Nothing says “Thanks for all your hard work!” like a bonus from your boss given entirely in Japan’s smallest-denomination coins.

Just over two years ago, Yoshio, founder and president of SoraNews24, made the questionable decision to drop one million yen (US$8,930) on end-of-the-year lottery tickets. As you might expect, that didn’t turn out to be the wisest investment, and ever since we try to keep an eye on his expenditures at this time of year.

So Ahiru Neko, one of our Japanese-language correspondents, was a little concerned when Yoshio asked him to accompany him to the bank to make a withdrawal. As they walked, Ahiru Neko delicately broached the subject of the lottery fiasco, and was relieved to find out that Yoshio’s new plan didn’t require nearly so much money, and had nothing to do with gambling.

“The staff has been working hard all year, and I want to give them otoshidama,” explained Yoshio. Otoshiodama are gifts of cash, usually placed in festive envelopes, that are given at New Year’s in Japan. Usually, kids get them from their parents and older relatives, so Ahiru Neko was both surprised and happy to hear that he and his coworkers were getting otoshidama from the boss.

As they reached the bank entrance, Yoshio told Ahiru Neko that he was going inside to get 100,000 yen (US$893) to divide amongst the staff’s otoshidama. He instructed Ahiru Neko to wait outside, and disappeared into the building for about 20 minutes, which would have been a long time for a simple ATM run. But Yoshio had to speak with a teller to get the money for everyone’s otoshidama, because…

…he’d asked for the 100,000 yen…

…in coins.

▼ 100,000 yen in bills

▼ 100,000 yen in coins

What’s more, Yoshio had insisted on the smallest denomination: one-yen coins. Of course, you can’t expect a bank to comply with your request if you just roll up and ask for 100,000 coins in boxes, so Yoshio had called ahead and given the bank time to get everything in order before he swung by to pick it all up, because while he may be nuts, he’s also considerate.

But you know how when you get money out of the ATM, you still want to flip through the bills to make sure you got the right amount? Yoshio felt the same way here, and so he and Ahiru Neko headed back to Yoshio’s house to count the change.

Each of the 40 boxes was supposed to contain 50 rolls of coins, with 50 coins in each roll. Even Yoshio wasn’t crazy enough to count out each and every one-yen coin by hand, though, so he settled for counting just the rolls, laying them out carefully, one by one, on the tatami floor of his house.

Needless to say, this took quite a long time. But as Ahiru Neko assisted his employer, he gradually felt a sense of calm from the repetitive yet visually pleasing task.

There was a certain feeling of orderly peace, and the sight of all the coins even began to take on a unique beauty.

“Wow, I don’t know when I’ll ever get to see something like this again,” mused Ahiru Neko as they set down the last roll of coins, to which Yoshio replied, dryly and immediately:

“Yep. Okay, pack ‘em back up and let’s take the boxes over to the office.” 

The nearest parking lot is still a few blocks’ walk from our office entrance, so Yoshio once again loaded up his handcart, insisting that Ahiru Neko (to whom he’d given an imitation police uniform) stand guard/at attention during the last leg of the coins’ journey.

After taking the elevator up to our floor, Yoshio wheeled the cart into our conference room while Ahiru Neko gathered the staff that was on-hand that day, letting them know that he had a present for them all.

“Thank you all for coming in today,” Yoshio began. “You’ve all been working really hard, so I decided to give you 10,000 yen each as otoshidama.”

The staff was all smiles at the news. Wanting to keep he good vibes flowing, with a flourish Yoshio pulled back the cover, ready to see their faces light up with even more joy.

“So, thank you…”

“…for all…”

“…your hard work!”

But instead of roaring cheers, Yoshio’s grand display of grandiose generosity was met with deafening silence.

You can’t entirely blame the recipients for being quiet. Seriously, what words can properly express the almost entirely counter-balancing emotions of gratefulness at receiving 10,000 yen, and exasperation at being given it entirely in one-yen coins?

Meanwhile, Yoshio was as silent as his employees, with a dark shadow passing over his expression.

Eventually, though, it was our boss that broke the silence, saying:

“You bunch of ingrates! Do you know how much money I had to spend on this?”

As you’ve probably noticed, SoraNews24 isn’t a hard-core mathematics research organization. Still, the recipients of Yoshio’s otoshidama “kindness” were sharp enough to know that 100,000 yen in coins is worth 100,000 yen, so that’s how much money Yoshio had spent, right?


Remember how we said Yoshio had contacted the bank in advance to give them time to get all those coins together? Gathering the necessary coins and packaging them required a service charge, which ended up being 86,400 yen.

So in the end, Yoshio’s thoughtful (we think…) gesture of giving the staff 100,000 yen had a total price tag of 186,400, only about half of which they actually received.

Still, what was done was done, and so Yoshio solemnly handed out the boxes, before retreating to the balcony to sulk and repent.

We feel kind of bad for him, especially considering that he could have just sent everyone their otsohidama using the line social media app, which has a special otoshidama present system.

Image: Line

Still, whether it’s in coins or paper money, 10,000 yen is 10,000 yen. So thanks, Boss, but if we’re being completely honest, we’re already worrying about how you’re going to celebrate next New Year’s.

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