Getting a Cheap Place in Japan
by Joel R. Voss aka. Javantea
April 11, 2006 14:57 JST
Sakura House is an awesome company. The people are very friendly and speak English fluently. The houses they rent are spectacular. The rent is very cheap. They are a very good place to stay. Note that the deposit is 30000 yen (~$300) and 10000 yen (~$100) of that they keep for maintenance. But really their prices are cheap enough that an extra $100 should be OK.
Now that you know how to get a place and how to get the key, you need to pick a place. Some parts of town are cheaper to eat at than others. Some parts of town have cheaper and faster transportation. Some parts of town have cheap alcohol and some places have cheap anime and manga. I'm staying in Asakusa 2, which is quite cheap all around. The rent is cheap. The food is cheap (if you know where to go). The entertainment is cheap. There is a massive CD/DVD/Anime rental place just a few blocks away (I wish I could rent..). I have yet to find a place that sells anime in Asakusa, but Akihabara is only 4 stops away (Suehirocho or Kanda). That makes Asakusa an awesome place to be. My house is about 6 blocks from the Tawaramachi subway station, so it is a short walk, but I like it. Also, it's on the Ginza line which requires a transfer or two to any other line. Asakusa has a massive souvenir industry which draws a lot of tourists Japanese and gaijin. If anyone has a better neighborhood, I'd like to hear about it. Perhaps someone interested in other aspects of Tokyo might choose another neighborhood.
Eating is probably going to be more costly than rent. It's a given that eating out will be more expensive than cooking your own food. However, in Japan there are very cheap places to eat. I'm not kidding. Ramen costs 300 yen ($3) at many places. If you keep your eyes out for prices before you go inside, you'll be sure to not pay too much for food. Many fancier places will charge 700 yen ($7) for a medium sized meal. Supermarkets are also available so you can cook your own food for cheaper. Food at supermarket is very cheap if you can understand what you're looking at. My cooking skills just aren't up to cooking much of anything they have, though.
The above kitchen sink is still a bit of a mystery to me. The hot water is obviously gas powered. When you press that button water comes from that nozzle connected to it. A whoosh sound is made like from a gas burner igniting. If you want to do dishes, you will have to figure it out without burning down Asakusa.
If you want to be a cheap bastard, you will need to do some entertainment shopping, souvenir shopping, and clothing shopping eventually. For me, manga is an excellent source of cheap entertainment. For about 300 yen ($3), I can get a book of manga. That stretches my yen quite well.
Vending machines in Akihabara dispense figurines like the ones below for 200 yen ($2). This is a very good souvenir. Asuka and Shinji are very cool. It's funny that Evangelion is a decade old and it is still very popular. It's obviously a masterpiece.
Beer and alcohol is fairly cheap in Japan even though most people say that it's expensive. 300 yen is a pretty common price for a drink. Compared to Seattle, which is $3-5 for beer and $5-7 for a mixed drink, Japan has some cheap drinks. But think of all the manga you could get with that yen!
Walking around is a very good bit of entertainment. If you don't have a twisted ankle or an aversion to exercise, you can walk miles and miles without the least bit of boringness. Walking is indeed free in Japan.
Taking photos is also a pretty cheap pasttime. You can get a digital camera in the US or Japan for $80 (if you look around). At the robot store, you can get rechargable batteries and a digicharger for them for 1000 yen ($10). Politeness is probably the only thing I can advise you on. A trip to the medic to fix a broken nose is probably not very cheap. So keep your camera in plain view aimed at appropriate targets. You probably noticed that my photos don't include people very often. That's the reason for that.
Video games aren't very cheap in Japan, so if you're a gamer, you might be better off trying a few of the sweet new games a few times and then buying. I don't know your budget, but my budget was to put 200 yen into a cool anime arcade game and then watch other people. I had a video of the opening sequence but it was lost in the hard drive failure.
Phoning home is very expensive in Japan. If you get homesick thinking about how nice everyone from your hometown is, don't use a payphone. It's 100 yen ($1) per minute. You might find a calling card to be cheaper. It's much cheaper to go to an internet cafe, install Skype, buy $10 of Skype credit and call home. (The impoliteness of talking in an internet/manga cafe aside.) If you have a working laptop and an internet connection, even better. You can call from your room. Did I mention that Sakura Houses have wifi? It's not up 100%, but I can say that it's been up 75%. That allows me to call people from Japan quite easily. People get a kick when you call them from an exotic locale.
If you are interested in traveling Japan, feel free to