* * * * * * * * * 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, April 18th, 2004 Issue No. 005


- What's new
- Frugal news
- Frugal tips
- Credits

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Dear Frugal Readers,

With the start of April, perhaps some of you are just settling into new jobs, new schools,
or new apartments. For many expats in Japan, finding and renting an apartment is just
the first arduous step. Upon finally securing a place to live, many people are often
shocked to find they must furnish their entire abode - including everything from an air-
conditioning/heating unit to light fixtures! The initial outlay for home electronics
alone can be quite substantial, and if your savings have already been substantially
depleted (or worse, you are in debt) after paying the hefty deposit and key money
requirements, the burden is especially heavy. For someone only planning on staying
in Japan for a year or two, buying a whole set of electronics, only to have to sell it
some 12 months later, seems like a rather significant waste.

Well, resident foreigners are apparently not the only persons facing these issues. Many
Japanese, such as students, salarymen living and working alone, or other professionals
on assignment, also find themselves faced with setting up residence in a place where
they only plan to live for a year or two. A few companies recognized that there was a
unique niche market need to be filled, and thus the home electronics rental package
business was born.

The major player in this market is Toshiba Techno Network's "Kaden Rentaru Pakku
Saabisu" (Home Electronics Rental Package Service). Their basic two year contract offers
four appliances (a TV, freezer/refrigerator, microwave, and automatic washing machine)
for 4,725 yen a month, with the latest up-to-date appliances. After the two-year contract
is complete, you have the option of continuing rental for 3,150 yen a month, or having
them take away your appliances at no charge. A cancellation charge is applied unused
portions of the contract. Options for renting a slightly better TV (with DVD and video
options), as well as vacuum cleaners, rice cookers, hot water pots, and AC/heater units
are also available for an extra charge. A clear, concise description of the service can be
found at:
http://www.toshiba.co.jp/tcn/pack/kaden/index_j.htm (Choose Single or Family Pack.)

Note that a "Family Pack" service, with larger and better appliances, is available for 8,400
yen a month for the same four items. The service is also offered through a variety of other
distributors, including Seven Eleven Japan's "Seven Dream" website. Since this service
only advertises in Japanese, I suggest you enlist the help of a Japanese friend or
coworker (perhaps your boss or the person in charge of seeing that you are settled) to
help navigate their websites or make a telephone call. Note that recent law changes
requiring a hefty recycling fee for the pick-up of used electronics for disposal makes
renting electronics even more of a bargain.

A few other options for assembling the required items are to buy used from other
foreigners, at Sayonara Sales and the like, or to take advantage of competitively-priced
packages at volume electronics retailers like Yodobashi Camera or Bic Camera. These
discount packages are usually called "shin-seikatsu kaden" (new start) fairs, and can
be recognized by a large group of appliances displayed together with a common color
or design theme. They are usually held from February through late March.

You can sometimes get 10 to 12 items for between 80,000 and 120,000 yen. While not
cheap, you will have purchased every possible item you will need, and they will all match!

Well everyone, best of luck in setting up your pad, and Happy Savings!
Wendy J. Imura

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Ever stumped for "Japanese-y" items to send home to family and friends? Or, do
you have Japanese friends or relatives living outside of Japan that might enjoy a
familiar taste of home? Well, Japan Post has started a unique new service that might
solve some of your worries. It's called "Kaigai Furusato Kotsuzumi," or "International
Furusato Parcels." It's essentially a 24-page, completely bilingual
catalog that offers a selection of Japanese foods and gift items that can be sent to
countries around the world, postage included. A few yummy looking favorites
included packets of Sapporo famous ramen shop noodles, soba gift sets, "brand
name" rice, Japanese miso packs, deserts, and giftware such as dishes, decorative
fans and lacquerware. You can order and pay for the gift parcels at any Japanese
Post Office, and they will be shipped directly to the recipient abroad. Even better,
the vendor or the Postal Service Center notify the US FDA for you regarding
the shipments to be sent (in light of new anti-terrorism restrictions on sending
food to the US).

The prices include postage and postal insurance for different classes of
international mail. While the cost of the items themselves are not so cheap
(usually around 3000 or 4000 yen), the postage and insurance inclusion makes
it a fair bargain, plus the elimination of the filing hassle. The catalogs can be
found at most Post Offices, or just ask if you don't see them. The following Web
site shows a picture of the catalogs, and offers some initial information:

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Butter/Soy-Sauce Flavored Potatoes

A yummy looking recipe appeared in Saturday's Nikkei Shinbun Lifestyle
section, of all places, for Butter/Soy Sauce Flavored Potatoes (Jyagaimo Batta-
Shoyu Ni). Potatoes are quite cheap now at supermarkets, and are also

Four potatoes (600 grams)
Butter (30 grams)
Sugar (2 osaji/tablespoons)
Soy sauce (1 1/2 osaji/tablespoons)
Water (1 1/4 cups)
(Servings: Four portions, 169 Kcal portion)

1) Peel potatoes, and cut each potato into two or three bite-sized portions. After
soaking in water for about five minutes, drain the potatoes.
2) Put the potatoes, butter, sugar, and soy sauce in a pot, turn on the heat. Cover
with a drop lid (otoshibuta - I use a piece of aluminum foil) placed slightly off center.
Let pot simmer for 12 or 13 minutes on medium heat until the potatoes become soft.
3) Finally, remove the drop lid and let the juices boil off.

Tip: A key to making sure the taste and nutrition are not washed away in the juices
is simmering the vegetables in a small amount of liquid using a drop lid.

Did you know that there is a delicious collection of eleven recipes on our Frugal
Japan YahooGroups website. Interested in viewing them? Click on:
and select "Recipes" from the Database. You must be a Frugal Japan YahooGroups
member to view the recipes.

Wendy J. Imura

The APRIL issue of JI magazine boasts a makeover, award-winning
journalism -- and, for the first time, FREE online access!**
Check it out NOW: http://www.japaninc.com/contents.php?issueID=59
(**For a limited time; thereafter all archived contents will be
>> ANIME ATTACKS: Disney's divorce from digital animator Pixar
comes at an ideal time for Japan's animation titans. Leo Lewis
speaks to the president of TOEI, whose forthcoming assault on
the US and Europe speaks volumes.
>> Honda president Takeo Fukui tells us precisely what it means
to be named Nikkei's No. 1 company of the year. A JI exclusive!
>> TRUE LIES: A new book about the M-fund, a secret cache of
cash worth billions and overseen by the US and Japan, is stirring
up controversy and ... death-threats.
David McNeill explains -- and we speak to the authors, who are
currently in hiding.
PLUS: Alejandro Lopez of Beacon Communications on how to reinvigorate
advertising in Japan's reviving brand market; a visit to Tokyo's
oldest slums; our expert analyses for investors looking to navigate
Japan's resurging booms; the very latest from the frontlines of
technological wizardry, consumer surveys and much, much more.

Written by: Wendy J. Imura (frugalwatch@japaninc.com)

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