In Tokyo, A Yen For Monetary Parity

A trillion yen? How much is that in real money? A currency that's worth 104 to the U.S. dollar can be cumbersome--not to mention embarrassing--when you're dealing with Japan-size stimulus packages or bad-debt totals. Now the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has set up a committee to study a seemingly simple solution to the problem: chopping off two zeros.

The decimal point would probably be moved in 2002, when the euro will come into everyday use. With the world's two other major currencies relatively easy to use, shouldn't Japan's be too? And, advocates say, there could be other benefits--including a much-needed stimulus to growth, as businesses gear up for the conversion.

But opponents, who include Ministry of Finance boss Kiichi Miyazawa, think the plan is silly. The "growth," they say, would stem mainly from refitting millions of vending machines and parking meters--and the change could breed computer bugs on the order of Y2K.

A possible compromise: bigger desk calculators.