Low-Rent Adventures in Japan: A Konami Life on a Capcom Salary

You may have heard that things other than electronics are expensive in Japan. And if you just walk up to the most obvious shops and try to buy things that you normally associate with cheapness back home, you may well get this impression. Indeed, a loaf of bread, 10 slices of bologna and some mustard will fight your homesickness for the old trailer park for a while, but it won’t be easy on your wallet.

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A Konami Life on a Capcom Salary

You may have heard that things other than electronics are expensive in Japan. And if you just walk up to the most obvious shops and try to buy things that you normally associate with cheapness back home, you may well get this impression. Indeed, a loaf of bread, 10 slices of bologna and some mustard will fight your homesickness for the old trailer park for a while, but it won’t be easy on your wallet.

In this first in a (not necessarily consecutive) series of peeks into living the cheap life on the Island of Spiky-haired Androgynites, I’ll teach you how to keep your colon overflowing with delicious foods for pennies on the dollar…wait, yen on the yen? Anyway, I present to you the ancient secrets of…

The Hangaku Hunter

It’s Friday afternoon. If you’re like most suckers, you’re shedding bittersweet tears of joy knowing that while this is the longest possible time until you have to go back to work, come Monday your happiness will be cruelly ripped away from you again. And if you’re like most Japanese men, you’re stumbling along the sidewalk drunk or pretending to be, getting in the way of my bike and severely agitating me. And if you’re like me, you’re making your own hours, being your own boss and living the life you’ve always dreamed of with my exciting new system! But that’s another article.

The first step on our amazing weekly journey to low prices is killing time. In my case, the specified time until which time must be killed is 9 p.m., because my supermarket closes at 10. I find the best and cheapest way is to stop off at a karaoke box—in my case Jankara (see my Nov. ’05 article), a large franchise whose rules and lack of overt racism I am familiar with. If it’s your thing, you can also take this chance to take advantage of their free drinks. A variety of cocktails and some other drinks including whiskey are included in the base price. I choose coffee.

So now we’re loaded with either free coffee or alcohol, and it’s time to indulge our fat tooth, hopefully getting enough to last us the week in the process. So we stroll into our local War-Malt about 30 minutes to closing. Today I’m in the mood for some fried beef cutlets. Of course, cooking them would take too much time and effort, the former of which those of us who like to eat things like fried beef cutlets don’t have too much of, so I’m hoping that they’ve got some cooked up and waiting for me. And verily…

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…here they are!

But ouch! Look at that price. No, that won’t do. Give up and be a hippie who cooks his own food? That’s what an ignorant or impatient man might do, but before we give up, take a walk with me over to the egg salad…

Now here’s how it’s gonna go down. We’re gonna play it cool over here, walk around and pretend like we’re looking at shit. I promise you that any minute now a skinny little Japanese man in a stereotypical chef getup (for a look at other instances of this interesting (read: retarded) phenomenon, see the 50s style cops complete with hats, white gloves and whistles) is gonna walk in from that door carrying with him a roll of magical stickers. And they ain’t purikura….

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In our less primitive tongue, these two characters respectively represent “half” and “price” (note that this particular sticker is replacing another previous sticker that said “20% off”). And as you might guess, whatever they are affixed costs half of what’s printed on the label. Apparently Japanese grocery stores throw out their food at night instead of just leaving it for you to eat the next day like a few of the American convenience stores I’ve worked at, so at a certain time of night they cut the prices to get what they can for it. It’s obviously a battle of wills—they know that we are hungry and too tired to cook, but we have to stand firm and refuse to buy until they fold and give us our glorious red stickers. I’ve seen them hold out until 9:45 before, but never later.

Okay, here he comes. Start walking casually toward him as he rubs the sticker on. Now, I know that scraggly bachelor in the wrinkled business suit is eyeing the same prize we are, so we’ve gotta be assertive. They look scary, but they’ll always back down to a foreigner.

Yeah, take all five trays of them—no remorse! And now that we’ve got the cutlets, we can scavenge some side dishes from what the bachelor and his friends have left behind.

It was a good hunt. The Japanese pagan gods have truly blessed us. Just don’t tell the real God when we go back home—I hear he’s jealous.

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I usually buy in bulk about once a week and then freeze the precooked food, but here’s a particularly manly single meal I bought one night when I felt like celebrating (Robocop had finished downloading).

One slice of Pizza, one chicken sandwich, a dish of curry, a huge plate of garlic barbequed chicken and a cinnamon bun, for 641 yen. Expensive my ass.

In closing, it’s worth noting that there are some expenses around which there seems to be no way. For example, it’s totally worth it to pay a little extra and get the Simpsons box sets in the Japanese dual language editions, right? Even for a hundred dollars a season? I waited forever for a hangaku sticker on those babies, but it looks like it ain’t happening.

japlish

japlish

I think paraphrasing David Cross is the only way to go here.

I don’t remember ordering the Christian [pizza]. No, I didn’t…I know, ‘cause if they would’ve asked I definitely would have had the Buddhist pasta.

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From 2005 to 2009

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