The word kakeibo may not be unfamiliar to you, as the West has taken a passion for this art of keeping accounts. Kateika, on the other hand, is perhaps a new word! This refers to all classes dedicated to household arts at school. Rest assured, not all Japanese people are necessarily fairies of the house. But in principle, they all learned the techniques necessary to take off from the family home.
From school, the Japanese learn to keep a home through household arts classes called kateika (家庭 科), “Home science”. This household education, very popular with children, teaches them everything they need to know to be independent and in particular, the use of kakeibo (家計 簿), a budget method to control spending and save money.
My husband cooks, knows how to sew, do housework (in principle!), Take care of children and the elderly, keep accounts and is not reluctant to stick his nose in the papers (me, yes). This is because, from elementary school, he learned all this at school.
As for kakeibo, we are both a little reluctant to look at our accounts too closely… However, our minimalist lifestyle has made us very thrifty too, keeping an account book is not necessarily necessary for us.
Kateika, household arts from elementary to high school
Household education is compulsory in Japan from primary to high school, for both girls and boys. If from the age of 16, young Japanese can leave school, they will still have had home science lessons until the end of college. Fans of Japanese animation and manga, especially shoujo (manga for girls), know these classes well, because they are often the scene of small everyday stories.
Japanese schools therefore generally have a room equipped with the necessary for children to learn the basics of nutrition. Equipment and organization vary from school to school, but the curriculum is likely to remain the same.
The schoolchildren learn to prepare the ingredients, the cooking and its dangers, the recipes for the daily dishes, that is to say the “kitchen of the house”, in Japanese, katei-ryouri (家庭 料理). The textbooks cover health and diet issues, as well as meals according to your physical condition and your needs.
They are far from being satisfied with baking cakes (the only teaching that I remember having had in primary school)!
Sewing and DIY
Japanese children also do sewing work, such as learning to make small clothes and darning clothes with holes. Schools are equipped with sewing machines. Not only are they taught what to do with yarn and fabric, but they are also taught what to do with wood and how to build small items on their own.
My husband groans (gently) as soon as I have a needle in his hands, because he is very proud to be able to put his talents into practice.
Take care of others
The kateika lessons do not only teach practical techniques to be independent, but also teach the care that we should give to the people who depend on us.
When they leave school, the Japanese usually know how to care for young children, the elderly and the sick. I say in principle, because teaching does not guarantee empathy and care for others.
The common thread behind all kateika classes is of course, keeping the household budget. Knowing how to cook, mend and take care of others teaches you to be responsible with your money.
Kakeibo, a household expense budget method
From primary school onwards, children learn to manage money and it is in middle school that kateika lessons deal more particularly with kakeibo (家計 簿), or “account book for the domestic economy”. A method invented in 1904 by Hani Makoto, the first female journalist in Japan and creator of a newspaper for housewives.
Through budget and expenditure examples, students learn to keep accounts and distinguish irreducible charges from those that can be controlled. This teaching goes very far: bank loan, purchase of an apartment or construction of a house, unforeseen expenses, taxes and various taxes… Japanese school books are not lacking in practical cases.
The word covers both this Japanese art of managing your budget and a tool, the account book for the home. If there are many different models sold in stationery, the principle remains the same. It is an account book that allows you to track the income and outflows of household money.
The kakeibo must make it possible to become aware of their habits and to rectify, if necessary, their non-essential expenses.
In short, this method should allow us to no longer make impulse purchases. If it does not necessarily aspire to minimalism, it certainly helps pierced baskets to be more careful and may, in the long term, completely rethink their consumption.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Money, or rather, compulsive shopping (like food), is very emotional terrain. A lot of people, and I am one of them, panic or anxious about starting to track their race tickets. I tried to hold one, but the idea of taking a closer look at my expenses was very worrying to me. Fortunately, my commitment to reasoned and less polluting consumption has made me minimalist and therefore thrifty.
An essential tool for Japanese households
Not all Japanese care about their money. But once they are married or parents, they still tend to take a closer look at their accounts.
It must be said that the Japanese economy, gloomy since the lost decade of 1991-2000, is marked by a relative stagnation of wages. As the cost of living continues to rise, the purchasing power of the Japanese continues to fall. Undoubtedly there is a much more concrete explanation for the sharp drop in birth rates and marriages, than the so-called half-mast sexuality of the Japanese.
If I’ve ever wanted to write about it, it’s because an article by Esse, a Japanese women’s webzine, rocked social media recently. The latter presents readers with the shopping budget of a mother of three and her tips for spending around 20,000 yen per month (around 165 euros) for a household of 5 people.
Even in the land of kakeibo, this tight budget holds up for performance and is well below the national average for… a single person!
What is the average monthly travel budget in Japan?
I admit that I strangled myself with the Japanese faced with this more than frugal family budget. Turning to the Bureau of Statistics of Japan, subordinate to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Communications, in 2019 the average monthly food budget for a single person was 40,000 yen (or 328 euros). As for the childless couple, they spend around 75,000 yen (614 euros).
This of course remains averages. Expats from Japan are well aware that the cost of living varies greatly from one region to another, between urban and rural areas. In Tokyo, you have to be really cunning to reduce the cost of your shopping cart. The prices of fresh produce are soaring quickly. The only way to make sure you save money is to do your shopping in several supermarkets and in small market gardeners. But even being very attentive and cooking all of our meals, it is difficult for my husband and I to spend less than 40,000 yen per month. We must, at this level, abandon the idea of eating organic, local and varied.
How the hell does she do it?
This now famous anonymous thrifty mother explains spending time shopping. Keeping an eye on the discounts, she has her hand on the calculator to calculate the price to the nearest gram. Because it is essential for example not to buy meat at more than 100 yen per 100 grams. She also plays with point systems offered by supermarkets and card payment to keep her food expenses low.
Without a doubt, the key to success is having the time and cooking everything from A to Z without wasting anything. No more ready-made dishes, already prepared ingredients: you have to go as “raw” as possible. Be the basis of what is taught in kateika classes.
Japanese Internet users were very divided, between those who doubt the veracity of the article, and those who were worried, quite rightly, about the quality of this low-cost food. Because buying cheap in Japan essentially comes down to choosing products imported from China or produced by intensive agriculture. Good quality fruit and meat must be put aside. Many, in the event that this family does exist, hailed the incredible efforts of this mom.
On Twitter, however, the Japanese still questioned themselves a lot about the values of a society that emphasizes the ability of households to cut back on their food budget rather than questioning insufficient wages to buy food. without worrying about his savings.
With the current crisis, more than ever, the teaching of kateika classes and the use of kakeibo are necessary for the Japanese to make ends meet.
|家庭 科||kateika||Household Arts Class|
|家計 簿||kakeibo||Budget method, account book|
|家庭 料理||katei ryouri||Family cooking|
|食 費||shoku hi||Food expenditure|
|生活費||seikatsu hi||Cost of life|