FW-86 -- The Taxman Cometh, Cheap Cameras/Film

* * * * * * * * 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, January 27, 2006 Issue No. 86

- The Taxman Cometh, Cheap Cameras/Film
- Credits

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*** The Taxman Cometh, Cheap Cameras/Film ***

Dear Frugal Readers,

Today's article will be a slight hodgepodge, reflecting the
business of late January for me and everyone, I expect. First,
please note that the Japanese tax return period is approaching.
People who are self-employed, have a side job in addition to
their full-time employment, sold/bought a house in 2005 using
a housing loan, had out-of-pocket medical expenses exceeding
100,000 yen for your family, or met with natural disasters might
find themselves the benefits of a tasty tax return if they file.

While I covered this topic in more depth last year, let me
review briefly the "easy way" (?) to file your tax return in Japan.
First, find some time during the tax-filing period (February 15-
March 15 every year) to visit your city's local tax office. The
Japanese word for tax office is "zeimusho," and they are located
in most regions. During this period, the tax office offers
free advice in calculating and filling out your form. All you
have to do is bring your income statements (genzei choshu hyou)
from all of your income sources, plus receipts/documents supporting
your tax deductions (in the case of medical expenses, your medical
bills, for a business, your receipts, etc.). You should also bring
your gaijin card, inkan, and other relevant documents. The
friendly tax agents will, literally, fill out the form for you.
After this, you will be directed to a row of touch-panel screens
where you will be guided, again, in how to fill in your form.
After finally filing your form, you will be asked to either
pay the tax you owe (this happens) or give bank account information
for your tax return.

A hint: I recommend going in the morning (early) and lining up
outside the door to the tax office, or the hall where the advising
is held, as early as possible. People start lining up before 8:00
AM, and the earlier you get there, the quicker you'll get out.
Finally, the Tax Office has finally made its English tax information
available online. Check out the link below:
(2005 Income Tax Guide for Foreigners)

My second topic of the week comes courtesy of an avid Frugal
Watch reader, Curt Sampson. He has kindly given me permission to
share with you some Shibuya food scavenging advice, as well as
very useful camera and film buying tips! Many thanks, Curt!

"Your supermarket article reminded me that Yamaya
(http://www.yamaya.co.jp/ -- English info available) has moved
their Shibuya shop closer to the station and expanded it greatly
(there's a map at

"These guys stock booze and some import foodstuffs, and they're dirt
cheap. For example, Friexnet Cava (a Spanish sparkling wine) is
1,300-1,500 yen almost everywhere, but only 1,050 yen there. This is
also one of the very, very few cheap places to buy food in the
Shibuya station area. We don't seem to have any real supermarkets
here, only very expensive depa-chika.

"Of course, if you buy your booze at Bic camera, you can get 10% or more
back in points. Or the other way around: you can use your points
to buy booze. A laptop purchase will get you drunk as a skunk.

"Unfortunately, I can't recommend any of the major camera shops for
electronics purchases. Even taking the points into account, you're
going to pay ten to twenty percent more than you'd pay in Akihabara.
To figure out where to go to buy this stuff, use www.kakaku.com
(Japanese only, unfortunately, but heck, for this stuff you really
need only katakana to get by). They'll show you who's got the
lowest prices, and who's got what in stock. And the site works on a
keitai, too, with maps even, so that you can do your research
whilst wandering around in the area.

"One area where the big camera shops are ok, however, is film. It's
as cheap there as it's ever going to get. And developing is not too
bad, either, if you go for the "original brand" (in-house) version.
For 800 yen you can get a 36-exposure roll of color film developed
and get two sets of prints. Black and white is more expensive, but
if you're using black-and-white film, you should be developing it
yourself and saving yourself piles of money. (Not to mention buying
bulk film and loading it yourself--that will almost halve your film

"But the cameras themselves: again, too expensive. See kakaku.com.
But wait, what are you doing buying a new camera in the first
place? There are tons of used camera shops in Tokyo (see
http://photojpn.org/dir/listings.php?cmd=viewlistB&cid=152), and if
you avoid the cameras that collectors want, you can get a pretty
good deal. Your best bargains are going to be for used digital cameras;
now that the market has matured, you can get quite good 3-4 megapixel
cameras for well under 20,000 yen. And most people probably don't
want a seven megapixel camera anyway, for two reasons. First, most
people just don't make prints that are all that big, so the
extra pixels are just wasting storage space on your hard drive.
Second, there's no point in having all those pixels if you've got
a crappy lens that's ruining the image anyway."

Frugally yours,
Wendy J. Imura

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

Copyright 2006 Japan Inc. Communications Inc.