Why not live in Canada?

For the past few months, Ms. Kanto and I have been discussing what cities might be good cities for us to live in. After looking through many “best cities to live in” lists, one thing in common is that Canadian cities are often near the top.

She’s always asked me “why not Canada?“, so I spent some time reflecting to understand my reasons for not wanting to move back.

After a year in Japan, I’ve come to appreciate some of the merits of life in Canada.

Its major cities are very diverse and multi-cultural. For example, about half of the residents in the Greater Toronto Area were born outside of Canada. Vegetarian and veganism are not uncommon – I was surprised by how many fast-food chains now offer soy meat. Gender equality is much better than in Japan, with Canadian ranking 19th whereas Japan ranks 121st.

That said, here are some of the reasons why I’m not particularly interested in moving back.

Point #1 is that it’s not very walkable – everyday life is inconvenient and often requires a car
Ms. Kanto and I live in the suburbs of western Tokyo. Within a 5-10 minute walk of our house, we have a grocery store, two convenience stores, a post office, a bank, doctor’s and dentist offices, a hair salon, a daycare, and a giant park with a river and walking trails.

I’ve lived in five different cities in Canada, and generally speaking, if you live outside of downtown, you almost need a car.

Zoning regulations have led to suburban sprawl where neighbourhoods are just single-family homes and nothing else. Whereas in our Tokyo neighbourhood, we can walk along a peaceful road with little cars to get to the post office, back where I lived in Canada, I’d have to cross a 5-lane major road. This problem is even worse for people in their 60s and 70s who aren’t able to drive because they become dependent on someone who can. Whereas in Japan, I see plenty of older people in their 60s and 70s going to the grocery store by themselves.

Point #2 nature is far away and inaccessible
Canada has some beautiful places like Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland.

Gros Morne National Park
Gros Morne National Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the Rockies on the west coast.

Banff National Park
Banff National Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The challenge is that domestic travel is extremely expensive. It’s often cheaper just to fly to South America or Asia than from one coast to the other. There aren’t any “high-speed rail” options like the bullet train in Japan. Lastly, most cities have poor public transportation, which is evident by the fact that most Canadians commute to work by car.

Point #3 I’m tired of North American life
This last point is a personal one, but I just feel very burnt out with life in North America. I feel very much that there is a “rat race”, where many people live to work and want to be “successful” by the stereotypical measures of success. Amongst both my close and distant friends in Canada, I would say the average person’s idea of “success” is having a better car, a larger house, and a second home.

Would I ever come back?
If I did have to pick a city that I’d give a second chance to, I think I’d pick Montreal (Vancouver seems interesting but I don’t know enough about life there).

I spent a summer living in Montreal and I loved it. I lived close to Mont-Royal, a large park near downtown.

Mont Royal, Montreal
Mont Royal, Montreal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t recall the specifics of how walkable it was, but public transportation was decent. From reading a thread on Reddit, many Canadians do cite Montreal as the city with the best public transportation in Canada. Lastly, I would look forward to picking up French again, since I studied it for 12 years in school and haven’t put it to use at all.

So will we go back to Canada? It’s tough to say right now. Compared to other developed countries that we may consider, Canada has fairly lenient immigration policies. Ms. Kanto could get a Canadian passport within a few years. We’d also have the ability to bring her parents to live with or near us if that’s something they wanted to do. All in all, Canada is a country worth considering for us.

How long will we live in Japan for?

August was a relatively quiet month. With daily highs of around 35-38, it was hard to spend much time outside without working up a sweat.

What’s interesting is Ms. Kanto and I started talking about what the next few years look like, and whether we’re still in Japan or somewhere else.

I feel ready to move on, even though I’ve been here for just over a year. When I first moved here, I thought I’d be here for quite a long time. I enjoyed my time in Japan during all my trips and didn’t have any reason or interest to live anywhere else.

In this one year, I’ve learned what everyday life in Japan is like. My goal was to determine if Japan is a place I’d want to live long-term, and at the end of the day, I’ve decided that it’s not.

My favourite aspects of Japan are ones that can be experienced by a tourist: lots of nature, good public transportation, and how respectful almost everyone is in public.

I think the second point really stands out to me because of how dependent North Americans have become on cars. As a result, public transportation has become an afterthought. When meeting up with friends in Japan, everyone gets to the meeting spot by bus or train, instead of by car.

So why is this point so important to me? I think in general, cities with great public transportation have more equality. I’m often reminded of this quotation: 

A developed country is not where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich take public transportation.

In North America, I’ve always felt the inequality gap between rich and poor to be very noticeable. It’s always felt like a rat race, where everyone wants to own a bigger house, a nicer car, have a second home. I think it’s this mentality that I’ve always been frustrated with. I’ve usually been able to avoid it by being selective with who I hang out with, but there’s always a colleague at work or someone at a party that brings up “did you hear? this person just bought a second house.”

Leaving Japan

So why move on from Japan? Some of the reasons that come to mind are:

  • lack of diversity, which stems from a very homogenous population where very few people immigrate or emigrate to
  • a large gender gap, Japan ranks 121st in The Global Gender Gap Index 2020 rankings, with a gap being the largest of all advanced economies and widening, and this is reflected in government, with almost everyone being an old, Japanese male 
  • foreigners are an afterthought, mostly like due to the first point, but many policies like entering Japan during COVID were only for Japanese people
  • the “live to work” culture
  • difficulty in getting permanent residency without fully commuting to Japan, and even then, it’s status doesn’t hold as much weight as in other countries 

While some of these points don’t directly impact me daily,

  1. I don’t feel very proud to live in Japan
  2. I don’t have an optimistic outlook on a stagnant country which doesn’t value change

I’ve also read many horror stories of the Japanese education system. While Ms. Kanto and I aren’t sure if or when we’ll have kids, I just can’t imagine wanting to put them through it.

So given the fact that I don’t see a long-term fit with Japan, why stay here in the short to medium term? That’s exactly the question I’ve been asking myself. Right now, I have to work for a Japanese company to get a work visa to live here, but for a salary that’s far lower what I would make in Canada or the US. In a way, I almost feel like there’s no point.

If not Japan, then where?

So that leads us to what is next. That’s something Ms. Kanto and I have been talking about, almost every day it feels like. The interesting idea we’ve come up with is doing 6 months in Ms. Kanto’s home country and 6 months in Europe or Canada.

I’ve been doing some research on happiness by country, work-life balance, the global gender gap. And it seems like every metric that ranks countries always has a handful of European ones at the top, like Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands. I’ve also learned the other week that I’m eligible for EU citizenship, so we could go live in any of the EU counties forever without having to work – perfect for early retirement 😛

That said, it’s just an idea and there’s no guarantee we’d even enjoy living there. As well, there are still a few reasons why moving to Canada might be a good fit. Despite many of my frustrations, it still does to rate fairly highly on many important facets and an easy path to Canadian PR and citizenship is a win.

So that’s pretty much it for this update. I think our next steps are to make a general plan for next year. We’ve tossed around the idea of first doing some travel in Europe, exploring some potential cities in-person to see how we like them. However, this isn’t a possibility until the pandemic comes to a close and borders open up again.

July 2020 Update

So Ms. Kanto and I have officially crossed the six-month mark of living in our new house. When we decided to move in together, I think it was more of a general “quality of life” decision than anything financially.

The good thing is that we’ve actually been able to save more money on a monthly basis as a result.

Spending breakdown before and after our move
Spending breakdown before and after our move

However, this isn’t a perfect science. The neighbourhood we moved to has three different groceries, and certain items are cheaper at certain stores. Before, we didn’t have as many options as to where we could purchase certain foods.

July actually ended up being the most expensive month of 2020 so far.

July 2020 spending
July 2020 spending

While most categories came in at under the 6-month average, the main expenses all have to do with travel and hotel costs. We ended up taking a trip to a popular beach on the northern coast. As popular as it may be, it was essentially empty when we arrived.

Takenohama Beach
Takenohama Beach

The surrounding town didn’t have too much going on. We were more or less limited to convenience store food which we’re definitely getting tired of (albeit, they did have vegetarian burgers). For our next trip, we’re definitely going to target an area where there’s a handful of vegetarian restaurants. I took a look at Kamakura and it’s definitely very promising.

Empty streets of Takeno
Empty streets of Takeno

Lastly, as is our little tradition, we stopped by a new Indian restaurant so we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking once we arrived back.

Indian food
Indian food

Now that I’ve got a bit more time on my hands, I’m planning to do a monthly post in addition to the monthly updates. Stay tuned!

June 2020 Update

After about a hundred days of sitting at home, Ms. Kanto and I finally went on a trip. We both wanted a little weekend getaway from Tokyo and to visit somewhere we haven’t gone to before. With that in mind, we decided to make the trip down to the Izu Peninsula, a few hours south from where we live.

Even though in early June, Japan’s COVID-19 numbers were fairly low, we opted to skip public transport and rent a car. While public transportation is great across Japan, it isn’t as convenient once you get out of the main cities. In certain parts of Izu, the buses only come once an hour and not every spot is accessible.

I wasn’t actually quite sure what to expect, in terms of what things would be open and how crowded or not crowded beaches would be. For the most part, beaches were fairly empty with only a handful of families at each one. Not every place that we wanted to visit was open either, but luckily, the few places we did visit were more or less deserted.

Koganezaki beach
Our favourite place from our Izu trip, Koganezaki beach.

Our favourite spot was this cute, small beach on the western side of Izu. It was nice to take a refreshing dip in the water before our drive back to Tokyo.

Along the way back, we stopped at Mos Burger to try out their new Plant-based Green Burger.

Mos Burger's Plant-Based Green Burger
Mos Burger’s Plant-Based Green Burger

To be honest, it was okay. 😅 I actually prefer the regular MOS Yasai Burger since it’s not completely covered in sauce like this one. 😋

Aside from that, June was fairly routine just like previous months. Ms. Kanto did make some really good vegetarian sushi, that I have to ask her to make sometime again. 😚

Vegetarian sushi
Vegetarian sushi with carrot and cucumber

Here’s a quick recap on our spending:

June spending report

I’ve decided I’m going to change up this section. For the most part, there’s really little change from month to month so I think I’ll only talk about any interesting spending that happened.

In Shopping, we decided to finally buy a fan. We debated for quite some time whether we should spend the 500 or so dollars and get a real AC that can provide us with both cooling and heating for our downstairs and living room. In the end, we decided just to get something simple – a relatively inexpensive ($30) fan that so far has been paying dividends, given Tokyo has hit more than 30 degrees several times already.

Aside from this, Fun includes the car rental, the hotel, and any additional fees like parking, entrance fees, and tolls. Overall, I would say it was definitely worth the money.

So that’s it for this month. My schedule has opened up a lot in the last week or so, so I’m planning to update my posting schedule to twice a month.

Stay tuned for the next post 🤗

May 2020 Expenses

Japan lifted its state of emergency in the middle of May, as the number of average daily cases dropped from about 500 to almost 50. Since then, it’s been hovering around 30-50 for the most part.

covid-19 cases in May
Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan in May 2020

For the most part, almost everything is back to normal. All the stores at the mall near our house have opened up. The main difference is that many stores have hand sanitizer at the front and that there’s this transparent plastic separating cashiers and people that are paying.

Japan’s borders are still closed to non-Japanese people, which has been a contentious point amongst foreigners living here. If you happened to be outside of Japan temporarily, even if you have a spouse and kids in Japan, if you’re not Japanese, you can’t enter the country (even if you’re a permanent resident).

I read a story where a European guy, who’s working in Japan on a valid, left in March to attend his dad’s funeral and before he could get back, the border closed. At the time, he was in the process of changing apartments so he ended up having to get his girlfriend to move all his stuff from his old apartment to his new one, and he still hasn’t been able to get back.

As for school, we continued our lessons via Zoom for all of May with the potential plan of maybe doing some lessons in-person in June, entirely dependent on the COVID-19 numbers.

Aside from this, the weather’s been getting nice, reaching as high as 29 degrees on some days, so Ms. Kanto and I have been going for a walk by river near our house after dinner each day. There are a few places where there’s a bit of a rock platform to sit on directly in the middle of the river, so it’s been refreshing to sit there and relax on some of those very hot days.

River at sunset

Spending in May

With things slowly going back to normal, Ms. Kanto and I have already started planning trips for June and July. As a result, May may be the last month under $800 in expenses for a while.

May 2020 Expenses

Housing: One thing that’s surprised me about living in our new house is the ratio between utilities and rent. In other places I’ve lived in, utilities tends to be no more than 10% or 15% of rent. Whereas here in Tokyo, the amount we spent in May is 43% of rent, with a breakdown of 13% for gas, 12% for electricity, 11% for water, and 7% for internet. Part of me wonders if it’s just because our current rent is so low, naturally, our utilities seem expensive relative to rent.

Phone: I currently pay for my phone with a US credit card, which is why there is a little bit of fluctuation on this from month to month. My plan with IIJmio is expected to end this August, so I think I’ll have to start looking into renewing it in the next two months.

Transportation: May was the third month in a row without a single yen being spent on public transportation. I actually think this might stay at nothing for the next while since we currently don’t have any plans to go anywhere (outside of a vacation or trip).

Groceries: This was was actually the second lowest we’ve spent on groceries, right next to February when we first moved into our house. Our local grocery store has also added soy meat to their stock, which is awesome since we don’t have to go to a further grocery store to pick it up.

Lunch
My new favourite food, made by Ms. Kanto

Eating Out: I didn’t end up doing any bike rides in May, and we didn’t leave our neighbourhood so … nothing was spent here, haha. 🙂

Shopping: At first, I wasn’t sure what this could have been but when I looked at my expenses, turns out it wasn’t any interesting: just razors and shaving cream haha.

Medical & Dental: No spending is good, right? 🙂 Also, I found out that out of the $70 or so that I spent on health insurance in March, I’ll be getting $50 of it back. Woohoo!

Fun: Definitely the last month this is staying at zero. Ms. Kanto and I already planned our June and July trips, and after three months of staying at home, we’re excited to enjoy this nice weather.

Looking Ahead

While COVID-19 is far from over, the warmer weather in June makes a good opportunity for us to do a little bit of traveling, which I’m stoked for.

April 2020 Expenses

After two weeks of spring holidays, school finally resumed. This time around, lessons are being held online over Zoom which, from my perspective, has been actually better than being in a real classroom. I’m finding that much easier to concentrate when I’m just focused on the teacher whereas in a regular classroom, even a loud whisper from the back of the classroom distracts everyone immediately.

As for COVID-19, Japan finally went into a state of emergency in the middle of April, right when the 7-day average of cases seemed to hit its peak.

daily confirmed cases of COVID-19

By the end of April, cases had already dropped in half and my hunch is that by June, everything will be back to normal. That said, I find it hard to understand given the number of new cases in North America.

Walking & Biking

One thing I’m really happy about is I’ve developed this habit of going for a walk each morning. With the cherry blossoms blooming at the end of March, the warmer weather has made it one of my favourite parts of my day.

Cherry blossoms by a river

In early April, I went on one of the most interesting bike rides I’ve ever been on. I found a nearby mountain pass, 入山峠, and on the way up, I came across a few landslides. The covered was covered with debris and I had to carry my bike across. To get to these points, I had already biked quite a bit so I really didn’t want to turn around.

Landslide
I thought to myself, “it has to get better from here, right?” 🙄

When I finally reached the top, I crossed paths with a Japanese cyclist who was warning me to turn around. I explained how the road I had ridden on was also pretty bad and is probably the same. Then I came across this.

Collapsed road
You can imagine my reaction when I got to this point 😅

Initially, I thought I had no choice but to turn back, but then I saw the ladder on the left. So I carried my bike up this ladder with one hand and one hand on the ladder. I eventually made it up, walked across the collapsed road, and back down the next ladder. Fortunately, the remaining path was fairly smooth, with only a few places where I needed to carry my bike across.

When I finally reached the bottom on the other side of the mountain, a “Do Not Enter” sign had already been placed so I must have just picked the wrong side to ascend from.

With the weather warming up, I’ve been trying to get out most weekends for a ride. A friend and I arranged a bike ride one day and we were able to make it to a few lakes.

Afternoon view of a lake
I thought this was a lake, but turns out, it’s actually a river (Sagami River) 🤔

Spending in April

Aside from the occasional bike ride, I don’t think Ms. Kanto and I ever left the 30-minute perimeter of our house. As a result, April ended up being my cheapest month in Japan so far.

April Expenses Breakdown

Housing: So far, our utility bills have been coming in higher than Ms. Kanto’s expected. She’s lived in another large city in Japan, and her utility costs, in some areas, were almost half of what we’re paying today. We’re going to try to do our best to conserve electricity and water as much as we can over the next little while, so we’ll keep an eye on this to see if it makes a difference.

Phone: As expected, I barely used my phone this month and it only cost me about $10 for it. I’m on a one-year plan for IIJmio that finishes at the end of the summer and with the current prices, I’ll be more than happy to continue with it.

Transportation: April was the second month in a row with not a single yen being spent on public transportation. With the number of COVID-19 cases dropping week by week, I imagine it’ll only last one more month. But in the mean time, it’s been nice just walking everywhere and not having any errands to do.

Groceries: More or less the same as in March. For the most part, we don’t pay much attention to prices when we do our groceries but we also tend to avoid things that are overpriced (most fruits in Japan). I think in the long-term, we’ll always spend roughly the same each month. I can’t imaging this number going down by more than 10%.

Eating Out: Each time I’ve gone on a bike ride and picked up some snacks for the road, I’ve just assigned those purchases to this category. But in reality, most of those things I can also buy when we do groceries, so I’m not sure if it makes sense to keep here. I imagine this will more or less be $0 for the next month as well.

Shopping: We bought a toaster oven! Something that surprised me when we moved in here was the lack of an oven. I’ve lived in more than half a dozen places in North America, and I’ve never lived in a place that was oven-less, until now. It’s been fun making some things I haven’t made in a while.

Vegetarian pizza
Vegetarian pizza topped with yellow bell pepper, mushroom, and soy meat 😋

Medical & Dental: No spending is good, right? 🙂

Fun: Though we didn’t venture out of our neighbourhood all month, I’m not sure if it will last through May. With the weather warming up and COVID-19 cases going down, I think Ms. Kanto and I are both itching to go somewhere. I’m not sure what the situation is like at hotels or ryokans, but I think we’ll try to do at least a day trip somewhere in the next month or two.

Looking Ahead 

As expected, April ended up being pretty similar to March. At this rate, May will probably be identical to these two months but that will probably it. I think starting June, life will start to resemble pre-COVID-19 life once again.

Why start a blog?

When I first started investing, I had no idea what I was doing.

I had this idea of becoming financially independent, and from reading online, it seemed like investing was the smartest thing for me to do with my money.

While I read many books on the basics of investing, I would attribute most of my knowledge to random strangers on the internet. I spent months reading and asking questions on Reddit and the Bogleheads forum.

Years later when I was moving to Japan, I tried researching what to do with my investments as I was leaving the US as a foreigner, but barely found anything. When I started investing in Japan, I also struggled to find resources that were detailed and not out of date. While I had found many blogs about becoming financially independent and how to invest, almost all of them were US-specific… which is fine and all, but to quote to Mr. and Mrs. W from What Life Could Be:

If we see another article about how to tweak our nonexistent Roth IRAs, We. Will. Scream.

As a result, the first reason I’m starting a blog is to provide a non-American perspective on investing and financial independence. While Ms. Kanto and I live in Japan right now, neither of us is Japanese, and we aren’t sure if we’ll end up retiring here. So that’s why I use the term “non-American perspective” rather than a “Japanese perspective.” 🙂

Learn more

When I first started reading about FIRE, I came across the 4% rule where if you withdraw 4% of your portfolio each year in retirement, you’re almost certain to never run out of money. Many writers quoted this rule as if it were the gospel, so I just assumed it must be the truth, right? 😧

It wasn’t until I read Big Ern’s research on safe withdrawal rates that I realized I had accepted everything as the truth, without questioning things and doing the math myself.

As a result, writing will force me to be more much critical with everything I read and not just follow the herd.

Sheep

Meet people similar to me and get suggestions

The plans for FIRE are far from finalized, by sharing them with hopefully a larger audience, I can meet others in similar positions, compare our situations, and help each other out on the journey to financial independence and early retirement.

Share my philosophy and thoughts with Ms. Kanto

I first started reading about FIRE a few years before I met Ms. Kanto.

At that point, I had already been living a frugal lifestyle for a while. I would pour almost my entire paycheque straight into my investments, and I was fairly certain that I wanted to pursue financial independence.

So when we started talking about our future and what we wanted to be doing in the long-term, I wasn’t sure how to articulate in a way that was easy to understand. I somehow managed to not screw it up (from what I can tell at least 😅) but writing will allow me to organize my haphazard ideas and turn them into easy-to-understand blog posts.

March 2020 Expenses

A view of Mt. Fuji from across Lake Kawaguchi
A view of Mt. Fuji from across Lake Kawaguchi

It’s been an interesting month.

While it seems like most cities in the rest of the world are taking serious measures to try to contain COVID-19, I wouldn’t be able to say the same thing about Tokyo. I’ve read stories of how even parks are taped off with police tape in certain cities in the US, but here parks are filled with kids running around and playing around with each other.

The general vibe I get from reading Reddit is that Tokyo tried hard to not have to postpone the Olympics. As a result, many things like schools were scheduled to re-open in April and carry on business as usual.

But now that they’re officially postponed until next year, I sure hope we get into some sort of lockdown here since the numbers here are looking worse by the day.

New COVID-19 cases by day in Japan.

At the end of February, my school transitioned to just e-mail correspondence with our teachers. The initial plan was to resume classes after spring break, which ends next week. But according to our latest update, it looks like we’ll be transitioning to online classes until at least early May thankfully.

Ms. Kanto’s work also transitioned into “work from home” back at the end of February and right now, there are no updates on how long that will continue for.

Fortunately, this month at home turned into a good opportunity for me to get back into some good routines.

Reading

I started reading again.

Each of the last three years, I’ve averaged about 15 books per year but just couldn’t get into the swing of things this past January. Now that we’re spending almost every hour of every day inside, I’ve managed to get back a daily habit of reading.

Michelle Obama’s Becoming was the first novel I took on this year. I’m usually a fan of memoirs and biographies, and while I wouldn’t say it was one of my favourites, it was interesting to learn about life inside the White House.

I then picked up Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill which was incredibly hard to put down. I had no expectations going into the novel, having not even heard of it before, but it’s definitely one I would highly recommend.

Now I’m working my way through the Japanese version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I read the first novels of the series last year as a way to study Japanese, but each took over four months since I was a pretty slow reader and referenced the English version quite heavily. But now, I’m much more comfortable in Japanese, so I think I’ll be done around mid-April.

Biking

Now that it’s been starting to warm up, I had the chance to take out my bike on a few early morning rides.

Earlier this year, we moved closer to the Okutama Mountains and through some Google searches, I found 和田峠, a nearby hill that’s considered “the steepest hill in Tokyo.”

Hairpin turns of a mountain
Imagine going up this, but for 30 minutes!

Let’s just say hill is an understatement. 😅 With its hairpin turns, it’s kicked my butt every time I’ve tried to ride up it. That said, it’s been a fun challenge, and my next goal is to make it to the top without stopping to catch my breath.

Getting Out

Now that we’re both home every day, Ms. Kanto and I have been going out for a walk around the neighbourhood every day after lunch.

We found a store nearby that has a pretty good selection of imported goods, and it even has gochujang, a Korean red chili paste, that I used to make a vegetarian bibimbap bento for us the other day.

Bibimbap
Vegetarian bibimbap made with soy meat, bean sprouts, carrot, spinach, kimchi, mushrooms, and cucumbers.

We also took the opportunity to drive down to the Fuji Five Lakes.

Even though there’s no official lockdown in Tokyo, we’re avoiding all public transportation and minimizing the number of grocery trips we have to make. We brought a lunch that Ms. Kanto made which came in handy when we found a good parking spot.

View of Mt. Fuji from a car
Great spot to park and have lunch.

To our surprise, we saw a few tourist groups either biking or walking around Lake Kawaguchi. We even saw some families, which bewildered me since now is not exactly the greatest time to be traveling abroad. 🤔 

At Lake Motosu, seeing the dozens of tents along the lake led us to discuss where we want to travel next. Many months ago, we had talked about either going to Korea or 八丈島 for Golden Week but now the airport is one of the last places I think we want to go to. As a result, we may opt for another scenic drive around somewhere. 🙂 

Spending in March

Now that we’re all settled into our new house, March was the first month where our utility bills came in so this month should be pretty representative of our expected spending for the remainder of the year.

Expenses per category in March.

Housing: Our first gas bill came in significantly higher than expected at ¥7138 (~$65) per person. We were a bit surprised by this, but after speaking to a customer service representative, we were told that this is within the normal range of what we should expect. We’re going to see what the next few months look like.

Phone: This was the most I’ve spent on my phone since September but I expected it. My current phone plan with IIJmio gets me 3GB for about $10 and I pay a set rate for every minute that I talk on the phone. I usually don’t talk at all on the phone but with our moving in February, I ended up making more phone calls than usual. I think it should be back down to normal next month.

Transportation: Since moving to Japan, I’ve been spending about ¥4000 (~$35) monthly on transportation, most of which would either be going out on weekends or running errands. But given the coronavirus situation, all errands have been within walking distance so it’s nice to see a zero in this category. 😚

Groceries: Since moving in together, my monthly grocery bill has dropped by ¥6,000 (~$55). I’m not sure if the reason is that we’re buying in bulk more often, or we have cheaper grocery stores around our new area, but no complaints from me. 😬

Eating Out: On our way back from the Fuji Five Lakes, we got stuck in a three-hour traffic jam so we opted for dinner at a new Indian restaurant we haven’t tried yet. The Indian restaurants close to where we used to live only had one or two options for us, but this one has half a dozen. 😋

Shopping: Three trips to the dollar store and one purchase of garbage & recycling bags, nothing exciting here. 😅

Medical & Dental: I had been putting off going to the dentist for close to a year now. When I lived in California, I would go as often as my insurance would cover (twice a year). But now in Japan, I put it off since I wasn’t the most confident in my Japanese. Fortunately, I found a local clinic that had a few high-quality reviews on Google and when I went, I didn’t have any issues communicating with the staff. I also got an unexpected bill for health insurance tax (民健康保険税) which led spending the most I’ve spent on medical and dental since moving here.

Fun: I think we did fairly well for a day’s worth of fun driving around the Fuji Five Lakes. A 20% discount at Toyota Rent a Car and packing our own food helped a bit. 🙂

Looking Ahead

With both of us staying at home for the indefinite future, I imagine April will end up very similar to March. Until then, stay safe. 😷