Staff writer

Reiko Ishikawa feels worthless, but it has nothing to do with having no boyfriend, disliking her job, or misplacing her Prada handbag.

The 27-year-old office worker has just discovered she’s worth a miserly 310,000 yen.

“I’m in shock,” she said with a smile. “I thought I was worth at least a billion.”

The estimate was provided by “Calculating Your Value,” an Internet site that at last count was valued at a considerably larger 6 million — hits, that is.

The site takes the form of a multiple-choice psychology test. Twenty-two questions probe a variety of issues to establish, for instance, if you are popular with members of the opposite sex; what, if anything, gets you misty-eyed; or, who you would be willing to shove into a shark-infested pool (the murderer of your parents and a politician intent on wrecking Japan’s economy are two of the choices given).

Your “value” is then calculated in yen and graded: Those achieving a 200 million-yen plus score take the highest “God” class. Score below 500,000 yen and you’re a “Dung Beetle.”

Finally, there’s an analysis of your “heart,” “status” and “buying power,” among others.

One 40-something (“Rookie Lawyer Class”) businessman, valued at around 70 million yen, was shown to have a big heart but nominal natural flair and “completely lacking in luck.”

During his lifetime, the analysis continued, he’ll be married nine times and, if he were to eat nothing but 88 yen “nikuman” (steamed meat buns) three times a day, he’d live another 717 years and 304 days.

“Nine wives and a long life sound good,” he said. “But I think I’d get sick of the nikuman.”

For all its light-hearted intentions, the site has drawn considerable attention at a time when Japanese are increasingly “self-assessing” their value in a country stricken by economic and social woes, said psychiatrist and popular social commentator Rika Kayama.

Having yourself evaluated is not a new concept in Japan, Kayama said, adding that many people treat the old customs of “omikuji” (written oracles) and fortune-telling almost as substitutes for religion.

“There are many people who really believe in them. Japanese are used to the culture of having someone decide their value,” she said. “By hearing it from someone else, it makes the verdict more acceptable, and makes them feel more at ease.”

Interestingly, of the 18 people interviewed, not one was prepared to actually gauge their own worth.

“I’ve never thought about it,” 24-year-old Sanae Tsubaki said. “I could estimate the value of someone else, like a family member, but not my own.”

Yet, the recent “I am the one and only” way of thinking among Japanese has led to greater focus on self-evaluation in monetary terms, observed Kayama, whose latest book “Loving Yourself,” published in June, discusses the recent Japanese obsession with seeking their real selves.

“Today, the reality for Japanese is ‘If I’m restructured out of the company, how much will I get?’ or ‘If I buy this house, will I be able to pay off (the mortgage) during my lifetime?’ … There are many settings where people have to think about themselves in monetary terms,” she said.

It’s unlikely that Web designer Okuhiko Sakaguchi, an economics major at Sophia University in Tokyo, intended his site to be a replacement for a faith. The site was inspired by a video game he used to play that measured people’s life spans.

“It was fun because it turned out the most unlikely results,” he said, adding that this “surprise” factor formed the basis of his home page.

“I had no idea it would become so big,” he said.

The site now averages some 40,000 hits per day, attracting a wide range of visitors, including high school students, housewives, business executives and celebrities, who mostly take it in good heart.

Kin Narita of the popular centurion twins “Kin-san and Gin-san” proved — as her name literally implies — to be worth her weight in gold when she visited the site and weighed in at some 130 million yen, Sakaguchi said.

This means the 107-year-old Narita has roughly another 1,400 years to live, should she follow the prescribed nikuman diet, he added.

Yet, some netizens have taken it very much to heart.

Sakaguchi, 23, said he has received “countless” e-mail about the site, some of which expressed major gripes.

“(A small percentage) are obviously angry and say ‘How can you assess people’s value in monetary terms?'” Sakaguchi said. “These are usually people who have scored low on the test.”

The reaction is a result of the site’s uniqueness, he said.

“The reason for the (large) number of hits is that (evaluating people in monetary terms) is something they’ve never thought about before,” he said.

“It stirs up people’s emotions. So, some oppose it, some find it fun, some get depressed,” Sakaguchi said. “It’s like primitive man’s first contact with civilization.”

Psychiatrist Kayama said she would not be surprised if many people are “repulsed” by the site and dismiss it as “ridiculous.”

Sakaguchi’s own worth has been boosted by the recent inclusion of a sponsor on his site, which provides him with a handy 240,000 yen monthly income.

He has also been wooed by a number of software developers and large companies to design sites for them.

“Basically, I don’t have to do anything,” he said.

Nothing, that is, except create an English-language version of the site and complete three more sites he hopes to launch in the near future.

One of them evaluates whether your partner is cheating on you.

“I think this could be equally popular (as the ‘value’ page),” Sakaguchi said.

To discover your personal worth, point your browser to http://www.afromania.org/ ~oku/nedan/jikken.htm

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