The Japanese Economy
It is no secret that Japan’s economy has been in a slump for the last 30 years. Ever since the Japanese stock market crashed in 1989, Japan hasn’t been able to get back to pre-crash levels and with the population shrinking this might also not happen for a while. While unemployment levels aren’t nearly as high as in many other developed countries at only 3% even after the crisis in 2020 happened, there are many workers without stable employment who can’t really afford what would be considered an average lifestyle with a family and a home.
After the Bubble
The problem started in 1989 when the Japanese stock market crashed. As the famed bubble economy continued to deflate, more corporations approached the brink of bankruptcy, prompting banks to extend loans that currently account for 150 billion yen in bad debts. This has resulted in deflation, increased public debts, and a growing concern over how the government will manage to support the public pension fund that is expected to support a graying population.
In Tokyo, the effects of this seem to be a mixed bag. Not surprisingly, as Japan’s financial and cultural capital, it’s been hit hard. It’s been estimated that 25% of people under 30 are unable to find full-time employment and will thus stay in precarious part-time work or contract work. However, beyond this grim statistic, the city seems not only calm but also resilient. For the first time, people under 40 seem to be rejecting the stability of lifetime employment in favor of more compelling, often more flexible, jobs as independent contractors. They see the value of not giving away your whole life to your company, keeping some individuality, and having more free time. Because their ranks are growing, the markets also have to adjust.
This means that Tokyo, once known as an impossibly expensive city, has become a lot less expensive in the last 20 years. Many tourists that we have received over the last 15 years have expressed their surprise at the affordability of their holiday to Japan and the very reasonable cost of eating out in Japan. The same reaction often comes after they hear what the average salary for full-time employees is in Japan and in Tokyo, which is 39,000 USD/year and 50,o00 USD/year respectively, which is about the same as in the US. To give you an idea of what commodities cost in Japan we made a list.
General Cost of Living in Japan
- Newspaper – in English : 150 yen
- Chewing gum : 110 yen
- Magazine : about 500-800 yen
- One apple : 100 yen
- Milk 1,5L : 180 yen
- Beer – supermarket : 230 yen
- Beer – at a Bar : 500 yen
- Beer from vending machine : 350 yen
- Coca cola : 120 yen
- Coffee : 200yen- 300 yen
- Sashimi – supermarket : 350-800 yen
- Snack : 150 yen
- Cigarettes – Marlboro : 320 yen
- 2km taxi ride : 660 yen
- Metro ticket – mini : 160 yen
- JR Line ticket – mini : 150 yen
- Cinema ticket : 1800 yen