by Five by Fifty

Five Innovations in Fifty Seconds

1. Light Lunch

Over the past 15 years, Japan has become one of the most value-driven markets in the industrialized world. Consumers once famous for their love of luxury now make their decisions firmly on price, quality be damned. One product that has come to symbolize this ‘race to the bottom’ is the ¥298 bento from Seiyu, the Wal-Mart owned supermarket chain that is proving an unlikely winner from the recession. Some consumers say ¥500 is now the max they’ll spend on lunch.

2. Aeon Beer

2. Cheap Drunks

Why pay ¥250 yen for a real beer when you can get something that tastes almost the same for ¥100? Yes, that’s the price of the private-label beer released by Aeon retail group this summer, 30 percent cheaper than other beer substitute drinks and just 40 percent of the price of premium brands like Yebisu.


3. Toasty Toes

It sometimes feels like soon we’ll all have no choice but to shop at Uniqlo. The value apparel retailer, which opened a flagship store behind L’Opera in Paris in September, has started selling shoes. They include these lined boots for ¥2,990—about 10 percent of the Japan retail price of similar style boots from cult Australian footwear brand UGGS.

4. Cartier

4. Bling Bong

High-end brands aren’t immune. Even rich people are rethinking the value of luxury.  French jewelry brand Cartier has announced that it will release a line of watches in Japan priced at ¥200,000–¥300,000, instead of the usual ¥500,000–¥900,000—that’s a mark down of as much as 33 percent.

5. Apaato

5. To L With It

One of the biggest expenses for a Tokyoite is accommodation, so paying ¥65,000 a month sounds like a good deal to live just a ten-minute walk from Ginza, and just two minutes from the world’s freshest sushi at Tsukiji Market. But you’ll have to make some sacrifices: having your toilet in your living room, for one. And at just 8.49 square meters in size, there’s little space for belongings. In fact, you may have to get used to sleeping in the shape of an L.

Bonus fact:
¥850—the price of a pair of jeans at Seiyu, cheaper than Daiei (¥880), Aeon (¥880) and Uniqlo’s g.u. (¥990).