I’m in the wrong line of business

I was on Amazon.com today and I have quite a few architecture books in my wish list. Amazon has this feature where based on what you just clicked on, what’s in your shopping cart and what’s in your wish list they recommend things you might be interested in. So it was that they recommended this book called Tokyo Houses. But, just recently they added a new feature which gives you weblinks they think you might be interested in based on the item you are currently looking at. The links that came up are as follows:

I mentioned this stuff before but damit, it’s hard to ignore that there is a whole other world of luxury I’m not a part of. The Arikos site shows what they claim are average rent prices. Notice that at the low end they are $3000 a month!!! That’s the LOW end. Hi end is $12000 a month!!!! Scroll down their page and look at the place they are showing! The Crystal Life site says there are 38,000 Westerners in Tokyo (That’s jives with the stats I saw at the immigration office last week). According to that site, of those, supposedly 1/5th of them are living this lifestyle of fancy large American size houses or trendy apartments in Tokyo! One out of 5! I seriously just picked a place at random, just bad luck I guess but the first place I clicked on was this one. It’s only $14000 a month!!! No, there is not an extra zero on that nor did I mistakenly do it in yen. That’s 16 times what I pay for rent. These ones too, they have lots of pictures and floor plans. First of all, who do I sell my soul to to get in? People always say things like “money isn’t everything” or “those people hate their jobs”. Well, I call BULLSHIT! Money isn’t everything? Money is what makes it possible to do almost everything. Want to visit your grandma? Need money for the plane ticket, money to rent the car, money for a place to stay, money for food. “Those people hate their jobs”? Really? Well, I hear that but they certainly seem like they are having the time of their lives. They have cars so they can travel at will. They have a large place to live where they can actually relax. They have a large place so they can actually entertain and meet their friends more. They go out with their friends to restaurants or bars or clubs that cost more than I can afford. They go on week or 2 long vacations several times a year. I mostly believe what Tony Robbins says (even if Penn and Teller think he’s an asshole) which is that most of the stuff you hear about being rich “It’s lonely at the top”, “You have to sell out”, and similar sayings are BS made by people who are not rich to try to make themselves feel better but that in actuallity it’s made up BS. It’s not lonely at the top, in fact the more you have the more you can share, the more you can meet friends, travel, etc. You don’t have to sell out either and you can use your position to help whatever good you want. Pull up your friends and family or help lots of charities. It’s up to you. All of that reminds me of a very interesting article a friend pointed out about luck. It basically says for the most part luck is a self fulfilling property. People who consider themselves lucky notice and take advantage of opportunities, people consider themselves unlucky don’t. The professor that studied this did a test where he asked people if they considered themselves basically lucky or unlucky, then he had them read a newspaper and asked how many photos were inside. Inside the paper, half a page large was message “tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250”. People who considered themselves lucky noticed the ad, people who considered themselves unlucky didn’t. It’s certainly something to think about.

  • SRL

    $14,000 a month, I can’t comprehend that really.  After taxes, at the end of the year, I take home $28,000.  Then I have rent and all the insurance, food expenses, etc.  I’m lucky to save $2,000 by the end of the year.  It’s hard to believe that it would take all my net income to live there for two months.  I would really love to read a quick “life” summary of a few persons who live in a place like the ones you mentioned in the article.  Are they the 4.0 students from the better colleges?  Are they “self made” with out a brand name degree?  Are these people the few who are very skilled in Japanese?  What companies foot those high rent expenses and for what positions?  We do business in Japan (million dollar contracts) and our people don’t stay in places that nice. Let me know if you hear something…

  • “They”

    The majority of them work for multi-national companies.  They came to Japan with no Japanese language skills what-so-ever.  They are sent by their company’s main office to head up some task that company wants done.  It could be a management task, helping to setting up the Japanese branch, being the person that coordinates between Japan and the west or any number of ther jobs.

    Generally what happens is they really don’t want to come to Japan so the company says “We’ll reproduce your life back home”.  That means if they have a normal American size 2 bedroom apartment back home that same apartment in Tokyo near the office is likely to be $3K to $5K a month.  If they have a like a 4bdrm house with space for a car, and a spouse and family with them the place could easily be $8k to $12k for a similar place here in Tokyo.  So, they come to Japan and not only do they get to experience Japan but they don’t have to pay rent here so they get to keep the 1/3rd of their salary they would normally be spending on rent. Quite a bonus.

    I used to think that it was mostly really upper management types, VPs etc but after reading that it’s 1/5th of all westerners here in Tokyo that’s crazy!  I want in :-p

  • Sentunim

    Can I have 250 pounds? That would rule. I wish somebody would experiment on me for money. Then maybe I can afford one of those apartments.

  • Birder
    Pets Negotiable

    $14,000 per month and pets negotiable.

  • name

    You know, the average monthly cost for a one bedroom apartment in mid town NY is $7,000, so really these aren’t that far off the norm for megalopolitan-life.

  • deevi0s
    Driving Revenue

    SRL – It is impossible to place all well compensated exatriates into a single category.  However, the one characteristic that most expatriates in Tokyo share is that they drive revenue and increase profit for their employers.  Since Japan is the second largest economy in the world, individuals that can demonstrate the ability to grow revenue while increasing profit are compensated in accordance with thier ability.  Those with less ability in Japanese often find success in the finance sector.  People who speak Japanese effectively and have demonstrated experience growing revenue often have the opportunity to be the “grease” between foreign and Japanese firms.  Grades have little to do with financial success in Japan (or anywhere else I would surmise).

    Greg – since you are already a resident, many multinationals would put you on a local pay scale should you be hired.  From my experience, almost all of “them” (including myself) want to be here, the key is to continue the charade with thier employers that living outside of the U.S. constitutes a hardship, justifying the compensation.

  • dma
    in Tokyo

    They claim that 1/5 of “Westerners” live in Minato-ku, not that 1/5 of them live in cushy expat housing! A lot of embassy staff live around there because that’s where their work is. I’d guess that the Minato-ku numbers are inflated only they include the ones living here with their families and it’s the families that really boost up the numbers.


    Remember that a lot of the single people in Tokyo live in gaijin houses or other shared accomodations because they can’t even afford the key money to move into their own place. Just including all the blond hostesses living together around Akasaka and Roppongi in shared housing would throw the numbers off, assuming that they were properly registered as residents.

  • J
    Minato-ku statistics

    Minato-ku publishes its own English monthly newsletter. Each month they include the registered number of inhabitants. Find below a link to the statistics for April 2004:


    It shows that the number of foreigners is approximately 10% of the total population. This appears to be the highest level in the whole country.

    The high concentration of expats in this area might be explained by the many embassies in Minato-ku and many foreign companies having their headquarters in the neighborhood of Shinagawa and Tokyo station.

  • mrsunshine

    Have you ever looked into working for a game company outside of Tokyo? How much cheaper are Osaka and Kyoto to live in. Both cities have large game developers located there.

  • gman

    I have no clue what it’s like. I hear that Nintendo pays crap but gives large bonuses. One company I talked to in Kyoto said it was cheaper and more fun to live in Kyoto but then he was married and is best friend was his partner so seems like his social life is probably taken care of.

    The only other thing I’ve seen is a blurb about Capcom in Popeye magazine which said “I should not be a problem for you not to ever leave the office until the product ships”. 🙁

  • gman

    I see your point about 1/5th of the foreigners living in Minato-ku. The thing is ALL OF MINATO-KU IS EXPENSIVE. It’s downtown so most places are going to be well above what I could afford.

  • anonymousTroy
    I lived in Minato-ku

    1995-2000. It wasn’t horribly expensive.

    My 30m 1LK studio 3F (top) pad with a view of Tokyo Tower was Y110,000/mo. Not cheap, but similar places out in eg. Kichijoji would go for at least 90k.

    I chose Minato-ku (specifically Hirou-eki) since it was close to National Azabu. Ironically I couldn’t afford to shop there every day, but it was a sanity-enhancer knowing it was close by and available. Also Meiji-ya and that nice grocery store down in Azabu-Juban were in the area.

    sigh. I miss living there terribly.

  • That is totally ridiculous.  I work for a giant multinational, but I was hired in Japan, so I don’t get any expat benefits.

    14000$ rent makes me vomit.

  • Theodore

    I work for the company you mention in your post, Arkios (it’s not “Arikos” btw), and I’ll tell you one thing: NONE of these expats pay for their apartments themselves. Their company pays the whole tab. If they were having to pay their own rent, I assure you that they would be living in a different part of town, or in a one-room apartment!

  • Carsten
  • DriveByCommenter
    Gillette shouldn’t talk.

    P+T may think Robbins is an asshole… I’d suggest that it takes one to know one.

    I was in Las Vegas a few years back, and a company I contract to was hosting a party as an adjunct to a trade show. It so happens that Penn Gilette *always* attends these parties, every year, like clockwork.

    I had intended to go see the P+T show earlier that evening with my wife, but she caught the ‘vegas flu’ and couldn’t wander farther than 15 seconds dead run from the nearest toilet. Instead of going to the show, we watched a number of episodes of “Celebrity Deathmatch” before I wandered downstairs to where the party was being thrown.

    So I’m in there, mingling with co-workers and industry peers and lo and behold, there’s Penn chatting up some chick. A little while later I get to cross paths with him, to see if perhaps he could hook me up with tickets to another show… I mention that the wifey and I had planned on going to see his show but she got sick cuz of the local water, and he basically told me that both I and my wife could go F ourselves. At the party MY COMPANY was paying for, with one of our complementary drinks in his hand.

    I’ve met Teller separately, and he’s a cool guy. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I ever pay another penny to see them though, after that experience.