Comment on Top 10 Most Expensive Things in Japan by Anonymous:

Having lived and worked in Japan a few years ago, I would readily agree with about half of this list. The other half, the Japanese are smoking crack.

high land and housing prices in Japan are a myth perpetuated from the 1980s, and this has fallen steadily since their property bubble burst in the early 1990s. Even now it is still the cause of the last decade of Japanese productivity – they have experienced the rough equivalent of our 2008-2009 recession for over 15 YEARS now. Land prices NOW in Japan are actually comparable (or even LESS) than many western cities. I can buy an apartment in any Tokyo suburb for less than in my Canadian city now!

University fees are also a myth. This may be different from a foreigner perspective too – as almost every western university also charges higher rates to foreign students whether they are private or public, the overall cost of going to university has gone up dramatically over the last 20 years EVERYWHERE.

Highway tolls? Hell yes. But this is a product of the Japanese government – toll highways were designed specifically to subsidize and support the Japan Rail network, and if you make a simple direct comparison tolls are almost uniformly applied to make driving your car 10-20% more expensive than taking the same journey cross-country by train.

Mobile phones and data charges? HA. Don’t even talk to me – Canada has the highest average cellular rates in the developed world.

Foreign brands? I think that is in part the product of the government creating tariffs and barriers to foreign competition. You don’t see this much in electronics because domestic products are so overwhelmingly dominant, but I never really paid much attention to clothing or other product pricing.
Grocery shopping was comparable but the selection of international brands and products was definitely more limited than your typical western supermarket.
Overall anyone who has visited Japan in the last 3-5 years will certainly say that thanks to stagflation, Japan is nowhere near as expensive as it used to be 20 years ago. Its prices for goods and services have stayed relatively static while everything else in the world has inflated in comparison. However this is all a matter of perspective – I couldn’t really speak to the typical Japanese wage earner’s salary. It’s quite logical that their wages have not appreciated much in this same period too. I was lucky enough to be paid a western-scale salary by my employer so this issue wasn’t visible to me.


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