I found a website that tries to explain why Japan is so expensive. It makes me slightly suspicious, firstly because of the dodgy website design and hosting (on Yahoo! Geocities, no less) and secondly because I’ve seen things that are quite different to what the article outlines. The website is dated 2002 so it’s not terribly out of date but I feel it can be inaccurate at times. Firstly, I should say that I didn’t find Japan horribly expensive. There are horribly expensive things out there ($50 watermelons, for example) but you can also find affordable watermelons if you know where to look. Also, some things seem to be expensive across the board (transport, fruit and vegetables, movies) while others are dirt cheap across the board (cigarettes, electronics, everyday bits of plastic that can be found in 100 yen shops). Keep in mind that I’m comparing prices with those in Australia.
But generally, I was quite comfortable in Japan, despite being on a part-time salary with VERY expensive rent (about a third of my salary). If I had moved out into my own accomodation, then I would have had maybe $200 more a month to spend. With around AUS$2000 a month, I could live and eat, go out once a week or so, and usually travel to some part of Japan once every two months.
I didn’t drink much but I did eat out a lot. If I could walk somewhere instead of catching a train, I did. Alcohol from a bottle shop is cheaper than alcohol in an izakaya although nomihodai (all you can drink) was readily available and a great deal. I didn’t go to Roppongi twice a week and insist on the VIP treatment. That’s probably a clincher. Some people working and living in Japan complain about how expensive it is and how they run out of money quickly, but they’re also the type of people that must party at every opportunity. Any country would be expensive with that lifestyle.
Oh well, have a read. But take their info with a grain of salt, because I can tell you two things that are wrong with just the first section alone, at least compared to Australia. One: cigarettes are dirt cheap in Japan. Two, you’ll get better interest on your savings in a bank there than you would in Australia. Make sure that you compare the numbers with your own country, not just taking the word of American (or for that matter, Austrailan) based bloggers.