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Archive for the 'Cost of Living' Category


Honda Insight, The Cheapest of Alternatives


Amidst the current economic crisis that has currently hit the world, more and more people are looking towards stretching the value of their dollar. Where vehicles are concern, Honda’s latest hybrid Insight cannot come at a better time. The Insight is the cheapest hybrid car around with a tag price of under 2million Yen, which makes it roughly $21,000 to purchase. The gas-electric hybrid makes for a favorable option as consumers can stretch their gas bills a few miles longer.

But Japan’s No. 2 automaker said demand for the Insight has been so brisk that the company has received more than 5,000 orders, easily beating its monthly target.

“This is so much better than expected. The Insight is priced below 2 million yen, and is energy efficient. We believe consumers like these aspects,” said Honda spokeswoman Natsuno Asanuma.

Even before the launch, Honda had received about 5,000 orders for the Insight, Asanuma said. The Insight goes on sale in April in the U.S., and in March for Europe.

Honda’s Insight is cheaper than Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius, the most popular hybrid, which sells for $22,000 in the U.S. and 2.3 million yen in Japan.


Honda Insight Official Website

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Cost of Living, Transport | No Comments »


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Osakans have calculators for brains

It seems like residents of Osaka have a good brain for mathematics. They instantly remember prices and differences of prices between shops. But that is just a generalization, of course. However, with the downturn of the current stock markets many Osakans are feeling the sensitive pinch of price increases everywhere.

Osaka residents are said to be the most sensitive to prices, not only in Japan but arguably in the world.

Many housewives in Osaka try to routinely beat down prices because they enjoy it as a kind of game and they don’t mind if rejected.

Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto recently tried to pry on local residents’ sensitivities to figures when he released the results of academic achievement tests for each municipality in the prefecture. As the prefecture’s results were ranked low compared to other prefectures across the country for two consecutive years, the governor intends to ask each municipality in the prefecture to take serious measures to improve schoolchildren’s academic abilities.

It is indispensable that local governments share information on education with residents to gain support from the local community for schools. However, residents have the freedom to move to another area to allow their children to receive a better education. Close attention should be paid to whether disclosure of the achievement test results will encourage residents to support schools in their neighborhood or expand disparities in academic achievements between regions.

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Posted by The Expedited Writer in Cost of Living | No Comments »


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NHK slashing TV fees

From 2012 onwards, NHK has decided to lower it’s viewership fee.

Can someone tell me what the heck viewership fee is? I am accustomed to paying a month flat rate for my internet/cable tv/ phone line but I have never heard of a viewership fee before.


Public broadcaster NHK has decided to slash viewer fees from the business year of 2012, using 10 percent of the revenue from the previous year’s fees, NHK officials said.

This will be the first time for NHK to reduce viewer fees since the charge system was established under the 1950 Broadcast Law. The decision has been incorporated in the new corporate plan endorsed by NHK’s Board of Governors on Tuesday.

The broadcaster estimates that it will gain 680 billion yen in viewer fees in fiscal 2011 and intends to use 68 billion yen of the amount to finance reductions in the charges the following business year.

NHK is considering an across-the-board slash in fees for terrestrial broadcasting, a cut in additional charges for viewing satellite broadcasting and a reduction and exemption of fees for low-income elderly people. However, the broadcaster intends to discuss how to implement the plan next fiscal year or later.

NHK’s Executive Board referred the draft, which includes projected revenues and outlays from fiscal 2009 to 2011, to the broadcaster’s Board of Governors on Oct. 7 for approval.

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Posted by The Expedited Writer in Cost of Living, Daily, Misc, Utilities | No Comments »


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Fishermen in Japan go on strike

Where will we get our fresh sashimis now?

A lot of people do not know or appreciate where their food comes from or who, in truth, is actually feeding them. It is people like the fisherman, the farmers and the cattle and sheep herders that are feeding people in the world. Without them, we’re too modernized to actually know how to use a fishing hook to catch our feed for the day.

Because of the rising oil prices, the fishermen in Japan have began a strike to protest against the fuel prices. Fishermen in my country do not earn an enormous amount of money after all costs are considered, they only have enough for the year providing if the season is a good one. And with this rising fuel prices, it would be almost impossible to make a decent living. I am not saying I am for this strike because fish prices is going to go up due to this protest, which will raise the prices in restaurants, etc if it goes on long enough….but whose fault is it really?

Fishermen across Japan suspended operations on Tuesday as part of a huge protest by 16 main fishing organizations to highlight hardships caused by surging fuel prices.

The one-day fishing suspension by organizations including the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations and the Japan Fisheries Association, representing about 200,000 fishing vessels altogether, was the first nationwide fishing stoppage sparked by high fuel prices.

Since the suspension halted the supply of nearly all fresh fish, there is a possibility that fish prices could temporarily be affected.

Under the move, the commercial operation of most domestic fishing boats was suspended. In addition to boats in home waters, vessels fishing for tuna and other fish in the open sea refrained from unloading fish at ports in Japan on Tuesday. Fish farming operators were also due to suspend shipments.

The National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations said that the estimated going rate of A-type heavy oil used in fishing boats was 115,400 yen per kiloliter, roughly triple the price five years ago. For coastal fishing boats under 20 tons, the cost of fuel accounted for about 23 percent of operating costs in 2006, but recently it has reportedly passed 30 percent.

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Posted by The Expedited Writer in Cost of Living, Daily, Japanese Culture | No Comments »


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Danchi lifestyle again?



Danchi (団地) is the Japanese word (literally ‘group land’) for a large cluster of apartment buildings. During the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, the Japanese created many such low-rent apartment complexes in the outskirts of urban areas to offset the housing demand of the then-increasing Japanese population. Fewer and fewer Japanese live in the gradually aging danchi, generally desiring individual housing left over from the Japanese bubble — new and exclusive private apartments, called mansion. Many danchi are owned by large corporations, who encourage employees to live alongside their colleagues, sometimes rent-free, in order to foster a corporate ‘family’ atmosphere.

The rent payment for a danchi is much cheaper than the lease of a mansion or mortgage of a used or new house, but usually the prospective tenant must participate in a lottery in order to be assigned an open apartment. The Japanese housing authority then assigns the tenant. Some danchi are extremely new and modern, but since there is a lottery for assignment and many open apartments in the older danchi, it is a risk to enter public housing.

It seems that the Danchi way of living is starting to recuperate again. The minimalistic living style is attracting Japan’s youngest and trendiest and it won’t be long before you see these grey/beige public housing monuments erected and re-glorified again.

Long regarded as eyesores and monstrosities that blighted the landscape, Japan’s concrete block monolithic public housing estates have started attracted a strong following smitten by what they say is their visual appeal, according to Cyzo (December).

The estates, known across Japan as danchi (which literally means “group areas”), are made in a minimalist style reminiscent of architecture during the Soviet Union’s heyday, but the usually pale cream or gray buildings are starting to attract enough fans that their appeal has spawned an admiration industry.

Symbolizing the new look at danchi is the recently released DVD “Danchi Mania: Danchi Purei Hajime no Ippo (Danchi Mania: Your First Step to Playing With Housing Estates).”

“I’d be delighted if people who don’t have a fascination with danchi picked up a copy of this DVD. There are danchi just about everywhere, but I’d say most people haven’t really taken a close look at them. I’d like people to take a different viewpoint when looking at something in their daily lives and discover just how much fun they can be,” Akira Oyama, maker of the danchi DVD, tells Cyzo.

Danchi first popped up in Tokyo suburbs during the 1950s as large numbers of Japanese deserted the country lifestyles their families had maintained for centuries and flocked to the cities so they could take part in the economic miracle then encompassing the country. Urban population growth skyrocketed and the danchi were a quick, cheap and nasty way to house people in a country then working full throttle to try and catch up with the West.

Oyama’s movie provides information on all sorts of housing estates across Japan, giving them unexplained ratings such as “sexy” “evil” or “upper crust.” Much of the material in his video can also be found on the website he operates, also devoted to public housing estates.


Posted by The Expedited Writer in Cost of Living, Japanese Culture, Misc | 1 Comment »


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Who says living in Japan is expensive?


To a lot of people, me included initially, thought living in Japan, particularly Tokyo, to be VERY expensive. But when I see some of their prices on foodstuff as well as other materials, it’s not as expensive as I thought it out to be and for some reason, I just could not comprehend how living there could be expensive… that is until i was enlightened by a friend.

I spoke to a friend of mine the other day about living in Japan, I told him about my notion of living (and working) in Japan. He listened carefully and told me that it’s not true.

This friend of mine, let’s call him N, knows Tokyo like the back of his hand and has lived there on and off for years. He speaks the language and writes well too. So, I would have to take his words for it, for sure. It appears that a good portioned beef and vegetable meal set costs around USD4.80 per plate. And cost of apartments within the city is around USD600-900 a month! “Come on, that’s so reasonable”, I said, to which he replied, “Yea, and the only reason why they want to live 2 hours away from their work place is because they want to have more money for after work entertainment (drinking sessions) and Gucci bags”.


Then it dawned on me that cost of living in Japan is not really that high, it’s the Japanese’s lifestyle and mindset that makes it seem like it’s high. Anyone gathering data is going to look at the cost of living for several thousands of Japanese and see that their expenditure is that high (because they choose to) is going to result in a high living cost statistic – makes sense, no?

The Japanese usually won’t eat at the local cheap diners and will only eat at “Featured” restaurants from magazines which will hike up the bill to about USD20-40 per person. Of course, entertainment costs like shopping, drinking with friends and colleagues (a common one), and other knick knacks like movies, clubbing etc is going to cut into their pockets as well. I asked about working in Japan, as i had the notion that working in Japan = slaving like a dog. But N said that it’s not true. Being his raucous and direct self he thinks the Japanese people in general are “pretty lazy bunch” as work hours in Japan are shorter than anywhere in the world (i.e. banks open at 10am and closes at 4pm). The reason why they come home is because they go for after work drinks with their colleagues (more $$$ spent). It is a culture thing to drink after work hours, of course. A culture that is quite expensive if you are to drink every night, if you ask me, even if it’s cheap beer.

N made a comparison for me of how earning USD2000 as a teacher can live comfortably there. This is how it goes according to his cost of living when he stayed in Tokyo:

“Say I earn USD2000 every month as a teacher, my everyday food bill is approx. USD300 a month (with good stuff like meat, fish and seafood daily), and my flat is USD750 a month and i live in the city where my transportation bills are almost nonexistent. Utility bills (electric, phone and internet) for me is about USD250 a month max. It will still leave me with USD700 a month extra for entertainment and other unexpected things. How is it uncomfortable?”

Of course, when he told me this, I was quite surprised at how reasonable cost of living is. It’s no different from Kuala Lumpur or Montreal or New York actually.

So there, it is the lifestyle choices of the Japanese in general that made us outsiders think living in Japan is expensive when it is in fact no different from many cities in the world. Without the nightly drinking sessions, you’d save QUITE a ton of money with extras to do any sort of interesting activities with your friends.

Who says living in Japan is expensive? :)

Just stay away from those square watermelons, if you can…unless your cravings for it affects your daily function :P

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Cost of Living, Misc | 7 Comments »


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Frugal Japan

Frugal Japan

Living in Japan can be very expensive as some of your may already know. It does pay to live frugally there although being frugal doesn’t mean cheap :) I found a website where all of you living in Japan may find it to be very useful.

The website is called Frugal Japan. It’s a resourceful website that helps you to live better in Japan. The information is also useful if you’re living outside Japan. In this day and age where global warming is already a reality, it pays to learn a thing or two on how to conserve your natural resources.

Here’s what Frugal Japan stands for:

Put more concretely, we define frugality as trying to:

* Use resources wisely.
* Live within or below our means, and avoid unnecessary debt.
* Lead a simple life, without an over-commitment to too much stuff, too many activities, or excess waste.
* Save diligently and joyfully for our future needs, desires, and goals.
* Encourage financial and time freedom, through the development of independent and unique businesses outside of the traditional ‘employee’ framework.

Check out their website, it might just change your lifestyle into a better one :)

Frugal Japan

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Cost of Living, Misc, Money | No Comments »


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100 Yen Shop


100 Yen Shop

If you look around Japan, you’ll probably find a few psychedelic colored shops around with a big board in front that says “100 Yen Shop“, with the words Yen in Japanese character. 100 Yen Shops are a big thing in Japan because the goods sold there are all 105 yen (100 yen for the stuff and 5 yen for consumption tax) and at that price, it’s a very very good deal indeed; especially for travellers who are on a budget.

The biggest 100 yen shop is Daiso Giga Machida, which spans five floors and its near the Michida Station (30 minutes, 360 Yen from Shinjuku by Odakyu Railways). Currently, the market leader for 100 yen stores is Daiso and they have over 2000 shops around Japan.

You can buy just about anything except fresh food in these 100 yen shops. Stuff like bowls, cups, chopsticks, spoons, forks, mugs, tools, gardenware, stationaries, socks, slippers, markers, swimming googles, pingpong rackets and balls, etc….yea you get the picture. I am definitely a supporter of 100 yen shop because things like cups are in abundance there. It makes a lot more sense to pay USD1 (which is about the equivalent to 100yen anyway) for one cup than to pay USD3-10 for one cup isn’t it? A cup is a cup, just as a spoon is a spoon.

Well, if you’ve just moved to Japan, i’d suggest you buy your nitty gritty but necessary stuff from the 100 yen store. Don’t buy your pots and pans there though…they’re about as hardy as plastics on fire.

Source: Japan Guide

Posted by The Expedited Writer in Cost of Living, Japanese Culture, Misc | 1 Comment »


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Why is Japan So Expensive?

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.

Why is Japan So Expensive?

Posted by Chidade in Cost of Living, Money | 5 Comments »


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Cheap bikes

Looking for a cheap bike? Know that bikes are plague to most neighborhood in Tokyo. There’s too many of them. Hundreds of illegaly parked bikes are taken by your city services every months.
Most of those bikes go unclaimed as it would require their owner to pay a fee to retrieve them.
So what does the city office do about that? They sell it.
In Nakano city, there’s a lottery for unclaimed bikes, the entry is free and if you win you can buy a bike for 7900yen. Those are not fancy bikes (they would be claimed otherwise) but they are refurbished and cleaned by the “Silver Human Resources Center”. Yep, the bored obaachans of your neighborhood are put to use.
I guess the process is different with every ku, but you should check it out at your local city office or at their English webpage.
Here’s a list of the English sites for the 23 ku of Tokyo (except for Nerima and Katsuchika which are too backwards to have an English website).


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