TMBA 295: Our Hobo in Tokyo​ - Living on the Cheap in Japan

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This week on the show, I’m talking to Chris Kirkland from the Hobo CEO podcast. His show explores the philosophical side of the digital nomad movement.  Chris is a veteran of the location independent scene, having founded his first location-independent business Artweb in 2005. One of Chris’ more recent ventures is TokyoCheapo.com, a content-based business dedicated to educating travelers and expatriates on how to live in Japan on the cheap. We’ll be discussing some of the common misconceptions about living in Japan and the benefits and challenges of managing a content-based business model.

Listen to this week’s show and learn:

  • What brought Chris to Japan and why he has decided to stay for so long.
  • Why Tokyo gets a bad rap for being an expensive place to live.
  • What has changed since Chris became location independent in 2005.
  • What “Under-Optimization” is and how entrepreneurs can use it to their advantage.
  • The processes of producing and managing the content for TokyoCheapo.com.
  • What Chris believes is the future of the digital nomad movement.

People on this episode:

Mentioned in the episode:

Listening options:

Thanks for listening to our show! We’ll be back next Thursday morning 8AM EST. Cheers, Dan & Ian

Published on 05.21.15
  • jonincanada

    [not spam!] Toronto to Japan $774 all-in return flight (book by ~may 23) http://www.yyzdeals.com/tag/japan

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan Andrews

    niiiiice

  • David Schneider

    Can only agree with Chris! Mercer is correct to say Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities for expats, but doesnt mention that the standard of living is one of the highest in g7 countries but at a much lower price for an average Japanese. Example, a typical expat would live in a 1ldk (40sqm) in Roppongi (upscale location) for more than $4000 and eat at a sushi place that could easily set you back $100 without drinks. Same counts for typical tourists who stay at standard hotels, takes taxis and eat at places recommended by the usual trave guides.

    I on the other hand eat great sushi for less than $10 and pay rent of less than $400 dollars at the outskirts of tokyo and enjoy one of the fastest internet speeds in the world for less than $40 a month. I am German but will always consider Tokyo as my home base, having already spend more than 7 years here. Nevertheless, everybody (including japanese themselves) should leave the country for at least a month or more each year. To keep a level of sanity and see whats going on in the world. I admire chris for his lifestyle setup and hope to meet up with him to be part of the local chapter. Are there any other followers I could meet here in tokyo?

  • David Schneider

    One more question: I love your podcast and always willing to try out new services, but I can’t find a directory or archive that shows the services or products offered by your members.

    For example, I have a small online retail business with a partner in Tokyo and we are trying to move away from ebay (diversify) to our own retail site (wordpress). Who of your members could help me and what services could or should I use. On the one hand, I feel it could really help my business gain momentum and on the other hand it would be a great to keep business within this DC community before using outside services such as Odesk or Elance. A DC member discount would also be nice! Would be great to get some pointers. Thanks a lot and keep up the good work!

    PS: I hope I will be able to qualify for DC membership with my business in Tokyo.

  • http://www.mrkirkland.com/ mrkirkland

    @disqus_CX8bVgEdRr:disqus drop me a line. send me a message through my site – mrkirkland.com or find me on FB. Given the size of expat Tokyo community, we probably have mutual friends already :)

  • TJ

    With the exception of real estate, the prices of many Japanese goods and services have aligned more closely with other countries over the past two decades. In addition, over the past year the yen has slid 20% against the dollar making travel a lot more economical.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan Andrews

    thanks for that TJ, that was my experience on the ground

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan Andrews

    hey David that’s a great idea, we’ve kicked around ideas like that but don’t have any clear ideas for execution right now. Best of luck with your business!!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan Andrews

    Cheers David thanks for that info!

  • http://www.scottbrills.com/ Scott Brills

    I feel you Chris! As another traveling entrepreneur that has been in the game for a while and spent a considerable amount of time in Japan, I too had the same feelings until I met my “tribe” starting in 2012. A lot easier when you don’t need to explain to everyone what you do–that no, you’re not a drug smuggler, arms dealer, or spy. :)

  • Reader

    Real estate is just expensive on paper as Japanese people are used to living in tiny apartments that would be considered too small to be livable by western people.

    If you don’t mind living in an apartment that is 20m2 or less, $500 will get you one in most parts of Tokyo.

    Free trade agreements got most goods (even imported) to western pricing levels.

  • http://www.mrkirkland.com/ mrkirkland

    Yeah, introducing myself as “homeless” always had mixed results at cocktail parties.

  • TJ

    Agreed, though I think most Westerners would have a hard time living in a 6 tatami mat room. For $1000/mo you could have a studio apartment or a shared house with a bit more space for a comparable price. Pricing aside, the trickier aspect is getting landlords to let you rent without a guarantor or a visa, etc. The practices surrounding real estate are very traditional, which is a big challenge for digital nomads. It’s not like Saigon or CM where you can roll up and get things done really easily.

  • Tom

    Big ups to you guys for your mention in Entrepreneur Magazine, the June 2015 edition.

    I don’t know Carmen Benitez (also mentioned in the article) but having her on your podcast might be interesting. This is my first time reaching out to you guys, but I’ve been following you guys for a long time. By the way, this is another great podcast with another great podcaster.

    Keep up the wonderful work!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan Andrews

    thanks so much Tom, I’m going to go check it out now :)

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan Andrews

    wait you aren’t a drug smuggler!?

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan Andrews

    ha!

  • Kevin

    Enlightening show! Underoptimization works for me too. I’m curious to hear what Chris’ relationship status is, if that’s partly what keeps him in Japan.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan Andrews

    thanks Kevin, I’ll ask Chris about it

  • http://www.mrkirkland.com/ mrkirkland

    I have a Japanese girlfriend that I met here. It’s a factor since her friends and family are here, but not a big one as we’re able to relocate if we really want to e.g. we lived in Europe together for half a year. They’d be some visa challenges in staying longer term in Europe, but the location independent country hopping plan is an easy option.

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