Is Japan Expensive? Part 2: Home and Electronics

Part two of our “Is Japan Expensive?” series continues with a look at things for the home. Compared with last week’s post on travel expenses, the price differences should be much clearer to see. FYI, UK sales tax (VAT) is over three times greater than it’s Japanese counterpart (17.5%, as opposed to 5%).

We’ll start off with two of life’s essentials: a PlayStation 3 and a decent-sized HDTV:

PlayStation 3 (40GB, black):

  • UK price: £289.99 – from Amazon.co.uk
  • JP price: £189.52 (¥39,980) – from Yodobashi Camera

Sony Bravia 40-inch HDTV:

  • UK price: £1,269.01 – KDL40X3000 from Amazon.co.uk
  • JP price: £1,158 (¥244,300) – KDL40X5000 from Yodobashi Camera

TOTAL:

  • UK: £1,599
  • JP: ¥1,347.52

The PlayStation 3 is much cheaper in Japan. Buying software can be problematic if you don’t know much Japanese, but thanks to online retailers – such as Play Asia and Video Games Plus – importing US games is cheap, quick and easy (the PS3 is region-free).

The TV was more difficult to compare, as I couldn’t find two Sony Bravia’s that were exactly the same in both countries. The price difference is not all that great between the UK and Japanese models, however the Japanese model is two generations ahead (X5000 vs. X3000), so you’re getting more advanced features for less money.

Next, let’s compare a bottom-of-the-range MacBook from the Apple store (2.1Ghz, 1GB memory, 120GB HDD):

  • UK price: £699
  • JP price: £615.26 (¥129,800)

The Japanese model is slightly cheaper. The differing rates of VAT are the most likely explanation for this.

We’ll wrap things up by looking at some furniture. Ikea has opened three of their enormous superstores in Japan over the past couple of years, which makes finding like-for-like items in their regional online stores easy.

We’ll begin with a 160cm x 200cm double-bed frame (Leksvik) and mattress (Sultan Fangebo):

  • UK price: £150 (frame) + £120 (mattress) = £270
  • JP price: £198.82 (frame) + £127.80 (mattress) = £326.62 (¥41,990 + ¥26,990)

After that, a nice white sofa (Ektorp):

  • UK price: £255
  • JP price: £236.27 (¥49,900)

And a decent-sized kitchen/living room table with four chairs (Antnas):

  • UK price: £119
  • JP price: £122.87 (¥25,950)

TOTAL:

  • UK: £644
  • JP: £685.76

We’ve finally found something cheaper in the UK! The price difference wasn’t enormous, and in fact it seems as though the bed frame made up the bulk of the extra expense. Furniture does tend to be quite expensive – and small – in Japan, but with Ikea now coming into the market things may change.

That’s all for today. Look out for part three, where we’ll be doing clothing, CDs, DVDs and books.

(Exchange rate for 17th July 2008: 1GBP = 211.04JPY)

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