Trends in Japan > Lifestyle > The Bank Of Life
Making a Game of Saving Money
(February 21, 2007)

In December 2006 toy manufacturer Tomy Co. came out with a piggy bank that combines saving money with the fun of a game. As users put coins into the Jinsei Ginko, meaning "bank of life," the life of a fictional character unfolds before their eyes. They come to identify with the character and cannot help but save more money to help their alter ego get a better life.


The Jinsei Ginko (Bank of Life)

Money Buys Happiness
The Jinsei Ginko is a white cube-shaped bank that accepts only ¥500 coins. It can save up to 200 coins, or ¥100,000 ($830 at ¥120 to the dollar). On the front is a black-and-white LCD screen like that of a handheld game device, which depicts the life of a stick-like character.

The user starts out by inputting a target amount and date. The character at first lives in a tiny room no more than three tatami mats large, like the boarding room of a poor college student. As the coins steadily pile up, the character's life gradually moves forward: He moves into a larger room, finds a job, and marries. He will reach a happy ending if the targeted amount is saved as scheduled, but an unfortunate fate awaits him if the goal is not achieved.

To add to the fun, different scenarios take place along the way according to the saving pace. Accumulating a large sum in a short period will allow the character to enjoy a rich life in a luxurious home, for instance, whereas he will press the user for tuition money if the coins stop coming. Taking the money out of the bank before the target has been reached will reset the game, and the character is thrown back to the humble life in the three-tatami-mat room.


(Above) Scraping by in a three-tatami-mat room; (Below) Living a happy married life. (c) 2007 TOMY

Piggy Bank Innovation
The taglines for the Jinsei Bank are "Saving money will change your life" and "This coin bank makes you want to save money." Although it was once common for Japanese children and adults to save up small change in classic pig-shaped banks, few people use piggy banks nowadays. Saving money in a coin bank requires a daily effort to succeed, but continuing the unspectacular routine is often a challenge. With the Jinsei Bank, however, the excitement of watching the ups and downs of the virtual character's life helps users to keep up the routine.

"There is latent demand for coin banks," Tomy commented at the time of the product's release. "By adding fun to the existing utilitarian article, we have made it possible for grown-ups to enjoy saving money in a coin bank." With a suggested retail price of ¥4,987 (about $42), the Jinsei Bank also features mini games and a clock.

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