Archive for the ‘Cost of Living’ Category

The US Dollar sucks right now

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Yen to US DollarImage via

Today’s currency conversion rate is at ¥114 to $1. Good thing I converted some money when the rate was 116 Yen per 1 US Dollar, and I almost made the 117 mark! The dollar is getting weaker (of course) and now the Yen is on the rise. Thank God I don’t live in Canada right now with that type of conversion ($1 USD = 0.96 CAD). I’m no financial expert but if the US Dollar keeps declining in value at this rate and Japan’s economy improves… well… this could mean that 100 Yen to $1 USD might be happening in the next year. That sucks for people getting paid in US Dollars. On top of that conversion rate I’m getting nailed with a 2% transaction fee. 1% from MasterCard and 1% from my Bank to convert money at stores, restaurants, atms, etc. I’m waiting to get the debit card from Capital One all squared away to lessen the fees I’m getting hit with but it’s going to take forever. (Side note: in this case forever means about one month)

I just read about the Yen’s 6 week high at (more…)

Save Money Shopping in Tokyo

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Here’s a quick guide on where to shop for affordable yet durable products in Tokyo and what’s offered at the shops.

Asakusabashi Station (East Exit) – There is a chain called Shimojima that has about 5 different buildings full of items from traditional Japanese to supplies, food, housewares and more.  Their main building is approximately 3 minutes from the East exit and has about 8 floors of things to look through.

The Asakusabashi area is great to find many different traditional items from toys, food, kimono accessories, faux flowers and decorations and Japanese party supplies. There are many shops that sell inexpensive Japanese gifts, even little stalls run by very old Japanese grannies (I used to buy traditional Japanese furoshiki and tenugui 70% cheaper than anywhere else from one granny in this area).

Harajuku (Takeshita Exit) – Walking down Takeshita street will certainly be an interesting experience. Here you will find many clothing shops (mainly for younger people) but also the largest 100 yen shop in Tokyo. Daiso is famous for many people as the cheapest place for souvenirs and this one has about 5 floors full of stuff from housewares, stationery, decorations, to toys, clothing, snacks and more.

Asakusa – Also a great place to buy traditional items. The entire area is filled with sweet shops, small toy shops, souvenir shops and many stalls, but because it’s a very common tourist spot, some things may be more expensive than Asakusabashi.

Shibuya (Hachiko Exit) – If you are looking for Japanese fabrics (like kimono style fabric) there is a great little shop near the station. When you exit from Hachiko, walk towards the l’Occitane shop on the left (when facing the giant Starbucks), you’ll see tons of fabric on the street and a small shop filled.

Clothing/Accessories – If you would like to find some nice clothing, try Uniqlo and Muji. They are near all of the major stations (like Shinjuku, Shibuya, Akihabara, Ginza and Omotesando ) throughout Tokyo. They have many different styles, great quality and inexpensive compared to most other places. Muji also has many different items for home, stationery, toys and also fun snacks and food.

Train Stations – There are many train stations that have a shopping area in the basement area where items are usually cheaper than normal. Some of the stations are: Shinjuku, Shibuya, Tokyo, Ikebukuro and Ueno.

* Avoid large malls like Isetan, Marui (0101), Takashimaya or Daimaru because they are very expensive.

Happy Shopping!

japanese market shopping in japan

japanese market shopping in japan

Enjoying Affordable Bars and Night Life

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Izakaya are fantastic. There are also quite a few “one coin bars” around the city. There are a few in major areas like Shibuya and Shinjuku or even Ebisu.  They will literally have a sign that says “one coin bar” and it’s easy to ask anyone because they all understand this term.   These places generally have drinks at ¥500 –which is quite cheap in Tokyo, trust me.

Roppongi Night Clubs in Tokyo Japan

Roppongi Night Clubs

Alcohol is readily available in many vending machines (though you might need to swipe id at some) and all combini will have beer if not more (many places will sell wine, chuhai, sake and more).

Some restaurants have a set deal if you have 4+ people eating where you usually pay 3000 Yen (and up) per person and get a set course and all you can drink for 90 minutes. Also if you hit the clubs where foreigners hang out, many have an “all you can drink all night” special for one fee. Keep this in mind when you’re enjoying the night life!

Tokyo Most Expensive City to Live

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

With an average monthly rent of $4,847 Tokyo is once again the most expensive city for Expats! Though the economy of Japan remains sunk deep in deflation, Tokyo continues to hold the #1 position as the most expensive city in world for expatriates to live in.

USD to JPYThe cause of this can partly to blame on the relative strength of Japanese currency against the U.S. dollar and price movements of products like housing over the last 12 months, using New York as a benchmark. When I moved to Japan back in 2007 I started off at 120 Yen per 1 USD. That’s a 20% increase on my U.S. income! These day’s it’s a struggle to see 1 USD match 80 Yen. If you calculate the beginning of my move until now, I’ve lost 40% of my U.S. based income spending power when I convert it to Yen, but if you look at it in a positive light, it’s really only a 20% drop of income.

Japan has been an expensive place to live for a long period of time and this year is the 12th year that Tokyo was ranked as one of the most expensive cities since 1994. Though it hasn’t been number one, it has been ranked among the top three every year except for 2007, when it slipped to fourth.

Busy Tokyo at Night

A night shot of the glorious city of Tokyo

Costs for even smaller items in the city can pinch your wallet. To give you an idea just how expensive things are in Tokyo, a cost of one cup of coffee in Tokyo is equivalent to two cups of coffee in New York so it runs you about $8.29, a daily newspaper will cost you $6, and a liter of milk can cost you $3. Even for watching movie, the city is considered the most expensive place with an average admission of $22.97 which is $3 more expensive than in Sydney, the next most expensive city to watch a film.

As a whole, the deciding factor in the regional rankings is the currencies. While Europe lost ground, Asia is dominating. Hong Kong and Singapore kept their places among top 10, while Australian countries have made a big jumped where Sydney moved up to 11th having 14th last year, Melbourne at 15th from 21st last year, Perth at 19th from 30th last year, and Brisbane at 24th from being 31st last year.

In the end it all boils down to where you want to live. Japan can be expensive depending on where you live, but finding really good deals and a change in lifestyle helps offset the cost.

Finding an Apartment in Japan as a Student

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

It can be a cumbersome task for foreign students to find apartments in Japan, because of some major differences in the language limitation and renting systems. Also there is a factor as to how the Japanese view a foreigner, because they usually base their relationships upon trust.

If you are coming to study at a university, then you may ask the university officials to arrange a living space for you in the student dormitory. The rent is comparatively cheaper and you have the ease to get along with other students from various nationalities.

It also gives you an easy way to interact among the Japanese students and communities. However, an early enrollment into the student dormitory can be convenient.

There are many housing companies that offer furnished apartments based on rental system to foreign students. However, as a matter of fact, these apartments are highly expensive and will cost you too much if you plan to stay for long. Contrarily, the apartments from the residential housing schemes are also far too expensive to live for a longer period. There is a lot of cash-in-front required to arrange a private housing in Japan.

While you are looking into getting an inexpensive place to live, do not go for cheap places either. These will save you money, but will bring in many other issues that might be costly to you. For example, you will have to spend extra money to get warm water during the winters. You might also have to share toilet and kitchen with other tenants as there are only one each located outside the building.

In addition to monthly rent, you should also expect to pay off monthly maintenance charges, environment cleaning fee, utility fee etc. These costs are clearly mentioned on the fliers so you should look into then with detail before deciding.

There are several things you should take notice of; some of these are described below.

  • Key Money: Reikin is an amount of money which is usually given to the landlord (ooyasan) as a gift. The amount may vary but usually it is equal to a month’s rent. Shikikin is another amount which prevents you from disappearing from the house without prior notice, whereas Tesuuryou is an amount payable to the housing agent, if you hire any.
  • Maximum Length of Stay: Usually, all rental housing schemes ask you to mention a minimum period of your stay. If you breach the contract afterwards, it might result in a penalty. If you plan to reside for less than a year, then inform the ooyasan early.
  • Room furniture: Generally, apartments do not contain any furniture, but you will be given some equipment, such as gas stove, common washing machine, an air conditioner and maybe an internet connection.
  • Miscellaneous items: There are several other matters, such as fire insurance, gas usage, neighbors, room size and type. These directly link to the housing agent and the homeowner.

The last thing to keep in mind as a foreigner is that people mostly do not prefer to rent out to foreign students. You might come across some fliers that clear mention their reservations about foreign students. Just hire a housing agent and ask for moderately priced rental location with basic utilities.

About the author of this contributed article:
Andrew has been travelling to Japan as a student a few years ago. Andrew is now distributing sushi conveyor belt and sushi maker