The price of bread has suddenly jumped from 88 yen a loaf to 107 yen. That’s an increase of 22%. Though I haven’t paid attention to the prices, I understand that the same thing is happening to noodles, a staple of the Japanese diet. The unhappy Japanese consumers recognize that these increases are due to the rising cost of wheat.
Having spent last fall combining the wheat that could very well now be part of the bread I’m eating, I see things differently than I might have in the past. How can I complain when the farmer, who has been receiving an indecently low price for his grain for many years, finally receives an increase? Unfortunately, however, I don’t think he’s seen a 22% increase. There are many middlemen between the grain elevators in Killam and Viking and the bakery shelves here in Funabashi. When the price of grain drops again, as it no doubt will, will the price of bread go down too? I doubt it. I suspect, as has happened so often before, the middlemen will continue to be the ones who profit.
The increasing cost of living has been an interesting conversation topic in some of my adult English classes lately. Japan has traditionally kept itself isolated from the rest of the world and, though that is gradually changing, the majority of the people seem to have no idea that the economic difficulties that their country is experiencing are shared by the rest of the world. They’re often quite astonished to learn that North Americans grumble about the same things they do!