Since 1963, Japanese citizens who reach the exalted age of 100 have received a beautiful sterling silver cup from the government on September 15, Japan's "Respect for the Aged Day" (Keirou no Hi), along with a signed certificate from the Prime Minister and a beautiful wood presentation box.
Nice, huh? And cheap too, since only 153 seniors qualified for the congratulatory centenary sterling silver sake cups in 1963.
Almost a half century later, that number has skyrocketed to 19,769 and the cash-strapped government is shrinking the cups, which cost them about 7,500 yen ($77) each.
The solution decided upon was to shrink the diameter of the silver cups from 10.5cm to 9cm (4.13 to 3.54 inches). According to a Health Ministry spokesman, "We realized there's not such a big difference in appearance if we cut the diameter." Did he ask around to see if Japan's elderly care? Doubtful.
The move is seen by many Japanese as somewhat of a slap in the face to its expanding population of seniors, the generation who lifted Japan out from the shadow of war and defeat to become the world's second-largest economy. It also symbolizes the bursting of the post-war economic bubble, signifies the growing erosion in Japan's status of living, and re-focuses public attention on the ever-growing need for quality long term care for the nation's builders.
"We also had to think about how to continue to do this for an increasing number of people on a limited budget," continued the spokesman. Indeed, the cost of providing $77 sterling silver cups to 20,000 people each year is, well, you do the math ($1,540,000 for the arithmetically challenged).
The figure is certain to increase as Japan's population of 127 million continues to grey - there were 36,436 senior citizens living to at least 100 at last count. This is one cup that's very much running over. (via Javno and Yahoo News, images via So-Net, Naturem and Rosecat777)