Things that make you go hmmmm
Japan, wonderful as it can be, has its downsides. One of them is expenses that a) come out of nowhere, b) seem to make no sense, and c) turn out to be non-negotiable ;)
Someone (sorry, I can't remember who it was) suggested this as a topic for a blog post, and it's a great idea.
So, in no particular order, here are five Japan-only expenses that will baffle, enrage, and frustrate you.
1. 'Key money'
Key money (reikin, literally 'gift money') is money paid to the landlord when you move in, for no reason. It normally exists alongside deposits and real estate fees. It is basically one or more months rent, paid in advance to the landlord, to say thank you for allowing me to pay you rent every month. Baffling although thankfully much less common in Sendai now.
2. Elementary school bags
Those leather, uncomfortable-looking bags (randoseru) all the elementary school kids have cost at least 25,000 yen and often much more (70,000+). They are so expensive that parents often can't afford them, instead asking grandparents to chip in. All for a heavy, bulky, uncomfortable bag that is touted as lasting six years, something that makes little sense given that it is unlikely to fit the child at both six and twelve years of age. Madness.
3. Money gifts
It seems like any occasion in Japan requires a cash gift, often in a little envelope designed just for the purpose. In some ways this is nice, as it's much easier to put some money in an envelope than choose a thoughtful gift. On the other hand, a lot of these situations wouldn't require anything in the UK. You can expect to have to shell out cash if someone is in the hospital, if they leave a workplace, if they move house, if they die (and you attend the funeral or any of the endless follow-up ceremonies), and most of all if they get married. A wedding will cost you serious cash, from 10,000 yen if you are young and single to 50,000+ yen if you are married and related to the bride or groom. If you are in your late twenties or thirties you might see a considerable amount of your income disappearing into other people's wedding parties. Ouch!
4. House building gifts
Quite apart from paying some house builder stupid amounts of money, you may also be asked to pay the local temple to bless the building, and then also provide money, snacks, and drinks for the work crew (why is their employer not taking care of this?).
5. Coming of Age ceremony (girls)
This one's a doozy. When your daughter turns twenty it will be necessary for her to rent a kimono and take professional pictures of the event. This often runs into the hundreds of thousands of yen. Enjoy!
Every one of these completely took me by surprise, and most of them made me angry. However, they are part of Japanese culture and often unavoidable (I guess you could gaijin smash your way out of some of them, but there would be consequences to your relationships and reputation).
Any more? I'm sure there are many I have forgotten, and even more I am not yet aware of...