My Last 10,000 Yen: Train Fare, Chocolate, and a Haircut

by Selena Hoy

When I moved to Tokyo a few years ago, the yen and the penny were about even — that is, about 100 yen to the dollar. Since then, the dollar has taken a massive dump and today it’s about 79 yen to the dollar.

• ¥1,320 (¥660×2) on roundtrip train fare to work. If this were a real job, the transportation would probably be paid since that is the norm in Japan, but this job is temp so I have to eat the transportation cost.
• ¥340 at lunch for a latte. I brought my lunch, but hadn’t had any coffee yet so hit the coffee shop nearest the office.
• ¥210 Almonds covered with oat-crunch chocolate from the convenience store (conbini in J-speak); I’m doing overtime today, and overtime deserves chocolate.
• ¥856 on a few groceries so I can pack a lunch for tomorrow. I go to the fancy grocery on the way home because it’s late and the cheap one is already closed.

• ¥1,320 Roundtrip train fare for another day at the same temp job. You can buy train passes to save money, but they have to be for a certain route, so are only useful if you are traveling to the same place several times a week for a month.
• ¥1,200 Even though I brought a sandwich, I get peer pressured into lunch with some of the other temps. ¥1,200 gets me a salad, a pizza, and a coffee. We don’t tip in Japan.
• ¥128 Overtime deserves chocolate. This time I get the DARS mint chocolate and share it in the break room. I’m not usually such a chocolate fiend, but something about being stuck in an office sitting at a desk for ten hours makes me want to break up the monotony with something intense. I eat it with my lunch sandwich for dinner. (This is the last day of this temp job — making ¥2,300 an hour to check English exams, and 125 percent of that for overtime past eight hours.)

• ¥980 Round trip fare to Shinjuku to have a language check interview for another temp job. Rush hour sucks. I head back home to hang out with the dogs.
• ¥1,160 Round trip fare to another part of Tokyo for another quickie job, this time doing voice recording for a navigation system (¥7,000 for a couple of hours). I could have stayed downtown and saved part of the train fare, but I know I would’ve spent more than I saved trying to kill eight hours.

• ¥1,890+¥260 Haircut and round trip train fare to a local station. I got a second interview after my language check, and my hair’s atrocious. Decent salons are everywhere in Tokyo, and this is a step up from the Supercuts-type places, which charge about ¥1,000. Again, we don’t tip.
• ¥1,500 for dinner and a drink at a bar where my friend’s band is playing.

Total: ¥11,164 over four days, almost half of which was spent on train fare. I love the transportation system here, it’s one of the best in the world, but yikes. If I do manage to get a steady job, I’ll be investing in the commuter pass.

Selena Hoy temps in Tokyo.