The statement ‘living in Tokyo’ can provoke two extremely different reactions. First, for the unacquainted visitor, there’s awe and wonder as the thinker imagines neon cityscapes, delicious ramen, towering malls, blooming cherry blossoms, Ghost in the Shell, Lost in Translation and every other cliche out there.
However, for the actual city resident, the same phrase causes anxious sweating as one tallies up dining costs, grocery expenses, room rents, facility charges, electricity and gas bills and train ticket prices.
How can a long-term visitor (more than 90 days) in Tokyo lead an enjoyable lifestyle without gorging on bean sprouts for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
HC Waseda offers some tips to students both old and new.
1. Begin With Bean Sprouts
Why the bean sprouts? Found at amazingly cheap prices (one pack for 27 JPY is common) they are the butt of poverty jokes in Tokyo. However, buying Japan’s seasonal vegetables (daikon, bean sprouts, sweet potato, kelp) and other local produce (fresh fish, tofu, rice, miso, eggs) and incorporating them in home cooked dishes is one of the most popular ways to save money. In addition to this, walking into grocery stores and supermarkets towards the end of the day gives you the opportunity to buy discounted goods that may have as much as 30% hacked off their full price. Though eating out in Tokyo is cheap thanks to a plethora of options that suit every budget, cooking at home is the most economical in the long run and even the most reluctant of cooks are inclined to agree.
2. Feed Your Wallet
“Do you have a point card?” is a refrain in nearly most chain stores and supermarkets. Though the process of filling out a form and having yet another square bit of plastic to clog up your wallet is about as attractive as it sounds, these cards prove invaluable in the long run as they are swiped along with each purchase you make and points are accumulated. With time, you can use them to shave down the total when you’re running short on loose cash (Aeon and Family Mart point cards) or build up to a certain amount in order to get store vouchers (Santoku point cards). There’s also an option to link credit cards to store point cards and earn better rewards that way. See what works best for your wallet!
3. Go Big Or Go Home
Via Halal Media
What’s a student to do when they feel an intense longing for genuine Italian pasta, tangy New York cheesecake or authentic Chinese dumplings but the price tag is enough to cause indigestion? Visit a warehouse store, of course! At franchises like Costco and Gyomu Super, shoppers can enjoy imported goods and bulk items at extremely affordable prices! (The author of this article is guilty of splurging 200 JPY on a box of handcrafted Belgian chocolates). The store also includes Halal goods. The only downside to this arrangement might be the effort involved in transporting your merchandise back home.
4. Call The Doctor
As soon as you arrive in Tokyo, it’s a good idea to find a hospital close to your residence and have yourself registered there as a member. This way, in case of a medical emergency, you can easily take yourself to the hospital’s ER and receive hassle-free treatment instead of running to a University clinic for a first consultation or worse, dealing with the pressure filling out paperwork when you desperately need aid instead. Not to mention, most hospitals charge a heavier fee to treat a patient who isn’t already registered with them in the first place. This is especially useful for long-term residents who prefer to have their medical needs attended to by one organization instead of running to individual clinics.
5. Power Down
Investing in a good blanket to snuggle in, buying insulation sheets and strips for the balcony and windows (the bubble wrap method is a cheaper alternative!) and getting into the habit of shutting all other room doors when a heater is running is a smart way to prevent the wastage of precious warmth and subsequently, saving yourself the heartache of an electricity and gas bill that can go into five figures just to heat 20 or so square meters. Other solutions include buying a kotatsu or heated table (if you have the space) or lining one’s bed with heat-trapping sheets, as well as timing the air conditioning unit to work in intervals through the night instead of keeping it powered on for the entire stretch. Have ‘kairo’ or self-heating pads on hand to get you through the hardest days of winter.
We hope that some of these handy tricks and tips will help you save a few yen in the coming year, so you can devote your hard-earned money to the things that you really love!
Cover image via Flickr