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Living in Japan

The Cost of Living in Japan

Japan is consistently ranked as having one of the highest average costs of living in the world. Daily expenses can easily add up to 280,000–300,000 JPY (2,500–2,700 USD) per month. Why is it so expensive? The answer is three-fold: the country’s geographical location, Japanese culture, and Tokyo.

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Japan is 124 miles from mainland Asia. Because of this, many everyday goods are imported, raising their price. For example, most dairy products have to be imported into the country. Expats may find these items to be two or three times more expensive than in Europe or in North or South America.

Japanese culture places great importance on high-quality items and services. Goods ranging from food to clothes to electronics are all expected to be top-grade, as are services in the food industry, hospitality, etc. This desire for fine items comes with high costs.

Tokyo is the third reason Japan is deemed a pricey country. The capital is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive cities in the world. As the most populous city in Japan, the city’s exorbitant costs influence the rest of the nation. A single person living in Tokyo can expect to spend around 120,000 JPY (1,100 USD) per month, not including rent. If you add in the average rental price for a one-bedroom apartment, this expense goes up to nearly 245,000 JPY (2,200 USD). A family living in Tokyo will see that number tripled.

Read on to learn more about the cost of living in Japan.

At a Glance

  • Expats should expect to spend the bulk of their paycheck on accommodation costs.
  • In addition to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto are also popular expat destinations. They are slightly cheaper cities to live in than the country’s capital.
  • Public schools in Japan are free for foreign students, although most expat parents choose an international school because of the language requirements.
  • Wine-lovers may want to develop a taste for Japanese beer. On average, wine in Japan will cost nearly three times as much as beer.
  • Expats who want to eat out on a budget can turn to cheap ramen shops or family restaurants called famiresu (ファミレス). Famiresu typically offer both Japanese and Western meals that cost anywhere between 500 to 2,000 JPY (5-20 USD).

How Expensive is it to Live in Japan?

Living expenses in Japan are high. Expats moving here can expect a comfortable lifestyle, but they will not save a lot of money.

Overall, the country has an extremely stable economy and is known for ultra-modern, innovative conveniences. After all, this is the country that grows melons in square containers, forcing the fruit into a boxy, easily stackable shape.

Below is a look at the various costs that expats can expect when relocating to Japan.

The Most Expensive and Cheapest Cities in Japan: Monthly Expenses and Rent

Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka are three of the most expensive cities in Japan. Kyoto and Fukuoka are the most affordable. All five cities are popular with expats. Tokyo has the largest community of foreigners simply because it is the most populous city in the country and is home to many international businesses.

Below is a look at the cost of living in each city. Prices include the average monthly expenses plus rent, and the average rent for one- and three-bedroom homes. For a closer look at rent or purchasing property in Japan, see our Housing guide.

Japan’s Most Expensive Cities

Tokyo

Japan’s thriving capital; home to over 9 million people.

Average monthly expenses with rent.
Single expat 244,600 JPY 2,200 USD
Family of four 730,000 JPY 6,700 USD
Rent only.
One-bedroom apartment 124,600 JPY 1,100 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 290,000 JPY 2,700 USD

Yokohama

A port city that is best known for its ocean views and iconic Ferris wheel.

Average monthly expenses with rent.
Single expat 204,000 JPY 1,900 USD
Family of four 700,000 JPY 6,400 USD
Rent only.
One-bedroom apartment 104,000 JPY 1,000 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 300,000 JPY 2,800 USD

Osaka

A lively city that is known for its distinct dialect and unique urban flavor.

Average monthly expenses with rent.
Single expat 181,000 JPY 2,100 USD
Family of four 530,000 JPY 6,300 USD
Rent only.
One-bedroom apartment 74,000 JPY 700 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 140,000 JPY 1,300 USD

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Japan’s Most Affordable Cities

Kyoto

The previous capital of Japan; known for its historic temples and shrines.

Average monthly expenses with rent.
Single expat 167,500 JPY 1,500 USD
Family of four 450,000 JPY 4,100 USD
Rent only.
One-bedroom apartment 67,500 JPY 620 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 150,000 JPY 1,400 USD

Fukuoka

The most populous city on Japan’s northern Kyushu island.

Average monthly expenses with rent.
Single expat 145,000 JPY 1,300 USD
Family of four 367,000 JPY 3,400 USD
Rent only.
One-bedroom apartment 60,000 JPY 550 USD
Three-bedroom apartment 137,000 JPY 1,300 USD

Utility Costs

Utilities are typically not included in Japanese rent. Prices will vary depending on where you live, but on average expats should expect to spend around 20,000 JPY (190 USD) per month on electricity, gas, and water. Internet will be about 3,000 to 9,000 JPY per month depending on speed (30–85 USD).

Grocery Prices in Japan

As stated earlier, prices throughout the Land of the Rising Sun tend to be high because a lot of goods are imported. Food and alcohol prices will be higher than in most other Asian countries. The average restaurant cost is about 3,000 JPY (30 USD) per person. Expats who want to eat out on a budget can opt for cheap ramen and noodle shops. Bills in these establishments will run about 500–1,000 JPY (5–10 USD).

Food Item JYP USD
One dozen eggs 280 2.60
One loaf of bread 200 2.00
One gallon of milk 800 7.50
One pound of chicken 470 4.40
One pound of apples 730 6.80
One bottle of beer 260 2.40
One bottle of wine 1,700 15.70

Cost of Education

Education costs in Japan are only high if you choose to send your children to a private or international school. Public schools are free for both Japanese and foreign students. The only costs you will need to pay are for school uniforms and other materials. This will average around 4,000 JPY (35 USD) per year. Private and international school tuitions, however, will cost anywhere from 2,000,000 JPY to 2.3 million JPY (18,000 to 21,000 USD) per year.

Healthcare Costs

Japan is well-known for its excellent healthcare system. The majority of residents use public healthcare, which covers 70% of medical costs. Some expats may opt for private health insurance to supplement the 30% or if they expect to need extensive medical care during their time in Japan.

On average, with health insurance, you can expect to pay anywhere between 5,000–10,000 JPY (45–90 USD) for a consultation at a clinic, and 10,000–15,000 JPY (90–140 USD) at a hospital. Without insurance, these costs will go up to 20–50,000 JPY (180–460 USD). Follow up appointments should cost less.

Travel and Transportation Cost

Transportation in Japan is fast, efficient, and reasonably priced. Costs range from 170 JPY (1.50 USD) for a single fare ticket in Tokyo’s metro to 20,000 JPY (185 USD) for a one-way ticket on the famous bullet train. Buses and trains are the most common way to travel throughout the country, although it is also possible to take domestic flights and ferries.

Japanese cars like Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Subaru are relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to their costs outside of Japan. For example, a new Honda Civic will cost about one million JPY (9,000 USD) in Japan, whereas the starting prices in the US is 18,000 USD (2 million JPY).

Average gas prices are about 130 JPY per liter or 490 JPY per gallon (1.20 and 4.50 USD respectively).

Updated on: April 21, 2020

All about Japan

Thinking of moving to Japan? Use this guide as an overview for all the requirements you need to relocate to the Land of the Rising Sun. We cover all of the need-to-know topics such as how to apply for your residence card upon your arrival at the airport and why you need a Certificate of Eligibility for your visa. The steps to move to Japan are not difficult, but in order to have an easy relocation, it helps to be prepared.

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