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Impacts of stuff accumulation in Japan

Shopping is really fun!

Right after I settled in my second apartment, which was in Hamamatsu City, I found myself in the cashier counter of Daiso and waiting for the grand total of the items in the two big baskets.

I was surprised how I filled those two baskets with many stuff for my new apartment.

I was further surprised and disappointed when I realized that many of the items I bought were not necessary or that I didn`t really need at that time.

It`s crazy how I didn`t notice that in Daiso during the time I was putting items in the basket.

All I knew was that during that time, it felt so freaking good to see how lovely and cute and inexpensive the items were.

So, my instinc says, `well, since it`s just 100 yen, let`s try it!`

Yes, 100 yen per item (unles there is a label that says otherwise).

And I went on and on telling myself: I wanna try this... I wanna try that.

Crazy right?

Have you ever experienced this?

Or is your experience worse than this?

Or were you able to control yourself? If yes, that`s sugoi! (wow!) 

As I went on and reflected that night, I realized that this simple psychology that says: "it's all right, it's only 100 yen, come on and try it!" was an effective marketing strategy that influences the buying decision of the consumers.

It was so effective that even I myself was hooked to buy many things.

There's nothing wrong with this if I really need them, but the thing is that many of them are not urgently needed at that moment.

This is just a simple example in a hyakuen store.

It also happens in bigger and more expensive stores too.

But regardless of the circumstances, this uncontrollable shopping habit in Japan has several implications or effects.

In this article, I would like to focus on four implications that I personally experience in Japan.

Let's go and dissect them.

1. Financial sabotage

Have you ever experienced running out of allowance before the payday?

Has it ever happened to you being so tight in your budget that you could not even afford to eat your favorite hamburger or pizza?

Have you already experienced counting the remaining money in your pocket before entering a restaurant or supermarket for fear of ordering more than you can pay?

Have you already experienced preferring to walk or use your bicycle (if you have) instead of taking a bus or train because you want to save your last penny?

If your anwers are no, blessed are you indeed!

If your answers are yes, then what are the reasons if you don`t mind?

My answers to those questions are resounding YESes!

In some other times, the reasons were that I was really short because of some inevitable circumstances and expenses, not to mention the remittances that I send every month.

In some other times, the reasons were that I was poor in budgeting but I was so good in spending.

I didn`t mind buying things that are lovely to behold especially when it comes to house decorations and when convenience is at stake.

Hence, my poor skills in budgeting brings me trouble and sabotages my financial life.

I don`t know your experiences, but spending a lot and shopping too much will sabotage our financial life.

It is so easy attractive to do shopping here in Japan, but being careless about our expenses will put us into trouble.

If you are having problem with your finances, you can seek help and advice from credible persons or institutions.

If you are doing good in your finances and you have an excellent financial knowledge, especially in terms of budgeting your money, maybe you can help us and share your knowledge. 

So the next time you go out for shopping, think twice if you really need the things you want to buy.

If they are not urgently needed, maybe you can suspend buying them and put your money to your priorities.

2. Running out of space

When I went to second hand shops in Nagoya City and later in Hamamatsu City, I was amazed to see beautiful big cabinets, tables, shelves, chairs, and other furniture in a very inexpensive price. 

For instance, each shelf costs 700 yen, while a computer table is 1,500 yen, a swivel chair for only 2,500 yen, and the dining table is only 3,500 yen.

At first, I wanted to buy them all. 

But then, I asked myself: why are they not expensive?

The answer? They are not ideal for a small space in an apartment.

Space is everything in a Japanese apartment.

We are basically paying for the space that we have in our small apartment.

Imagine how the architect and the interior designer managed to maximize the space in a little box-type or studio-type apartment.

If you are already living in Japan, look at how the space in your apartment is maximized.

Look at the placement of your small ref, microwave, washing machine, TV, shelves, and even your bedroom up there.

This must be the primary reason why those big furniture are not expensive.

Who will buy those big items if there is no place for them in an apartment?

Impulsive buying caused me trouble when I had to move to another apartment.

I was lucky enough because some ALTs took my other stuff like the vacuum cleaner or water heater and rice cooker.

But for the big items, like the folding bed, I had to call the garbage collection office and paid them to pick up the big items.

The point in this second implication is that, unreflected shopping may cause your small apartment to become smaller.

You can easily understand this if you have already bought some furniture that are already occupying your apartment`s space.

In case of small items that we buy, we cannot see immediately how they occupy space, but over time, they will contribute to those that make our space smaller. 

3. Attachment

When you become attached to persons or things, it is so difficult to let them go.

The stuff that I accumulated in my first and second apartments were so difficult to let go since they were part of the first two months of my life in Japan.

In a way, they were very instrumental to me to live a convenient life in Japan.

Naturally, my first instinct was to keep them and bring them to my next apartment.

But that was difficult. 

First, I needed to ship them and shipping cost a good amount of money.

Second, keeping them meant more stuff for my little space.

My example above involved small stuff.

One of my friends' experiences were bigger stuff including furniture and appliances.

The accumulation of those made her attached not only to her precious belongings but also to her place and apartment.

This attachment to one's place leads to the fourth impact below which is complacency.

4. Complacency

Complacency is the feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction usually combined with a lack of awareness of possible troubles or problems that are coming.

Don't get me wrong.

There's nothing wrong with being contented or satisfied in life.

In fact, a contented life usually leads to a happy life.

But hey, we are OFWs in Japan and we need to have a constant reality check.

We need to examine our short-term and long-term plans in life so that we could align our decisions today.

Now, what does it have to do with accumulation of things here in Japan?

Well, it is not my personal experience but an experience of a friend who lives somewhere in Nagoya City.

She started as an ALT about 9 years ago as of writing this article.

She shared one time that she started in a small apartment, then moved to a bigger one.

Since then, she began buying things for her apartment.

After a year, she felt comfortable there and she just wanted to stay in the same place.

After her second year, she described how she wanted to change her job with a better compensation package.

But she felt intimidated by the fact that she had to move to another place and another apartment.

She was a bit overwhelmed by the fact of moving into another place with her lots of stuff.

She said she wanted to extend one more year while finding a better one.

Then another year, and another year, and then another year.

Now its her ninth year and she could not change her job.

"I feel a little bit contented already to where I am now," she told me when I told her to be courageous in her decisions.

When we feel certain comfortability after so much troubles and struggles we have gone through, we tend to be complacent.

This complacency delimits us to pursue more, strive more, and seek more for even better life.

Stuff accumulation can be a little thing or a very small factor that affected the decisions of my friend, but in the long run, it can limit us to reach our full potential because we have already become complacent in life.

It's okay to give yourself a break, especially after you get to Japan. (I know the struggles of a Filipino teacher from the Philippines before landing a teaching position in Japan as an ALT.)


You come to Japan as a seeker of greener pasture.

Do not stop from where you are.

Keep moving forward.

Learn more.

Search for more.

With great risk comes great reward.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this article through the comments section below.

Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

(Published on February 26, 2020 by Dominic San Jose)
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