Southern Osaka at dusk.
Southern Osaka at dusk. David Stuart

End the myth: Japan is less expensive than you think it is

YASUI. Remember that word. It means cheap in Japanese.

"I'd love to visit Japan, but I just don't have that kind of cash."

As somebody who lived in Japan for half a decade, I hear this a lot.

Back in the pre-busted-bubble days, prices were, indeed, quite caustic.

Everybody has heard about the 20,000 yen (~$200) rock melons. They exist. Not yasui!

The truth is, getting grub in your belly and a roof over your head is much cheaper in Japan than in Australia.

Chain restaurants sell tasty square meals for under 10 bucks and you can get your own room in a minjuku, Japanese-style hostel, with breakfast included for under fifty dollars a night. Surely that rates as yasui?

The prices in most local restaurants haven't changed in fifteen years - obvious with the flaking paint on the menu boards.

You're a broke sushi fan? Expect dollar-plates of high-quality fresh raw fish flesh on a mini mound of rice. Yasui!

Feeling thirsty? A frosty beverage is waiting within arm's reach in a conveniently located vending machine for just over a dollar. Need a quick caffeine fix? The same vending machine will also give you a sickeningly sweet can of hot or cold coffee for the same price. Yasui!

Need a place to rest your weary head but don't have a lot of cash? Do what my friend did and stay in one of the hotels in southern Osaka for under twenty bucks a night. Sure you can touch both sides of the room at the same time. And, sure the urinals are uncomfortably close to the communal kitchen. But, yasui!

Want to live in Japan? You can have your own tidy and tiny pad in a big city for about $200 a week.

Many of my ex-smoking friends resumed the filthy habit in Japan because they could buy a packet of fags without breaking their credit card.

Japan is cheap. And recently, it's not uncommon to get direct flights there and back for under a grand.

With the abundance of Michelin-starred restaurants and designer-label boutiques, Japan also caters for the high spenders. Yes, it is easy enough to wander into the wrong bar, have a couple of beers and be presented with an offensive bill that could shock Donald Trump. But for those wishing to watch their wallet and willing to exercise common sense, you can eat like a king and spend a lot less than a tourist would in Australia.

So, stop spreading the myth and remember the word yasui.
 



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