Wednesday, 9 January 2008

The Cost of Living in Japan


Japan, and especially it's capital city of Tokyo, have been
notoriously famous throughout the years as being among the world's most
expensive places to live. Those who have experienced a ten dollar cup of coffee
in the Ginza, or noticed the stylishly packaged melons for sale at airport
tourist shops for 10,000 yen will attest to this fact. Yet the truth of the
matter is you don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy a comfortable and enjoyable
life style in Japan. One of the major considerations in regard to avoiding the
potentially high cost of living is deciding where to reside. As rent will
consume as much as thirty percent of your income, choosing a suitable area to
live becomes a number one priority when trying to hold on to your yen.

The first rule of thumb when looking for affordable accommodation is to stay
clear of the central areas of the major cities, where even small apartments can
be very expensive. Housing costs however are significantly lower in the suburbs
or outlined areas, and despite the additional time spent riding trains if you
need to enter the city on a daily basis, you will still come out ahead
financially in the long run. Commuting costs are usually compensated by the
money saved on rent, and most Japanese companies pay a portion if not all of
their employees travel expense by providing a monthly allotment. Train passes
purchased at a discounted set rate which feature unlimited travel between home
and office are also available for commuters. Those wishing to avoid riding
trains altogether also have the option of driving to work, but the cost of
parking and maintenance in the form of insurance and various taxes is expensive,
not to mention coping with the crowded conditions of most Japanese roads and
streets during peak hours. One possible compromise is that of riding a small 50-CC
scooter, which are economical and mobile enough to negotiate the narrow lanes
that constitute most Japanese cities. Another potential money saver in regard to
finding suitable lodging is to take advantage of the recent increase of real
estate agents geared toward working with foreigners. Many of these companies
offer apartments that don't require the large output of cash in the form of
deposits and agent commission fees that are often necessary when obtaining
housing through more conventional sources.

Possibly the second biggest expenditure in terms of day to day living in Japan
is that of food. The overall cost can be reduced substantially if you cook meals
at home using traditional Japanese items such as seafood, seasonal fruit and
vegetables, soya bean products, and rice. One of the best times to do your
weekly shopping is shortly before closing times in the evening, when
supermarkets offer perishable products that have yet to be sold at big
discounts. Inexpensive restaurants offering dishes such as ramen noodles, curry
rice, grilled chicken yakitori, and kaiten sushi, at prices ranging between 500
to 1,000 yen are also numerous, and can be found around and inside major train
stations. Many restaurants also provide set menus (teishoku) at lunch time for
1,000 yen, and box lunches known as bento sold in convenience stores, kiosks,
and department stores, are also an excellent bargain.

Other expenses incurred such as electricity, gas, and water are relatively
expensive in Japan, but are basically on par with rates of similar services
provided in Europe or the U.S. Telephone fees under NTT, Japan's number one
telecommunications company have been routinely high for decades, but with the
emergence of more sophisticated and economical mobile phone service now
available prices are beginning to come down. For international calls, callback
services and free calls transmitted via computer through companies such as Skype
are making the prospect of calling long distance a more affordable one. Japan's
broadband Internet service is also among the least expensive in the world, with
service available from around 2,500 yen a month.

Clothing in Japan can also be purchased quite inexpensively surprisingly enough.
Supermarket chains such as “ Ito Yokado” or discount clothing stores like
“Uniqlo” offer quality clothing at very reasonable prices. Used clothing stores
are also becoming in vogue, with shops such as “Thank You Mart” offering a set
price of 390 yen for all items sold. And if you're in need of a haircut don't be
discouraged by the high prices that most Japanese hair dressers are currently
charging. There are still many shops that offer haircuts for around 1,000 yen.
New arrivals who also wish to furnish their apartment with household items
without breaking the bank will want to check out the “100 Yen Shops” that offer
a huge selection of items, from kitchen goods to clothing, all at the set price
of 100 yen.


No comments: