We’d like to introduce you to Tiffany—one of our all-star writers here at Tokyo Cheapo and Japan Cheapo. Her insanely good research skills will have any reader feel sure and secure about any cheapo endeavor they undertake. Wanna find all the weirdest kit kats? Visit Gunkanjima Battleship Island? Sleep in a capsule hotel? Or even get a geisha makeover? She’s got the ultimate in depth answer to all your cheapo questions.
1) How long have you been in Tokyo and where were you before?
I’ve been here since September 2013, but this isn’t my first move to Tokyo. I’m from Manila, Philippines, but I’ve been to Japan several times for vacations, and I spent 5 months in Tokyo as an exchange student from September 2009 to January 2010.
2) What brought you to Japan/Tokyo?
I’m here for grad school. I really enjoyed my short exchange program in Tokyo, and I resolved to myself that I’d come back to Japan somehow. One day in Manila, I saw a poster for a master’s program in Tokyo that really interested me, and, having plans to pursue further studies anyway, I applied for it, and the rest is history.
But why Japan, of all countries? Well, this is probably a common answer, but I was exposed to Japanese pop culture as a child. It wasn’t just that, though—several vacations to Japan made me fall in love with Japan’s tourist spots, learn more about the culture, and admire its safety, cleanliness, and efficiency (Japan isn’t perfect, sure, but there are a lot of things my home country could learn from it). That led me to study Nihongo in university, and, eventually, to come here as a student.
3) Tell us a bit about your work life in Tokyo.
I’m a student, but I teach English and write for Tokyo Cheapo on a part-time basis to get by.
4) Briefly describe a typical day in your life?
On a weekday, you’ll usually find me teaching English to kids in the morning, then going to school and/or working on thesis (of course, I also try to rest in between!). On some nights, I also teach English. There’s the occasional interesting event on a weekday, but otherwise, my weekdays are uneventful.
On weekends, I usually try to do or visit something or someplace interesting. Also, I do chores—not very exciting; I know. When things get really busy, I have no choice but to stay home and study some more.
5) Tell us about your writing experience.
I wrote for the school paper in high school, and even got promoted to editorial positions during my junior and senior years. In university, I was a writer (eventually managing editor) for my organization’s official publication, and I managed that organization’s official website. I also won some writing awards: two essay-writing contests in 2006 and 2011, and another one for creative non-fiction in 2009. I maintained some blogs here and there, but Tokyo Cheapo is the first professional writing job I’ve ever had.
Harajuku, the home of fashion, cuteness, crepes and more crepes, here's a guide to some fun free things to do.
6) What do you like most and least about Tokyo?
Most: It’s a large, interesting, and exciting city. Even though my weekdays are usually uneventful, and even though I’m not a drinker or a partier, Tokyo has no shortage of events and activities for me to check out—cultural events (e.g. festivals, the international events at Yoyogi Park), hobby-related gatherings (e.g. craft meetups, workshops), and the occasional wacky or geeky event. There are also groups for a wide range of interests: for instance, it was in Tokyo that I became acquainted with savate, or French kickboxing. I know that Tokyo isn’t the only city in the world where you can find people with a variety of interests and hobbies – that’s the case for big cities – but remember, I come from Manila, which is a lot smaller. I think these interest groups provide me with opportunities to meet new people and learn new things, which keeps drudgery from setting in.
Least: I hope you don’t mind my giving more than one thing, as I couldn’t settle on just one. I don’t think the NHK fees make sense, especially if you really aren’t using your device to watch NHK in the first place. I also don’t like how it’s easier for me to be exposed to secondhand smoke here than in other countries. It’s a personal choice to smoke, but, having inhaled a lot of secondhand smoke as a child (no thanks to an after-school tutor who smoked a lot), I don’t really want to damage my lungs any further.
7) What’s your biggest expense?
Just as Grigoris said – rent!
8) What do you blow out money on (i.e. what’s the fruit of all your cheapo savings)?
First, the “boring” stuff: I save money so I can pay tuition (I’m a scholar but I still need to pay it) and have even a small amount of savings for my future and possible emergencies. When I can, I spend money on hobbies and travel. I want to see as much of Japan as I can!
9) What are your top three Tokyo cheapo tips?
- If you’re planning to live here, the 100-yen shop is your best friend. You’d be surprised at how much items for daily living you can find! As for larger items like furniture, you can find them for a significantly reduced price, or even for free, by searching Craigslist (just beware of scammers) or joining Facebook groups like Mottainai Japan and In Search Of- Japan.
- Looking for cheap sushi? There’s a kaitenzushi chain called Muten Kura Sushi where most plates (with some exceptions—mostly side dishes) are 108 yen. Obviously, it’s not gourmet sushi (don’t even expect to find ootoro here), but it’s cheap, fun, and pretty good, considering the price. They’ve got unique variations on sushi like salmon cheese sushi
- Cheap shopping? Yes, it’s possible (not dirt-cheap but relatively cheap). Instead of going to malls and department stores, head for the shotengai (shopping streets). Of course, not all shops on shotengai are cheap, but you can find bargains here and there. There are also more mom-and-pop shops on shotengai, so you’ll be supporting local enterprises. Ameyoko in Ueno is a famous shotengai. Kichijoji, Nakano, and Asagaya also have shotengai.
10) Do you have a website/social media account we for people/stalkers who’d like to find out more about you?
I’m trying to maintain a blog called Golden Time Lover, but I’m busy, so I haven’t been updating it as much as I would’ve wanted to. It’s an attempt to document the interesting experiences I’ve had in my life. I just thought that if ever my life becomes stagnant when I grow older, this blog will hopefully remind me of the things I’ve done and motivate me to get out of that rut (or prevent me from getting into that rut in the first place). While the blog was largely started for personal reasons, it’s public for a reason (most of my old blogs were friends-locked): I hope that people will also be interested in my writing, and it’s also an exercise in writing for an audience.
Our guide to prepay SIM cards, wifi routers, cafe wifi and other places to quickly find wifi whilst visiting Japan.