FW-74 -- Frugal Favorites (What is a Kinken Shop?)

* * * * * * * * 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, October 5, 2005 Issue No. 74

- Frugal Favorites (What is a Kinken Shop?)
- Credits

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+++ FRUGAL FAVORITES (What is a Kinken Shop?)
(Note: While Frugal Watch author Wendy Jonas Imura is on
maternity leave, please enjoy a "Blast From the Past" - favorites
from past Frugal Watch issues. Wendy will resume new Frugal
Watch content in late October 2005.)

Dear Frugal Readers,

After a Frugal Tips column mentioned "kinken shops," I got an inquiry
asking: What is a "kinken shop" and how do you use it?

That was another excellent question! And this week I'll answer it.

The word "kinken" is a combination of the Chinese characters for
"money" and "ticket." As the name implies, these shops essentially
deal in the buying and selling of all kinds of tickets, gift certificates,
and discount cards. The shops offer significant discounts on some
tickets (train tickets, amusement park tickets) and a markup on
others (concerts, soccer matches, et cetera).

The hardest part about using a kinken shop is finding one. These
literally hole-in-the-wall shops can be found tucked around corners,
in underground malls, and in out-of-the-way places near major stations.
In Tokyo, Shimbashi has the largest concentration of kinken shops,
followed by Ueno and Shinjuku. There are several a few blocks outside
of the Yaesu exit of Tokyo station.

In Osaka, the basements of the Dai-ni and Dai-san Buildings in Umeda
are known to be a treasure trove of kinken shops. If you are curious,
ask taxi drivers, shopkeepers and other locals in your area for
directions to the nearest kinken shop. Most will be happy to tell you,
as long as they are not competitors themselves.

After finding the shop, the next challenge is using it well. The shop
usually is filled with glass cases, behind which lie a confusing variety
of tickets. Signs or posters sometimes list the prices. If you are in
search of a specific ticket -- say, a discounted shinkansen ticket from
Tokyo to Osaka -- the fastest method is to ask.

If you are just window shopping, take a look at several shops in your
area to find the best price. You will need cash for your purchase, as
these small shops rarely take charge cards. If the aging gentleman
behind the counter seems too threatening, bring a Japanese friend
or colleague to help. Business at these shops is quick and efficient
-- they are unlikely to want to strike up a conversation.

These days, the best deals to be found at kinken shops are usually
for movies (sometimes 300-500 yen off the ticket price), airline tickets
(usually 15-20 percent off), and amusement parks or other attraction
tickets (sometimes as much as a 50 to 75 percent discount).

Shinkansen tickets are still a fairly good bargain for the slower trains,
but the Nozomi (fast train) discount between Tokyo and Osaka is
only about 300-500 yen these days.

However, there are always surprises. You might find yourself picking
up a great deal on beer tickets, book tickets, or stamps as well. It all
depends on what's in stock. You can also sell your new phone cards
or other gift certificates here for cash too. The surprises, it seems,
are the real joy of using kinken shops. So next time you pass one
-- take a glance inside. You might make a fantastic frugal find.

Frugally Yours,
Wendy J. Imura

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

Copyright 2005 Japan Inc. Communications Inc.