, Japanese and US-citizens and do not have any working restriction.

      • Yo Han

        What did they do to increase their income, why are they teaching English? They are married, Japanese and US-citizens and do not have any working restriction.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        English teaching does not bring in a substantial “salary”

    • Philip

      If you read the article, you will find that they did think this through.

      The problem is not tied to the number of children, but rather that they are being denied the chance to go with the “pay what you can pay” program at some point. And when they had more money coming in, they were able to pay back more than before.

      However, the bill they received was based on back pay and interest. The interest has nothing to do with the number of children. It has to do with the fact they were being charged interest despite the fact that they were making steady payments.

      Atop of that, they took money that even their oldest daughter contributed. As in the fact that they were able to pay more as she was contributing to the rent. As well as the fact she had money put aside, and is now told that she cannot save any because of this.

      So again, this has nothing to do with the number of children, but rather the fact that they are denied a Government service. As in everything that is stated beyond the point where they ended up having a fourth kid. And other things you have failed to pick up on.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Of course it has everything to do with the number of children and if you don’t recognize the simple fact that health insurance costs, et al, increase with the number of kids and that they indicated that their finances were OK until the (presumably) last child arrived, your either stupid or a member of one of those religions who attempts to increase their membership through procreation (and yes, it’s redundant). They put themselves in the position to get screwed and certainly deserve the lion’s share of the blame. The husband is Japanese and should be well aware of the ramifications of their decisions.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Gosh so much anger here— why?

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Not anger, just an unwillingness to participate in self pity and self deception.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        tell that to the many driven to suicide, and to the 17% of Japanese households plagued with this problem. “According to figures released in January by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, some 3.6 million households nationwide, or about 17 percent of the total, fell behind in health insurance payments at some stage last year. Of these, 260,000 (7.2 percent) were subject to seizure of assets, like the Hiranos were, suggesting that it’s a fairly common occurrence.”

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Driven to suicide by the inability to pay their health insurance premiums? Are you always this stupid?

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Driven to suicide by the inability to pay their health insurance premiums? Are you always this stupid?

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Perhaps you should read the statement made by the guy who burnt himself alive on the Shinkansen.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        You are so full of crap. Yes, elderly have issues with poverty and occasionally commit suicide. As I recall from the news articles, none of them cited health insurance premiums as the cause of his death. But don’t let facts get in the way of your opinions.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Japan TImes report: “Hayashizaki had repeatedly complained that he only received a pension of ¥240,000 ($1,960) every two months, despite having made payments for 35 years.

        “He said he had almost nothing left after paying taxes and utility costs, and that he was unable to live on the pension after quitting the cleaning company.”

      • Carl MacIntyre

        So you’ve made the logical leap and assumed that his health insurance premiums were the primary cause of his suicide? Did you accomplish that without a net?

      • Yo Han

        It is not impossible in Japan to live with yen 120.000,- per month as a single old person as retired people pay very little for health insurance, much less than people who are still working and are below retirement age. In Japan your retirement allowance is based not only about how many years you paid, but of course also how much you paid per year – like anywhere else.

        Some retired people are still doing some part-time job.Many of them were full time employees who received a separation pay when leaving the company, many tried to save some money while still working and own therefore their accommodation and do not pay rent or housing loan anymore. It’s up to the individual in Japan how you arrange your life.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        So the man had to die because he didn’t own his own home?

      • Yo Han

        It was his choice, out of whatever reason. For sure many people worldwide are much poorer off than this man.

        It is possible to live with yen 120.000,- per month as a single retired person in Japan if you rent a room in a smaller city. Many Japanese survive with less, and some other Japanese have higher retirement allowances.

        It all depends how much and for how many years the retired person paid into the retirement fond – the retirement calculation is about the same everywhere.

        Pay less over a short time is a small retirement allowance, pay more over a long time is a high retirement allowance, it’s simple, just simple math.

        Is this so difficult to understand for you?

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        A room with a shower? Or should he wash in those sort of booth showers one sometimes sees. Obviously the sento at 460 yen a go would be beyond his means. “The retirement calculation is about the same everywhere” — everywhere in Japan or in the world?

      • Yo Han

        If you are retired, allowance yen 120.000,- per month and location is not important, you can easily rent a nice room around 20 to 25 sqm, with bath/toilet, small balcony, aircon in a concrete building not older than 5 years for 20.000 to 30.000,- yen near smaller cities in Shizuoka-ken, Mie-ken etc.

        Retirement calculation – you pay more over long time into the system and you will get out more than a person who pays only a little during a short time only, as I said, it’s simple math…

        If you are retired in Japan and have a small retirement allowance, the best you can do is to move out from the large cities, rent and sale is considerably cheaper, about 5 times cheaper.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        I’ll pass this info on to a friend who may follow the advice.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        You are so full of crap. Yes, elderly have issues with poverty and occasionally commit suicide. As I recall from the news articles, none of them cited health insurance premiums as the cause of his death. But don’t let facts get in the way of your opinions.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Perhaps you should read the statement made by the guy who burnt himself alive on the Shinkansen.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Any link to suicides or are you just going to make up that crap yourself?

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Any link to suicides or are you just going to make up that crap yourself?

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Why do YOU think 500,000 Japanese have committed suicide in the last 16 years?

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Why do YOU think 500,000 Japanese have committed suicide in the last 16 years?

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Depression.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Depression.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Not anger, just an unwillingness to participate in self pity and self deception.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Gosh so much anger here— why?

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        “et al” = “etc.” (et al. is an abbreviation of et alii — meaning other people — not of et alia — meaning of other things)

        “your either stupid” = “you’re either stupid”

        “those religions who attempts” = “those religions which attempt”

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Thanks for the grammatical check. Now you can move onto a substantive response, assuming that you’re capable of that.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        “those religions which attempt” = “those religions that attempt”

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        also correct

      • Carl MacIntyre

        No, not also correct. Anyone who writes should know the difference between the correct usage of that and which. Obviously you have ego issues that prevent you from admitting that you are wrong. Are you always this small-minded?

      • Philip

        Carl, lets assue that you have any abilities to show any real intellect and emotion. Because I still do not know what is worse: Your inability to comprehend the whole scenario, your inability to act like a human being, or your inability to do basic math.

        All the factors state is that the family of 5 were paying less than ¥30,000 a month. So lets say that the total is the full ¥30,000. Taking into the account that there are two adults, and one having an additional premium that comes with being 40+, you are looking at: ¥8,000 + ¥7,000 + ¥5,000 + ¥5,000 + ¥5,000.

        This equals to the full ¥30,000.

        The article states that their bill has more than doubled. Which is now up to a rough estimate of ¥60,000. Based on your “logic,” the fourth child is worth around ¥30,000 in medical premiums. Which is 6 times the amount of the other three. Which does not make sense.

        Because based on the new premiums, the addition of a fourth child now makes it around the following rough estimate: ¥16,000 + ¥14,000 + ¥7,500 + ¥7,500 + ¥7,500 + ¥7,500. Do you see the discrepancies here? Or shall I continue by pointing out the following bill that includes both what they owe and interest?

        Add these factors, as well as the fact you have one portion of this branch offering them the “pay what you can afford” policy. And you have another ignoring that. Then add the fact that despite the fact they cannot touch his wife’s money, as well as their daughter’s money, they have claimed they can.

        Why? Because much like your own dismissal for facts, they claimed that they cannot tell what monies belong to who. Which denotes the fact that all evidence belies on the fact that their region’s share of the Government is corrupt in some way, or there is a huge misunderstanding between them, the portion of this branch that told them what to do, and the portion of the branch doing this because money is owed.

        Either way, your own ignorance shows me that you calling me an idiot, much less questioning my reading comprehension skills, dictate that you have no regard for any portion of this story. And if you did care, you would not be the one sounding like an ignoramus. ;)

      • Carl MacIntyre

        After reading your incoherent response, I feel that you have confirmed my initial assessment. Thanks.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Of course it has everything to do with the number of children and if you don’t recognize the simple fact that health insurance costs, et al, increase with the number of kids and that they indicated that their finances were OK until the (presumably) last child arrived, your either stupid or a member of one of those religions who attempts to increase their membership through procreation (and yes, it’s redundant). They put themselves in the position to get screwed and certainly deserve the lion’s share of the blame. The husband is Japanese and should be well aware of the ramifications of their decisions.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        And, evidently, you have reading comprehension issues. Here’s a quote from the article, “However, the unexpected arrival of their fourth child, now an elementary
        school student, threw their family finances into confusion again.
        Around this time, the family’s health premiums suddenly shot up.”

      • Philip

        If I have “reading comprehension issues,” then I am still doing better than you, Carl.

        Because the following statement also says, “We were shocked when the health insurance bill more than doubled to almost ¥60,000 a month at one point,” Brandy recalls.”

        As in the fact that with a family of 5, and one member being in his 40s, their premiums were more than half of the listed amount.

        Your claim is that adding a fourth child is their fault. My claim is that there is something wrong when a family of 5 equals to less than ¥30,000… And yet, a family of 6 suddenly jumps to around ¥60,000.

        Do the math while also reading that the additional bill they were given included interest. And that despite being told by one branch that they can pay what they can afford, another portion of the branch is contradicting that claim.

        Point being, again: The fact that they have 4 kids is not the issue here. The issue stands on the fact that they were not told why their premiums have increased, nor why they are also charged interest, nor why they are denied the “pay what you can afford” policy in that region.

        All things a person with any “reading comprehension skills” would have immediately acknowledged. Which shows that yours should be questioned if you have to alienate all the other facts.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        I should add that you clearly also have cognitive skill issues.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        And, evidently, you have reading comprehension issues. Here’s a quote from the article, “However, the unexpected arrival of their fourth child, now an elementary
        school student, threw their family finances into confusion again.
        Around this time, the family’s health premiums suddenly shot up.”

    • Philip

      If you read the article, you will find that they did think this through.

      The problem is not tied to the number of children, but rather that they are being denied the chance to go with the “pay what you can pay” program at some point. And when they had more money coming in, they were able to pay back more than before.

      However, the bill they received was based on back pay and interest. The interest has nothing to do with the number of children. It has to do with the fact they were being charged interest despite the fact that they were making steady payments.

      Atop of that, they took money that even their oldest daughter contributed. As in the fact that they were able to pay more as she was contributing to the rent. As well as the fact she had money put aside, and is now told that she cannot save any because of this.

      So again, this has nothing to do with the number of children, but rather the fact that they are denied a Government service. As in everything that is stated beyond the point where they ended up having a fourth kid. And other things you have failed to pick up on.

    • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

      heartless

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Responsibility, what a concept.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        “Being a Catholic Priest, you probably don’t appreciate that responsible couples can use birth control and break the cycle of poverty. ” Instead of indulging lazy stereotypes you could have read what I actually say on this subject. http://josephsoleary.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/12/filipino-bishops-and-contraception.html

      • Carl MacIntyre

        I’ve read it and still have no understanding of your position on birth control. Why don’t you simply say that either you’re opposed to it (as per the teaching of the Church) or you’re not opposed to it?

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Responsibility, what a concept.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Being a Catholic Priest, you probably don’t appreciate that responsible couples can use birth control and break the cycle of poverty. It’s not heartless, it’s responsible.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Being a Catholic Priest, you probably don’t appreciate that responsible couples can use birth control and break the cycle of poverty. It’s not heartless, it’s responsible.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Anti-clerical stereotyping.

        I posted a link to my views, which will show up when approved by the JT Online.

        I suppose you would also say that responsible couples can use abortion and break the cycle of poverty.

        But the four kids may break the cycle for this family.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Since the Catholic Church opposes artificial birth control, it is hardly anti-clerical stereotyping to assume that a priest who adhere to the Church’s teachings.

    • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

      heartless

    • kayumochi

      An abortion used to be about 90,000 yen (not sure what it is now) and condoms are much cheaper. Am sure it will be at least a passing thought next time the couple has sex.

      • Tsunam1

        accidents happen even while using contraceptives.

      • Yo Han

        That’s their problem, they cannot blame the Japanese National Health Insurance for creating ‘accidentally’ 4 children, being low-income people without intention to improve their qualifications and income situation and finally being unable to pay.

        The responsibility about their unusual high debt over many months is with the Hirano family and not with ward office employees or the collection companies.

      • Tsunam1

        You missed the point, I never blamed the system, I just said that accidents happen. So it is not like they planned to have the 4th child while being financially unstable. It happened and they were doing the best they could with their circumstances

      • Yo Han

        I never said, YOU are blaming the system – I clearly said, THEY blame the system for their poverty – but I doubt if they did the best, more the opposite. It’s not only about child no. 4, they did obviously nothing during many years to improve their job, their monthly income.

        They are English teachers, really? What is their qualification? I know foreign and Japanese teachers working in international schools in Tokyo and their salaries are really very good. And yes, it is not difficult for teachers to arrange part-time work if they have children. No need to work as a freelancer after living many years in Japan.

      • kayumochi

        Yes, your mother told me the same thing about you.

      • Tsunam1

        Ah you are so cute with your immature come back. Bless you

    • kayumochi

      An abortion used to be about 90,000 yen (not sure what it is now) and condoms are much cheaper. Am sure it will be at least a passing thought next time the couple has sex.

    • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

      “should of thought” = “should have thought”

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Do you charge by the word?

  • Jay

    He should have divorced his wife and allowed her to leave with the kids for the States. Then he should have declared personal bankruptcy. When the dust had settled, he could have left to rejoin his family abroad. The whole situation smells immoral: debt collectors are sharks with a single purpose, and they don’t care if you starve. Lawyers are not necessarily helpful because they too are looking for their slice of the pie. The shocking truth here is that the government sanctions all this.

    • Philip

      Problem is that even if he did that, it does not solve anything. It just creates new problems for both him and his family, as he would have to start over and hope that they can make a fraction of what they make now.

      • Jay

        You might be right, but I have had some related experiences. A debt collector came after me when my EX-WIFE declared bankruptcy. Cost me 300,000 in lawyers fees to get rid of it. I copied and re-read the article, and after a few readings I think I can see problems: Mr. Hirano is quite vague about his income, which might have lead the officials to also doubt him. Also, I tend to agree with other posters that it seems odd he went ahead and had a 4th child when the family was already allegedly suffering financial difficulties. It also seems really odd that he would be told repeatedly just to pay what he could. There must be a reason why the officials changed their tactics and went after him. Incidentally, depending on the nature of the debt, sometimes it is not always a good idea to contact officials. There is something called a Statute of Limitations, and after a certain number of years, the creditor no longer has the legal right to make a claim on you, but by contacting him, you reset the clock. Not quite sure how this works in Japan, mind you.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Could the reason for the change just be a new ruthlessness in officialdom, intensified under Abe?

      • Jay

        I wouldn’t doubt it. There is a lot going on under Abe, and under lots of foreign governments as well. They took on massive debts bailing out banks and other entities, and now they have to pass the buck, which means collecting from taxpayers.

      • Jay

        I wouldn’t doubt it. There is a lot going on under Abe, and under lots of foreign governments as well. They took on massive debts bailing out banks and other entities, and now they have to pass the buck, which means collecting from taxpayers.

      • Erinn LaMattery

        Something I heard was that Japan is facing very serious financial problems and they are going after any and all money they can. In the past, it could have been overlooked as the country is more financially stable (as it obviously was for many years), but now the country is facing a crises, they are grabbing it wherever they can. Why not grab it from the government officials who are being paid amakudari double pensions and spending millions on parties, food and women? Why grab it from a low-income family who is trying to keep their head above water?

      • Erinn LaMattery

        Something I heard was that Japan is facing very serious financial problems and they are going after any and all money they can. In the past, it could have been overlooked as the country is more financially stable (as it obviously was for many years), but now the country is facing a crises, they are grabbing it wherever they can. Why not grab it from the government officials who are being paid amakudari double pensions and spending millions on parties, food and women? Why grab it from a low-income family who is trying to keep their head above water?

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Could the reason for the change just be a new ruthlessness in officialdom, intensified under Abe?

      • jcbinok

        True, we are only hearing one side of the story.

      • Philip

        I feel for you, as I had an ex-girlfriend that screwed me over both financially, and a little more than a week before my birthday.

        As for Mr. Hirano, the article states that between the birth of their third child and fourth, his wife was able to procure extra work. And as I said to “Mr. Troll,” they were paying around ¥5,000 per child. Which has me speculate, rounding off, his own premiums were at ¥8,000 and hers at ¥7,000. This rounds out to be the full ¥30,000 they have mentioned.

        But with the birth of the fourth child, they now say they were being billed ¥60,000. I speculated that they were now paying ¥7,500 per child. This equals to the original ¥30,000 by itself, which makes sense as they speculate that they will require more help per trip. But they are also now paying an ~¥15,000 per adult.

        Also, the other factor that I have to question is the fact that they added interest to the back pay. And, atop of that, their tactics were very much contradictory to what they were told. Not just the fact they are told one thing by one branch, and then told that is not valid. I am also talking about how they are confiscating money that is not owned by the husband, and claiming they have an excuse to.

        To me, I agree with the fact that they should contact said officials. Because I am questioning if there is some form of corruption within the stated region. I respect everything you say, but I also wonder if he is targeted for reasons other than the fourth child.

      • Jay

        Debt collectors went after not only me, buy my ex-wife’s mother, living on a pension, and her sister. They hunted relatives down. It went to court and was eventually dismissed because, the judge said, you can’t take money that is (what is the word?) intended for and necessary to the children. Ie, creditors can’t touch alimony. So, if bankruptcy isn’t an option, and if they aren’t actually hiding income, I suggest they hire a good lawyer and fight it.

      • Jay

        You might be right, but I have had some related experiences. A debt collector came after me when my EX-WIFE declared bankruptcy. Cost me 300,000 in lawyers fees to get rid of it. I copied and re-read the article, and after a few readings I think I can see problems: Mr. Hirano is quite vague about his income, which might have lead the officials to also doubt him. Also, I tend to agree with other posters that it seems odd he went ahead and had a 4th child when the family was already allegedly suffering financial difficulties. It also seems really odd that he would be told repeatedly just to pay what he could. There must be a reason why the officials changed their tactics and went after him. Incidentally, depending on the nature of the debt, sometimes it is not always a good idea to contact officials. There is something called a Statute of Limitations, and after a certain number of years, the creditor no longer has the legal right to make a claim on you, but by contacting him, you reset the clock. Not quite sure how this works in Japan, mind you.

    • Philip

      Problem is that even if he did that, it does not solve anything. It just creates new problems for both him and his family, as he would have to start over and hope that they can make a fraction of what they make now.

    • Erinn LaMattery

      From what I understand, you cannot declare bankruptcy for this type of debt. You can declare it for any other type of debt, but not for this type. But I do wonder if divorce ever came up as a possibility for them, and why they decided to remain together rather than divorce?

    • Erinn LaMattery

      From what I understand, you cannot declare bankruptcy for this type of debt. You can declare it for any other type of debt, but not for this type. But I do wonder if divorce ever came up as a possibility for them, and why they decided to remain together rather than divorce?

  • Starviking

    They could at least inform the police about the collection agency stealing their daughter’s money.

  • Scott Durand

    I just want to offer my support for the Hiranos. I respect how they have placed the importance on their family relationships before taking the easy way out. Mr Hirano must know that his wife really loves him and his family. That thought must be comforting to him as it would be a very stressful time for both of them.

    Japan must reform the taxation system. The wealthy must pay more tax. Japan wants to have a world class health sytem, but doesnt want to tax people at an appropriate amount. Look at the Scandinavian coutries, high taxing but high standard of health care.

    The Japanese people really need to understand that the Liberal Democratic Party and many (but not all) bureacrats do not have the peopels interests at heart, but are more interested in their own position.

    I hope they can find a solution to this problem, perhaps the city they live should realise that people would pay if they could afford it, and work a solution before setting the collecation agency onto them.

    Good Luck

    • Philip

      Well said.

      But sadly, the LDP are not the only ones tied to this. And beyond that, I have to confess that I would prefer living with this issue than what I am facing with Conservative Republicans in America. :-/

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Things have got worse under Abe.

      • Philip

        I hear ya. I am still questioning why he is trying to revise Article 9 for the sake of having a new military. When they need is to form an international military force with their neighbors, with usage being tied to diplomacy, natural disasters, as well as terrorism-like attacks.

        End result is that the worse they can do, if this works, is have the disputed islands be split up if they need to expand their territories. :p

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Exactly what “neighbors” would possibly be interested in forming an “international military force” with the Japanese?

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Things have got worse under Abe.

    • Philip

      Well said.

      But sadly, the LDP are not the only ones tied to this. And beyond that, I have to confess that I would prefer living with this issue than what I am facing with Conservative Republicans in America. :-/

  • Ben

    Uhh…if money was always tight, then why have so many kids? The Hiranos have no one to blame but their libido and a lack of common sense. Sorry but there is little sympathy for people like this.

    • Philip

      I have to question if you read the article. Because despite the fact that they do have 4 kids, one of those kids was contributing to their rent. They were also told to “pay what they can pay” by the local office. And, atop of that, a large percentage of what they now owe is based on interest.

      As in… Their rates are also based on the fact both are over 40, which you should blame them for being that old… They are trying to pay what they can pay, as advised… And that branch of the Government is making it hard for either one of them to find extra work.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Let me guess, you’ve never lived here and are completely clueless about Japan aside from those books you’ve read.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Let me guess, you’ve never lived here and are completely clueless about Japan aside from those books you’ve read.

      • Kym

        I’ve lived here for eleven years, am married with two kids, and you, Carl, should stop pretending that Philip doesn’t have a point. Bureaucrats are killing Japan, slowly but surely.

      • Kym

        I’ve lived here for eleven years, am married with two kids, and you, Carl, should stop pretending that Philip doesn’t have a point. Bureaucrats are killing Japan, slowly but surely.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Really, what point does Philip have that’s relevant? He’s an idiot.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Really, what point does Philip have that’s relevant? He’s an idiot.

      • Kym

        Yeah, disengaging now, as “idiot” seems to be the best you can come up with. Not going to waste my time. Bye.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Sure, there’s not facts that make an impact. Being here for 11 years doesn’t necessarily give you any special insight. Bye.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Sure, there’s not facts that make an impact. Being here for 11 years doesn’t necessarily give you any special insight. Bye.

      • Philip

        And you are being the proverbial teapot. Sorry, but you you are making the normal idiots I argue with look smarter with each response. Bye, hypocrite. :)

      • Carl MacIntyre

        You should be quite familiar with the term, idiot.

      • Kym

        Ha ha! I just couldn’t help myself, and had to come back to see how this was going. Funny, you look a lot older than 12 in your photo, but your vocabulary seems to match a 12 year old’s.
        Why compare Japan’s system to the US’s, as if the US’s is the gold standard? There are plenty of countries that do health care better than the US or Japan – Australia included. I am perfectly aware of health systems around the world, thanks, having travelled to 27 countries, and being well read, as opposed to you, it seems. But ignorance like yours seems to be pretty well spread, I must admit. Bye bye dear, I hope you save “idiot” for the internet.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Being opinionated shouldn’t impair someone from embracing facts. Here’s one for you; in a recent study of healthcare systems by Bloomberg, Australia ranked 7th while Japan was rated third. And simply mentioning the U.S. doesn’t mean I compare it favorably to Japan’s system; quite the opposite is true. I would imagine though, you would have to actually read my post rather than simply reacting to key words.

      • Kym

        Oh Bloomberg, right. Well, not sure how much Bloomberg knows about this particular case, but here is why it would never happen in Australia. Our health care budget comes directly out of our taxes, which are always taken in advance from our salary, in a PAYE system. If your income is so low that you don’t pay tax, you get free health care. A situation such as this would never have arisen in Australia, because we don’t have to go down to city hall and pay for insurance separately, so the opportunity to be given the WRONG advice by a city hall worker would never have arisen.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        I’m sure that there are many fine attributes to the Australian healthcare system, but if you want to discuss comparing systems across borders, you have to utilize facts. Whether you want to use Bloomberg, the Commonwealth Report or WHO, there are studies that attempt to do so on a rationale basis and Australia, while ranked consistently high, is simply not the best.

      • jcbinok

        That system sounds so logical. That’s how social security is run in the States, and it’s one of the few programs that has survived long term.

      • Philip

        Start talking facts, then we’ll take what you say as an “opinion.” :)

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Are you going to be obsessive to the point that you’re going to respond to each and every posting I’ve made on this article. If so, that’s certainly a confirmation of your issues.

      • Philip

        You know what is funny? I am a cynic. As in the fact that while I have grossed in more time to comprehend this subject, before it was ever mentioned, your lack of all elements that are required for me to assume you are “intelligent” has made me not give a damn about your own claims that I have “issues.”

        If I had issues with you, we would be spending all this time dissecting every statement you make to every person. To the point that every member on this topic will realize that you know nothing, are making excuses to learn nothing, and cannot comprehend even the simplest of examples that can, overall, prove your knowledge on the subject is being outdone by your lack of humanity and compassion.

        Shall I start expressing what you refer to as me having “issues” while I prove that you are the teapot calling the kettle black? And doing so until an intervention arrives, and we later hear you crying to others that you were being treated like you are a special kind of idiot? Or do you prefer that I don’t, and you in return show some form of need to be taken seriously?

        Up to you. Because to me, your photo contradicts your proclamation to being the smart one in this subject. ;)

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Sport, I’ll wait to see if a single person in this comment section backs you up. I think you are so divorced from reality that you actually think you are making cogent arguments.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Evidently, you don’t know what a fact is so here’s one from my posting. “Here’s one for you; in a recent study of healthcare systems by Bloomberg, Australia ranked 7th while Japan was rated third.”

      • Carl MacIntyre

        You should be quite familiar with the term, idiot.

      • Kym

        Yeah, disengaging now, as “idiot” seems to be the best you can come up with. Not going to waste my time. Bye.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        The cost of healthcare in Japan is modest compared to the United States. And anyone who thinks it should be based on ability to pay is simply stupid.

      • MeTed

        Your argument is weak, and you seem to have a problem of repeating it endlessly.

        When 20% of the population has trouble paying for health insurance there is a problem somewhere!

        I’ll also add. While I don’t agree with having 4 kids if you can’t afford it, Japan needs children, and it knows it. So why penalise someone for having children?

      • MeTed

        Your argument is weak, and you seem to have a problem of repeating it endlessly.

        When 20% of the population has trouble paying for health insurance there is a problem somewhere!

        I’ll also add. While I don’t agree with having 4 kids if you can’t afford it, Japan needs children, and it knows it. So why penalise someone for having children?

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Are you aware of the cost of health care systems around the world? I know that the Japan Times seems to attract people who have opinions about everything, irrespective of knowledge, but I’d appreciate some actual criticism of my “argument is weak”.

      • Philip

        How about this?

        Your entire argument is based on the combination of insults that you cannot validate, and are aimed towards those you are willing to disagree with. Atop of this, you show no regards for facts, outside what you want to be known as “facts.” Most of your statements that are not insults end with marginal usage of printed statements, as well as the very basic of information that disallows said regional Governments to say “We have reasons for you to avoid us!”

        Atop of that, you are pretty much comparing the United States health care system to a health care system you know absolutely nothing about. Which makes everything you say ultimately pointless, unless your point is that this family should have been more proactive with celibacy. Which that, itself, has nothing to do with the fact their complaint is tied to the fact there is a Government related issue that needs to be investigated into.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Since I just had five stents put into my left and right coronary arteries at the CardioVascular Institute in Tokyo, I would refute your baseless assertion that I know nothing about the Japanese healthcare system. Additionally, I’ve actually read the Bloomberg, the Commonwealth report and the WHO studies on the assessments of healthcare systems in a variety of countries. You are a stupid and ignorant individual who obviously has significant mental health or developmental issues.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Are you aware of the cost of health care systems around the world? I know that the Japan Times seems to attract people who have opinions about everything, irrespective of knowledge, but I’d appreciate some actual criticism of my “argument is weak”.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        And, by the way, where do you get the fact that 20% of the population has trouble paying for health insurance or are you just pulling it out of your butt?

      • Carl MacIntyre

        And, by the way, where do you get the fact that 20% of the population has trouble paying for health insurance or are you just pulling it out of your butt?

      • Erinn LaMattery

        I do believe Mr. MacIntyre that the fact about how many people are having trouble paying for insurance was stated in the article?

      • Erinn LaMattery

        I do believe Mr. MacIntyre that the fact about how many people are having trouble paying for insurance was stated in the article?

      • Carl MacIntyre

        I guess reading comprehension is an issue. Go back and look at the article. It states that 17% of households fell behind their payments at some stage in the past year. There’s no assessment of the reason for those late payments and one should not assume that the sole cause or even primary cause is difficulty paying the bills. Also, the author of the article seems somewhat math challenged. The number of households in Japan is approximately 49 Million. The number of people who fell behind in payments is, according to the article, 3.6 million which represents 7%, not 17% of the total. Therefore, the number of people subject to forfeiture is .5% which is obviously not a common occurrence.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        “there payments” = “their payments”

      • Carl MacIntyre

        That’s quite the substantive retort. Any comment on my actual points or are you simply happy to be in the weeds?

      • Philip

        Sorry, but when have you said anything that was deemed intelligent? All you are doing is being the proverbial teapot while basing your own person experiences on a subject that have nothing to do with another region’s handling of that subject.

        So turn around now. Your ignorance to the obvious is distracting. :)

      • http://nisekodesign.com/ miso

        You are a twisted little man, Joseph. When someone calls you out for warping reality to suit your tiny little brain, you opt for grammar checking them. Utter moron.

      • Philip

        Wow. Another “I guess reading comprehension is an issue.” statement the laziest, most ignorant guy within this entire topic. I mean, wow. If this was the Sherlock episode, “A Study In Pink,” Anderson would have been the least ignorant person in the room. :)

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        He is referring to the 17% of households referred to in the article and also cited by me.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Since when is 17% equivalent to 20%? Also, those numbers don’t appear to be valid since the government website refers to 49 million households in Japan.

      • Philip

        *facepalm* That is like a Japanese citizen saying that Oakland, Detroit, and St. Louis are the three safest cities in the world. All because the websites talk more about the number of citizens and businesses are there.

        Point being: Talking about any kind of deficits on a official website is like listing every crime that happens in a city. If you want people to visit or stay, you leave out those details.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        WTF are you talking about? Seriously, stop. All you are doing is confirming that you are a loon.

      • Philip

        No. I am confirming the fact that you are the laziest idiot I have ever seen on this entire website. Every time you disagree, you start with an idiotic attack that you can never back up. And when given a proper disposition to your own claims, you cannot grasp the irony of comparisons to what you are saying. You have no grounds to even speak, yet you will never shut up.

        In other words… You validate the light/sound theory — As in you appear bright until you speak up. Which has me now question if your logic is deep within what they call “Dark Matter.”

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Thanks. I’m always concerned about what whack jobs think about me.

      • Philip

        These people are not you. Your defense is based on a single sentence, not an investigated cause. Because there is a thing called a “Search Engine.” Try it.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        It’s not penalizing someone when they have to pay for their kids. Why should others pay for their children?

      • Philip

        Japan is not the United States. They have the entire Government trying their best to make sure that every citizen, as well as visitor, has access. While the majority of families you are mentioning reside in the same states that are generally represented by politicians that tell the upper-middle and upper classes to ignore what is easily found through Google.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        It’s not penalizing someone when they have to pay for their kids. Why should others pay for their children?

      • Philip

        And those who are simply stupid are smarter than you.

        Because in the last 65 years, the “pay what you can afford” system was part of the current variation of this health care system. They added this as a means of allowing their citizens to have access to health care, while covering what is left with tax monies.

        In 2012, the Japan Times blog I have mentioned to you stated that an estimated 45% of all citizens were not able to meet the required payments. Which means that since the Government is not a privatized health care provider, they are placing the tax monies out as loans — As opposed to disallowing any living or visiting member of society from obtaining any kind of emergency health care.

        And if you were able to show that you can read facts before making opinions, as opposed to making opinions that make you look like an ignorant fool in the end, you would find that the United States Government wanted this long before John F. Kennedy was in office. And the main reason, besides the fact it is part of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, was later shown to be because privatized health providers use a form of capitalism that does not meet their own output.

        As in… United States health insurance is privatized and denied anybody that would cost them any overall profits. A large number of lawsuits tied to them and hospitals are ultimately tied to their denial of losing a small margin of profit. While the Japanese health care system is a combination of people paying a set amount, and the Japanese Government — depending on each region — loaning out what the citizens cannot pay. And based on the difference between this article and history on said subject, it sounds like the “pay what you can afford” system comes with a catch that cites that you must make back payments anytime you have the chance.

        As in… Stop accusing others of being you. And realize that you define Albert Einstein’s fears on the depletion of human intelligence with each advancement of technology. Because honestly, if you were not being so demonstrative and ignorant, I might enjoy hearing your views on how the overall United States health care system could have been improved.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        The cost of healthcare in Japan is modest compared to the United States. And anyone who thinks it should be based on ability to pay is simply stupid.

      • Yo Han

        I am from Europe, living in Japan since 38 years, married with a Japanese national and have 2 daughters, and I can only say, that Philip does not have any clue about Japan.
        If 2 adults in Japan without working restrictions in their 40s are willing to work full-time and one child is working part-time to help with the financial problems, there should be enough money available to pay the National Insurance and other expenses.

      • Yo Han

        I am from Europe, living in Japan since 38 years, married with a Japanese national and have 2 daughters, and I can only say, that Philip does not have any clue about Japan.
        If 2 adults in Japan without working restrictions in their 40s are willing to work full-time and one child is working part-time to help with the financial problems, there should be enough money available to pay the National Insurance and other expenses.

      • Philip

        Yo Han, let me make it clear.

        I read up on the history of this medical system as a means of using it as a defense against self-proclaimed “Conservatives” that argue a system like this should be dubbed an act of “Socialism” — Which they discuss while being victims of Capitalism.

        Other than that, they started this system before the start of World War II, and made grand strides to improve it since then. And unless I have my dates wrong, the current system used within Japan started in 1951. As well as stated to have regions and branches within those regions offer their citizens a “pay what you can afford” option, unless they fall under a different category that has their company pay instead.

        And in 2012, this site had stated in a blog that the maximum annual was around 600k. That, in sum, is based on a family of 20. Their annual payments in 2012 should have been 180k, as opposed to the potential 720k that was brought up. Beyond that, the “back pay” bill, which is connected to the “pay what you can afford” system was dictated to be 50% what they are owed, and 50% interest. And the article at hand has the branch manager excuse it as a “regional issue” — As in something he refuses to look into. Which means that there is a possible factor that needs to be investigated into.

        As with you… I am presuming that your insurance is paid of of pocket, as opposed through a corporation that either you or your wife works for. And if so, then you would have noticed that the overall increase does not make any sense, while feeling relieved that you do not live in the same region as they do. Because chances are, this issue may be more than just a “child” issue.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Sport, you need to stop your rambling. You clearly have no idea how health insurance works in Japan and you’re trying to fill in the gaps with your less than logical assumptions. Try to get over your obsessions and as long as you have insurance in the U.S., I suggest you seek treatment for your evident mental health issues.

      • Philip

        Let me paraphrase in way that an ignoramus like yourself can comprehend:

        I made three trips to Japan: Koriyama = January, 2011. Kanto/Kansai regions = May, 2012. Osaka = November, 2014. I will be returning to Japan as early as the start of 2016, and preparing to move there full-time later that year.

        As for my “books”… The earliest ones I had were published by TSR. As in E. Gary Gygax’s “Oriental Adventures” (which I wish I paid more attention to, in regards of its use of Medieval Japan and its adoption of fantasy elements). I became interested in this because I became a fan of the TV drama version of James Clavell’s Shogun. My own interest later had me delve into questions tied to sexual preferences, anxieties, and other developmental select cognitive/physical elements.

        Also, there are also my small publication articles. But I consider those fan-based revisions that are tied to the works of a writer/artist I used to idolize. And compared to what my Great-Great-Uncle did, as well as my more famous distant cousin wrote, I also see them as a small stepping stone that I need to improve upon.

        When it comes to my experiences in Japan, I used every piece of of data I gathered from previous experience I had. Down to cognitive responses within my own set limitations, vocal response speed, and the need to find alternate ways to make sure that I never get lost. When it comes to the economy, including this, I rationalize the price of items as 100:1 ratio. When it comes to health insurance, I also do the same thing I do with every facts I find: I Google them until I find the most concurrent factor that is either the only factor or the most non-bias factor.

        And as stated by the writers of a blog on this site, health insurance premiums are a set number. This, in opposition to the health insurance premiums in the United States. And based on the rational data granted by this site, and more recent information from another, the family of 6 was charged an amount that was more than three times their given annual rate.

        Oh, and unlike organizations like Kaiser, the raising or premiums are more often tied to contractual agreements between said branch of the Japanese Government and the owners of said regional hospitals. I say that because between 2010 to 2015, I stayed with them due to increasing costs. And unlike the Government branch you ignored in hopes of validating your claims against me, they supplied me with clear details on why the payments were rising. And that is the one factor I am questioning while wondering if you understand that speaking with your own ego does not justify the fact you make yourself sound more idiotic with each ignorant claim and no evidence. ;)

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Clearly, you have issues.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        So, you have never lived here. Thanks for the confirmation.

      • Ben

        I did read the parts that said money was always tight, and they were having problems paying their bills after their third child was born. And then they went off and had another baby. If you can barely support three children then why have another? We don’t live in the 18th century. There are many forms of inexpensive birth control that would have prevented a further deterioration of their income. It’s inexcusable for them to expect to live off teat of society.

      • Ben

        I did read the parts that said money was always tight, and they were having problems paying their bills after their third child was born. And then they went off and had another baby. If you can barely support three children then why have another? We don’t live in the 18th century. There are many forms of inexpensive birth control that would have prevented a further deterioration of their income. It’s inexcusable for them to expect to live off teat of society.

      • jcbinok

        Ya, the article didn’t go into enough depth about their birth control choices.

        As for your “living off the teat of society”…you sound like a Romney man.

    • Philip

      I have to question if you read the article. Because despite the fact that they do have 4 kids, one of those kids was contributing to their rent. They were also told to “pay what they can pay” by the local office. And, atop of that, a large percentage of what they now owe is based on interest.

      As in… Their rates are also based on the fact both are over 40, which you should blame them for being that old… They are trying to pay what they can pay, as advised… And that branch of the Government is making it hard for either one of them to find extra work.

    • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

      so many heartless comments here

      • Erinn LaMattery

        It’s shocking how callous people can be.

      • Erinn LaMattery

        It’s shocking how callous people can be.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        They are callous because they have carefully avoided getting to know people faced with these problems. That takes a considerable amount of avoidance skills.

      • Yo Han

        Why heartless? It is not heartless to tell them the truth. I agree however the truth hurts.

        Japan is not a cheap place and to create a family with 4 children while facing financial problems is very irresponsible.
        Most Japanese are aware of their future problems and have only 2 children or sometimes prefer even to be a full-time working couple with no children at all.

      • Garry Firth

        Japan needs kids ..end of story and either support theat or die old and lonely

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Actually the Hiranos will have the last laugh when the four kids look after the destitute parents in old age.

      • http://nisekodesign.com/ miso

        Looking at your comments, you seem to assume some very wild, unsubstantiated conclusions. Please don’t take this as an attack, rather a suggestion that it’s sometimes important to introduce perspective when assuming a future, which I think we can all agree would be ideal, but just not very realistic for parents of four children who are unable to financially support themselves, let alone their children (for example, their higher education which might pave the way for high paying careers and in turn allow them to support their parents in their old age etc.)

        You may want to read this – it’s well worth the time:

        http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2014/09/12%20impact%20unintended%20childbearing%20future%20sawhill/12_impact_unintended_childbearing_future_sawhill.pdf

      • jcbinok

        It sounds like the oldest child is a teenager or older (paying rent), so perhaps the family was started during more financially stable times.

      • http://nisekodesign.com/ miso

        Started, yes, but by the fourth?

        I get that these things happen, I just find it so bizarre that people throw up their SJW banner here and somehow think they’re on the high ground with no consideration of reality…

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        There are children brought up by very poor parents who do succeed and lift their parents with them. Arguing against this reality on the ground of statistics is a fallacy.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        So arguing against your hopes with facts is a fallacy? Rubbish.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        So their irresponsibility will be rewarded by making their kids responsible?

      • http://nisekodesign.com/ miso

        Japan doesn’t need kids; the population is naturally balancing along with broader social norms (a welcome increase in woman having more independence and financial leverage of their own, for one). The concept that the country needs more kids is largely considered within the scope of it requiring more taxpayers (to put it callously) and in no way is considerate of the changing world; a remarkably naive take of the arguably resultant world 20 years from now.

      • Philip

        Factually, they say that a number of regions/provinces will die out due to under-population in Japan. Add the increase of number of old people, the Government also cites the concern that this may cause a financial turmoil by the time these effects being to show up.

      • http://nisekodesign.com/ miso

        Yes, and this is a bad thing because…?

        If you’ve ever been to Japan, for an extended non-romanticized period, you’d understand that a lot of these “regions/provinces” were born of an entirely different era which is simply no longer sustainable or even relevant (mining etc.), but of which have industry connections (seriously – is there any real reason they need to concrete-fortify the ghost-town coastline of Japan?).

        If you read my previous comment, the platform is that the “Government” citing the concern is purely based on the need for taxpayers – money – inclusive of the stupidity of propping up entirely irrelevant regions/provinces -and if you feel you can justify that, you really ought to read a history book or two (outside those prescribed by the Japanese curriculum).

        Seriously, do you really think Taro Aso’s concrete firm – the largest concrete firm IN THE WORLD – would want to see any of their “spheres of influence” budgeted out of existence?

      • Philip

        Factually, I have done that when I had the time. In January, 2011, which was more or less a mess, I sought out to see if the regional sectors of Koriyama had anything to my liking. In the end, I ended up enjoying the Aeon shopping center, but hated the fact that I alienated the one key location that could have helped me from getting lost — A 7&i store sign.

        In May, 2012, I found Ikebukuro to be intriguing. Namely, the fact that an entire train station separating two parts of the region. The one half that contained the hotel I was staying at — Sakura Hotel — was an entertainment sector with a few interesting quirks. The other half was a shopping center with numerous locations being ones I had later recognized in a specific series they were promoting. Kyoto did not have me delve deep into it, as my goal was to ask a very specific question to any English speaking staff members. This took me two attempts, as the navigator on my iPhone was bad. Shinjuku had beaten out Akihabara, as I found both the environment and stores to be a bit more inviting. However, I still have the “secret rare” Tiger and Bunny blind box item dangling in my car, which I had purchased in Akihabara. That… Was me listing to that little voice saying “Buy me! Take a chance! I am cheap!” Other than that, the portions where Toei Animation and the Suginami Animation Museum did not do much for me. Nor did Mikata, besides the Ghibli Museum — Which was surprisingly minimal in terms of what I had expected. As wel as Tokyo Disneyland, which had me think I was better off at Tokyo Disney Sea.

        In November, 2014, I did not see everything I wanted to see. At one point, I ended up walking toward Nipponbashi, which was around 10 miles from my rented apartment. I enjoyed the mall, found that I can adapt to Den-Den Town, and hope that Nagai Park will become a place I can occasionally visit whenever I am there. Other than that, all I found myself doing is comparing the different variations of the same fast food joints and stores, often questioning if some are permanently altered from what I remember… And others will have options that I am looking for.

        So that historical rant aside, I’ll get to my point: The extinction of a village for any reason is far worse than the extinction of a select generation of people. You lose out on the cultural difference, the prefixes to their choice of dialogue, and never have the chance to learn something that could ultimately be adopted into a society that needs it… Or be used as a symbolic warning system. Which both are generally ignored in the greater portions of the world. But overall, preservation, even through some social form of evolution, does help preserve regional cultures while producing any outcomes that may help the regions around them. ;)

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Seriously, WTF is wrong with you? Is it weirdness or pathological? BTW, it’s Nihonbashi, not Nipponbashi. Do you actually come to Japan or was this all in your head?

      • Yo Han

        Why heartless? It is not heartless to tell them the truth. I agree however the truth hurts.

        Japan is not a cheap place and to create a family with 4 children while facing financial problems is very irresponsible.
        Most Japanese are aware of their future problems and have only 2 children or sometimes prefer even to be a full-time working couple with no children at all.

      • Ben

        And so any comments based on emotion…

      • Ben

        And so any comments based on emotion…

    • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

      so many heartless comments here

    • Garry Firth

      they are producing kids better than families that dont ,with taxes and city tax it all adds up ..

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Can you post message with grammatical English? I understand that may be a challenge.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Can you post message with grammatical English? I understand that may be a challenge.

    • Garry Firth

      they are producing kids better than families that dont ,with taxes and city tax it all adds up ..

    • Tsunam1

      Did you know that there can be unplanned pregnancies? I know this is difficult to understand but yes, it happens (if you think otherwise, then you are naive). Obviously they didn’t plan to have that 4th child and some people do not feel morally right to have an abortion.

      • http://nisekodesign.com/ miso

        “Unplanned pregnancies” – such a embarrassingly crude cop out. If you can’t afford to properly financially and emotionally support a child, you have no place letting yourself get “mistakenly pregnant”. You’re seriously going to argue that someone’s belief of not using a condom or not having an abortion trumps the right of a child to the expectation (and actuality) of the very best opportunities and support by their parents. Grow up you twit.

      • jcbinok

        Tsunam1 is right. Life happens, accidental pregnancies happen. Is a married couple supposed to stop having intercourse because finances are tight?

        Hopefully ten years from now the Hirano’s will be a big, happy brood with this problem far in their rear view mirror.

      • http://nisekodesign.com/ miso

        Hopefully – though statistically things aren’t in their favor – sad as that may be.

        Giving up sex is the polar opposite end of the scale and not an approach I think is reasonable, I agree of course. But as well as simply using a condom, a vasectomy is relatively pocket-change (compared to having a fourth child), and reversible.

        As per my original comment, I’m not sure how people assume they’re somehow representing the moral high ground when a pregnancy is described as a mistake or unplanned, and that someone’s belief of not using a condom or not having an abortion trumps the right of a child to the expectation (and actuality) of the very best opportunities and support by their parents. I find it morally repugnant and it just oozes mindlessness and religious zealousy.

      • John

        “Per,” not “As per.”

    • Tony Alderman

      Well said.

  • Firas Kraïem

    The only problematic thing I see on the administrations’s side is that it’s unprofessional (to say the least) to tell people “pay what you can” when it’s obviously not true. That said, the Hiranos have been naive in thinking they got a free lunch. When the bill comes, you’ll have to pay it sooner or later, and the more you wait, the more the ball keeps rolling.

    • jcbinok

      True, debt plus fees accumulate fast. I wonder if the city hall was sending the Hirano’s annual statements on the total bill still owed. It sounds like the number was a real shocker.

  • J.P. Bunny

    While not excusing the Hirano family having more children while being financially non-secure, a large part of the blame should lie with the city office. The city office is the local government, and it was this local government that said it was okay to pay less than what was due. The city office should have told the Hirano family that lesser payments would be accepted, but eventually, some sort of legal action will be taken to collect the back payments. At the very least, the penalty interest should be dropped.

  • J.P. Bunny

    While not excusing the Hirano family having more children while being financially non-secure, a large part of the blame should lie with the city office. The city office is the local government, and it was this local government that said it was okay to pay less than what was due. The city office should have told the Hirano family that lesser payments would be accepted, but eventually, some sort of legal action will be taken to collect the back payments. At the very least, the penalty interest should be dropped.

  • HK Matt

    The Hirano family was financially “broke” at the time when they became incapable of paying for the National Health Insurance from the first place (regardless of having another child). It is a mandatory taxation everyone pays! (and of course it will come with penalty for not paying on time. everybody struggles with that and that is why normal people try to stay on the job and makes sure there are healthcare coverage.)

    National Health Insurance is not the same as some foreign health insurance “premiums” the author implies. If Hiranos are not happy with the taxation system, they should drop the rights to receive the National Health Insurance all together like some foreigners do.

    It is puzzling to see why they are still resisting to consider themselves “broke” and take the necessary action. Procrastination is what made this financial crisis to get worse. They shouldn’t waste any more time.

    • Erinn LaMattery

      No citizen can legally drop out of the NHI, you must be enrolled in either that or an insurance plan with your company. Otherwise I’m sure the family would have tried to pull out of it and gotten into a plan they could afford.

    • Erinn LaMattery

      No citizen can legally drop out of the NHI, you must be enrolled in either that or an insurance plan with your company. Otherwise I’m sure the family would have tried to pull out of it and gotten into a plan they could afford.

      • HK Matt

        You are right, they cannot legally drop out. What I meant is that if they don’t pay for the required payment for the health insurance, the government will simply not reissue their valid National Health Insurance card. This also means that they can’t go back on unless they pay up for all of the unpaid debts.

        Anyone can still receive healthcare and treatment without the National Health Insurance in Japan. They will just be asked to pay 100% of the expenses at the point of care.

      • jcbinok

        Paying 60,000 yen a month plus 30% of medical bills…I almost wonder if the better deal wouldn’t to just pay 100% and go off insurance. Is that legal?

      • Yo Han

        The better deal is clearly the Japanese national health insurance. You need only send 6 people frequently to the dentist and otherwise health checks and pay 100 percent of the bills. Not to talk about any serious accident or illness which might send you to a hospital for a few weeks. Not so young anymore? Check out medical fees for a simple eye cataract surgery.

        Similar to USA, medical bills can ruin you financially, for example for cancer treatment. It’s not always 30 percent, 30 % is the maximum. It depends on age and income – many old people with little income who need to stay in a hospital because of an urgent medical problem pay only 5 percent. Some people have company insurance as employees and pay only 10 percent etc.

      • HK Matt

        No, it’s not legal. That is why if they want to rejoin, they will need to pay the full amount dating back to the time when they stopped paying PLUS the penalty.

      • jcbinok

        Any insight into the legend that if one moves to a different municipality, national health ins premiums starts back at zero/no back premiums?

  • HK Matt

    The Hirano family was financially “broke” at the time when they became incapable of paying for the National Health Insurance from the first place (regardless of having another child). It is a mandatory taxation everyone pays! (and of course it will come with penalty for not paying on time. everybody struggles with that and that is why normal people try to stay on the job and makes sure there are healthcare coverage.)

    National Health Insurance is not the same as some foreign health insurance “premiums” the author implies. If Hiranos are not happy with the taxation system, they should drop the rights to receive the National Health Insurance all together like some foreigners do.

    It is puzzling to see why they are still resisting to consider themselves “broke” and take the necessary action. Procrastination is what made this financial crisis to get worse. They shouldn’t waste any more time.

  • Philip

    Reading this raises up a few additional concerns for me. I am currently turning 39, and currently engaged to a Japanese citizen. And at the current pace, I should be 40 when I am there full-time. Which means I have that I have to look for numerous means of obtaining work, as we both currently plan to have children. And it also means that in the end, we will be paying for 3-4 family members, and said premiums for the fact I would be turning 40. And based on what I am reading here, I also have to hope that they will allow us to “pay what we can pay,” which is what they should be allowed to do.

    But we shall see. Right now, I am doing a campaign for hopes to gain money for our honeymoon. And to ease up on all budgets, I am hoping to be frugal on my wedding ring. Plus, with them, they may want to look into a ‘Go Fund Me’ campaign like me, or even try to do a tshirt campaign in hopes of both raising awareness and making as much as they can in the process.

    • Carl MacIntyre

      The health insurance program, a single-payer system, is not a “pay what we can pay” system. I’m not familiar with any country that has such ideal as a foundation for health care. That’s certainly naive, to say the least, on your part. And, your personal choices about weddings, rings, etc, should be your responsibility.

    • Carl MacIntyre

      The health insurance program, a single-payer system, is not a “pay what we can pay” system. I’m not familiar with any country that has such ideal as a foundation for health care. That’s certainly naive, to say the least, on your part. And, your personal choices about weddings, rings, etc, should be your responsibility.

    • MeTed

      Phillip,

      If you are a professional (even teacher), and you can line up work in your profession (preferably a transfer, or arranged before leaving), you’ll probably be fine. If you are going to come and start teaching English and see what you can find, I’d say, ‘forget it’.

      • Philip

        Thanks for the advice, MeTed.

        As we speak, I am not going to execute the need to obtain an education-based job until the moment my Spousal Visa is finalized. And even if it is, I also want to look into taking some college classes as well as delve back into freelance writing.

        Because even though it has been a very long time since I have done both, I was categorized as having a near photographic memory by a member of UCLA’s psychology department. And I am hoping that will help me obtain any additional edges.

        Oh, and the best factor is that I will not be in Koriyama when working. Unlike my time in the Kanto and Kansai regions, I had found that place to be one of those places that feels like a maze.

        But, regardless of that, thank you for the advice. And I will look for a way to work around any issues tied to this. :)

    • MeTed

      Phillip,

      If you are a professional (even teacher), and you can line up work in your profession (preferably a transfer, or arranged before leaving), you’ll probably be fine. If you are going to come and start teaching English and see what you can find, I’d say, ‘forget it’.

    • Ben

      So in essence you are hoping to sponge off of society as much as you can. Thanks!!

      • Philip

        So this “sponging off” aspect include the fact that I used to be a blood donor through Red Cross? How about the fact that my intent is also to help those that struggle like I did once, as I believe that all members of any region require an equal chance at living? Or the fact that, besides starting my own business, as well as go back into freelance writing, I also intend to go back into the field of education — Possibly 1-on-1 tutoring?

        I mean, seriously Ben… Your capitalistic belief system makes me wonder what you would think if you read the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Or even question the validity of the Bible if you read Romans 13:8-10. ;)

    • Ben

      So in essence you are hoping to sponge off of society as much as you can. Thanks!!

    • kayumochi

      The Japanese health care is effective and reasonably priced. Don’t let these horror stories get to you. I do recommend supplemental insurance however.

    • kayumochi

      The Japanese health care is effective and reasonably priced. Don’t let these horror stories get to you. I do recommend supplemental insurance however.

  • Philip

    Reading this raises up a few additional concerns for me. I am currently turning 39, and currently engaged to a Japanese citizen. And at the current pace, I should be 40 when I am there full-time. Which means I have that I have to look for numerous means of obtaining work, as we both currently plan to have children. And it also means that in the end, we will be paying for 3-4 family members, and said premiums for the fact I would be turning 40. And based on what I am reading here, I also have to hope that they will allow us to “pay what we can pay,” which is what they should be allowed to do.

    But we shall see. Right now, I am doing a campaign for hopes to gain money for our honeymoon. And to ease up on all budgets, I am hoping to be frugal on my wedding ring. Plus, with them, they may want to look into a ‘Go Fund Me’ campaign like me, or even try to do a tshirt campaign in hopes of both raising awareness and making as much as they can in the process.

  • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

    No wonder people are jumping under the Chuo Line and burning themselves to death on the Shinkansen.

    • Carl MacIntyre

      Sure, that’s exactly why people commit suicide. Are you always this stupid?

    • Carl MacIntyre

      Sure, that’s exactly why people commit suicide. Are you always this stupid?

      • John

        That wasn’t a very nice thing to say, was it? You are NOT A NICE MAN.

      • John

        That wasn’t a very nice thing to say, was it? You are NOT A NICE MAN.

      • Carl MacIntyre

        Thanks for the child-like assessment.

      • John

        You’re welcome, MEANIE!

    • Yo Han

      People are committing suicide also in other countries worldwide, and Japan is clearly not the leading country, check out WHO or Wikipedia. Suicide rate are high in South Korea, Russia, India, Hungary. Japan is holding rank no. 17.

      And your point is?
      If life is so much better in USA for them why are they not moving over to the States with their 4 children?

    • Yo Han

      People are committing suicide also in other countries worldwide, and Japan is clearly not the leading country, check out WHO or Wikipedia. Suicide rate are high in South Korea, Russia, India, Hungary. Japan is holding rank no. 17.

      And your point is?
      If life is so much better in USA for them why are they not moving over to the States with their 4 children?

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Whoever said life is better in the USA? But Japan is not a rose-garden either, as the following facebook comment shows: “When you actually meet power head on here in Japan it is brutal. The house we live in was taken by the city admin. for non payment of taxes a few years after it was built. The family built the house for ¥60,000,000 and owed ¥4,000,000 in taxes – so the house was sold for 4 million. Another example, I did some prison visiting when I first came to Japan. The prison rules were explained in Japanese to prisoners who might not understand – if they broke the rules they were beaten until they understood them – this was not hidden or secret – it was openly stated and with approval. This is a patriarchal system and from time to time Dad gets the big stick out and beats the living crap out of rule breakers.”

      • Yo Han

        Facebook is surely not a reliable source about life in Japan. Can you offer something more accurate?

        Prisoners are beaten in Japan with sticks? Are you serious? From where did you get that? Maybe you mistake Japan with Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia or Iran?

        Prison population is small in Japan compared to USA, and Japan has signed contracts about prisoner exchange with many countries. If the prisoner is a foreigner, he or she likely will serve only 1/3 of the sentence.

        Your story about a house of 60 million yen sold for 4 million yen is rather unrealistic – how to create 4 million debts of unpaid taxes as a Japanese family? Can you explain this? What kind of taxes are that? Is this about inheritance?
        Confiscated property in Japan is sold by auction to the best bidder, quite similar to the legal system in US or EU and many other countries worldwide. Nothing special about it in Japan.

    • http://nisekodesign.com/ miso

      Hang on! You’re the same person who wrote above “So many heartless comments here”, and then you offer this up! You’re particularly vile…

      EDIT: if he deletes / edits this comment – here it is for the record: “No wonder people are jumping under the Chuo Line and burning themselves to death on the Shinkansen.”

  • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

    No wonder people are jumping under the Chuo Line and burning themselves to death on the Shinkansen.

  • Tsunam1

    For a country that desperately needs children is sure not giving any breaks to families who are contributing to the population. Not just in this case but all around.

    City hall is at fault here for giving information that was incorrect, the system should’ve just lowered the Hirano families payments. At least they were willing to pay something which is more than many people.

    Once again Japan tries to fit everyone into a mold and never using common sense to work out problems.

    • Yo Han

      It is quite a difference if any seasonal worker from a rural area in his 60s is owning 100.000 yen or so over the winter period as there are no jobs at all in his area or if a couple in their 40s, both working ‘something’ as freelancers are owning more than 3 million yen over many years, are unwilling to change their lifestyle and do not want to accept a regular job which is more lucrative than those of occasional English teachers.

      If they fail to earn enough as freelancers, they have to look for a regular job as employee in any company which offers better payment. Is this not common sense? It is said, one child, already a teenager, is working part-time to help with their financial problem.

      I would like to see more information about their income and how they are spending their money.

      Why should the system lower their payments? They are 6 persons, and the amount is about yen 60.000,- (about USD 500,-) for the entire family.

      How much will this family have to pay for health insurance in USA?
      Is USA so much cheaper than Japan? I don’t think so, medical bills are known to be a great headache for many US-citizens. Same with student loans and other expenses.

    • Yo Han

      It is quite a difference if any seasonal worker from a rural area in his 60s is owning 100.000 yen or so over the winter period as there are no jobs at all in his area or if a couple in their 40s, both working ‘something’ as freelancers are owning more than 3 million yen over many years, are unwilling to change their lifestyle and do not want to accept a regular job which is more lucrative than those of occasional English teachers.

      If they fail to earn enough as freelancers, they have to look for a regular job as employee in any company which offers better payment. Is this not common sense? It is said, one child, already a teenager, is working part-time to help with their financial problem.

      I would like to see more information about their income and how they are spending their money.

      Why should the system lower their payments? They are 6 persons, and the amount is about yen 60.000,- (about USD 500,-) for the entire family.

      How much will this family have to pay for health insurance in USA?
      Is USA so much cheaper than Japan? I don’t think so, medical bills are known to be a great headache for many US-citizens. Same with student loans and other expenses.

      • Tsunam1

        Perhaps regular jobs are not available to them, as stated the husband was much older and his job options are minimal at best. The wife being older also plays against her, many places want young women for jobs and there is no lack of that in Japan. Also, having you tried raising kids in Japan?! It is difficult for both parents to work with all of the commitments to the school. So I am guessing the mother here is able to work certain times because of this and so a FT job is not an option.

        Nobody cares what it costs for health insurance in the states, that is not an issue here. The issue is that the Hirano family was unable to make their payments but they still did make payments. The government should’ve taken that into account before sending them off to collections.

      • Yo Han

        I am living since 38 years in Tokyo, from Europe with Japanese wife and I have 2 daughters.

        Yes, it is difficult for both parents to work full time with 4 children – and? I am aware of that, as we had a hard financial time with 2 daughters in Japanese university and Canadian college already.

        What is your point? Much older husband but still young enough to create 4 children, despite out of job or what?

        Much older husband from USA, regular job perhaps not available, what argument is that?

        I am now 63 and still have a full time job in Tokyo, but not as English teacher of course.

        They discussed divorce and about moving back to USA, and so I think they should care about the health insurance costs and other expenses in USA for a family of 6. Or do they expect to live of benefits and food coupons in the US?

        They did make payments? Maybe, but by far too little and this over a very long time. It takes many months to create debts of over 3 million yen solely out of missing payments of the Japanese Health Insurance.

        I think however they should get a last chance, a deadline of one year, full payment of the missing money without interests. If not, send them off back again to collections.

    • kayumochi

      You make a good point: if the Japanese government is serious about stabilizing the population it has to promote family-friendly policies.

    • HK Matt

      The common sense is that everybody pays tax on time??

  • Tsunam1

    For a country that desperately needs children is sure not giving any breaks to families who are contributing to the population. Not just in this case but all around.

    City hall is at fault here for giving information that was incorrect, the system should’ve just lowered the Hirano families payments. At least they were willing to pay something which is more than many people.

    Once again Japan tries to fit everyone into a mold and never using common sense to work out problems.

  • husin tempoyak

    Their biggest mistake is to have four kids.
    Case closed.

  • husin tempoyak

    Their biggest mistake is to have four kids.
    Case closed.

    • MeTed

      To simplify and elaborate on what I said above.

      Japan needs children + 20% of families can’t pay = problem

      Determining you payments on age and number of children is actually not sensible. It only drives people (who are getting old, or had many children – for whatever reason) into poverty. A pay based system such as Australia’s 1% – 1.5% is much more equitable.

      You may think having 4 kids is stupid, but driving them into poverty is more stupid (and at the same time not going to help anyone). It’s not going to stop people having too many children either.

      • husin tempoyak

        You have to study and analyze your surrounding especially regulation, culture and law on where do you lived before you plan your family.

        Having four kids in Japan in modern days is very tough.

        In solving their present problem, i think it is wise to declare their status to the city office. I don`t think the city office would chased them away unless the wife, because she is a foreigner.

        Even if they died with their debt, they should not worry. The debts will be passed to the kids. That is the price of happiness of having a large family in modern days. Shared responsibility.

        Sorry to be quite obtuse, but let bear with reality.

      • http://josephsoleary.typepad.com Joseph

        Let’s hope the kids can look after the parents in old age.

      • husin tempoyak

        You have to study and analyze your surrounding especially regulation, culture and law on where do you lived before you plan your family.

        Having four kids in Japan in modern days is very tough.

        In solving their present problem, i think it is wise to declare their status to the city office. I don`t think the city office would chased them away unless the wife, because she is a foreigner.

        Even if they died with their debt, they should not worry. The debts will be passed to the kids. That is the price of happiness of having a large family in modern days. Shared responsibility.

        Sorry to be quite obtuse, but let bear with reality.

    • MeTed

      To simplify and elaborate on what I said above.

      Japan needs children + 20% of families can’t pay = problem

      Determining you payments on age and number of children is actually not sensible. It only drives people (who are getting old, or had many children – for whatever reason) into poverty. A pay based system such as Australia’s 1% – 1.5% is much more equitable.

      You may think having 4 kids is stupid, but driving them into poverty is more stupid (and at the same time not going to help anyone). It’s not going to stop people having too many children either.

    • John

      Your biggest mistake is to have two balls.

  • John

    OW! That really hurts when someone is smarter, handsomer and better-informed than I. OOOH!

    • John

      …and, as I bow down low to you, here is my retraction: “so TBBBHT!” Eee, that was painful.

    • John

      …and, as I bow down low to you, here is my retraction: “so TBBBHT!” Eee, that was painful.

  • John

    OW! That really hurts when someone is smarter, handsomer and better-informed than I. OOOH!

  • kayumochi

    With the rising poverty rate in Japan I suppose stories like these will become more and more common. Two things surprised me: 1) they couldn’t afford the modest 25,000 yen per month and 2) interest was added to the final bill. I once knew a foreigner in Japan who didn’t ever once pay the monthly premium over the course of many years in Japan (don’t know if his Japanese wife paid hers but I suspect she did). Later, for whatever reason (I think he was opening a bar) he went to City Hall to fess up and make amends and was told he simply had to pay what he would have had to pay over the years … without interest. Collection procedures must vary …

    Recently I discovered Germany has a similar system but even more ruthless: assets not only will be seized by the government but if a patient has a medical bill due the government will also go after relatives who DO have the financial resources to make payment.

  • kayumochi

    With the rising poverty rate in Japan I suppose stories like these will become more and more common. Two things surprised me: 1) they couldn’t afford the modest 25,000 yen per month and 2) interest was added to the final bill. I once knew a foreigner in Japan who didn’t ever once pay the monthly premium over the course of many years in Japan (don’t know if his Japanese wife paid hers but I suspect she did). Later, for whatever reason (I think he was opening a bar) he went to City Hall to fess up and make amends and was told he simply had to pay what he would have had to pay over the years … without interest. Collection procedures must vary …

    Recently I discovered Germany has a similar system but even more ruthless: assets not only will be seized by the government but if a patient has a medical bill due the government will also go after relatives who DO have the financial resources to make payment.

  • keratomileusis

    Never seen such a hot topic with SO many opinions. The discussion is reasoned, measured and largely polite. I will add my personal observations. I can’t understand why insurance premiums for non full time contract employees are calculated on an annual basis. This means if you make money one year and not the next your premium is much higher for the year that your income is lower. You’d think that in an age of IT there could be a way to calculate it on a monthly basis for people working for companies part-time. This is how the national tax is handled.

    When my income dropped, I went down to the city office, but rather than tell me, “Pay what you can.” They asked me, “What can you pay?” I told them and within a few minutes new payment vouchers were created. This is perhaps the Hiranos’ fatal miscalculation, amongst personal choices they made in their family.

  • Al_Martinez

    Sounds like someone in the Wakayama tax office made the decision to turn the Hirano’s debt over to the collection agency precisely because they weren’t salaried workers–thus, easy prey. Probably even received a kickback of some sort.

    I’ll be sure to hide my money well should I ever get into any kind of trouble such as this.

    • jcbinok

      Ya, the part where the collection agency came to the house and snooped through the guy’s PJ drawer was particularly disturbing.

      • Jay

        I also noted that and filed it away for future reference. I think it would be wise to transfer assets to family members at the first sign of trouble.

  • bsulejman1

    Blame the poor for their poverty
    Hell, why don’t we just have them all castrated

    • Yo Han

      It is a big difference if somebody lives in poverty because of problems like war or illness – or if somebody is pushing himself into poverty because of acting totally irresponsibly.

    • Toolonggone

      Geez, you just sound like Michelle Rhee, a former
      ‘no-excuse’ education reform executive from Teaching Factory of America.

  • jcbinok

    My heart goes out to this family. I also have deep-seeded fears about the Japanese health plan. I have visited my municipal city hall many times, but always leave with more questions than I had when I came in the door.
    Also, in a country where the typical bank interest rate is about 0.01%, charging people 50% interest on money owed sounds like a naked money grab.

    • Yo Han

      Interests in Japan are not 50 percent/year. Even not with the worst loan sharks. Creditcard overdraft is one of the highest interest rates I know and it is 15 %.

      You must be really a very ignorant and delinquent debtor over many years if the Japanese National Health Insurance is showing up with collectors searching your home for money and valuables.

      • jcbinok

        You’re right, interest like that doesn’t accrue overnight. I’m curious whether this family ever received annual statements of how much they owed.

  • jcbinok

    Jessica, I like your style.

  • wanderingpippin

    ““We were shocked when the health insurance bill more than doubled to almost ¥60,000 a month at one point,” Brandy recalls.”

    Why were they shocked? It is no secret that the national health insurance premiums are based on amount of resident tax paid which in turn is based on the previous year’s income as well as the number in the household. That’s why people with irregular incomes put money aside during the better years to make sure they can pay in case they have a dip in income the following year. This family chose to set aside money for future expenses when their children would be in college rather than use that money for the debts they already have. Why? Going to college is not a legal requirement in Japan whereas having health insurance is.

  • HK Matt

    Why are you encouraging violence? That’s Yakuza’s tactics.

  • tomado

    This is terrifying. I’ve never joined the system and have lived here for years. I know they’d want me to pay 3 years back pay… Gosh if there were an amnesty I’d probably join up. Maybe have to anyway. I wonder what can be done to me. They can wipe out your entire bank account? I had no idea!

  • Heln

    It seems to me that the couple were paying what they wanted to, not what
    they could afford. It’s not that they didn’t have money, it’s that they felt that other things were more important, like saving for their children’s education. They use the health care system but don’t wish to pay for it. It’s just an abuse of the system and an avoidance of responsibility.

    It would be very informative to find out what the couple’s average yearly income has been for the past 10 years rather than be told that their income is unsteady.

  • Toolonggone

    Is this the main reason why some millions of people in the US don’t want Obamacare?

    • Toolonggone

      OK. Maybe not.

      15 years ago, national health insurance cost was 13,500 yen. It has increased by 85%, or 5.66% per year. The amount of money sounds modest, but it’s not gonna be easy for the family who live on an unsteady income–no matter where you stay.

  • blondein_tokyo

    I have had similar problems when dealing with the ward office. The answer to your question will often depend on who it is you are talking to, and if you happen to get advice from the wrong person, the blame falls solely on you for breaking the rules.

    The article says that they make decisions on a case by case basis, yet looking at the circumstances of this family, it doesn’t seem as though they took their individual situation into consideration.

    This kind of thing infuriates me. It’s unfair, unjust, and innocent children are going to suffer because of it. Japan wants a higher birth rate, but they also don’t seem to want to do anything to actively support people in having large families, even if it is just allowing them to make payments over the long term and forgiving interest.

    This family isn’t asking for handouts. The parents are both working full time and are willing to work with the city on a payment plan. It is the bureaucracy that is being inflexible and unreasonable.

    I would like to see a GoFundMe made for this family. I would contribute.

  • Carl MacIntyre

    I stand by my initial assertion that you are an idiot, but now I also sense that you have serious psychological issues or even perhaps Asperger syndrome.. I suspect that if you make it to Japan, you’ll become another one of those damaged lost souls who can’t function successfully in their home country, but because of the foreignness, they can hide in Japan. BTW, here’s a free bit of advice. If you seriously think that you can make a living as a freelance writer, I suggest you look for another plan. Your prose appears to be an unfortunate reflection of that muddled mind of yours.