Cheapo Guidelines


The target audience is English speakers either residing in or near Tokyo, those with an interest in Japan (including former residents) and those planning a visit to Tokyo.  Because the US represents the biggest group of English media consumers in the world, the biggest single national group of readers is either living in or from the US.  However, approximately 1/5 readers has their browser set to a language other than English—the biggest single language group being Japanese.

This is useful for thinking about the type of content, but there is no need to simplify your message for the readers who aren’t native English speakers. Also, given the diversity of our audience, it’s important to provide context to your posts—it’s better to over explain slightly than leave people alienated or struggling to pick up the context. An example of this would be someone like ‘Governor Ishihara’. If you’re not based in Japan you might not have a clue who this is or what the context might be. Therefore you might want to phrase it ‘controversial octogenarian governor of Tokyo: Shintaro Ishihara’’.


Laughter makes the world go round, humor is always welcome. In case you haven’t noticed, we don’t take anything too seriously.

Careful not to “Japan bash”

We want to keep things happy—imagine kittens playing.

Of course from a non-Japanese perspective (which is much of our audience) many aspects of Japanese culture and society appear bizarre/broken/funny/scary, but we want to be sensitive and insightful when writing about them.

As a rule of thumb, imagine that your Japanese native friend/relative/significant other reads all your posts.

Generally related to the Tokyo area

+ Japan cheapo tips okay (Saizeriya is all over the country)
+ Specific tips for Kanto okay (e.g. great Italian place in Kamakura)—but majority of content should be Tokyo
+ Specific tips outside Kanto are too far away (e.g. great izakaya in Osaka), so avoid these
+ Trips out of Tokyo okay as long as they are starting out in Tokyo (e.g. the Seishun 18 ticket)

Definition of ‘cheap’

Cheap is a relative expression. We like things that are low cost but don’t necessarily require a huge compromise. By far the cheapest way to get to Narita Airport from central Tokyo is to walk; the compromise (a 1-day+ walk) is too great, so we wouldn’t suggest it. ‘Experiential’ things are good though—for example, staying the night in an internet cafe is a big compromise in comfort but a very unique experience.

The ultimate ‘cheap’, which consequently helps to uniquely position the site is not just finding something for a low price, it’s when you discover a ‘hack’—a completely different way of approaching something that makes the price ridiculously cheap when compared to the alternative. An example of this is ‘all-you-can-drink’ wine for free at lunch buffets, or getting into a food trade show to enjoy gourmet food for free. Obviously every article can’t be like this, but you should be on the look-out for these gems.

Don’t be too wide ranging in your topic

We want this site to continue for many years, so we’re in no hurry to get everything covered. As a rule (with a few exceptions), we try not to cover a wide topic with a single post. For example, if you were to cover cheap yakitori, it would be better to cover a single establishment or perhaps a few cheap establishments in a limited geographical area. A post covering the ‘Top 10 Cheap Yakitori Restaurants in Tokyo’ would mean we wouldn’t easily be able to cover the topic in future.


We have some running themes and are open to starting some new ideas for themes. These make for an efficient way to produce good content, for instance some ongoing themes on the site are ‘Cheapo Eats’ and ‘Cheapo Coffee’. However, we’re interested in anything interesting and new that hasn’t been covered on the web site yet. Feel free to experiment with different angles—while some posts may be written from a consumerist angle, you could approach it from any angle you like—environmental, ethical, anti-consumerism. Challenging articles make people take notice.

Review Policy

Please note that submitting a review in exchange for free services and/or products without prior approval by management is not permitted. This policy is in place so as to be fair to our existing partners/sponsors.

Language and punctuation

Variety of English

We mentioned earlier that the biggest single national group of readers is either living in or from the US. For that reason, and for the sake of conformity, we tend to use American English. That’s right, we yank the “o”s out of words like humor and color and the extra “l”s out of words like traveling and jewelry, but with no prejudice and for the sole purpose of consistency. With that in mind, we try to be sensitive to terms that may cause confusion—such as the names of branded products. For example, something like ‘Tylenol’ will be unfamiliar to readers in Australia and New Zealand.


If you use a Japanese word that is not known in English, you should italicize it the first time it appears. After the first time, it should not be italicized. Additionally, proper nouns are never italicized.

Only use a Japanese word if there is no equivalent word in English. For example, you might use the word kombini to add some local flavor to an article, but don’t use it continually as there is already a perfectly good English term for it (and in case you’re wondering, that term is convenience store). Likewise, don’t use English that doesn’t adequately describe something—for example, ‘lunch box’ or ‘sliced raw fish’ do not adequately describe ‘bento’ and ‘sashimi’ respectively.

Numbers and currency

Japanese yen amounts should be written as 10,000 yen. JPY10,000 is more correct, but readers may be unfamiliar with the ‘JPY’ currency code. The symbols 円 and ¥ should be avoided as they may not display correctly to the reader. Foreign currency equivalents should only be used when the main topic of the article is about a specific and set amount. For example, if you had an article like “A night out in Shinjuku for 1,000 yen” then you might give equivalent foreign currency amounts in dollars (US), euros or pounds. For dollars, always write it as $10 USD—to make it clear you’re talking about US currency.


If we are indicating any measurement—such as height of a building or distance—please use metric measurements.  American standard measurements, like feet and miles, can follow in brackets provided that it doesn’t make the text too heavy—for example, “the Skytree is 634 m (2080 ft) tall.”

Post formatting

‘Standard’ formatting is a photo followed by text, then a map, followed by an ‘info box’. You can add extra photos and tables but at the very least you should try to include the map and info box.

If the article is longer than a few hundred words, consider using sub-headers to logically organize the content. External links should open in a new tab/window.

Pictures and illustrations

Every article should have at least one photo or illustration. If you take your own photos think carefully about framing the shot. Also, look for interesting angles—for example, shop fronts can appear more interesting if taken from an angle to give them some kind of oblique perspective. People add a lot to a photo; passing pedestrians or people on bicycles need not be a hindrance—they could actually make the shot more interesting. The same goes for food or other product shots—think about foreground and background and getting an interesting angle.

Creative Commons


If it’s not possible to take a photo, a good place to look for photos is Flickr. Using the filter function, you can look for images that are available under a “Commercial Use Allowed” Creative Commons license (or “Commercial use & mods allowed” if you plan on making any changes or modifications to the image). If we use the photo, the usual requirement is a photo credit on the site. Fill out the photographer name and link fields once the photo has been uploaded onto WordPress.


You can also use Be sure to check the boxes as seen above.

Final word

Never, ever (we mean it) use ‘found photos’ from Google or other photos for which you don’t have the rights to use.  This includes photos from other blogs or photos in Flickr that aren’t available under a “Commercial Use Allowed” Creative Commons license.

Usage rights and copyright

Copyright to all content submitted to a Cheapo Guides site (Cheapo Guides is the trading name of Fast Train Limited—the company that owns Tokyo Cheapo, Japan Cheapo and other Cheapo sites) remains the property of the author or creator.  However, by submitting your article for publication on Cheapo Guides, you grant Cheapo Guides the right to use, edit and re-purpose your content on other sites owned by Cheapo Guides and in other formats.

Content written for publication on Cheapo Guides cannot be published by the author elsewhere without the express permission of Cheapo Guides.

Content written for publication on Cheapo Guides sites may be published on affiliated sites, but we will ask permission from authors first and we will ensure that the original author gets clear credit for producing the article.

Originally published April 2012. Last updated on September 9, 2016.