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 ε’Œη”°ε³ , 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. πŸ˜… 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. πŸ€”Β 

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 ε…«δΈˆε³Ά 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. πŸ™‚Β 

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 Β₯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 Β₯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 Β₯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. πŸ˜‹

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

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 (ζ°‘ε₯εΊ·δΏι™Ίη¨Ž) 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. πŸ™‚

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. 😷

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