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The naivete of youth can be a costly problem

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From Aug. 15, the Yukan Fuji ran a three-part series by investigative reporter Fumiaki Tada about the “dangerous summer” that confronts Japan’s young people, including the possibility of falling victim to fraud or robbery.

In Tokyo and other cities, aggressive street touts called sukauto (scouts) approach teens on the sidewalk, asking them to take part in a survey about skin care. Then using high-pressure “catch sales” tactics, the victims are conned into signing up for an expensive series of beauty treatments.

According to the Consumer Protection Center operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, a common ruse is for a woman claiming to be a magazine editor to ask a teen, “Have you ever thought about going into modeling?” Then, via telephone, they are invited to an office to register as a model. The next day, they are told work is available as a hairdressing model. But to improve their appearance they will need to undergo beauty treatments, like laser depilatory — normally costing ¥1 million, but as a special offer, only one half that amount.

“Afterward I never got any modeling offers,” a girl in her early 20s relates. “I want to get out of the contract.”

“These ‘model registrations’ are merely a pretext for tricking people into undergoing the expensive treatment,” explained a counselor at the Consumer Protection Center. “When multiple people come on with a hard sell offering some kind of work, which leads to something completely different, we describe it as ‘dramatic soliciting.'”

That’s not to say that the aspiring young candidates have no chance at all to break into the business, but it’s more likely that they’ll get stuck with high fees they can’t afford and, unable to get out of the contract, may even be coerced into working off the exorbitant charges by appearing in adult videos.

Quite a few young women idolize groups of young female performers and aspire to emulate them, but, Yukan Fuji warns, they need to be aware of these contemptible “scouts,” who lurk in front of stations and on sidewalks awaiting their next victim.

In mid August, it’s common for younger kids in the cities to accompany their parents for obligatory visits to rural homes of their paternal or maternal grandparents.

This, however, is no assurance of happy harmony. Shukan Post (Sept. 1) ran a story titled “Ahh, ‘grandchild fatigue’: Obon re-encounters with grandchildren can be ‘hellish.'”

Take the 68-year-old grandpappy in Yamaguchi Prefecture, who has been feeling indisposed since the four-night, five-day visit by his grandchildren.

“My grandsons are ages 5 and 7,” he said. “On the surface they look like sweet kids, but they’re really mischievous, and playing with them wore me down to a frazzle. Even though the temperature was over 35 degrees Celsius I had to take them to a nearby beach and an amusement park. When they left, they said, ‘We really wanna see grandpa again soon,’ but I was plumb knackered. Still am.

“I was feeling nauseated and had no appetite so I went to the hospital. The doctor told me I had a ‘slight touch of heatstroke.'”

Similar stories of what Shukan Post calls “grandchild fatigue” have been flowing in.

“Since we don’t see them often, we wanted to make a home cooked meal for our grandchildren,” a 66-year-old housewife in Gifu Prefecture woefully relates. “Spent the whole day in the unairconditioned kitchen, doing our best to turn out something tasty. Slaving to prepare foods over the deep fryer was enough to give me vertigo.”

Although grandparents are seldom obliged to fight snarled traffic on expressways or jam themselves into long-distance trains, traditional family get-togethers can still hit their pocketbooks hard.

Last month, the Aozora Bank conducted a survey of 2,000 men and women between the ages of 55 to 74 regarding “seniors’ reality.” Just over 63 percent replied that they play host to their children and grandchildren and of these, roughly half said they pay part or all of their offspring’s travel expenses — an average of ¥31,900. On top of that, they said they paid an average of ¥41,600 for other expenditures during their relatives’ stay.

What sort of outlays are we talking about?

Well, it seems there’s a strong trend among families for grandparents to lay out funds to purchase randoseru, the leather knapsacks elementary school children use for carrying books and school supplies. Peer pressure demands a good one be purchased and they don’t come cheap: the average knapsack price, according to another survey by the Aozora Bank, is ¥50,400.

A 67-year-old man in Shizuoka Prefecture tells Shukan Post he got stuck for ¥70,000.

“These days, it’s a given that the knapsacks are made to order, with orders placed from July or August,” he sighed. “The popular brands sell for ¥70,000 or ¥80,000. I thought it made sense to go with something cheaper, but my daughter-in-law had told the kid that her father would buy it for her, and that put me on the spot.”

As it turned out, the paternal granddad wound up paying for the knapsack, and the maternal granddad sprang for a study desk.

“The present generation of children feel that, ‘As our grandparents’ generation experienced the period of high economic growth, they are affluent and can be relied upon materially,'” says Makiko Miyamoto, a specialist in family problems and author of a book aimed at educating the postwar baby boom generation who have become grandparents. “On the other hand, the older generation feels that they ‘knew Japan when it was poor,’ but are unable to impart such an awareness to their own children or grandchildren. That has resulted in the creation of a new generation whose members take things for granted and don’t feel gratitude for what they receive.”