Apr 13, 2019

Why All the Fees?

One thing that I have noticed during my time in Japan is that Japanese companies love charging fees. Like really love it. Some fees I understand, yet others make absolutely no sense. It is like a style of exploitation. Basically, everything in Japan has a start-up fee. Of course, apartments and such have them, although they are way overpriced. Aside from that, I have encountered starting fees on things such as cell phones, apartment insurance, and what bothers me the most, gyms/skill learning places (Such as dance classrooms, language classrooms, etc.). 

Why All the Fees? photo

Can I have this much, please? Haha. Photo: www.pixabay.com 

This has been on my mind recently because I just came back from a five-month sprint back in the states and I had started taking many classes for fun, including belly dancing, salsa dancing, and aerial skills. I want to continue all my classes in Japan, so I began searching. Low and behold, the prices per class are way more and there are pricey startup fees that have to be paid once a year. Instead, I started considering a gym, but the policies seem to be the same. Just for fun, let’s compare belly dance class prices. In the US there were no fees in the beginning and the price per class was $10. In Japan, on average, the beginning fee is 5000 yen plus 2000-2500 yen per lesson, quite a difference. 

The idea of this startup fee that is paid once a year is perplexing to me. What am I actually paying for? I asked my boyfriend and he just shrugged his shoulders. Personally, I feel like this is a way to exploit people. I asked some of my friends what they thought; it is apparent that they think it is unfair, but they feel like there is nothing they can do, shouganai. One friend thinks that classrooms and gyms charge such high rates because the number of people that take the classes, or join gyms are smaller. I can understand gyms having that mindset, but the number of people in the classes that I have tried seem to be about the same, if not more. 

For unfair things like this, I really think that there is a problem with the shouganai, or nothing can be done, mindset that everyone seems to have. Nothing will ever change if everyone just accepts it. However, I think some people are rejecting the beginning fees. There are very, very few younger people joining gyms and attending these classes in my experience. All of the girls I have encountered in the classes are much older than me by ten or more years. This means that younger people are not willing to pay. It completely makes sense, because I am not so keen either. 

Due to this phenomena that I think is occurring, sometimes the beginning costs are discounted, but I still don’t think that it is enough. I don’t think we should be charged those fees in the first place. More people would be willing to try different classes and that in the end companies would make more money. My hope is that it is slowly changing. It may not be enough for me to benefit now, but maybe ten or so years from now. 

In the end, I have sucked up my pride and stretched my wallet for a studio who was willing to discount the startup fees. I paid about 3000 yen. Am I still against it? 100%, but for now, I at least go a discount. In a year, if I am asked to pay again, I will switch to somewhere else. Making the switch is the only small way my voice can be heard.  

Have you encountered these fees? Do they drive you crazy? How about your home country?



Teacher, Traveler, Dancer -
Currently living in Gifu -
I love Japan, dance, cats, food, and fashion!

1 Comment

  • Striffy

    on Apr 14

    I am wondering if the fee is there to prevent people from switching to other companies. I joined ABC cooking when they had an introduction sale and i didn't have to pay any entering fee. I was interested before but the fee is super high (12 000yen). Switching to between companies would cost me more than paying the fee once in one studio (although in your case it's every year). I guess it's also psychological because if there's an entering fee and it gets discounted clients feel they have saved money and are more willing to enter a program.