(Originally written on 2016-2-12)
I’m roughing it.
Surely when people hear that, they have a vivid image pop into their minds—though every impression of the term “roughing it” definitely differs. For me, my first days in my apartment in Nerima-ku, Tokyo, Japan were indeed the very definition of “roughing it.” No internet, no mattress, no clothes hangers, no rugs, no towels, no boxes or baskets… Hell, the very things I thought were a nuisance when I moved into apartments in the past seem ambrosial now.
My first thought when I walked into my new abode was, “I’ve got nothing to fill it with.” We spend a lot of time making our dwellings to our liking without even truly thinking about it. Overtime, we accumulate possessions that somehow go beyond decorating our homes. These knickknacks become a piece of what makes that space home. I looked around the intensely empty apartment and tried to visualize where I was to put my belongings—the little that I had with me. Even under 300 square feet of space, there was so much to cover.
I thought about the things back in America that I had rid myself of: hundreds of books, figurines, clothing that no longer fit, DVDs and souvenirs from trips. I’d left baskets and crates and boxes filled with memories. Part of me was happy I had. The other half was miffed that I couldn’t roll up my luxurious memory foam mattress and bring it with me.
Right now, I’m cuddled up in a corner of an empty living room, trying to fight the cold floors by sitting on a yoga mat and a microfiber throw over my shoulders. A stuffed packing cube is supporting my back. The heater is rather pitiful in its attempt to heat even this tiny space, but the whoosh of the air is comforting. I spent all day buying the minimal details for life: food mainly, some cooking tools, a pot and pan, a few dishcloths and cheap towels. I was even lucky enough to come across hot sauce during my 9-hour long adventure.
Supposedly my mattress set is going to be delivered in the next hour or so. I’m eagerly awaiting its arrival so I don’t have to sleep on the frozen, unforgiving wooden floor tonight.
So, as I’m sitting here, trying to stay awake despite the fatigue of an all-day power-walking excursion, I figured I could draw up a short list of places offering affordable housewares, furnishings, and daily essentials that I’ve been hitting up ever since I’ve be coming to (and now living in) Japan.
I love everything about 3Coins, especially the fact that the goods are extremely affordable but do not sacrifice quality. 3Coins offers a little bit of everything necessary—warm clothing, cooking supplies, housewares and decorations, organizational things, stationary… A 300-yen salad spinner is well worth the price in my opinion. I could go on about the awesome selection, but I won’t. 3Coins does tend to cater to the “cutesy”end of the spectrum, yet there are gender neutral options in a variety of products.
Seria is a golden place for a vast sea of stationary and crafting goods. Necessities for baking, electronics, cooking, and gardening are also available. If you love to scan the rows of stickers and stamps at Loft but fret over the price, chances are that Seria is great match for you. Just don’t go near Seria around Valentine’s Day. You will be smothered in a horde of screaming girls and their disgruntled boyfriends.
Although a literal copy of Seria, Can*Do is my personal favorite on this mini list for several reasons. First, everything in the store is 100円 (excluding the taxes applied at the register). Second, just because the price is cheap doesn’t subtract from the overall quality of the products. I’ve gotten fantastic buys at Can*Do ranging from first-aid, cleaning supplies, organizational bins, cookware, plates, cheap spices, and plants. Can*Do also carries makeup, toys, pet supplies, and snack foods. What separates Can*Do from the rest is the variety. It outweighs both Seria and 3Coins. My favorite branch so far is the one in Nakamurabashi in Nerima-ku; however, the one in Shibuya is huge.
Ah yes, this list would be incomplete if Lawson’s 100-yen shop wasn’t featured. I can’t even begin to tell you how much money these stores have saved me. Unlike the previous 3 stores I’ve named, the 100円ローソン is a magical place full of food and wonder. Yes, it’s an uber convenient grocery store where everything is 100-yen. I buy my frozen fruit and vegetables here, apples, salad, and some home and cleaning goods. You can’t go wrong with the wall of spices either. 100-yen for cinnamon as opposed to 300-yen plus at some supermarkets feels like a steal.
Daiso (100-yen and up)
The almighty Daiso is another place much like 3coins. Yet, unlike 3coins which is probably 90% trustworthy products, some Daiso products frankly suck. Like the towels that fall apart after the first use. Or the blankets that literally shed themselves into oblivion. But otherwise, you can find excellent deals for bath and kitchen supplies, as well as interior decorations and the like. Sometimes, these selections rival places like Loft, which has incredible goods for a, well, lofty price tag. Here you can worry less about the cha-ching.
ドン・キホーテ Don Quixote
Don Quixote, or Donki for short, is not fantastically cheap. Granted there are a few things in there that I’m more than happy to deem overpriced—like the makeup section. I’ve also found some items in Don Quixote, like toilet seat covers for 600-yen, that were also in places like Seria and Can*Do for 100-yen. Yeah, crazy, right? That said, there are some Don Quixote branches, like the one in Ikebukuro, that provide a crazy amount of larger sized items like shampoo and dish soap for a ridiculously low cost. Plus, you can randomly find imported groceries that might remind you of home. Other treasures are the furniture, luggage, and electronics.
One more thing that Don Quixote is quite valuable for is the ability to convert foreign currency at the register. This is one of the few places in Japan where you can use your hometown’s coin to buy stuff and receive yen in return.
And as I’m wrapping this up, my mattress has yet to be delivered. I guess I’m sleeping on a yoga mat covered in clothing tonight and searching for a place of purchase a bed tomorrow. Note: just because you can use your debit like a credit card in America doesn’t mean you can in Japan.
That aside, living in Japan isn’t as costly as some people make it out to be. Frugal living is possible if you take the time to compare prices!
[P.S. Some thoughts were added after the original document.]