What Is Real Wealth? Market Principles Are Always Right?


Furniture making is an endangered business in Japan

Last month, the Ministry of the Environment announced that a butterfly species (shown in the above image) endemic to Japan might have been extinct. The butterflies inhabited only in the southern islands of Japan. A massive decrease in their population has been seen for these 30 years due to predation by alien species of lizards brought in as a pet. This news is depressing and also scary because I always see ourselves in extinct creatures. It could happen to any of Japanese furniture manufacturers in the near future. What waits for extinct businesses is more sad ending than that of the butterfly. Most of the people may not even notice it. We will be just lost in oblivion.

Some jobs are disappearing together with cultures

In Japan in Heian period (794 – 1185), it was a hobby or art among aristocracy to listen to insect voices. Good grasshoppers, crickets, etc. were selected and gifted to the then Emperors. There were people who made a living by catching insects to meet such a demand. Even now, we Japanese enjoy insect voices changing according to the four seasons. Currently it’s not that popular. I can’t distinguish between good and bad, and can’t even guess what insect it is only from its voice. There’s no insect-catching industry any more.

Our craftsperson is applying a sanding tool on the wooden frame of a dining chair.

What is real wealth?

According to the domestic industrial stats, the production amount of the furniture industry dropped and has never returned to the previous level after the financial crisis in 2008. Now the same thing is happening due to the COVID. Insect voices were replaced with many other hobbies after that time. Mass-produced furniture will drive out furniture with craftsmanship. According to the free market principles, these are right things to happen. Can you be sure our lives get better? I can’t help but feel like we may just be losing a sense of appreciation for good things.

By Shungo Ijima 2020/09/09