How much does it cost to live in Tokyo?

Tokyo is well-known as one of the world’s most expensive cities.  In this year’s Employment Conditions Abroad (ECA) survey, Tokyo was named the world’s most expensive city for expats.  The Japanese capital is consistently ranked as the world’s most expensive city or among the most expensive in cost of living rankings such as Mercer’s 2009 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey.

Exactly how much do things cost in Tokyo?  Here are a few prices to give you some idea of what items and services cost in central Tokyo.  (Prices may differ in other areas of Japan or even Tokyo.)

  • One room apartment:  100,000-200,000 yen/month
  • Cell phone bill: 7000~ yen/month
  • McDonald’s Big Mac:  340 yen
  • Starbucks Tall Latte:  370 yen
  • Pair of movie tickets:  3600 yen
  • Taxi  (minimum fare):  710 yen
  • Pack of cigarettes:  300 yen
  • Domino’s large pepperoni pizza:  2180 yen
  • Can of beer:  250 yen
  • Subway ticket (within Tokyo):  160-300 yen
  • Round trip bullet train ticket (Tokyo-Kyoto):  26,640 yen
  • Fashion magazine:  650 yen
  • Some others

As in any country, prices differ depending on where you live, even within the city of Tokyo.  Likewise, Japanese people’s attitudes toward money and cost of goods can also differ depending on the region.  Apparently people in Osaka will point out and brag about how cheap an item is, whereas those in Tokyo might focus on how expensive an item is.  Also, older generations often seek out higher priced brands or goods either for status or belief that they are better quality, while today’s younger generations are starting to seek out lower priced brands that allow them to express individuality and save money.

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Bringing Japanese fashion to the rest of the world

Tokyo is one of the world’s most influential fashion hubs and home to some of the most trendy young people today.  Head to one of the city’s shopping districts of Shibuya or Harajuku and you’ll find hundreds or thousands of young men and women shopping for (and wearing) some of the hottest trends.  Although Japan has been a huge market for luxury European brands, the younger generations are becoming more interested in the hip, more affordable foreign (H&M, Forever 21, Abercrombie & Fitch) and Japanese brands.

In order to showcase and promote local brands, Branding Inc., a company that also runs girlswalker.com and fashionwalker.com, began the Tokyo Girls Collection (TGC) fashion event in 2005.  The unique blend of Tokyo street fashion and music is held twice a year and attracts over 20,000 visitors, mostly 20-30 year old stylish, fashion-conscious women.  Tickets to the event run between 5500 and 7500 yen.  The program includes a fashion show featuring more than 20 brands and 70 celebrity models, live musical performances by some of Japan’s top artists, charity auction, and other cosponsored events.

All of the clothes are  wearable and catered toward the general female public. Apparently, the event has attracted a large amount of media attention both locally and abroad, has had a large influence on what Japanese girls wear, and has helped sales of the particular brands and items in the shows.

What makes it unique?

The TGC spotlights the latest in “everyday” fashion as opposed to “art” fashion that is usually the focus of a catwalk show.  Styles reflect the local culture and are made for real people.  Unlike many fashion shows, the TGC is open to the public, not just fashion industry people.  One of the most unique aspects of the event is the use of ecommerce.  During the show, visitors can purchases items they see on the runway instantly by accessing sites via cell phones.

Tokyo may not offer the amazing bargains found in China or other Asian countries, but the latest styles, sheer number of choices, and relative affordability draws not only locals, but also shoppers from around the world.  Next spring the TGC will begin bringing Japanese fashion to Asia with a show in Beijing.  Although shows have been held there before, this is the first time it will be open to the public.  TGC also has plans to head to Singapore and Taiwan.

Tokyo Girls Collection site:  http://gw.tv/tgc/

“World No Tobacco Day”

May 31st was the 23rd annual “World No Tobacco Day.”

Started by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1987, World No Tobacco Day draws global attention to tobacco use and the health hazards associated with it.  The day is also intended to encourage people to abstain from all forms of tobacco use and consumption.

This year’s theme is “gender and tobacco, with an emphasis on marketing to women.”  According to the WHO, although women make up only about 20% of the world’s 1 billion smokers, female smoking rates are rising and tobacco ads increasingly target girls and women especially as they gain spending power and independence, particularly in the developing areas in Asia.

Some images from the WHO World No Tobacco Day site are below (smoking=ugly, not fashionable, not chic):

Image from WHO
Image from WHO
Image from WHO

Some facts from the WHO:

-Approximately the same number of girls as boys in half of 151 recently surveyed countries use tobacco.  (In some, more girls use than boys.)

-Women make up 64% of all deaths attributed to second-hand smoke.

-Tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world (one in 10 adults worldwide-about 5 million deaths each year)

-If current tobacco usage continues, smoking will kill 8 million people per year by 2030 (and 2.5 million will be women).

-Each day 3,000 people die from tobacco use in the Asia-Pacific region where smoking and chewing tobacco among women/girls is on the rise.

The international launch of World No Tobacco Day 2010 took  place right here in Tokyo with a press conference at the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.  Various events were apparently held around the country to raise awareness and promote the day.

Image from Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare

Although the number of smokers in Japan remains relatively high compared to other developed nations, (the Japan Health Promotion and Fitness Foundation estimated that as of 2009 approximately 38.9% of Japanese men and 11.9% of Japanese women were smokers) in recent years small changes have begun to take place such as removing cigarette vending machines from public offices and buildings and banning smoking in some restaurants/bars or certain areas or towns.

Recently Japan’s largest cigarette maker, Japan Tobacco released its “Zero Style Mint” smokeless cigarette.  The user inserts a tobacco cartridge into the stick which resembles a normal cigarette.  Although the smoker still gets the shot of nicotine and tobacco and menthol taste, no smoke is emitted.  The set of one stick and two cartridges is being sold in the Tokyo area for around 300 yen.  Apparently sales have been strong due to the fact that smokeless cigarettes allow people to smoke in traditionally non-smoking areas (airplanes, non-smoking train cars, etc.) and smokers feel these will allow them to have good “smoking manners” by not offending non-smokers with second-hand smoke.

The Japanese perception and image of smoking is still “fashionable” and not nearly as negative as it is in many Western nations, but maybe that will begin to change as more and more people become aware of and affected by the dangers and health risks.