Out of Japan: Guide books help in battle against the mighty yen

TOKYO - Picture the dismay of Mr Everyman who has just flown into Japan, and been foolish enough to get a taxi from the airport to the centre of Tokyo - the fare was pounds 200, possibly more if the traffic was bad.

Trying to forget the pain of handing over a small fortune to the taxi driver, he has scouted out a sushi restaurant near his hotel for some of that famous raw fish he was told about, only to find that the cheapest set dinner costs about pounds 50. Everyman retires to a bar, and orders a beer which, he discovers, sells for pounds 10 a pint. He could be forgiven for wanting to get on the next plane out - except for that horrendous taxi fare back to the airport.

With the yen continuing to appreciate against most foreign currencies - a consequence of Japan's enormous trade surplus - foreigners are finding the already high prices now verging on the absurd. When I came to Tokyo nearly three years ago, pounds 1 was about 250 yen, and dollars 1 was hovering around 125 yen. Now pounds 1 fetches a mere 159 yen, and dollars 1 last week briefly dipped below 100 yen for the first time.

The pathology of the high yen leads to three different human reactions. Some foreigners living in Tokyo - the paranoiacs - spend their entire waking lives talking, worrying and complaining about the high prices. Others - the psychotics - blow their foreign currency salaries in a week-long binge at the beginning of the month, and remain poor, underfed or in debt for the rest of the time. And then there are the milder neurotics, who are determined to seek a middle way, surviving against all the odds. For them a series of books have come out recently, dedicated to a cut- price, economic gravity-defying, reasonably humane existence in the shadow of the mighty yen.

Living for Less in Tokyo - and Liking it] proclaims itself to be the guide to 'the smartest, least expensive way to enjoy life in Tokyo'. This starts with the cheapest transport between Tokyo and Narita airport: pounds 5.86 on the slow Kesei railway, or pounds 18 on the faster Narita Express line. The book has maps of discount shopping districts, and suggests restaurants for cheap, filling meals: for instance, the Takeya in Ueno, which offers all the sukiyaki grilled beef you can eat at pounds 11.25 for women, and pounds 12.50 for men.

A cheap way of getting to China? Forget the overpriced airfares - take the ferry from Yokohama to Shanghai. At pounds 156 one way, it is half the price of the plane. Similarly, overnight buses to Kyoto ( pounds 44.38) are about half the price of a bullet-train ticket. A Japan rail pass can save huge amounts on the country's railway system, but it must be bought outside Japan at a Japan Tourism office or Japan Airlines outlet.

Japan, A Budget Travel Guide, written by Ian McQueen, has some more off-beat suggestions: how about a month's Zen meditation session with the monks of Shinsho-ji temple in Hiroshima? Board and lodging included (albeit vegetarian food) is a bargain at pounds 700. Cheap noodles can always be sucked up at stands in or close to railway stations at about pounds 3.75 for a steaming bowl. And if you really want to buy a kimono as a souvenir or a present, watch out for special sales of used wedding kimonos at department stores: they are often knocked down from the new price of more than pounds 6,000 to as little as pounds 62.50.

And if you are stuck for a cheap hotel, try going to a 'love hotel', designed for short-term assignations, late at night. After about 11pm business tails off, and for as little as pounds 37 you can have a bed for the night, provided you can put up with the mirrored ceiling, harem decor, porno video library and condom vendor in the corner.

Japan, Cheap and Easy, by Robert Magee, has a helpful list of Tokyo's pawn shops for those who are stretched financially. There is also a section on rental shops - where to rent suitcases, formal clothes, karaoke sets, golf clubs and anything else you might not want to buy at yen prices. Magee also suggests that buying household goods from other foreigners who are leaving Japan is an easy way of saving money when setting up home: the English-language papers have ads from departing expatriates every Sunday.

Finally, Eating Cheap in Japan: the Foreign Gourmet's Guide to Ordering in Non-tourist Restaurants sets out to help newcomers save money while eating well. It includes such information as the ingredients of 43 different noodle dishes. If only Everyman had read some of these books before he arrived he wouldn't be taking all those tranquillisers.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

Arts and Entertainment
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

English Teacher- Manchester

£19200 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you a ...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes