Last Updated: Jul 17, 2023
Spending on Japan
Disclaimer: This is not financial advice…
It was the summer of 2021 and somehow Cheesie and I found ourselves down in Kamakura for the hydrangeas. At the time, I was just transitioning out of my role as Head of Digital Marketing at AdVertize, the agency startup I had been helping to build. As would almost certainly be the case for anyone in my position, I was feeling pretty nervous. After all, I had been keeping a full time gig as a financial safety blanket that, at the time, allowed me to recklessly drop money on traveling across Japan.
Somewhere along the way, we found ourselves at Kamakura’s Zeniarai Benten. Half shrine, half temple, this ancient amalgam is a prime example of the former syncretic union between Shinto and Buddhism (known as Shinbutsu Shugo in Japanese). While these days it’s technically classified as a shrine, you’d be hard pressed to tell otherwise if you’re used to temple architecture. Anyway, Zeniarai Benten is best known for its practice of washing money. Allegedly, if you cleanse your cash here, the deity will do you the kind favor of doubling it for you.
As we always do in the daikon cult, we did our due diligence and said our prayers to Benzaiten / Ugafukujin, the dual-sided goddess who is worshiped here. After taking our chances on doubling our dough, Cheesie jokingly remarked to me that her lifelong investment strategy was simply throwing more money at Japan. According to her, no matter how much she spent on the country, Japan somehow always found a way to see that the funds used found their way back to her.
Seeing as I was on the cusp of embarking on my own freelance journey, I guess it’s kind of fitting that Benzaiten / Ugafukujin is also something of a patron of entrepreneurship and business. Before leaving the shrine grounds of Zeniarai Benten, I said a special prayer to the deity in the hopes that my new endeavor would work out. Looking back, I really shouldn’t have doubted the power of the Kami as it’s been nothing but a wild (and lucrative) ride ever since calling it quits on my full time position.
This now brings us to the topic of today’s article, my absolutely insane outlook on my personal finances. Taking a page from Cheesie’s playbook, I now purposely spend around 150% of every yen that I earn on Japan. Yup, you read that right! If I make 1,000 yen, I’ll drop 1,500 yen on traveling for content, promoting my articles or supporting some struggling Japanese craftsman in the countryside. I aim to keep but a scant few months of emergency reserve in the bank and then blow the rest on Japan.
Now, normally spending upwards of 150% of what one earns in a year would obviously be ROI negative and leave someone broke as can be. Despite what one would expect though, the years since I became a freelance content creator cum digital marketer have been some of the most successful of my life. Of course, I say this not to brag and boast to you but to instead illustrate a point. Remember, any success I have in life just gets channeled right back into Japan so it’s not like I’m lining my pockets.
Not to get all woo woo here but I think life rewards you for what you put into it. When you pour all of your love and labor into something, it has a way of making its way back to you in some form or another. This isn’t some crazy arcane belief either — it is simply how the world works. Though I could opine on end about how it is the Kami of Japan interceding to alter my fate for the better in thanks for my service, I don’t necessarily think that the concept needs to be religious.
In entrepreneurship, you often hear people recite a line that claims that the easiest way to become a billionaire is to just help billions of people. Though I can totally get why companies like Meta and TikTok catch the flack that they do these days, it is also true that the reason that they pull in the big bucks is that they provide a service that legions of people desire. In essence, bringing positivity into the world leads to positive results in return. Similarly, my spending on Japan is also an investment in myself.
At the end of the day, I honestly think that any true labor of love that is cherished deeply enough will eventually start to bear financial fruit. Most people however are just unwilling to put in the work to get there, especially at the start when all you have is the seed of an idea. Heck, when I started making content, I was doing it as a case study to prove to people that I deeply understood growth hacking and social media marketing. Now, I am utterly obsessed with spending every waking hour in the service of Japan.
I realize how silly all of this sounds but if there is something that you love, do as Rengoku Kyojuro would tell you and set your heart ablaze. If you pour your soul into it with reckless abandon, I guarantee that the powers that be will find a way to take care of you financially somehow. Sure, it might not turn out how you were originally expecting but what in life ever really does (can you say uketamo)? Just a few years ago, the thought of going it alone was anathema to me and now I can’t imagine doing anything else.
So, in closing, I say invest in your passion and in yourself and let the chips fall where they may. In throwing all of my earnings at Japan, I’ve been able to garner the reps required to become an elite media buyer and content creator. Along the way, I’ve also found meaning and purpose in promoting and supporting Japanese craftsmen. As I’ve noted previously, all of this investment has come back to me many times over in the form of new gigs and contracts and I’m sure something similar would happen for you too.
It might be a bit scary at first but give it a go until you at least get that flywheel going. It can take a bit of time until the initial seeds of investment start to sprout but if you give yourself over to that which you love, the results will eventually come in time. I know it sounds insane but I am betting my entire future on the fact that investing my time, money and life into Japan will provide huge dividends.
Until next time travelers…