Consumption Trends and Savings

Ever since the "bubble economy" of the late 1980s burst in the first half of the 1990s, the Japanese economy has been creeping along at a snail's pace. Personal consumption has been falling; between 1993 and 1995, the nominal value of spending in Japan contracted by 0.6%, 0.9%, and 1.1% over the respective preceding years.
 While consumption in the city of Nagoya increased by 14% between 1985 and 1995, prices also rose by 14% during this period, so there has been no growth in real terms. Prices have been free of wild fluctuations, however, allowing Nagoya residents to plan ahead in attaining their lifestyle goals.
 Household expenditure in Nagoya is shown in Figure 1. The biggest item, food, holds a 24.4% share, slightly higher than the national average of 23.7%. Nagoya's high cultural attainment levels is corroborated by the 10.9% spent on cultural and recreational activities--the second biggest spending category--which is significantly higher than the national average of 9.6%.
 Japanese households generally save more than their overseas counterparts, and the high savings rate has been an important source of the country's economic development. Aichi residents are conspicuous savers, even by Japanese standards; according to a 1994 Management and Coordination Agency survey, the value of Aichi's household savings was the sixth highest among Japan's 47 prefectures (Figure 2), and Aichi ranked fifteenth in savings as a share of annual income (184.5%).
 Mortgage payments claim a big chunk of household spending, since Japanese homes tend to be more expensive than in other countries and because there is an enduring preference for detached, single-unit dwellings. Aichi's debts per household were the fifth highest in the nation; 89% of these debts were in the form of real estate loans. The prefecture's outstanding debts as a share of annual income (63%) were the fifteenth highest in the country.