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Evaluating the financial situation of the MEXT scholar.

Nikosil

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As we all know by now, the results of the second screening have finally been released and most of the successful applicants (congratulations to everyone who passed by the way) are preparing either financially or emotionally for departure.

Given the indefinite nature of the situation however, a few questions have been running through my mind tirelessly.

Are the scholarship money enough to sustain a normal way of life?
How much money does the average student gain by working part-time in Japan?
How much money do we need to bring with us for the first month? (The Japanese embassy recommends 2.000 US dollars, but is that a real or a precautionary figure?
MEXT clearly states that the scholarship does NOT cover airport fees / taxes and the like. How much should we expect to spend on that?

If you have any more financial questions or fears of your own, feel free to unravel your mind.
 

cocoichi

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I cannot comment on the MEXT process, but I have been an exchange student in Japan.
I gather that you will fly from Athens. In that case I think your cheapest flight will be with Turkish Airlines or Emirates. From western Europe a cheap flight to Japan is somewhere between 450 and 550 Euro, a decent price between 551 and 699, and an expensive flight starts at 700. As I have never flown from Greece to somewhere, it might be worth looking into flying with Ryanair from Thessaloniki to a cheaper hub like Frankfurt, Paris or London.

As for living as a student:
This depends heavily on the university and the city. I have once stayed in a university facility in the middle of Kyoto for only 150 Euro per month, but also once paid 500 Euro per month for a room one hour outside Tokyo. Where will you go to?
For food I would say 1000 yen a day is enough to keep you fed from breakfast to dinner, if you cook yourself or eat simple things in cheap restaurants. Part-time work should not be underestimated. It is not that easy to find, and you need decent Japanese skills. If I remember correctly, a student visa also limits the kind of work that you can do. IF you find something, I think the salary will be between 800 and 1100 yen per hour.
You can buy cheap furniture and items for your student room in places such as Ikea, Nitori, Muji.

How much exactly do you get as a scholarship? That would make talking a bit easier.
 

Nikosil

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Well, the scholarship will cover the flight tickets from my homecountry to my destination,so i won't have to worry about paying the full price, but the allowance will not cover airport taxes such as VAT and luggage fees i assume?

I will most likely go to the university of tokyo and i will stay in the froniter sciences campus which is in Kashiwa City. I think the scholarship grand (adjusted to Tokyo needs) will be 144.000 yen per month. With that kind of money roughly 1100 euros, i am to take care of needs such as food, accommodation and other personal expenses.
 

cocoichi

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Well, the scholarship will cover the flight tickets from my homecountry to my destination,so i won't have to worry about paying the full price, but the allowance will not cover airport taxes such as VAT and luggage fees i assume?

I will most likely go to the university of tokyo and i will stay in the froniter sciences campus which is in Kashiwa City. I think the scholarship grand (adjusted to Tokyo needs) will be 144.000 yen per month. With that kind of money roughly 1100 euros, i am to take care of needs such as food, accommodation and other personal expenses.
Hi Nikosil,

In that case I can assure you that you can manage with that money. A flight ticket includes the tax and fees, and I have never paid anything extra at any airport that was not already included in the ticket.

144.000 should be enough for the things you describe. Just rent a house for 65.000 max, look at good deals in the supermarket, and don't drink too much. And, in case you would be able to bring 2000 Euro savings for fun things, travel or as a buffer, you have good things waiting for you!
 

mdchachi

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I will most likely go to the university of tokyo and i will stay in the froniter sciences campus which is in Kashiwa City.
Kashiwa is where I attended a summer language school at 麗澤大学 many years ago. Kashiwa is quite a bit outside of Tokyo in Chiba (but near enough to Tokyo to go there whenever you want). That means you should be able to find much cheaper housing than you would in the middle of Tokyo. 144.000 sounds like plenty to me. $2000 should be more than enough. Depends if you have to pay deposit/key money on your housing. Train fare from Kashiwa to Tokyo & back is about Y1400. cocoichi's suggestion of Y1000/day for food is possible but bare minimum. If you go out eating/drinking with your friends expect your share to be Y1000 to Y5000 for that meal alone.
 

cocoichi

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cocoichi's suggestion of Y1000/day for food is possible but bare minimum. If you go out eating/drinking with your friends expect your share to be Y1000 to Y5000 for that meal alone.
True. I looked at it from a poor student's point of view! Going to Izakaya's and restaurants with friends will set you back quite a lot as a student.

I took the following for my calculation:
200 yen breakfast (rice with furikake, a slice of bread with fried eggs)
400 yen lunch at the university cafeteria (curry rice, katsudon, oyakudon, etc)
400 yen dinner (udon/soba/ramen/rice with vegetables and some meat, pasta with instant sauce, mabo tofu, etc)
The more days you can use ingredients, the cheaper it becomes. I drink water or tea, so my spending on drinks is close to zero. Look at it this way: every day you can manage with a 1000 yen on food, is a day that you can set some money aside for drinks during the weekend :)

I would definitely invest in a cheap Japanese rice cooker. You can buy a 5 KG bag of rice for about 1000 tot 1500 yen if I remember correctly, and that will serve you for a long time.
 

Nikosil

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So with the right financial management Y144.000 sounds about right for someone residing just outside Tokyo. I wouldn't consider myself as a person whos expenses are overwhelming so maybe i can go along with cocoichi's strategy of Y1000 for food / day, at least for starters.

Moreover, would you consider other japanese products expensives such as clothes and house electronics?
 

cocoichi

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So with the right financial management Y144.000 sounds about right for someone residing just outside Tokyo. I wouldn't consider myself as a person whos expenses are overwhelming so maybe i can go along with cocoichi's strategy of Y1000 for food / day, at least for starters.

Moreover, would you consider other japanese products expensives such as clothes and house electronics?
I think that "Japan = expensive" is the biggest misconception of the western world about Japan. It is probably more expensive than Greece, but nothing you couldn't manage on that 144.000 budget.

Why:
- There are 99 yen shops that sell various useful items for 99 yen + tax (kitchen items, stationary items, etc)
- There are more than enough budget shops for clothes. Check Uniqlo for example.
- There are many budget restaurants like Yoshinoya, Matsuya, Ousho, Sukiya, and mom and pop restaurants where you can get a set meal for less than 500 yen
- public transport is reliable and very affordable

Electronic goods do not need to be expensive, but I think it depends on what you need. I think laptops, TV's, etc are slightly more expensive. I think this is mainly because the cheaper Korean and Chinese brands are not as common in Japan as they are in the west. Please someone correct me if this is wrong. But I wouldn't bother buying a tv in Japan anyway if I were you.
 

Majestic

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See this thread 200.000 JPY per month? | Japan Forum for more information. Personally I would find a budget of just 1000 per day for food to be a bit too close to survival level. 200 yen for breakfast, 400 yen for both lunch and dinner... that is cutting it very close, and I think a diet of cheap junk food day after day would not only get tedious, but would have a health cost as well.

If you are buying your own ingredients and preparing your own meals, it becomes more feasible.
 

Nikosil

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See this thread 200.000 JPY per month? | Japan Forum for more information. Personally I would find a budget of just 1000 per day for food to be a bit too close to survival level. 200 yen for breakfast, 400 yen for both lunch and dinner... that is cutting it very close, and I think a diet of cheap junk food day after day would not only get tedious, but would have a health cost as well.
Actually, i had already read this thread a couple of weeks back, and it is what inspired me to start this discussion.

Comments such as "You know this? Really?!?!?!? Who ever said that? A mere 120K is essentially living in a cardboard box in most bigger cities here, and to say this is for Tokyo is just ludicrous. Please state your source for this outlandish claim, especially the lower figure." really didn't help my situation at all, so i decided to specifically target the scholarship grand of 144.000 JPY.

I must say that i feel relieved after having my questions answered by you guys. Thank you very much.

PS: I think that "Japan = expensive" is the biggest misconception of the western world about Japan. It is probably more expensive than Greece, but nothing you couldn't manage on that 144.000 budget.

What i was mostly afraid of was the overwhelmingly expensive rent. You can easily rent a 50 m2 apartment in Athens for 150 - 200 euro or Y26.000. So naturally, when i heard that rent for a house thrice as small costs around Y50.000 - 70.000 i was intimidated.
 

cocoichi

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See this thread 200.000 JPY per month? | Japan Forum for more information. Personally I would find a budget of just 1000 per day for food to be a bit too close to survival level. 200 yen for breakfast, 400 yen for both lunch and dinner... that is cutting it very close, and I think a diet of cheap junk food day after day would not only get tedious, but would have a health cost as well.

If you are buying your own ingredients and preparing your own meals, it becomes more feasible.
I agree it is a surviving mode budget, but I do not agree that only junk food can be eaten on this budget (if that is what you imply). Like I said rice, the cornerstone of Japanese food, can become a very cheap and nutritious part of your meal if you invest in a rice cooker and buy 2 or 5 KG bags. Vegetables are not that expensive, and can be used two or three days. There are various cuts of meat, and types of meat. Chicken is lean and cheap, and shopping after 7 pm can also save you some money when deals are offered.

I would not recommend to live off 1000 per day for a whole semester or a whole year. But with a bit of effort you can both eat healthy and save some money. Even if you see 1500 yen as a normal daily food budget, and you manage to spend just 1000 yen twice or three times a week, you can save between 4000 and 6000 yen per month (20 to 30 cans of beer).
 

cocoichi

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PS: I think that "Japan = expensive" is the biggest misconception of the western world about Japan. It is probably more expensive than Greece, but nothing you couldn't manage on that 144.000 budget.

What i was mostly afraid of was the overwhelmingly expensive rent. You can easily rent a 50 m2 apartment in Athens for 150 - 200 euro or Y26.000. So naturally, when i heard that rent for a house thrice as small costs around Y50.000 - 70.000 i was intimidated.
Do you know about guesthouses/gaijin houses, shared apartments, etc? If you can live with a shared kitchen/bathroom, you should be able to find something decent between 40.000 and 65.000. Don't forget that Kashiwa is quite a bit from Tokyo, so I think the prices mentioned in other threads do not represent what you are looking for. And to be honest, 50.000 - 70.000 yen is quite similar to western countries. last piece of advice: try to get in touch with the current international student body of the campus that you are going to. Maybe they have information about local opportunities, or they might even have a room available in their houses due to returning students.
 

hojoojoh

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I took the following for my calculation:
200 yen breakfast (rice with furikake, a slice of bread with fried eggs)
400 yen lunch at the university cafeteria (curry rice, katsudon, oyakudon, etc)
400 yen dinner (udon/soba/ramen/rice with vegetables and some meat, pasta with instant sauce, mabo tofu, etc)
The more days you can use ingredients, the cheaper it becomes. I drink water or tea, so my spending on drinks is close to zero. Look at it this way: every day you can manage with a 1000 yen on food, is a day that you can set some money aside for drinks during the weekend :)

I would definitely invest in a cheap Japanese rice cooker. You can buy a 5 KG bag of rice for about 1000 tot 1500 yen if I remember correctly, and that will serve you for a long time.
I think that diet is huge - if you can, ADAPT and eat like a cheap, broke Japanese student does. Say goodbye to multrigrain bread, say goodbye to beans, say goodbye to a lot of (seemingly randomly selected) fruit - they will all ruin your budget.
 

madphysicist

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I haven't lived in Japan for more than a few weeks, but I have experience living in several different European countries. I think the biggest thing to consider on a small budget is not actually food or going out but rather rent (and transport, if you're in a more expensive city).

Rent is normally going to eat up the biggest chunk of your budget, so if you're concerned then start thinking about and researching the options as soon as possible. Of course if you live further from the campus you should check how much extra this will add to the cost of your commute.

Do you really need a whole apartment to yourself? The answer for most students is probably no. Is the student dorm actually a cheap option? Depends. I notice people who haven't been abroad before tend to not research well what is a "reasonable price" for that city and area, instead just going for whatever option they find first or which involves the least effort (understandable but it won't save you money!)

Actually I was very surprised how cheap it is to eat out in Tokyo, so I don't think it's unrealistic to have a couple of meals out per week, even if it's only a bowl of ramen or similar (can still be tasty and healthy). Also if you're in a sharehouse you can arrange to eat together with others sometimes which can save you a fair bit.
 

cocoichi

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I think that diet is huge - if you can, ADAPT and eat like a cheap, broke Japanese student does. Say goodbye to multrigrain bread, say goodbye to beans, say goodbye to a lot of (seemingly randomly selected) fruit - they will all ruin your budget.
I think this goes for any country. Eat the local produce. Imported foods are always more expensive.

Here's a list of common Japanese vegetables: Japanese Vegetables . A lot of items on this list are quite inexpensive!
If some are unfamiliar to you, check on youtube how you can cook/use them.
Furthermore Japanese supermarkets have these salmon cuts which you can buy for about 100 to 150 yen: Fish counters in Japanese supermarket | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Calculated to portions for one dinner:
Rice: 50 yen, Salmon 150 yen, Spinach with sesame seeds 80 yen, miso soup 50 yen. Total: 330 yen.

If you are aware of what's available in a supermarket, think about the bigger picture (invest in food products that cost some money but which can be used many times), and be a bit creative, 400 yen healthy supermarket dinners are very realistic imho.

But enough about that. Everyone should decide for themselves whether this is comfortable for you or not. I am not trying to start a trend or way of life or anything. Although a book called "Surviving in Japan on 1000 yen a day" could be a bestseller:pompous:
 

Nikosil

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Do you guys by any chance have a link that leads to some cheap - but healthy - japanese food recipes? (in english of course).
 

AmerikaJin5

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So with the right financial management Y144.000 sounds about right for someone residing just outside Tokyo. I wouldn't consider myself as a person whos expenses are overwhelming so maybe i can go along with cocoichi's strategy of Y1000 for food / day, at least for starters.

Moreover, would you consider other japanese products expensives such as clothes and house electronics?
I go to Tokyo Tech (Meguro-ku) and live in the Setagaya/Kawasaki area. The scholarship is definitely definitely enough for one person. My wife is moving to Japan to join me next month, and it will be tougher but still OK.

- You will have to pay airport tax. Flying from Greece, that will be roughl 9-10k JPY.
- Clothes aren't that expensive (compared to USA), unless you have very non-average size. Uni-qlo is the best thing ever for broke foreign students :)
- Whether or not 1000 JPY/day is enough for food depends on your preferences/restrictions and location. It definitely will be more than 700/day, in any case. Things like fruit and milk are much more expensive, but I'm not gonna just waste away and deprive myself of normal food that is good to eat...so I just suck it up and buy it.
- As a student, you'll pay only 1008 JPY/mo for health insurance.
- As a student, you can get the commuter pass for roughly (depending on distance and train line) 4000 JPY/mo.

Basically, while some things are more expensive here, I was quite surprised to find that Tokyo, the worlds largest city, is not really that different from my hometown in the USA. Movie theater, restaurant, clothes, etc...all the same price.
Internet is way cheaper here (< 2000 JPY/mo) than USA, and faster.
Hope this helps!
 

johnnyG

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Many universities, and probably U-T in chiba, have what is known as a "one coin" breakfast. Some of them are pretty nice. My school's student breakfast is ¥100--big bowl of rice, miso soup, and a small 'main' that changes from day to day.

It's ¥300 for teachers and it's still a deal (I sometimes eat there).
 
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