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