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2014 Kanji of the Year

15 Dec

Every December, a kanji (Japanese (Chinese) written character) is chosen that represents the biggest news of the year that is just ending. It’s called 「今年の漢字」 (“The Kanji of the Year“).

Last Friday, the kanji of the year for 2014 was chosen. It’s 「」 (zei) which means “tax“.

Every year, when the 「今年の漢字」 (“Kanji of the Year”) is chosen, it’s presented to the public at a special ceremony at a temple in Kyoto where the head monk writes the character and it’s broadcast on TV, newspapers and the internet.

The Kanji of the Year (今年の漢字) for 2014 is 「税」 (“tax”).

The reason that this character was chosen to represent 2014 is because the sales tax in Japan was increased this year for the first time in years.

When I came to Japan in 1990, the sales tax here was 3%. (Until just a couple of years before I came to Japan there was no sales tax here at all!)
It stayed at 3% until 1997 when it was raised to 5% (that year, a law was also passed that the after-tax” price must be shown on all products).
Japan’s sales tax was 5% for seventeen years. It was increased to it’s current 8% last spring (thus the Kanji of the Year is “tax”).
The Japanese government plans to increase the sales tax again next year (in 2015) to 10%!

Currency converter

30 Oct

I haven’t used American money for many years…so I don’t pay attention to the ¥en ←→ US$ exchange rate.

US dollars and Japanese Yen.

But I know that many foreign visitors in Japan like to know what the prices of things here equals in their home currency.
So, I just added a “Currency Converter” to my Smart-phone app.

Do you use my “Tokyo Five Smart-phone app“?

If you install it on your phone, you can enter a Japanese Yen amount in the Currency Converter and it will tell the equivalent amount in U.S. dollars.

There are many other useful features on the app too.

Click here to learn how to install the app.

If you install it…leave a comment here and let me know how you like it.

Specials in Japan

5 May

Many people think that prices in Japan are extravagantly high…but, just like anywhere, “locals” know where to go to get the best deals.

I’ll tell you a few secrets for saving money in Tokyo.

First of all, today is 子供の日 (Children’s Day).
Admission to city zoos is free today. But, be warned, free admission to a zoo in a huge metropolis on a warm day that is also a public holiday means that the zoo will extremely crowded.

Visitors to Japan complain that movie tickets and pizza are too expensive in Japan…and they are—if you pay full price.

For pizza, Shakey’s Pizza has all-you-can-eat specials that range in price from about ¥800 to ¥1,900 depending on what day and what time you go (lunch time on regular weekdays is cheapest).

And Domino’s Pizza has specials often in Japan. Currently they are offering a “Buy one get one free” deal if you pick up the pizza yourself (rather than getting it delivered).

Domino’s Pizza Japan “Buy-One-Get-One-Free” for pick-up orders.

If you go to a movie theater in Japan, you shouldn’t pay the full box-office ticket price.
On the first day of every month, it is “Ladies Day” at the movies in Japan. Women can buy a ticket for only ¥1,000. Some theaters offer discounts on Wednesdays, too.
For men, and on other days, you should buy movie tickets from a チケット・ショップ (“Ticket Shop”) that are found all around Japan.

Ticket Shops sell movie tickets at a discount.

Thay also sell tickets for amusement parks, concerts, sporting events, museum admission, trains, McDonalds coffee, and a number of other things.

You should always try a discount ticket shop before you buy any type of ticket in Japan.

Tickets in a チケット・ショップ (Ticket Shop) in Japan.

Does your country have money-saving techniques such as these that “locals” know about?

Commemorative coins

12 Aug

As I mentioned in an earlier post (Click here to read it), this year (2009) is the twentieth anniversary of the date that the current Japanese emperor took the throne.
The Emperor and Empress’ 50th wedding anniversary was also this year.

So to mark the occasion, two commemorative coins will go on sale from the Bank Of Japan this November.

These coins are a special gold ¥10,000 coin and a special silver ¥500 coin.

The price to purchase the coins will be ¥80,000 (about US$800) for the ¥10,000 coin or ¥82,000 (about US$820) for both coins.

I have a few mint commemorative Japanese coins for various occasions…but ¥80,000 is too steep a price for a coin in my opinion. If they sell the ¥500 coin alone, maybe I’ll buy one…but not the ¥10,000 coin.

Top: front and back of gold commemorative &10,000 coin.  Bottom: front and back of silver commemorative ¥500 coin.

Top: front and back of gold commemorative ¥10,000 coin.Bottom: front and back of silver commemorative ¥500 coin.

アメヤ横丁

26 Dec

Yesterday was クリスマス (Christmas)…hope you had a  「メリー・クリスマス」 (“Merry Christmas“).
As we often do at Xmas, we had dinner at my wife’s parents’ house. My wife’s aunt and her siblings and their kids were all there too. So it was a big dinner with many people. It was alot of fun.

The day before that (Wednesday, December 24), we went to 上野 (Ueno, Tokyo).
We did alot of shopping in the アメヤ横丁 (Ameya-yokochou) area (or アメ横 (Ame-Yoko) for short).

This is an area that used to be a black market right after WW2, but now it rows of stores that sell everything from traditional Japanese snacks to leather jackets to book bags to jewelery to seafood to…whatever!

People who think that Tokyo is expensive often just don’t shop in the right places. アメヤ横丁 (Ameya-yokochou) is one of the many areas in Tokyo where you can buy all kinds of things at very reasonable prices.

Here are some photos that I took there:

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Expensive Fruit

19 Sep

Japan has a reputation for having extremely expensive fruit. You can see people talking on the internet about $100 watermelons and $40 apples in Japan.

This is true. You can find fruit sold for those prices in Japan…but it’s not the normal case.
Usually fruit is sold at normal prices here.

“So, what’s up with the overpriced fruit?” you may wonder.

Those are premium fruits sold to be given as gifts. The best fruit of the season to give someone on a special occasion.

This gift メロン (melon; cantaloupe) sells for 一万円 (¥10,000 (US $90)).

A premium cantaloupe (melon), like the one in the photo above, or apples, pears, tangerines, grapes, peaches, or almost any other fruit can be found priced at about ¥4,000 – ¥30,000 (US $35 – $280) in Japan.

As I mentioned, these fruit items are given to people on special occasions.

Of course, people normally eat “regular” fruit, which can be purchased from the supermarket or a fruit stand at normal prices.

There are many occasions to give gifts in Japan.

    A few examples:

  • When you move into a new house, you give a small gift to your neighbors and introduce yourself (as opposed to the custom in America that is the other way around: people there give the new neighbor a gift).
  • When you go to a wedding or funeral in Japan, you give a gift of money in a special envelope.
  • New Years money to children.
  • When visiting someone (at their home, in a hospital, etc).
  • At the start of a new season (beginning of Summer, Spring, Winter, Autumn), people often give friends a special gift box of coffee, beer, soap, etc.
  • At birthdays and Christmas, of course.
  • When someone does something special for you.
  • To “repay” someone who gave a gift to you.
  • When you return from a trip.

There are other occasions that Japanese give gifts…these are just some of the common ones.