In this installment we’ll go over what will be a major part of your trip, spending money. I know, you’ve already spent enough just to get to Japan and to have a roof over your head.
Well this part of the spending has to do with your daily expenses while you’re there. A lot of people wonder how much they should bring with them to survive. After a bit of research the consensus I have found is that around $200 U.S. per day is enough for the average person to live on over a 2-week trip.
This $200 should cover the necessities such as food and transportation and leave enough room for some shopping per day.
You don’t have to necessarily have to eat three square meals a day. If you can live off a huge breakfast, an afternoon snack and a light dinner you’ll be okay. Or you can have a light breakfast, a big lunch and skip dinner completely. It’s all up to your constitution and what you feel is best for your body.
Transportation will most likely consist of train fare, and if you buy a Suica card you already have around 2000 yen to play around with before you have to recharge. I don’t know about the Pasmo card but I’m guessing that you should get around the same amount to start off with for fare payments.
This of course will be depleted quickly if you’re hopping around whatever city that you happen to be in. It’s best to keep that in mind when it comes to figuring out your expense budget in this area.
The above applies to the average person. Unfortunately it is completely plausible that those of you who are reading this are not average. You are far from it and if your interests coincide with that of this site, your tastes are considerably more expensive than the typical Japan bound tourist.
For the J-Pop, anime, fashion or food obsessed fan you are going to need $500 and up per day to feed your habit(s). Japan is not cheap, especially if you plan to be in major urban centers or certain districts that cater to your cravings.
At this point I should mention that Japan is still a very cash centralized society. It’s not unusual to see people whipping out large wads of bills or piles of coins. By the way, if you don’t like coins, well tough. You’re going to get a shit load of them so be prepared to be weighed down by change.
Another thing I would like to point out is this. Do not go to Japan expecting that your credit card will bail your ass out if you run out of money. Cash is king and if you find a place that accepts a VISA or Mastercard cool. Be ready to see those awesome interest fees due to international exchange to your local currency when you get home.
Another word of warning is to expect to not see an ATM. They’re not exactly the most accessible and odds are your banking card won’t be accepted unless the institution that owns the machine is connected to the Cirrus network in some capacity. Even then finding a 24 hour or even an 8 hour ATM is about as fun as getting your teeth pulled.
Best advice is to buy your Japanese currency before you leave and bring more than you expect to spend to be safe.
Now that we have that lecture out of the way let’s continue. Given that my expertise lies in J-Pop and all things music I’ll simply focus on this fandom from this point on for examples of expenses. These won’t be perfect, but they can be used as a rough guideline for your own budgetary needs.
Let’s start with the average price of a CD. Singles will cost you anywhere from 1000 – 2000 yen depending on how many goodies come packed with the original audio content (i.e. a DVD) or if you’re getting a first press run.
Full length albums go from 2500 up to 5000 yen. Again this depends on the number of audio CD’s and the extras. Obviously something that comes with a Blu-Ray instead of a regular DVD is going to be pricier. Long time buyers of idol pop/J-Pop already know how expensive singles and albums can get, especially considering that multiple versions are the norm for the more popular musical acts.
If you are like me and prefer concert DVD’s then expect to have your wallet raped even further. These are priced similar to albums so it’s not really too bad. It’s when you get into Blu-Ray’s that perhaps you may want to take a picture of your money before you hand it over to the cashier.
Blu-Ray’s start closer to 3000 yen and can max out near 7000 yen depending on the artist and how elaborate the package is.
If you happen to want to get a box set of concerts from the more popular idol acts then you’re looking at closer to 20,000 yen and up. A steep price to pay but if this is your thing; you gotta know what you’re getting into.
Of course the alternative and money saving method of obtaining music and concerts (that I used at times) is to simply write down the stuff you see in the stores (if you can read Japanese) and try before you buy via your local provider of downloads. I’m not condoning this practice but if you’re strapped for cash it allows you to be picky about what physical copies you do want to take home with you while maximizing your chances at getting new music at the same time.
Besides music there is plenty of idol merchandise to be had off the beaten path. Resellers will be your friends in this regard. The ones I went to were located in Akihabara but I believe we had scouted some in Nakano but didn’t have time to make it there on the last trip. These places are also a double-edged sword because you could end up like a kid in a candy store and blow your entire wad in one spot.
Search hard enough and sometimes you can find yourself a sweet deal on CD’s at less than retail price. You don’t get any of the goodies like photo cards or handshake tickets but you get everything else left behind for below cost.
Photo cards and other memorabilia are also rather affordable depending on the member you’re interested in. At the moment AKB related stuff is the most abundant and the most expensive. Hello! Project fans are in luck because from what I saw in my short time at the resellers photo cards are at fire sale prices with the exception of the newer generations from the various groups.
If you decide to go this route for idol merch I recommend being patient and visiting several locations for the best price for what you’re looking for. The potential for high demand items to go quickly is there, but that is the risk you take for being a picky shopper. Should the need arise to pick something up right then and now go for it and feel the buyers remorse later when you find it cheaper somewhere else.
Are you not comfortable paying variable prices for stuff that just isn’t worth it? Consider finding a local Book Off store instead. You may find what you want without feeling like you got bent over the counter at the end.
The only thing I would be wary of in any second hand shop are photo books. Wota are a strange lot and lord knows what the hell they did with those things before dumping them for a cash grab.
Now that we got that out of the way lets move on to clothing. I’m probably not an expert in this field since I am Charles Barkley size in Japan and can’t fit into anything; but from what I saw while shopping with and for others the prices are rather reasonable and perhaps a bit more expensive than your average North American retail shops.
Of course the only clothing stores I’ve ever been in are Lacoste, Uniqlo, BAPE and Adidas so maybe I’m not one to speak on this topic too much. I do know that specialty brands like BAPE will equal the cost of your first born depending on what you want to buy. But hey, you’ll look cool wearing some Japanese brand no one in your country has heard of.
In the end it’s best to do some homework on the stores you want to visit ahead of time and get a rough idea of how much you may end up spending in each one when it comes to clothes. Print out or save pictures of the items you are looking for to whatever mobile device you’ll be using out there in case you have to end up asking for something & have to use non-verbal communication.
A picture is worth a thousand words right?
During your shopping trips many other things will tempt you to open your wallet. I urge you to resist and try to fulfill any requests from home and your own personal must haves before getting your body pillows and Tengas.
The operative word here is “try”. Try to stay within your limits. But if you can’t, use the same excuse I did, “I’m on vacation.” and spend happily. To give you an idea of this theory in action, I went to Japan with about $2500 CAD and came back with $30.
So maybe follow the wise words of Yoda instead, “Do or do not. There is no try.”