* * * * * * * * * F R U G A L W A T C H * * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of how to be frugal in the world's most
expensive country to live (unless you read this!), written
and compiled by Wendy J. Imura.
Regular edition, Sunday, 21st March, 2004 Issue No. 002
- What's new
- Frugal news
- Frugal Q&A
Stay Competitive -- RELOCATE
How does a company cut costs without slashing its workforce?
If it operates in Tokyo -- the world's MOST expensive city --
relocating parts of its operations can save money fast.
Wakayama offers a software development division, cheaper offices,
lower personnel costs and subsidies and support from the prefectural
government. To find out more, visit:
+++ WHAT'S NEW
Welcome to Frugal Watch! Today, I'll address a common myth - that Tokyo
is the most expensive city in the world to live. By some statistics,
that's actually true. According to a June 18, 2003 article about Mercer
Investment Consulting's survey of the world's most expensive cities to
live, Tokyo ranked No. 1, Moscow No. 2, and Osaka No. 3, with a standard
basket of costs some 26% higher than the baseline city New York (ranked
at No. 10). Despite Japan's four continuous years of price deflation,
the appreciation of the yen vs the dollar put Tokyo back on top.
But real people living in Tokyo know that there are plenty of bargains to
be had, despite Tokyo's top ranking. Seeking to replicate a three-bedroom
home, two-car lifestyle one might have enjoyed overseas will certainly
come at a premium in a nation where space is limited, and a car a luxury
item. The key to enjoying an abundant lifestyle at a lower cost in Japan
is both adjusting your expectations and learning where and how to shop!
Here are a few tips to help ease Tokyo's "sticker shock!"
1) Stop converting prices into your home currency. If both your income
and consumption are in yen, it's pointless to continually convert prices
back into dollars or Euros. Learn to recognize roughly how much items cost
on average in yen - it will help you develop real price awareness to sniff
2) Learn to distinguish between the luxury and everyday items in Japan,
and adjust your shopping accordingly. Everyone's heard stories of melons
priced for hundreds of thousands of yen at department stores. It seems
ridiculous, but remember - very few people actually buy or eat these
melons for themselves! They're most often given as seasonal or thank you
gifts. There are plenty of reasonably priced melons and fruit at your
local grocery store or vegetable stand - you just have to know where to
3) Go native. Incorporate local ingredients and brands into your cooking.
Learn to recognize common Japanese equivalents of household products to
avoid shopping at expensive import stores. Brave the unfamiliar menus
and foods to discover more reasonably priced Japanese and Asian cuisine
at neighborhood shops and diners.
While trying to live a New York style life in Tokyo certainly costs more,
living a Tokyo-style life in Japan is cheaper than ever. Help disprove
the "Tokyo is expensive" myth by exploring and celebrating the rich
variety of bargains to be had here!
Wendy J. Imura
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+++ FRUGAL NEWS
Flea Market Season Approaches
With the cherry blossoms blooming, Japan's flea market (furii
maaketto) season is also in full swing. Every Saturday and Sunday
there are literally dozens of flea markets around the Kanto region
varying in size from mere garage sales to super flea markets
filling a whole football stadium!
The best way to enjoy a Japanese flea market is to go with an open
mind and an eye for "buried treasure." You might find collectibles,
old clothing, and even antiques, sometimes for a good price. Bring
loose change (lots of hundred yen coins), bags for carting items
home in, and be prepared to come early - the good stuff goes fast.
Conversely, arriving 30 minute before closing might also produce
some good bargains from picked-through (soiled) merchandise. Check
this website (http://www2j.biglobe.ne.jp/~tatuta/) for the "mother
lode" of flea market information, in Japanese. For an excellent
guide in English, check:
With spring also comes - hanami! Ah the glorious Japanese tradition of
viewing cherry blossoms while getting soused with your colleagues.
Hanami itself is not by nature an expensive exercise, but if you add
train fares, park entrance fees, supplies, snacks bought at vendor
stalls, and the obligatory beer - a pleasant afternoon in the park can
often add up to more than a movie and dinner night out!
To limit costs and crowds, try scouting out local or suburban viewing
locations that might not be as packed as the famous blossom viewing
locations in Inokashira Park or Ueno Park. Pack a bento lunch yourself,
or better yet - why not relax European style with some yummy French
bread, good cheese, and a thermos of your favorite tea? Be sure and
bring a blanket or plastic sheet to sit on (even old newspapers will
do), and remember to pack some plastic bags for trash. Finally, for
those that MUST enjoy a beer - try happoshu (low-malt beer) - almost the
same taste as regular beer, but priced 40% lower. Enjoy a frugal hanami!
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+++ FRUGAL Q&A
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+++ ABOUT US
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