January 2011

So last year we bought an apartment in Japan. Well, I say “we” but actually my other half bought it. I still own my apartment in Reading, and she was able to get the mortgage on her salary alone, so it made the paperwork somewhat simpler. However, there are some issues for the longer term. Japan’s family law is primarily derived from the German Bundesbuch civil law system that they imported in the late 19th century. This was derived from the Napoleonic code. Under such systems, the disposition of property after death is not really under the control of the person themselves. If there are offspring and a spouse the offspring receive half the property or its equivalent value (I’m not sure if this is just real property – land, houses and apartments or all assets) and the spouse the other half. This is the same as in, say, France and is something that couples from the UK retiring to France have been warned about in recent years. If there are no offspring, the parents if they are alive inherit half and the spouse the other half. But it gets even worse. Married couples have very limited ability to transfer assets between them and if my wife had made me automatic co-owner of our apartment (i.e. the element of it that she paid for with the deposit – the bank still owns the rest) then I would have been liable for a capital gains tax on that transfer. Crazy, but historically the upper classes in Japan would try to avoid taxes by moving things around as part of dowries and the like and marriages often ended in divorce so property was seprately held (that’s what I’m told anyway). As I’m now paying half of the mortgage for the property, we have to make sure I get receipts from my wife for the payments I make to her for the mortgage. New-build apartments typically over the last twenty years have been depreciating rather than appreciating in value so who knows what happens to things if the worst happens (I’m fervently hoping it doesn’t but there’s always risks). There’s also the question of which set of laws holds sway over my liquid and property assets in the UK while I am resident in Japan but still a UK citizen with holdings in the UK. Under UK law everything would go to my wife if I didn’t have a will and other than that it’s mine to give away (more-or-less – it can be challenged by/on behalf of next of kin).

It just seems a bit weird to need a receipt from my wife for the mortgage payments, really.

I recently ordered the new Steven Brust Vlad Taltos novel “Iorich” from Amazon.co.jp. I’ve been waiting since January 2010 for it to come out in paperback. Always annoying that long delay before a paperback, especially when they suddenly start producing hardbacks of a once a year series. I don’t like having different types in a series, particularly a long one like this and since i’ve got the rest in standard sized paperback, I’m going to continue in that vein. So, Amazon in Japan finally indicated it was due in January 2011 and I ordered it. Then they kept pushing back when it would be sent and finally they pushed it back to January 2012! WTF? Checking on Amazon.com, it turns out that Tor have now produced a trade sized paperback (8.2inches tall) which unlike my Harry Dresden books is too big even to fit on the shelf that the others are on. So, we now have the hardback appearing in January 2010, the stupid size paperback in January 2011 and the mass market sized paperback not until January 2012. A wait of two years until the ordinary paperback comes out. The book publishing industry seems to be hell bent on following the music publishing industry into screwing itself up by pissing off its regular customers. They’re insisting on DRM for ebooks, they’re not making all the older even very popular material available in ebooks (Pratchett’s Discworld isn’t all available for example) and even when they do they’ve screwed up the permissions so there isn’t a worldwide appearence (sometimes if you want it in ebook form it’s out but the only way to get it is illegitimate), and their core product is being over-squeezed in its traditional market in a way that annoys regular purchasers. Way to¬† destroy your own industry, guys. I don’t have an ebook reader, but if I did I’d be tempted to download one of the versions available on bittorrent. Especially since the legitimate version seems to be Nook only (that’s right, restrict your market – great way to keep your customers).