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