Tokyo to Kansai Region

For some unexpected reasons, I had to go to Kyoto in July, then Osaka the next week. The easiest solution? A two to three hour ride in the Shinkansen (bullet train). How much is a ride? ~JPY13,000 one way to Kyoto. That’s the end of my plans to ride the Shinkansen. Time to bring the cheap accountant out.

What are my options? Shinkansen, normal train, bus and plane.

  • Shinkansen is JPY13,000 one way, around 2-3 hours.
  • Normal train takes around eight hours, the cheapest I found was JPY9,000.
  • Bus ranges from JPY5,000 to 14,000 depending on the type of bus. The sleeper, high end bus is of course the most expensive. You can do the overnight one, to make the eight-nine hour travel less useless.
  • Plane can be as low as JPY4,000 (Jetstar, Peach, Vanilla) to JPY20,000 (ANA), and less than an hour.
    • However, one should include the travel time to/from the airport and the cost.
    • Based on this, plane rides can only go as low as JPY6,000 and takes around four hours
      • JPY4,000 plane
      • JPY1,000 ticket to Narita
      • JPY1,000 to Osaka from Kansai airport. It’s JPY3,500 from Kansai Airport to Kyoto, though there’s a JPY1,700 option with multiple transfers

It’s a no brainer – it has to be a bus if I’m going to Kyoto, but I have flexibility between flying and using the bus to Osaka.

Willer Bus

I used Willer Bus, and lucked out. They had a sale! I paid JPY5000 for this bus, at probably around 50% discount. The meet up point is about a block away from Kyobashi Station of Ginza line – they do provide a google map accessible link in their email.

I was a bit disappointed with this bus station. It’s clean and good, I was just spoiled with the overall transport system of Japan. 

We left at 21:12ish, then arrived 5:48 the next day.

The entire seat inclines (yes, the entire seat). It’s a decent imitation of a lazy boy. I’ll give it a 7/10 in imitating the lazy boy.

Going back, I took a different bus (because this one is not on sale anymore), and that was a painful trip. The seat reclines a lot, yes, but it’s pretty narrow and, well, basically the pains we had to go through with a normal long bus rides. I don’t wanna go through it again. T.T

So for my Osaka trip, I just booked flights. Maybe next time I’ll still book flights for Kyoto trips, or hopefully, have my company pay for my Shinkansen tickets.

 

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National Health Insurance Premium


July 12, 2017

All residents in Japan can (required to?) obtain national health insurance, whereas you only pay 30% of all medical fees. It’s a benefit from the government, so it’s pretty simple.

Your premiums differ depending on your prior year’s income. How do they know? There’s a form they mail your registered address around February/March, and you have to fill it up to say how much you’ve earned. As students, we pay the minimum amount, which is around JPY1,300 yen.

Now, what if you forgot to fill up this form?

They charge you the maximum amount, which is around JPY4,500 yen. Oopsie.

But Japan is nice – they know that they have highly unaware, blissful foreigners who don’t even read the mail from the ward office (basically your location’s government office). So you can just go to your ward, and have it corrected. No late charges, no interest, no nothing. But you’ll have to pay your arrears, I think.

This is how I had mine updated – I’m in Koto Ward. (to know your ward, look at your address. The one with -ku on it is the name of your ward. In my case, TIEC is in Koto-ku, so Koto Ward it is)

 

How to get there

At Tozai Line, Toyocho station, take exit 1. Turn right and walk for around 5-10 minutes (300 meters ish)
At the Ward Office

The entrance is in the second floor, and an information center (with English speakers) is at the entrance.

At the entrance (second floor), go to station 8. In front of the section is a number queue machine. Take a number.

She’ll basically ask you if you worked last year (I think that’s what she said), so I simply said I am a student. She then asked if at worked part time (baito in Japanese) and I said no. She then filled up a tax declaration form, told me to pay a couple of slips (the insurance slips) then made me go up the fifth floor to submit the tax declaration form.

This is the form she filled up. She just asked for my Residence ID and did everything.

I went up to fifth floor, took a queue number (again), and once in the counter, filled up my address, name, birthday and phone number. Oh, and I had to write “student” in one of the boxes.

I was also asked for a hanko (seal), and since I don’t have one, we settled for a fingerprint. He processed some stuff in his computer, returned my tax declaration form, then told me to go home.

Done in 30 minutes!

Of course, the part that took longer was the lady in Station 8. The thing is, she was asking me to pay the three slips which is around JPY14k. So I was confused – was it because I was late in those months? I’m supposed to pay JPY1.4k per month, so imagine having to pay JPY14k for three months! So I kept on saying no, I’m a student!!! She then took an iPad, called a translator from somewhere online, then explained that those are for the whole year. Whew!

TIEC Life

A year back, the first place I went to here in Tokyo is my new home – the Tokyo International Exchange Center. They welcomed me with open arms and gave me the best place I’ve lived in my entire life. A month ago, they sent me an email – they are kicking me out.

The Start of the Journey
Once I got into the compound, I went immediately to the Admin office. It’s basically the area where there are rows and rows of flags. The entrance is at the back, in a corner. There’s plenty of sign pointing to the admin office.

I got in and presented my resident’s ID and passport, I think, upon registration. I simply have to fill up a couple of forms, and since they speak English, it was pretty easy. They also give you an invoice to pay in a convenience store. You can pay it in Daily Yamazaki, which is at the ground level of building B. They then give you your keys and take you to your room.

The TIEC Layout
There are four buildings – A, B, C and D. I’ve only been in A, B (I live there) and C.

Building A is for singles, but with limited appliances and space. It’s the cheapest option, and based on my observation, has the cheapest price that does not change as much as the other 3.

Building B is also for singles. It has air conditioning, refrigerator, washing machine (from wash to dry), iron, iron board, vacuum cleaner, bed, mattress, all sheets (for JPY7,000 annual lease, you get a bed mat, sheet, fleece layer, futon, futon cover, pillow covers, and futon), cabinets, stove, table (study table and circular), lamps, and air conditioning. Basically, what you need to bring from wherever you are from are clothes, cooking tools and utensils (should you plan to cook), and other personal items/consumables.

Building C and D are for couples. I don’t know much, all I know is that it’s extremely big. More than twice the size of a B room, and yet only with around 50% price premium.

Money Matters
You have to pay:
1. Rent – automatic deduction from your bank account. Prices have been increasing (2016 & 2017) for B, C, D and E. The 2017 increase was around 15%. But if you’ve signed a contract, then don’t worry. Price changes don’t affect current contracts.
2. Electricity – there’s a daily charge of, er, JPY50 if think? Or JPY30? You precharge your account in a machine in the Admin area.
3. Telephone – there’s a daily charge of JPY10, I think. Precharging is the same with Electricity.

Regarding daily charges, I believe you need to pay them regardless. When I missed paying for the telephone, I had a negative amount in my account!

I paid around JPY10,000 per month for electricity WHEN I used the heater daily. It can go way lower otherwise (around JPY3,000 or 4,000 a month, probably). I also cooked almost every night.

Food

  • Daily Yamazaki. The most convenient one, there’s a convenience store that sells food right in Building B.
  • Maruetsu. There’s one right next to the Daiba-Kaihinkouen station of Yurikamome line. It’s way cheaper than a convenience store. For example, a liter of milk is JPY180 in Maruetsu, JPY250 in Daily Yamazaki.
  • Green Market. Every couple of days (Monday, Wednesday (?) and Thursday (?), around 7pm to 8:30pm, Sunday around 3pm). I’ve been here a year, I still don’t have their schedule memorized with certainty. It’s way cheaper – for example, one (head?) of garlic at JPY150 in Maruetsu. JPY150 in the green market gets you three.
  • Coop. A service I’ve never tried, they cook food and deliver it to you daily.

Utensils, Equipment and the Like  (update: August 28, 2017)

What about the utensils? Pots? Any equipment needed?

Technically, the only items you need to purchase are cooking tools (other than stove) and utensils. You can also purchase other things if you want – like a fan (to save on electricity), a sofa (to, er, sit on? because the two chairs provided are not comfy enough?), a piano (there’s a music room btw, it has a piano on it), or anything else. For these items, where can you go other than the specialty places or taking them from home?

  1. Daiso. Yep, go for that hundred yen store. There’s one in Diver City (6th floor) and another in Venus Fort (basement, I think). If you can buy it in a hundred yen shop, for goodness’ sake, don’t buy it anywhere else.
  2. TIEC Flea Market. Go to Facebook and look for the TIEC Flea Market Group. This is the group for people who don’t really care about the money – they really would just want to dispose of their stuff because you have to pay money to dispose of things. Sometimes they do charge prices though, and the free ones gets claimed FAST. Better hurry.
  3. Amazon. If Daiso fails to deliver and you are just unlucky with the TIEC Flea Market, then Amazon will be there to the rescue! It’s actually cheaper sometimes to buy here than anywhere else, and it’s FAR TOO CONVENIENT. I so love Amazon. Rakuten is a stronger competitor, but well, I already paid my student’s premium access to Amazon so I’m staying put.
  4. Other shops in Odaiba. Just explore! There’s Nitori (home furnitures?) in Venus Fort, and other various shops all over. I’m very happy with the first three though, so I never had to buy from others.

Life in TIEC
The daily life is pretty simple. You have your own mailbox, and there’s a communal delivery box where people can leave things for you. You have your own unit, and you basically are there alone… forever. :p What are the other facilities?

  • Lounge. There’s a lounge area in every floor, just in case you and your friends wanna hang out and chat.
  • Training room. There’s three treadmills, four cycling machines, weights, etc. You need to register for a training before you get access, so do it once you get in. It’s open around 6am to 12mn, so it’s a pretty good deal.
  • Gym. Yes, you get a gym for free. Just register to reserve a time spot in Admin. There’s a limit of 4 hours a week per team (because you also write the name and room number of who you’re playing with). They have a basketball court, table tennis area, soccer area, a net for badminton (or whatever needs a net), etc.
  • Guest house. This is a dorm, not an apartment. Hence, the room is only for YOU. If you have other people coming in, family members can be accommodated at the guest house, at a fee. I don’t remember the rate, but it’s a pretty good deal if you compare to a hotel.
  • Music room. Never been there, but I peeked and there’s a grand piano inside!
  • Barbecue Area. Guess what this area is for.

Leaving TIEC
Short term. If you are coming back but will be out for a couple of days, you send them and email to let them know. I don’t think this is critical, but it doesn’t take more than 5 minutes so why not.
Long term. You’ll still pay rent, so think about it carefully. No special procedures, though I’m not sure how it’ll work if longer than a month. I was gone for almost two months (coming back for around a day every two weeks), and there’s nothing special I had to do.
Exit. At least a month’s notice is needed, and you personally have to go to Admin to sign some papers and reserve your spot for the final inspection. It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes.

So. That’s it, I think. Did I miss anything? Just ask!

Money Matters: From JP to PH

February 3, 2017

Let’s start with  – Trust me, I’m an accountant.

I’ve been wondering how to send money to the Philippines, and this is the best one yet. Why?

  • Highly competitive exchange rate. They match the market (from JPY to PHP) rate, as opposed to the normal money changers where they tweak it a little bit. They are way better than BDO and Czarina, and when I did my market research a couple of years back, these two had the most competitive buy rates.
  • Minimal service charge. I was prepared to shell out around JPY2,500 as it’s the JP Post rate, but the rate is actually lower (see picture below). Others may not have service charge, but the exchange rate is crap.
  • Fast processing. You only need your resident’s ID to wire money. Then the money is received within the day. Voila!

I didn’t want to bore you with the details, but I can break this down for you in a couple of ways. Some deciding factors for me though are:

  • I don’t speak Japanese fluently. So it is a bit difficult to go through other venues.
  • I don’t have My Number, which is needed in a lot of financial transactions here.

Address and contact details in the picture below