Random Life Hacks in Japan

1) ATM

I went to the ATM to withdraw some cash today and it dawned on me to share this very simple hack that people may not realize. Depending on the bank you are using, the design may look slightly different, but in general, all ATMs would display a keypad similar to the one below for you to enter the amount you want to withdraw.

For the benefit of those who don’t read Chinese characters, ‘万’ means ‘ten-thousand’ and ‘千’ means ‘thousand.’ When you are done entering the amount you need, you hit ‘円’ which means ‘yen’ and also serves as the enter button. The hack here is, if you need 10,000 yen and want it in thousand-yen denominations, instead of enter ‘1’ + ‘万’ (1 ten-thousand), enter ’10’ + ‘千’ (10 thousand), that way, the machine will spew out 10 one-thousand yen notes instead of 1 ten-thousand yen note.

2) Room Rental

When visiting the property agents to look for a new apartment, one would typically decide on the region, size, requirements and, of course, budget. If your budget is 70,000 yen, for example, shave 3,000 to 5,000 yen off your budget for the agent and tell them it’s 65,000 yen. Reason being, agents are quite shrewd salespeople; they will almost always recommend you apartments that are 3,000 to 5,000 yen over your budget when there are plenty that fall into your budget perfectly. Having moved some 8 apartments in my 8 years here, I can confidently say this is true 100% of the time. It holds true even on property hunt programs on the TV. The agents almost never give you apartments that fit into your budget. Sometimes, if you set a budget too low (50,000 yen, for example), and they show you apartments that go up to 55- or even 58,000 yen and you still don’t find your desired room, they will suggest you increase the budget. When you cave and go, “Ok, up to 60,000 yen then,” they will then show you rooms that cost 63,000 or 65,000 yen.

3) Getting Rid of Cockroach

If you live on the first floor of an apartment, you might see unwelcomed visitors, that is cockroaches, in your apartment especially in the summer. No matter where you look, you just can’t seem to find where they come from. In my two years at the current apartment, I’ve easily killed over 20 cockroaches in my current room (although this shouldn’t happen if properly sterilized before moving in), that is until I sealed off the hole that I believe is where they come from. And that is none other than under the sink. The pipe under the sink goes through the cabinet below to under the apartment. On the floor of the cabinet, a hole significantly bigger than the pipe is opened for it to pass, and that is where cockroaches typically get in. Newer apartments are probably not like that but if, like me, you don’t mind older apartments on the first floor, you might want to make sure you seal off that area with anything you can find. I tape trash bags around the hole and found no use for the insecticide since.

4) Domestic Travel

When traveling far within Japan, take the plane during off-peak season and the Shinkansen during peak season. Reason being, plane tickets can differ by a few thousand to tens of thousand yen during off-peak and peak season while the Shinkansen (unreserved seat) price is the same throughout the year regardless of the period. If you take the reserved seat, however, prices would differ. Nevertheless, the difference between off-peak and peak season Shinkansen tickets is only 400 yen.

5) Getting Rid of Electronics

If you plan to get a new microwave oven, refrigerator, washing machine, futon or any large items, try to give your old ones away. Of course, you can sell your electronics to second-hand stores, but these stores typically do not accept electronics that are more than 3- to 5 years old (depending on the store). This is because, items that are over 5 years old are difficult to repair since it is highly likely that manufacturers no longer produce parts for them. At best, you can sell them on P2P platforms to other individuals, but if that doesn’t work, it’d be better to give them away as you have to pay for disposal of large items unlike in Singapore, where you can just throw them away easily. The cost of disposal differs from region to region but typically costs about 200 to 1,000 yen. You have to call your ward office, tell them the date you want them to collect your trash and they will tell you the amount you have to pay as well as a registration number. For example, if they say it costs 500 yen, go to any convenience store and tell them you want to buy a 500 yen sticker for large item disposal and make the purchase. Fill in the necessary fields on the sticker, stick them on your item and bring it out to the trash collection area of your building on the said date.


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