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Show Me the Money…in Tokyo

Hey Podcasters,

Today I finished up lessons 15 and 16 in JapanesePod101.com’s Survival Phrases. I also did lessons 17, 18, and 19 in SurvivalPhrases.com Japanese. The lessons focused on banking and shopping/using prices here in Tokyo.

Harajuku weekend crowd

This is an example of a weekend crowd in Harajuku taken this past weekend. [Photo by Emily Carsch]

In case you missed it in the podcast, the easiest way to think about the “kokan reto“, exchange rate, to date between American dollars and Japanese yen is 1:100. If something costs 600 yen, it’s equivalent to $6 USD. 2500 JPY is $25 USD. You can just think about it by knocking off the two back numbers (usually zeros) put on the yen to get the dollar amount.

Because I will be in Tokyo for two months, I opened a Citibank account, since it is the only American ginko, bank, that is all over Tokyo. There is actually a Citibank right across from JapanesePod101.com, so it’s really easy to run over to the ATM and pull out some cash when I’m on the go. If you’re going to be here for an extended amount of time, I suggest you look into doing the same thing. It’s much easier than trying to find the “yubinkyoku“, post office, and hoping your card is one of the ones accepted there.

A really important note worth mentioning, if you don’t already know this about Tokyo, the entire city is very reliant on “genkin“, cash. In America, most people use credit and debit cards consistently. This is not the case in Tokyo. I have found that places like McDonalds do not even take credit cards. Cash is a necessity and it is safe to carry several hundred dollars in your wallet if that is what you end up doing. To function in this city, have cash on you at all times.

My apologies to those readers not from America for making my banking comparison comments specific to the United States. It’s what I know to make comparisons to.

When it comes to shopping and paying for different things, I have found that Tokyo is similar in price to major cities like New York, London, Paris, and my hometown, Los Angeles. It definitely isn’t cheap for an “edokko“, or Tokyoite, so if you’re looking to stay on a budget, be sure to plan ahead. I have found that I spend somewhere between 5000 to 8000 Yen per day on food, transportation, and other small miscellaneous expenses.

Survival Phrases Japanese lesson 18 talks about asking for discounts and lowering prices. Though I haven’t been here long, I have yet to go into a place where one is able to bargain. I also haven’t found any open-air markets yet that would allow for such actions. If you know of one, please respond and tell me about it!

This past weekend, I went to Harajuku to check out all of the shopping in the area. If you are unfamiliar with it, you might recognize this Tokyo district for the infamous Harajuku girls that dress up like dolls and animated characters and allow you to take pictures of them.

Harajuku was overwhelming, but a lot of fun. There are a plethora of shops from high-end like Dior, to vintage tee shirt shops, chain stores like The North Face, and mom and pop shops each selling tons of different things to adorn yourself with from head to toe.

This is a fun place to check out if you’re looking to shop. If you’re there on a weekend, be prepared for major crowds. This district is full of people, especially if it’s a nice day out.