J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:

* * * * * * * * 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, December 13, 2004 Issue No. 37

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

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Dear Frugal Readers,

Happy Monday, and my apologies for delaying issue #37 of
Frugal Watch by a day. It's a busy, busy time of year, and
the number of bonenkais ("Forget the Year" parties) I
attend seems to grow exponentially the longer I am in Japan.

It's also a hard time of year on the monthly budget too: the
number of parties alone requires an extra 10,000-20,000 yen (at
least) during December. Add to that Christmas cards, New Year's
cards, Christmas presents, oseibo (presents given to business
partners or other important relations at the end of the year),
plus shipping for presents or tickets for your own year-end
travel, and the end of the year can present some major damage
to your bank account. So, I thought I'd share with you a few tips
that have helped me through this year, and others, in terms of

First, the 100-yen shop can be a remarkable source of
Christmas/New Year's items. A trip to our local Daiso (the
king of 100-yen shops) yielded some great finds: classy-looking
'pop up' Christmas cards with envelopes (usually 300 or 400 yen
in stationery stores), nice-looking New Year's decorations
(the straw kind) for your door or home, which also make excellent
gifts for overseas relatives, wrapping bags/tubes/filling (both
seasonal and generic), and New Year's mochi, of course. Daiso
also had stamps, ink pads, pens, decorative stickers, and postcards
for people who like to make their own New Year's cards.

Finally, the 100-shop also supplied the magnetic hook I use to
attach the wreath to our 'mansion' door, the tape I used to fasten
my boxes, and the envelopes for my Christmas letter. With a little
imagination, you can create some amazing "value added" items out of
your 100-shop finds.

For 'oseibo' and other year-end gifts, it's hard to go
too cheap. I usually purchase these items at a department store
or specialty store with a generous point system, so I can
at least use my points later. I also tend to send the same
thing every year (in my case, Kobe Goeful crackers) --
it makes budgeting easier, and people start looking forward
to your present!

Finally: shipping and travel. Here again, the earlier you
start, the better a deal you will find. Airline tickets
from Japan to Europe and the US tend to get very expensive
AFTER December 21st (when university students get off
school). The best deals are usually found in mid- to
late October, two months or more before the year-end season.
Likewise, the best deal for shipping presents is sea mail --
but for that, you need 4-6 weeks at least. Even then,
I've had the sad experience of having a Christmas box arrive
in February! Sources tell me that, in some cases, EMS (the
super-fast service)is actually cheaper than sending by
SAL (sea-air mail), depending on the weight of the
package. So, ask your postman for details!

Well, I hope you all enjoy your holiday season preparations!
With a little planning, they really don't have to break
the bank.

Frugally yours,
Wendy J. Imura

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For those of us stuck (er, "lucky to be here") in Japan
over the winter holidays, a short holiday trip within the country
can actually be quite fun, and a way to ease the winter blues.
So, this week's Bargain Roundup will focus on three "last minute"
bargain travel deals within Japan before the end of the year.

(Note: Where do I find these? Jalan (www.jalan.net) -- Japan's
premier discount travel magazine & website. Yes, it's only in
Japanese, but it really does have some of the greatest deals around.
The magazine is on sale at most bookstores, and the title is "Jaran"
in hiragana. Use a partner, friend, or co-worker to help decipher
it -- it's worth it.)

*Two-night, Three-day Trip to Ishigaki-jima, Okinawa
25,800-45,800 yen per person (includes airfare, hotel, rental car)
Departure from Tokyo, Haneda. Two-nights stay in
Sanmarina Hotel -- right on Ishigaki-jima's golden beaches!
Trip can be extended one day for an extra fee, flights can
be chosen. Trip price depends on date.

*Two-day Christmas Fantasy in Hakodate, Hokkaido
19,800-48,800 yen per person (includes airfare, hotel stay)
One or two nights in Hakodate's Fitness 303 Hotel,
with possible upgrades. Enjoy a real white Christmas in
Japan's city with a 'million-dollar night view'.
Trip can be extended an extra day or two, flights can be
chosen. Trip price depends on date.

*Two-night, Three-day Onsen Trip in Zao, Yamagata
19,700-34,700 yen per person (includes round-trip flight from
Haneda, stay at ryokan, and meals)
Enjoy two nights in Zao, Yamagata - one of Japan's best
onsen areas, with temples galore. A trip in January might
also let you see the region's famous 'ice monsters' and
let you get in a little skiing.

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Also, check out www.frugaljapan.com, updated monthly!

While the response for manly frugal advice has yet to
bring in a tidal wave of information, I was happy to receive
some advice from a loyal reader. Without further ado, here is
installment one of "Manly Frugal Advice!"

1. If you like European-tasting water, with high calcium
content, try the Kirin-Danone 2-liter bottles. Tastes great,
and sells for just JPY880 for 6 x 2ltr bottles (12 liters).
This is way cheaper than Volvic, etc.

2. Cheapest place to get a semi-Western meal in Shibuya is
http://www.rakeru.co.jp/default.shtml. There are several
restaurants with really yummy omlettes, potatoes and salad
for around JPY700.

3. The 99-yen stores around town are quite good for certain
foreign alcohol and for fresh but marked fruit. The one just
around the corner from us has foreign (Australian) beer that
I never heard of before for 99 yen a can. Tastes great.
Apples and avocados are also 99 yen each.

Stay tuned for more later!
(Thank you Terry!)
Subscribers: 540 as of December 13, 2004


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

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