Big in Japan: Why it sucks to have US dollars

In case you haven’t heard, it seems as if the United States is rapidly sliding into a recession…

Then again, if you believe all of the buzz in the headlines as of recent, it seems that the US government is doing everything possible to prevent this from happening.

Of course, while the recent surge in the stock markets and the remarkable buyout of Bear Stearns are certainly good signs that things are returning to normal, not everyone (including myself) is convinced.

I should preface today’s posting by saying that I’m certainly not an economist!

(In fact, I didn’t even learn how to write a check as of recent, and am something of the black sheep in a family of bankers.)

But, one thing I do know is that American ex-pats here in Japan are feeling the crunch where it hurts the most, namely in their rapidly shrinking wallets.

The daily peaks and valleys of the Forex currency exchange market certainly aren’t the most fascinating of travel topics.

However, it’s worth pointing out that the US dollar is presently at a 12 and a 1/2 year low against the Japanese yen.

And this, my faithful audience, is why it sucks to have US dollars…

In one of my very first posts on Gadling, I tried to dispel the myth that Tokyo is a prohibitively expensive city to live in, and even went as far as to argue that it’s a bargain compared to most American and European cities.

One of the main reasons is that for the last decade or so, there has been a favorable dollar-yen exchange rate that has allowed Americans like myself to enjoy a higher standard of living here than in most other major cities.

Indeed, I have been able to maintain a fairly posh apartment in a ritzy area of Tokyo for less than US$1000 a month, and can eat out most nights of the week for less than US$10-15 a meal.

Of course, the sad reality of the failing US economy hit close to home last week when the dollar slid as much as 3.0 percent.

At its lowest point, it hovered below 96.00 yen, its lowest since 1995, bringing year-to-date losses to more than 13 percent.

To put things into perspective, a few months ago the US dollar was trading at about 115 yen, though today this seems like little more than a fond and distant memory.

Now, as I said at the beginning of this posting, I am certainly not an economist, but you don’t have to be good with numbers to realize that your bank account is dropping quicker than normal.

Of course, there are plenty of people out there who see financial trends better than I do, and there are talks of the dollar trading as low as 75 yen in the months ahead.

So, when you’re filing your taxes this season, and you happen to get that handy little $600 rebate check from the government, think twice about spending it at Applebee’s.

After all, there are warning signs that all is not well on the financial horizon, and I can assure you that I’m not the only one crying wolf out here in Asia.

** All images courtesy of the WikiCommons Media Project **