* * * * * * * * 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, September 22, 2005 Issue No. 72
- What's New (Cheap Car Repair/Home Furnishings)
- Frugal Friends: (Free English Teaching System)
- Frugal Tips (Why not Donate Your Used English Books?)
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+++ WHAT'S NEW (Cheap Car Repair/Home Furnishings)
Dear Frugal Readers,
I've two small topics for your reading pleasure today: a cheap, reliable
source for auto repairs in Japan, and an excellent home furnishings super
store. Unless you've had an opportunity to either 1) dent a car, or
2) visit the suburbs shopping for furniture recently, you might not have
discovered these resources, so I thought they were worth sharing.
My first "find" for September is a great chain of car detailing, repair,
and body shops called Car Conbini Club (the "car" and "conbini" words
are written in katakana; the "club" is in kanji.) A franchise-operated
chain, Car Conbini Club offers standardized services and lower prices than
privately-owned body shops. Another attractive aspect is its wide range
of locations from Okinawa to Hokkaido. Most locations, of course, are
concentrated in the suburbs or other areas with a high ratio of auto ownership.
We've used Car Conbini Club twice: once for fixing several large dents in
our used vehicle (the price quotation was 30,000 yen cheaper than the local
service station). We also used their affiliated Yamato Shaken service for
our car inspection, which also turned out to be fairly inexpensive. Shaken
prices vary widely, so getting an initial estimate (or learning to do it
yourself) is advised. But, in terms of minor body repair, Car Conbini's
systemized repairs offer a great, cheap option. They also offer used-car
buying services, used-car search services, car repair insurance, protective
coatings, and cheap roadside service. (Note that the Japan Automobile
Association service also comes highly recommended.) Interested? Check out
their webpage at: http://www.carcon.co.jp (Japanese only). There is a store-
location finder available online as well.
My second "frugal find" for September has been my new favorite home
furnishings outlet, Nitori. Nitori is a Hokkaido-based firm, and is probably
well-known to many of you not living in urban Japan. I shopped at their stores
myself almost a decade ago when living in Sapporo. However, they're recently
begun expanding into the Kinki and Kanto regions, and a visit to one
of their newest superstores here really surprised me. The two-story, football-
field-sized store had some of the best prices on curtains, carpeting,
bedding, lighting, and other interior decoration items I've seen in Japan,
all in simple, easy-to-match colors. The furniture showroom floor was huge,
and filled with rooms and rooms of reasonably priced furniture.
First of all, just having so many options for home furnishings in a single,
easy-to-shop space felt revolutionary for Japan. It's quite similar to
shopping at similar "superstores" overseas, in terms of feel (large aisles,
easy-to-read displays, nice-sized carts, fast checkout). The prices were also
quite reasonable: we totally outfitted our bathroom for less than 2,500 yen,
bought new curtain rails for 700 -1,200 yen, and nice new curtains for 30%
off similar brands found at Tokyu Hands or through mail-order shopping. The
range of selection was also extraordinary. The furniture was,
of course, not as sturdy or good as that at higher priced competitors such as
IDC or well-respected Japanese/overseas brands. However, we did purchase a
nice, three-seater couch with a washable cover and four pillows for about
50,000 yen. Just being able to "try out" the furniture in such a large space
felt novel as well. For store locations, check out the following list:
http://www.nitori.co.jp/store/index.html (Japanese only).
I might also add that delivery for our couch was free!
Aside from these shopping recommendations, I do have an announcement:
I'll be on maternity leave from next week. During my absence there will
appear a series of "Frugal Favorites" - some of the all-time best editions
of Frugal Watch. "Frugal Friends" and the "Frugal Tip of the Week" will be
"on vacation" during this time. Thank you for your understanding, and
I'll be back (a little tired, perhaps) in November.
Wendy J. Imura
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Welcome to a new section on Frugal Watch: Frugal Friends! In this
corner, we introduce foreign-owned or foreigner-friendly businesses and
services around Japan. If you know of a Frugal Friend-worthy business,
or would like to introduce your own business to our 1,000+ readers,
email Wendy J. Imura (firstname.lastname@example.org)!
**** Young English System (www.youngenglishsystem.com) ***********
Frugal Japan member Doug Young recently informed me of a new English
teaching system for children. It sounds frugal, fun, and effective,
and there's no better way to introduce it than to have Doug tell you
about it himself.
"Young English System is my English teaching system for kids. I have been
developing it for over 10 years, and it truly rocks. It has a huge amount
of teaching material and all the manuals, reports and plans that makes a
true system - ie. it is easy to keep track of each class and student whether
you are teaching alone or have teachers working for you. Progress is
better than most approaches (we use Cambridge Young Learners Tests for
independent proof) and the kids are entranced by it - they are
"Up to now the use of Young English System (YES) has spread just by word
of mouth. We have 8 schools using it and they are all very happy and
getting good results - you can see the testimonials on our site. So YES
has a good track record.
"And the frugal bit? It is free to users - I supply the teaching
material (1000's of cards) on a free rotating loan basis because
there is just too much for people to buy - and I give free training
and support. Schools or independent teachers do not pay me anything. Our
revenue comes from the material fees that their students pay - every two
months they receive a workbook, a textbook and a game to play at home,
for which they pay 9,600 yen a year (six workbooks, six textbooks and six games).
"I am just starting to tell more people about this, and it should
fit the needs of Frugal Watch readers perfectly - difficult to get more
frugal than free, isn't it? [Ed: Yes!]
"I made YES for my own school initially - and it suits me great. I now
know that it suits people in the same format of business - that is
small- to medium-sized Eikaiwa schools and independent teachers. I know
that this system gives them the ability to compare themselves to the
big schools and win the comparison - but it is also about having
everything prepared for them so they can have more time for other
things. If you have fifty young students and you are a conscientious
teacher, you can end up spending half your life preparing!"
Sound great! Are you interested? Please contact Doug Young directly at:
Mobile (Global Roaming): 090 1706 9029
Office (Japan): 029 276 1610
Alternatively, check out the Young English System website:
(A Japanese website is in the works.)
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+++ FRUGAL TIPS (Why not Donate Your Used English Books?)
Frustrated by the high price of English books at Maruzen or Kinokiniya?
Parting with a significant portion of your paycheck to Amazon every month?
Local libraries in Japan often have a small stash of English books available
for checkout, with larger municipal or university libraries often boasting
many shelves. These are, of course, a well-known frugal source of "yosho,"
or Western-language books.
However, are you supporting the system yourself? Instead of selling your
books online or passing them on to a friend (both of which are perfectly
valid methods of getting rid of used books!), why not try donating them to
your local library? Due to limited shelf space or restrictions on what kind
of books can be accepted, not all libraries accept donated books without a
written description of the contents in Japanese. However, the policy appears
to differ by library. Visit your central city, town, or ward library, and
ask if they accept donations of used foreign-language books. ("Kono toshokan
de yosho wo kifu suru koto wa dekimasu ka?" ) Children's books are particularly appreciated.
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+++ ABOUT US
Written by: Wendy J. Imura (email@example.com)
Edited by: JI
Copyright 2005 Japan Inc. Communications Inc.