Today I would like to pay homage to the chopstick. After purchasing a property several years ago I greatly profited from the humble chop stick. Far from being simply a eating implement, it is also a versatile cleaning tool. Upon purchasing a property in Japan, some of you will simply contract a local cleaner to clean your home. I did it myself and to good effect thanks to the chopstick. It is particularly useful for cleaning the grime around the bathroom and window frames. You simply break the sticks into 'edged' implements and you get considerable value from what is otherwise a free give-away from your local take-away store.
The other treasure when you are buying a home is the Cainz Home Hardware chain. If or when I buy my next foreclosed property, I will be sure to buy near a Cainz Home store because they simply make renovation very easy. Their products are very reasonably priced, and with so many staff, you are bound to find someone with some level of English skill. They are so helpful I was even able to work things out with sign language, as I have limited Japanese. Check out their website for a location guide to their stores.
Another treasure for me is the Hoka Hoka-tei take-away chain store. I swear you do not want to be located too far away from one of these chain stores. They offer a great array of healthy take away meals for very reasonable prices. I used to always get a salmon and rice dish for Y380 ($US5). Very good meals. Make sure you live near one of those...they are everywhere. You will find them overseas these days, but its not the same menu as in Japan. eg. I have seen them in Australia, the Philippines, but that is a Westernised menu, with a far smaller range of choices.
In Japan they have over 2,000 franchise outlets. Sadly their store locator is only in Japanese, and the Google translator will not work with the Flash software. However, if you click on any 'graphical' 'prefectural button on the map, you will have the option of a scroll-selection in English if you remain in Google Translator, so you can find your nearest store.
The implication is that buying, renovating and living in Japan can be VERY CHEAP. Yes, contrary to popular belief life in Japan is not always the rip-off you might have believed. Food is expensive, but you can eat at izakayas very reasonably. The cost of drinking these days is also very reasonable. I often go to The Hub as a drinking venue in Tokyo and other cities because they attract a lot of foreigners, or Japanese people who want to meet foreigners.
I don't drink much now but the roof-top bars are also good value in you like summer drinking on top of shopping malls. The utilities and eating out in Japan are still expensive, but there are work arounds....some of which are not available in other countries. I can keep my electricity connected for months on a basic monthly service fee in I email them. You can also get pre-paid internet services which make a lot of sense. House insurance is very cheap, as is local government rates. Public transport in Japan is very expensive for inter-city travel, but if you get a few Japan Rail Passes before you go....its exceptionally cheap.