The Cost of Living in Tokyo in 2019
Japan is one among the most developed countries in the world, as a result, the country is also infamous for its high cost of living. Indeed, Tokyo always makes it into the list of the world’s top ten most expensive cities (Forbes). Before moving to Japan, many worry about this high cost of living, and may feel overwhelmed with the task of budgeting their monthly living costs. Is it really expensive living in Tokyo, and what is the general cost of living from budget, to average to extravagant lifestyle in Tokyo? Let’s find out in this post written by a resident who has been living in Tokyo for the last 3 years. We will cover the basic cost of living in Tokyo with information about housing and rent, grocery and food, utilities like gas, water, electricity and mobile phone, internet cost, as well as transportation and entertainment.
Apparently a big chunk of your monthly budget must include rent or cost for housing. Depending on the location and the convenience of the apartment, the price can be cheaper or more expensive. In the central districts of Tokyo such as Minato-ku, Chiyoda-ku, etc., the average monthly rent is close to 100,000 yen a month, but you can find cheaper apartments in areas farther from the center for around 65,000 yen averagely (Homes JP). The year the apartment was built and also, the size of the apartment is one of the other 2 deciding factors of the monthly rent. Tokyo apartments are on the smaller size as they are generally designed for single person occupancy, ranging from 15 square meters to 25 square meters. Apartments that are more than 30 square meters and up are mainly for double occupancy or those which are on the luxurious style, catering for high-income earners or the ex-pat community.
Renting your own apartment in Tokyo and Japan can be a hassle if you are a foreigner. Japanese real estate owners still prefer renting to Japanese mainly because of the problems which may be caused by cultural differences and language barriers. However, in the last few years, there are more real estate agencies becoming more open to the ex-pat community and targeting servicing the foreign community. You should know in advance that renting an apartment here generally has a very high initial cost, as there are shikikin/security deposit and reikin/key money (non-refundable) which each of them is equal to one month’s rent. Totally you will have to pay 4 to 5 times the first time when you move to a new apartment in Tokyo and Japan.
There are a few more affordable housing options such as living in a shared-house – which caters to the more budget-conscious customers. You won’t have to pay any outrageous amount of initial cost nor the reikin which you will never get back. Many foreigners when arriving in Tokyo for the first time choose this housing option over others because of the hassle-free move in procedure, as well as the low initial cost. Modern Living Tokyo provides you with both the option of living in shared-house/guesthouse and furnished apartments at an affordable monthly rent.
Food and Grocery
Life in Tokyo is always busy, and it’s certainly difficult to find time to cook while restaurants and cheap fast-food chains are available 24 hours a day, especially in the main business districts. However, it depends on how often you cook that decides how much your budget for groceries and food is going to be. A normal lunch will cost you around 500 – 1,500 yen. And if you eat out twice a day, the cost will add up to 60,000 yen a month (without breakfast). Japanese restaurants always provide lunchtime with special meal sets at a discounted rate, however, for dinners, they normally charge more. The average Japanese spend 40,000 yen each month on food and grocery for men, and 30,000 yen for women as women cook at home more often while men eat more and also eat out more.
Higher end restaurants can cost up to 10,000 yen for a meal and the middle end will range between 2,000 and 8,000 yen. Depending on your life-style, the amount of money you spend on your grocery and food will range widely. And if you crave for your home country food such as cheese and exotic fruits, those may be difficult to find here in Japan and always being sold at a high marked up price.
Utilities, Mobile-phone, and Internet
Utilities are not cheap in Tokyo. It can cost up to 10,000 yen a month totally for one person each month. Generally, electricity will cost you the most, if you have a contract with TEPCO – the major electricity company here, then the first 120 kWh will cost 19.52 yen each, the next 180 kWh is 25.98 yen and after that, it costs 30.02 yen each. So for example, if you use 250 kWh each month – the average amount one person uses each month, your electricity bill will come at 5,720 yen.
For water and gas, generally it comes to around 2,000 to 3,000 yen on average each month.
For mobile phone bills, if you contract with major providers such as NTT/Docomo, KDDI/au and Softbank, your monthly mobile phone bill can be more or less 5,000 yen. The cheapest plans in each of these companies do not vary so much, and generally start from 2,000 yen at least. However, in recent years, many affordable choices of mobile carriers start to become more popular in Japan, such as Rakuten Mobile, Y! Mobile, Big Globe, UQ Mobile, LINE Mobile etc. do provide many basic mobile phone plans starting from 1,000 yen only. Compared with the major carriers, however, you won’t be able to find the same level of support in English. If it’s not a matter for you, choosing the cheaper carriers can save you up to 75% mobile phone bills each month.
For internet, it will cost you around 5,000-7,000 each month for fiber internet connection.
If you don’t plan to buy a car, the main and also the most convenient mode of transportation to get around in Tokyo and the surrounding areas is by train. The network of trains in Tokyo is indeed very efficient, extensive and very punctual. If you work here, companies will generally pay for transportation from your house to the company, and if you buy a monthly train pass, you can also stop in the middle stations for free using the pass. But if you go out every weekend, and use the train, it can cost a few hundred yen one way and it can add up to 4,000-5,000 yen for one month.
While in Tokyo, there are many chances for you to explore and discover the cultural events such as sumo wrestling competition, traditional tea ceremony, and flower arrangement lessons (ikebana) etc. But there are always other free events and places to go during weekends in Tokyo and even if you live on a budget, Tokyo is still full of parks and interesting for you to visit and discover. Parks in this buzzing city always nest among the towering skyscrapers, hence taking a stroll and relaxing on a weekend’s afternoon in one of the many beautiful gardens doesn’t cost much but certainly a zen pleasure to many, or how about visiting Koishikawa Korakuen in autumn to appreciate the beauty of autumn leaves. For others, spending a day in Jimbocho, Tokyo’s book district maybe the perfect weekend leisure activity.
Tokyo is also heaven for shopping lovers, however, you can always find many available options for different budget, from local brands like Uniqlo, GU to international brands like Chanel, Cartier. Also, Tokyo is full of vintage or second hand shops (古着屋) where you can certainly spot many great finds for your closet.
Gym membership in Japan is on the expensive side. If you plan to register for membership at a sports center which includes a gym, studios for lessons, and a swimming pool, it can cost around 12,000 yen a month. The more budget places starts from 2,500 yen, for example, the Sport Center in Bunkyo City let you use the gym for ¥600 (one time) or ¥2,800 (one month). The point is finding out the cheaper places within your budget.
We hope that with the information in this post, you can have a clearer idea on how much it may cost you to live in here. We don’t think that Tokyo is an expensive city to live in, as long as you know how to budget and manage your finance, and also living like a local person can help you save tons of money too. Learning to speak Japanese fluently will certainly help you achieve that, if you need to find a Japanese language school, check out our post about the 5 Best Japanese Language Schools in Tokyo.