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“It’s cheap for Japan”

But is it though? A quick exploration of pricing in Japan

Money, Money, Money- not so funny after all…

Anyone who has either been to Japan or who lives here has heard about pricing in Japan. Many visitors either think Japan is extremely cheap or extremely expensive. Let’s look at that in more detail.

For the purposes of this article, please note the following conversions at time of writing:

  • 1 USD is 108 JPY
  • 1 EUR is 120 JPY
  • 1 GBP is 135 JPY

When you come to Japan, there are many things that you want to see and do and like anyone who has done their research you know exactly what you are going to do.

Upon arrival in Nagoya/Tokyo, you buy an IC card and load it with 5000 yen (500 JPY for the IC card and 4500 to charge it) to prepaiur you for your week there. You travel around the city and each stop costs around 150 yen one way- you make 10 one way trips a day. You see a vending machine and all the drinks are 100 yen so you buy a coke and a bottle of water. You try different foods dotted around town which totals 2000 yen. Next you decide to visit the sites, tickets cost usually 1000 yen each and you visit 3 sites. Finally, you decide to go to a cheap restaurant and get a set menu with rice, miso, and tonkatsu for about 1000 yen.

I have followed the itinerary above and using the total costs, it comes to 7,700 a day. This is a standard amount, and being in Japan for 7 days would cost 53,900 spending money with no gifts. Now this can be done so much cheaper, but this is an average. That 53,900 JPY is 498 USD, 398 GBP, or 447 EUR- which is not too bad as a holiday budget but let’s look at individual items a bit closer.

Instead of travelling to Japan, you live here instead, and you go to the supermarket to buy food, a common every day thing.

You decide to buy rice for 1000 yen, fresh fruit and veg- which sets you back 2000 yen and tofu for 50 yen a pack. That’s a weekly total of about 4000 yen (plus extras).

Which is 37 USD, 30 GBP, or 33 EUR- which is extremely cheap. To sum up so far, food in Japan is quite cheap- which is brilliant but now- technology, how does that fare?

Let’s look at technology to see how that fares.

If you were to come to Japan with your laptop and you realise that you have forgotten your HDMI cable, buying one from the shop would cost you 3000 JPY. Or you realise that you have forgotten your laptop and you go to a second hand store and buy an ‘ok’ one for about 40,000 JPY.

The HDMI cable is 27 USD, 25 EUR, or 22 GBP and that second-hand laptop is 372 USD, 335 EUR or 297GBP (and I’m talking about a 120 Gb, 2Gb ram note book)- which I’m sure that you’ll agree with me is expensive. Or how about you come to Japan and buy 2 switch games for 9000 JPY each (this is not the most expensive games either). That’ll cost you 167 USD, 150 EUR, or 133 GBP and considering in the UK, games are about 40 GBP each, that’s extremelyexpensive.

Finally a word of warning, Japan may be the country of technology and of robots but buying a piece of that will cost you. Food and drink may be cheap but buying lots of it does mount up.

SO that HDMI cable for 3000 JPY is cheap for Japan, it’s just not cheap for anyone else.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

The death of hyousatsu, name plates for homes

Hyoutatsu or name plates for homes are a common sight to see when travelling through Japan. Every house has one and it dies perform a vital role, for delivery services. But even these name plates are diminishing.

Most people only buy 表札 (hyou-satsu) when purchasing a home which leaves the millions living in apartments usually without one, defeating the purpose of them.

Additionally, with the prevelence of social media they have become a security risk (crime is rare but it still occurs in Japan).

Let’s suppose there is only one Suzuki family living in Ise (impossible since the surname Suzuki is like Smith in the west) and they inform the world they’re going to Guam. Well done for them, but their house is now at risk and if a criminal happens upon this, you have a problem.

Another issue is that they make people easier to find. Have a western surname in katakana? You can’t exactly stay hidden (it does stop the door to door Mormons though).

What to take from this post? A word of caution, if you have a hyousatsu (even in the west) be careful with security.

Thank you for reading and as always happy exploring.

Ise City, cooks kitchen

When coming to Ise city, one thing that most forget is food. I know that this seems like a basic requirement, but it is often overlooked.

Just 700m away from Geku (外宮) is a small curry restaurant, which is unimpressive to look at on entry. With a tired Irrashai (いらっしゃい) a friendly atmosphere is open to you.

There is a reasonable selection of food items from shrimp, chicken, pork curry to plain old rice, the menu is not big but it is good.

In addition to excellent taste, prices are very good as well- 650 yen for Chicken Katsu, miso soup, salad, and rice.

The only problem is the lack of a drinks menu- but there is free water. But when in Rome (or Ise in this case)…

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

The problem with learning Japanese at University

For those that have been bitten by the Anime and Mange bug, or those who have fallen in love with the idea of Japan, studying Japanese at university and moving to Japan may be a no brainer but let me ask you one question- if your dream is to move to Japan, what will you do to live?

If you answer is a half-hearted teach or a depressed groan with translation escaping your lips, you may want to rethink your study plans- unless you want to be caught in the ALT/ English conversation school cycle.

Why do I say this? Because of one reason, I’ve seen it happen many times. Japan is interested in internationalisation, at least international communication- it is one reason why there are so many English conversation schools and why so much emphasis is put on English education in the school system. But understanding Japanese is not required for these jobs. All teaching is done via emersion with the Japanese teacher acting as a translator if needed.

Did you see the issue with that last paragraph? Japanese is not needed. This is further compounded with one issue- in order to acquire a visa, ANY degree is accepted.

Let’s say you want to escape the ALT cycle in Japan, and you have studied Japanese the problem when you look for jobs is that most jobs for foreigners in Japan are looking for a specific skill set. Did you degree include programming, engineering, biology, chemistry or anything scientific? No?! You are then looking at entry level jobs or office work.

But what about translation, you may ask. Most translation jobs in Japan require experience in the field you want to enter i.e. medical experience for medical translation, law experience for law translation etc.

What’s the solution? Another degree (this is the option I took)? Or perhaps (if you can) change your degree focus slightly (cultural anthropology or international relation and Japanese etc) to something that includes another skill set. If you don’t and translation doesn’t excite you and nor does being a pronunciation parrot, you’ll be heading back home within a year or be spending even more to fix a mistake.

What do you think? Any suggestions or advise?

As always happy exploring.

Crocks the new fashion trend?

The ‘unfashinable’ item from years past makes a comback?!?!

Think of any brand of shoes you know. There are the must haves, the sports shoes, the ‘I must be seen in these’ shoes, the ‘I need them for work shoes’ and crocs. The unspeakable item from years ago returns and is making a comeback.

The design has never turned many heads in the western worlds and to some extent it has never needed to. They are hardwearing, comfortable and extremly long lasting. There has been a line of chief crocs and it can been seen on many a person who spends hours on their feet each day.

Even for fashionistas, designers such as Pleasures, Christopher Kane and others have attempted to bring a new insight into the world of crocs- but to many it is still seen as a childish and ugly shoe.

But with Ariana Grande rocking a while pair with socks, there is a revival (finally) in the western world, but that’s never been a problem in Japan.

Japanese fashion has always been different- what may be fashionable in the UK and the USA, could be (and usually is) seen as fashion don’ts. But there is one thing to be aware of in Japan, fashion is usually prefectural and sometimes varies by city!

But crocs are worn by all across Japan for several reasons- with the most important being comfort. In Japan, you can go for a short walk to the shops (at least 30 minutes), walk to the bus stop (20-40 minutes one way), walk when you arrive at your destination and be required to remove shoes at school, the office, temples, clinics etc.

For these problems crocs are the answer and will always be the answer for many in Japan. (just don’t try and buy 30cm sized crocs- they don’t seem to exist)

As Always, enjoy exploring cultures.

Why Japanese people?

For anyone that is familiar with Japanese culture, “Why Japanese people” is a throwback to Atsugiri Jason who initially featured on the TV programme  ‘Sokuhou! Ariyoshi no o-warai daitouryousenkyo 2014,’ and is still being referenced today.

But when considering Japanese its self, why Japanese people is a good starting point.

Japanese is a mix of Chinese characters, naturally developed script (hiragana and katakana) and loanwords. Which makes it seem like a bit of a mess and it can be at times.

Kanji, the famous symbols from China and used by the Japanese for about 2000 years- which is nothing considering that Japanese far predates this date. The symbols use was changed to fit the Japanese language more effectively. So while Chinese is more like a western language in its construction (subject-verb-object language), Japanese is not. Japanese is a subject-object-verb language and traditional use of Kanji is remarkably hard to understand. Additionally, in early times, Kanji would often not fit with Japanese mora ( a sound used to denote a ‘letter’ in Japanese), so something had to change.

Japanese, therefore, had a need and hiragana (developed by women in the Hei-an period as they were not allowed to learn Kanji- or be allowed the same level of education as men) filled that gap. Hiragana is used to write okurigana, kana which allows various grammatical forms to be expressed- from particles to adjectival endings.

Next, the language of men- katakana and strangely the language of cultural divide. Katakana has to be split into pre- and postwar katakana. Modern katakana is used for transcription of load words into Japanese and also used to allow words to look more non-Japanese (used quite often in advertisements)- this is where modern Katakana’s use mostly ends.

Historical Katakana is slightly more interesting. In more recent times, it was used interchangeable with hiragana for okurigana, creating at times strange looking sentences and texts. But historically is more interesting still.

The change from a kanji-based system to a kana based, was more defied by the reduction in China’s influence on Japanese culture. One positive of this was the increase in literacy rates in Japan. The literacy rate further increased with the popularity of famous poems, one of them being “The Tosa Diary” (土佐日記) by Ki no Tsurayuki (紀貫之).

Lastly why not mention the origin of Katakana? Well there are 2 main theoires of its delelopment. One is by Buddhist scholars in the 9th centry as they helped transccribe texts from China- this theory is accepted by most. But some research does suggest that it may have orginiated from 8th centry Buddhist texts from Korea instead.

There is a lot more about the history of written Japanese, but this should give you an insight into the world of written Japanese.

As always, enjoy discovering more


Living a language

Exploring a language living abroad

Welcome to my blog dedicated to global languages and experiencing language. Languages are fluid and dynamic, they are adaptable to change either through cultural uptake or need of the language community.

This blog should allow you to experience different cultures through photos and images and allow you to see more of the global community. There will be tips for language learning and recommendations for continued learning.

Just one more quick note, please enjoy this blog as much as I will enjoy writing it. It was be research heavy at times and a bit too light at others, anecdotal, and convoluted but please enjoy, nevertheless.

Thank you and happy language learning.


Welcome to exploring languages

I have started the blog to allow myself and, more importantly, you to explore the worlds of languages and see how diverse the world is.

Why do this?

  • A lot of resources are wrapped in their native languages and the ‘unpacking’ needed is done automatically by speakers of that languages
  • language and language learning is such an integral part of the global community- a culture cannot be kept in isolation

There will be more to come and there will be different topics at times. But, I hope that you enjoy your journey of language discovery.

Some topics that I will cover will include specific language resources I have found useful and I hope you find them useful too.

Like living languages, this blog will grow, change, and develop and I hope that you enjoy reading in a month or in a years’ time.

Lastly, this blog may be Japanese heavy at times as I do live in Japan, for now at least.

Happy reading and welcome to the world of languages

Languages in use. Iga-ueno castle (and a hint for next time)
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