FW-64 -- Five Frugal Things I'd Wish I'd Done

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, July 19, 2005 Issue No. 64

- What's New (Five Frugal Things I'd Wish I'd Done)
- Frugal Friends: (Aquariums, Anyone?)
- Frugal Tips (Searching for Accommodations? Tocoo!)
- Credits

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+++ WHAT'S NEW (Five Frugal Things I Wish I'd Done)

Dear Frugal Readers,

Summer in Japan always makes me nostalgic for .. summers of
Japan past? Not really, but it was a shock when I realized a few
weeks ago that it had been precisely 10 years since I first set
foot in the land of the Rising Yen. As an impressionable university
student, I had zero financial sense, and everything seemed
mystical, fun, and slightly wacky. Ten years later, it still does
(the wacky part, at least), but I do know a bit more than I used
to about money, and saving it, in Japan.

So, in honor of all those new to Japan, or those who will be arriving
soon (be you fresh-faced English teachers ,
backpackers, Expo tourists, or exchange students), here are my Top
Five Frugal Things I'd Wish I'd Done.

1) I wish I'd brought more cash.
*Japan is certainly more overseas credit-card/ATM friendly than it
was in 1995, but regardless - it is still the land of cash. I had no
idea how expensive things would be, and when I couldn't read or write
Japanese, I really couldn't find out. I used my credit cards at hotels,
train stations, and ... wherever I could. Anyone familiar with the US
credit card system knows that, well, ... it takes forever to pay those
things off. In terms of total payment, taking more cash (or using a
debit card) for my travels would have been a lot smarter.

2) I wish I'd been a more adventurous eater.
*Japanese food grows on you. The longer you are here, generally,
the more of the stranger foods you can eat. In all respects, eating like
a local is probably cheaper than eating foreign foods. In particular, I
wish I'd had the courage to try the great lunch/dinner specials available
at restaurants, strange Japanese ingredients at supermarkets on specials,
and unfamiliar vegetables. Would have saved me a fortune! (I once,
embarrassingly, spent 3,000 yen ordering 12 frozen bagels from

3) I wish I'd started an automatic withdrawal savings plan.
*If you're in Japan on a year-long work contract or longer, chances are
you draw a monthly salary. Chances also are you are hoping to pay back
some of your school loans or save money while you are here. Starting a
"teiki yokin" or automatic withdrawal savings plan is the idiot-proof way
to make sure that happens. Banks, post office savings, and other financial
institutions offer this service, which simply "adds" a special savings
account that automatically withdraws a specific amount of money from your
main account on a certain day of the month. Start with 1/10th of your
monthly salary at first, and build up if you like. Personally, I could
have saved at least $15,000 over my three years of low- cost/reasonably
paid single lifestyle if I'd known about this. DO IT!

4) I wish I'd not bought so much *stuff*.
*If you're in Japan "temporarily" (less than a year or two), there really
is no reason to fill your apartment with stuff. You'll just have to sell
it, give it away, or trash it when you leave. The market for used
electronics, furniture, clothes, and other items in Japan (even among
other foreigners)is not great: you should probably expect to get maybe
10-20% of your initial investment back. If it's not absolutely necessary,
why buy it? You'll not only save some money, you'll save yourself a
headache as you pack up to move.

5) I wish I'd traveled smarter.
*Unlike many young intrepid foreigners in Japan, I limited most of my
travels to within Japan (very expensive), trips back home (also
expensive), and only one trip to a third country. I also traveled mostly
at peak times. If I had to do it again, I'd make a special "travel fund"
that I contributed to each month. I'd also try and travel off season as
much as possible. Travel (where to go and how to do it) is such a personal
choice, but I do wish I'd done it smarter.

"20-20 hindsight" frequently makes us wiser about our past than our
future, but I hoped some of my recent thoughts on the matter might be
helpful for budding Frugalites in Japan out there too. Until next week!

Frugally yours,
Wendy J. Imura

+++ FRUGAL FRIENDS (Aquariums, Anyone?) ++++

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 nearly 1,000 readers,
email Wendy J. Imura (frugalwatch@japaninc.com)!

***Sea Creator 2004: http://www15.plala.or.jp/sea_creator2004/home***

If you're like me (allergic to anything with fur), fish can
be a great (and often frugal) pet to keep. They don't need to be
walked, don't need a litter box, and often make for fascinating,
relaxing watching.

In what happens to be the most unusual of the Frugal Friend businesses
so far, one Frugal Friend notified me of her family business, Sea Creator
2004, which (according to proprietor Myra P. Ohara) is "a pet shop for
marine creatures like live corals, clams ,and other invertebrates. We also
direct import aquarium equipment from Germany and the U.S." You
can check out the online pet shop at:
(Japanese Only)

You are also welcome to contact Myra or Akira Ohara (in English) at
0262-241-2333 (phone/fax) for answers to all your aquarium needs.
If you're interested in visiting the Oharas in person, you might have to
travel: their shop is located in Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture! Check
the home page or call for directions!

Enjoy some frugal fish-watching!

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+++ FRUGAL TIPS (Searching for Accommodations? Tocoo!)
One frugal reader recommends www2.tocoo.jp.
"Tocoo! has mainly last minute deals, so I use it when we need a
"quick" get-away. I've also used it to get an idea of places that may
have specials and then looked at the homepage of the place to see
other deals."

"My husband's trick is to do a search for the area we want to go and the
words "renewal open". Last year we found a great deal in Nikko at a
pension with private bath/onsen in every room plus 3 free "rental" baths.
It was about 8,000 yen a person a night. We found a similar deal just
before the New Year's holiday at another place."

Subscribers: 987 as of July 18, 2005


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

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