The Cost of Living in Japan

By: James Sherard

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.

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