Depending on who you ask, you’re going to get different answers to this one. The first time I planned a trip to Japan I had someone tell me I was going to be shocked at how crazy expensive it was and to be honest I’m not sure where this misconception comes from, especially as someone who comes from a truly expensive country (Australia). Of course, as with any country if you don’t do your research you can end up spending much more than necessary but fear not. When you arrive for your internship, whether you’re staying in Japan for 4 weeks or 4 months it’s certainly possible to live within your means, whatever these may be.
The most important thing, right? Something a lot of tourists notice is the lack of obesity in Japan, in general the Japanese diet is relatively healthy. Living in Tokyo, you’ll of course notice they have a plethora of American chains including McDonalds, Shake Shack and Wendy’s but the difference here is the amount of choice available. For example, Japan has more vending machines than any country in the world but although these contains the usual fare such as cola and juice, they also contain unsweetened green tea, flavoured water and hot corn soup.
Convenience stores, unlike in the west are full of healthy options and they’re extremely well priced. You can get sushi, sandwiches, ramen, salads and more for a few dollars. If you have a kitchen, you can also save money by cooking your own meals, Japanese supermarkets are extremely well-priced and full of healthy and local produce.
Stick to the Japanese cuisine, rice, noodles and fish are cheap and super fresh compared to other countries. Vegetables and fruits might be expensive. 1 Apple might be around ¥100 and a pack of strawberries ¥500 but we can guarantee you that the taste is delish. Bananas, carrots, potatoes, etc. basic veggies and fruits are usually affordable. Japan being famous for its cup noodle offers a lot of (also healthy) varieties to choose from if you’re on a a budget. Eggs here can be eaten raw too… Did you know a typical Japanese breakfast consists of a raw egg on top of rice mixed with natto (fermented soybeans)? Yup…
Eating out can cost anything from $5 – $500 depending on what you choose, if money is an issue you can go out for sushi at low cost or grab a gyudon (beef bowl) for a few dollars. Japanese food is delicious and even if Kobe beef is out of your means, you’ll find (almost) equally delicious food on a budget!
Rent in Tokyo is definitely cheaper than cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, London, New York, etc. so you’ll find something to suit your budget. Starting at around ¥40,000-50,000 ($4-500USD) per month you can find a share house in Tokyo and if you want your own space you’re looking at ¥80,000 ($800 USD) minimum per month. Long story short from around ¥40,000 to ¥100,000 ($400-$1000USD) per month you can find something comfortable and central. If you budget is higher, you’ll find something larger and super central if you prefer.
While interning, you’ll need to invest in a train pass. While you can buy tickets daily it’s much easier to grab yourself a Suica or Pasmo card. These are the equivalent to an Australian Myki, London Oyster Card or the Dutch OV-chipkaart and are a cost-effective and easy to use travel card. The Suica or Pasmo can be used for most train lines as well as some vending machines and convenience stores which is great for when you forget your cash. The cost of travel depends on how far you’re going, for example you could spend anywhere from ¥150 ($1.50USD) to ¥1000 ($10USD) per day on a commute to your internship. On your days off, say you want to take a day trip to Kamakura you’d need around ¥3,000 ($30 USD) for the return trip including a local bus or train once you’re there. Travelling to a different city on your weekend doesn’t have to break the bank, for example the most expensive method of travel to Osaka is via the Shinkansen (bullet train). This is the most comfortable method and has spectacular views but will set you back around ¥30,000 ($300USD)return, whereas a return flight from Tokyo to Osaka starts at around ¥15,000 ($150USD) and if you’re willing to rough it for 8 hours plus, the night bus costs around ¥7,000 ($70USD) return.
General spending will depend on your interests and what you want to do each day, for example entry to museums, gardens and galleries is generally quite reasonable and ranges from ¥200 ($2USD) to ¥2,000 ($20USD). Entry to Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo Disney Sea will set you back ¥7,400 ($74USD) for the day and around the same for Universal Studios Osaka.
This of course is down to the individual and their interests but in general, Japanese prices are quite reasonable. Fashion can be pricey but there are a plethora of excellent thrift stores as well as lower-priced clothing stores in every suburb. Electronics are well priced and second hand goods are very well looked-after making them a good way to save some cash. Anime goods tend to originate here so instead of paying for import costs as you do in other countries, you’ll find the prices are fair and again, second-hand shops are a great resource. You can find great souvenirs for family and friends at any budget, there is a huge selection to choose from.
Hopefully this shed some light on the subject of money during your internship with Zentern, look forward to seeing you in Tokyo!