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10 Simple Tips For Saving Money in Japan

Here are some quick and easy ways you can live in Japan on a budget.

By 6 min read

Japan’s harmonious blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge modernity presents wonders and challenges. While enticing, its rich history, modern innovations, and distinct culture often come with a premium price tag, especially for utilities and shopping, particularly for foreigners navigating their initial days in this intriguing landscape.

One of the first steps towards savings is selecting an efficient living space. Real Estate Japan and GaijinPot Apartments provide an array of apartments optimized for traditional Japanese comforts and modern conveniences, allowing residents to capitalize on local money-saving strategies.

Whether you’re shopping in the bustling districts of Tokyo or considering utility solutions in a serene countryside apartment, mastering local cost-cutting methods can prove invaluable. As every yen saved is a yen earned, here are some tips to maximize your budget.

Live Outside City Centers

Musashino in western Tokyo is just an hour from downtown.

In urban hubs like Tokyo, one of the most effective ways to save on housing is to consider locations outside the central city areas. While the bustling neighborhoods in the heart of the city can be alluring, they often come with a hefty price tag. In contrast, areas slightly further out provide a more economical option.

The beauty of Japan’s efficient train system is that even if you choose to live 30 minutes or an hour away from the main districts, you can still easily access the city’s core whenever you wish. By opting for these peripheral neighborhoods, you can enjoy a more spacious living environment, a quieter ambiance, and, most importantly, cheaper rent.

Cycle Around

Do as the locals do!

One of the unsung advantages of living in or visiting Japan is its commendable bike-friendly ethos. Beyond the obvious health benefits and the chance to intimately experience urban and rural landscapes, cycling is also an economically smart choice. Bicycles, even those of high quality, can be surprisingly affordable.

For those willing to do a bit of hunting, the second-hand market often has premium bikes available at a fraction of their original cost. The long-term savings are evident when juxtaposed against a daily train or bus commute. With dedicated bike lanes, ample parking, and overall respect for cyclists, Japan truly encourages this eco-friendly and wallet-friendly mode of transportation.

Staying Warm

Fuwa fuwa (fluffy)!

Adapting to Japanese approaches can lead to substantial savings on your heating bills. Rather than relying on expensive centralized heating, consider localized heating solutions such as the kotatsu, a traditional heated table popular in Japanese homes during the cold months.

Fuwa fuwa socks are thick and fluffy socks designed for indoor use, providing additional warmth to your feet. Yutanpo are hot water bottles. Traditionally made of metal, modern versions might be made of plastic. Filled with hot water and wrapped in a cloth cover, the Yutanpo can be placed in your bed to warm the sheets before sleeping or kept close while relaxing.

Water Usage

Take a relaxing dip.

Embracing traditional Japanese bathing habits can provide a unique cultural experience while conserving water. Instead of daily showers, many Japanese enjoy a weekly deep soak in the ofuro, a deep bathtub complemented by quick body rinses on other days.

Also, sento (communal bathhouses) and onsen (hot springs) are popular places for relaxation and bathing without overusing home water resources. Usually, entry is around ¥600 or less. These facilities reflect Japan’s efficient use of resources and offer a chance to immerse in local customs.

Shop at Local Supermarkets

Fresh vegetables at a fraction of the price if you shop local.

Shopping at local supermarkets and “100 yen” stores can be a game-changer for those seeking to stretch their yen. While international chains might offer familiar brands, local grocery stores often provide a range of high-quality, fresh products at more affordable prices.

Another advantage is the frequent discounts on items approaching their sell-by dates; visiting these stores in the evening can yield significant savings as perishables are often marked down. Furthermore, local supermarkets often carry seasonal produce, promoting fresher ingredients and supporting local farmers.

Eat Local, Cook Japanese Food

Soba will fill you up real quick.

While the country boasts a rich cuisine, dining out can quickly add up. Search for local eateries like shokudo (cafeteria) or mom-and-pop shops (especially soba and udon) to enjoy Japanese flavors without straining your budget. Their lunch sets, known as teishoku, provide substantial meals at affordable prices.

Also, while cooking your mom’s recipes will provide some comfort food, imported ingredients are expensive. Embracing the art of Japanese cooking at home can be both a cost-saving and fulfilling endeavor. Purchasing local ingredients and trying Japanese dishes allows for an immersive culinary experience while ensuring you get the most value out of every yen spent.

Buy Second-Hand

Japan has a massive thrifting culture.

Japan’s dedication to the longevity and care of possessions means second-hand items are often pristine. From brick-and-mortar stores like “Hard-Off” for electronics and furniture and “Book-Off” for books to online platforms like “Mercari” and “Yahoo! Auctions Japan”, the options are abundant.

Additionally, many foreigners leave Japan to post “sayonara sales” on Facebook groups, offering household items at reduced prices. These sales are perfect for those seeking bargains, especially on items tailored for expatriate needs.

Utilize Free Public Wi-Fi

It’s everywhere.

As one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, Japan stands out for its robust public Wi-Fi infrastructure. Major cities, in particular, offer extensive free Wi-Fi coverage, making it easy for residents and tourists to connect from metro stations and cafes to public parks and government buildings.

Rather than immediately investing in a SIM card upon arrival, tap into these ubiquitous networks for everyday browsing and communication needs. Save your SIM card data for moments when you truly need it or when venturing to less connected areas. Adopting this strategy ensures continuous connectivity and significantly trims your communication costs.

Cell Phone Plans

One of Japan’s most popular providers.

Navigating mobile plans in Japan might seem daunting, but savvy choices can prevent you from getting trapped in costly contracts. While many gravitate towards well-known carriers with lengthy commitments, opting for prepaid SIM cards is often more economical and flexible.

Several local carriers specifically design budget-friendly plans catering to foreigners, understanding their unique needs and duration of stay. By choosing such alternatives, you gain the advantage of short-term commitments and potential cost savings and avoid the complications and hefty penalties that often come with breaking long-term contracts.

Participate in Local Events

Join our monthly GaijinPot Meet!

Delving into the heart of Japanese culture doesn’t require breaking the bank. Community centers regularly offer events, classes, and workshops that are free or come at a minimal cost. You can discover these activities through local bulletins, community websites, and even apps dedicated to local happenings. Libraries and tourist information centers in most towns also maintain event calendars.

Participating in these events gives you a deeper understanding of local customs and offers an excellent platform to practice your Japanese with locals. Embrace these opportunities for a genuine, cost-effective Japanese experience. Don’t know where to start? Join our monthly GaijinPot Meet!

What kind of tips do you have for saving money in Japan? Let us know in the comments!

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