Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cost of Living in Japan

Cost of living. A lot of people ask me about it, complain about it when they're here, but I think I'll let the numbers do the talking:

Starbucks grande hot chocolate
¥480

Movie ticket
¥1800
- except on the first day of every month, when theaters offer ¥1000 specials; shows after 10 pm are ¥1200.

Subway club sandwich
¥490
w/ "large" drink +¥300
and two chocolate chip cookies +¥200
= ¥990

Precooked white rice at most supermarkets
¥100-300

Transportation between Osaka and Tokyo (550 km)
¥13240 by unreserved shinkansen, 155 minutes
¥21500 roundtrip fare by ANA
¥3500 by highway bus, 8 hours
¥400,000+ by taxi (someone tried this between Osaka and Fukuoka)

Levi's blue jeans
~¥10,000 at department stores

English books
¥1000-3000

Frosted Flakes cereal
¥436
- the box is smaller than you'd expect
- not too many other kinds of cereal are available except at import stores (Honey Nut Cheerios ¥800)

1 L lowfat milk
¥126
- not all carry lowfat milk

1 L Minute Maid Orange Juice
¥236

Western style beds
¥100,000+

Comforters
¥6,000+

City streetcar fare
¥100-200

Average monthly salary for first-time English teachers
¥255,000
- before taxes

Social pension payment/month
~¥23,000

Social insurance payment/month
~¥13,000

Unemployment insurance payment
~¥2,000

Japanese-style bicycle with basket
~¥10,000+

Cars in Japan
Don't even think about it. Although the initial cost would be comparable to those in most countries, being in Japan gives you the "opportunity" to obtaining a Japanese driver's license, learning to drive on the left side, paying for auto insurance, and covering required inspections every two years (¥100,000+). Trains and buses will never be more convenient than they are here - use them.

Air travel
Not terrible if you're going from a major city like Tokyo, but be sure to avoid traveling during Shogatsu (early January), Golden Week (early May), and Obon (mid-August), when fares can double or triple.

Nightlife
Many bars offer beer from ¥300-500, but on the weekends, clubs usually have a high cover of ¥3,000+ to enter; drinks may or may not be included. Look for nomihodai (all you can drink) deals.

International first class postage
¥110 (letter)

Monthly membership to a gym
¥7,000, usually ~¥10,000

1 355ml can of Coca Cola
¥120

1 small, small serving of Häagen-Dazs ice cream
¥263

One bundle of 5-6 bananas
¥200-400

One big red apple
¥200-300

Watermelon
¥10,000+

Melon (cantaloupe)
¥2,000+

"Super" fruit
There is a demand for "luxury" fruit items like ¥100,000 mangoes, ¥200,000 watermelons, even ¥40,000 oranges... naturally I haven't been able to taste these and determine the difference, but I can't imagine how it'd be worth it.

One slice of chocolate cake from the bakery
¥420

Taxis
Usually charge a base fare of ¥500-600, about 10X that you'd expect in Beijing or other parts of SE Asia.

9 comments:

Skye said...

I think you're being slightly unfair to Japan here (especially on that watermelon price - I've definitely seen them for 800 yen - and on car ownership - not worthwhile if you live in a city, but necessary and not prohibitively expensive if you live in the country). I guess it would be expensive to move to Japan without changing your lifestyle at all, and insisting on a queen size bed and daily steak and cheddar cheese daily, but isn't the fun of moving to another country partly in adapting your habits, learning to sleep on a futon, and buying veggies at the grocery store when they have special sales? No-where else in the other three countries (Canada, Australia, the U.K.) I have lived in recent years can you buy a bunch of spinach for 105 yen.

mark.allred said...

This looks pretty much like living in London.

Except the Beer's cheaper in Japan.

Sara said...

where are you finding lowfat milk for 126 yen? I buy it for 198 yen!!

Turner said...

I guess my supermarket just has a special. Plus, I live well outside city limits.

dimaks said...

what i love in Japan is the bunch of sale times you can find in almost everywhere.

BlogD said...

What Skye said: one can live on the cheap. Even the things you want to have can be had cheaper. Why buy a Starbucks when you can make something just as good at home for a fraction of the price? Movies: try buying at ticket shops for 1300 yen or less (why would you ever pay 1800 yen??), else switch to renting DVDs from Tsutaya on Wednesdays for 190 yen. Subway: get the daily sandwich for 320 yen, buy a 88 yen 500ml Coke at the local supermarket, and get cookies elsewhere (Costco is best-tasting and cheapest if you can store or freeze stuff).

Other stuff looks similarly overpriced--you buy blue jeans at department stores? No wonder you think the cost of living is high--those places are always overpriced, and much cheaper stuff can be found. English bookstores selling used stuff can be found, else try using local libraries. My wife and I got a western-style double bed for almost half the price you cite. Etc. etc.

You remind me of the American news shows in America that had special reports on $500 cantaloupes, as if normal fruit cost that much in Japan.

You also neglected to take into account average salaries. Stuff is a lot cheaper in China, but aren't salaries a lot lower too?

Turner said...

Skye,

I believe I said it was possible to get movie tickets for less than 1800. Did I say I paid that much?

I don't believe I said I bought jeans at department stores either; it doesn't change the fact that they are sold for 10,000 yen or more.

Naturally, in any country, you're bound to find some variations in price and used goods. I've seen these prices in Japan, and that fact can't be changed; there is fruit sold for over $500 - the fact that most people don't buy it on a regular basis doesn't change the fact that it is sold.

I didn't neglect salaries, because I'm not here to talk about salaries; these are prices of things in Japan, whether you're a tourist or a resident. In China and Thailand, transportation is like 10 times cheaper, and most foods sell for less.

Try not to look at the numbers so cynically; I'm not saying I spend every day watching movies and eating Subway sandwiches, nor am I advocating that others do so, but those that choose to do so can go in now knowing the prices.

BlogD said...

I don't believe I said I bought jeans at department stores either; it doesn't change the fact that they are sold for 10,000 yen or more.

Jeans are sold in American department stores for that much too--fashion designers at premium stores. Just like buying cheap ones at places like UniQlo (or even much cheaper Levi's at smaller shops), one could get something equally good for much less. The main point here is that just because something is overcharged for in some places, it does not mean the cost of living is high, as you claim this to be evidence for.

I didn't neglect salaries, because I'm not here to talk about salaries; these are prices of things in Japan, whether you're a tourist or a resident.

Cost of living must take into account salary, else it is meaningless. If a movie cost a million yen, it would not signal a high cost of living if the average wage were a million yen an hour. Cost of living also has little relevance to travelers, as travelers don't live there, do not buy items like beds, cars, or gym memberships, and often pay inflated prices anyway regardless of the local cost of living.

I'm not saying I spend every day watching movies and eating Subway sandwiches, nor am I advocating that others do so, but those that choose to do so can go in now knowing the prices.

Then you are misrepresenting things to them. If they can buy things more cheaply, you are doing them a disservice to make them think that many items will be more expensive than they need to be. I am not being cynical, I am just pointing out flaws in your message here. Sorry if I came across as antagonistic in suggesting that you bought your jeans in department stores--but you have to admit, without saying otherwise, and trying to express the cost of living for someone like yourself living in Japan, you certainly came across as having suggested it.

Turner said...

Now you're using a lack of information to justify your argument. Yes, there's UniQlo, but this doesn't change the fact that, again, jeans can sell for 10,000 in department stores.

Salaries certainly should be taken into account, but they are not the only factor to be considered - what of people earning their income online or living off their foreign-earned income?

I'm afraid that argument holds absolutely no weight - you didn't even listen to me; the numbers are set. Subway sandwiches cost this much, movies cost this much. What's misrepresentative about that? I can't change the price, nor lie about how little or how much it is for your benefit.