* * * * * * * 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, September 12, 2004, Issue No. 023

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- What's new
- Frugal Bargain Roundup!
- Frugal tips
- Credits

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Dear Frugal Readers,

Greetings! I recently had a rude awakening while reading an
advertisement in our local newspaper. The eye-catching title was:
"If you don't speak up now, Japan's cellular charges could remain the
highest in the world." Frightening!

The advertisement was from Softbank (Yahoo BB!'s parent company) founder,
CEO and entrepreneur Masayoshi Son. A celebrity in his own right, Son
shook up the Japanese stock market in late August and early September
with his announcement that Softbank intended to launch both a fixed-line
telephone service (which will not require NTT's Y80,000 phone line purchase
rights) and an 800Mhz wireless cellphone service.

Why should a Frugalite care about this news? Well, Son & his brainchild,
Yahoo BB!, are the ones we really have to thank for Japan's cheap
broadband Internet. As Son brags in the advertisement text: "Japan's
Internet connection fees were once the highest in the world. However,
thanks to price competition brought about by the Softbank Group, Japan's
broadband Internet fees are the cheapest in the world. Our ADSL service,
brought to you by the Yahoo BB brand, reduced prices from close to
Y10,000/month to a fifth of that cost."

The text above, of course, is a paid advertisement. But anyone who
remembers how expensive Internet access here was in the "old days"
(3 to 4 years ago) will probably agree -- Yahoo BB! brought prices

So what about cellular charges? Well, Japan's prices are higher than
they are at major mobile companies abroad. NTT DoCoMo's average average
revenue per user (ARPU) was Y94,680 PER YEAR from 2003 to 2004. Compare
this to major overseas brands: Y66,776 for Vodafone Wireless (US),
Y51,914 for Orange France, Y50,888 for SK Telecom (South Korea),
Y49,265 for T-Mobile UK, and Y31,548 for T-Mobile Germany. (All
three Japanese carriers rank higher than Verizon, by the way.)

With such advanced phones, it makes sense that Japanese would have
higher data and voice use than other countries. That said, $920 US
per year for cell phone service seems awfully expensive. Softbank's
ad is aimed at convincing readers to pressure lawmakers to allocate
Softbank some part of the 800Mhz wireless spectrum. Whether or not
this happens, developments in this area are certainly worth watching.
Softbank's Yahoo BB! service certainly threw a wrench into NTT and
other major companies' plans for broadband Internet, and I expect an
interesting catfight in the fixed-line and wireless markets as well.

Well, Frugalites -- sit tight, and wait for some good savings in
the future!

Frugally yours,
Wendy J. Imura

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(This week's topic: Prepaid Cellular Phones)
For their ease of use (no formal identification and bank account
required) and frugality (no monthly fees to sign up for), prepaid
phones remain a popular underground frugal choice. Here are a few
good ones:

*Vodafone Enjorno Basic Model Y6,690 (includes Y3220 voice minutes)

With its jelly bean colors and bright box, the Enjorno looks more
like a children's toy than a phone. However, its features are top-notch:
color LCD screen, scroll key, email functionality and text recognition
program. Voice charges are Y80/minute or Y60/minute, depending on the
plan bought, with Y6 per email sent/received.

Available at Vodafone shops and some third-party retailers.

*Tu-Ka Pre-K TK40 Y13,290 (includes Y3,300 voice minutes)

This top-of-the-line prepaid phone has many of the functions of
regular phones, including the popular clamshell style, color
LCD screen, email functionality, mobile Web access (first ever
in a prepaid phone), a 7-color light on the cover, and fashionable
colors. Voice charges are Y60/minute, Y5 per email.

Available at many convenience stores, or here:

(Prices might be considerably lower by location -- shop around.)

*Vodafone SA06 Y14,990 (includes Y3,200 mobile minutes)

Best handset available for prepaid services! Features a CCD mobile
camera phone with movie-shot capability (Sha-mail service), custom
email functions, and bilingual functionality for menus. Voice
charges are Y80/minute or Y60/minute, depending on the plan bought,
with Y6 per email sent/received.

Available at Vodafone shops and some third-party retailers.



Ever wanted to know what to do with all those extra milk
cartons? Well, here are some ideas:

Drawer organizers:
Milk cartons make great drawer organizers. Remove the spout section of
the carton and cut the remainder in half lengthwise. By inserting the
open end of one half into the open end of the other you have an open
box. The length of the box can be adjusted by simply moving the two
halves in or out.

Four of these boxes fit neatly into the average drawer and are a
handy way of separating utensils or other small items. Cut the bottom
off anothercarton and you have a small square container perfect for
storing those pesky chopstick rests that are always getting lost
in the drawer.

Cooking Oil Disposal:
An environmentally-friendly way of disposing of used cooking oil is to
fill a milk carton with newspaper and pour the (cooled) oil over the

The newspaper will soak up the oil, and taping the spout closed
ensures no oil escapes from the waterproof container.
(By H. Fukase, 2004.)

Interested in more? Visit the new Frugal Encyclopedia at


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Written by: Wendy J. Imura (frugalwatch@japaninc.com)
Edited by: Roland Kelts (editors@japaninc.com)

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Copyright 2004 Japan Inc. Communications Inc.