The Myth of Expensive cost of Living in Japan.

August 14, 2019

Before you pack up your clothes, book a ticket, say sayonara everyone and fly to Japan, don’t you wonder how much it will cost to maintain a standard of living in Japan?

Yes, Japan is known not only for animes, theme parks, Tokyo and ramen. It is also popular for its grand cost of living. Tokyo for example, is a regular on list of top ten most expensive cities in the world. But never let cost of living burst your bubbles for this article will be your best friend and will provide you the estimated monthly cost for a person living in Japan!

You see, it is not always expensive to live in Japan and you can tone the cost of living depending on where in Japan you are located and your traveling style. From budget-friendly tiny apartments around 10 square meters to luxuriant ones in prime districts. You can also opt to choose to rent outside of central Tokyo to get a bit lower housing costs in surrounding prefectures, suburbs and other regions where a 20-40 square meter apartment with one room ranges between 50,000 and 70,000 yen. It is a lot cheaper compared to same-sized apartments in central Tokyo with rent starting with a left kidney, or around 100,000 yen.


For maintaining the apartment, say hello to the big three, electricity, gas and water. It is common in residences to have gas water heaters and cooktops. While induction cooktops are present in some modern homes. Needless to say, electricity tends to be the most expensive utility. I mean, what’s the point of living in a country of advanced technology if you do not have electricity? You will be spending about 4000 yen for electricity, 3000 yen for gas and 2000 yen for water every month.

Another accommodation to consider aside from renting conventional apartments is the sharehouse/guesthouse which is hassle-free and inexpensive option if you want to stay in the city. Some of those houses even include electricity, gas, and water on the monthly rentals.

Here is a guide of estimated expenditure and living cost every month

Accommodation and Utilities costs:

Monthly rent for 20-40 square meters accommodation in NORMAL area                             ¥50,000

Monthly rent for 20-40 square meters accommodation in EXPENSIVE area                         ¥100,000

Utilities 1 month (heating, electricity, gas …) for 2 people in 85m2 flat                      ¥10,000 – ¥20,000

Internet                                                                                                                                               ¥4,023

Microwave 800/900 Watt (Bosch, Panasonic, LG, Sharp, or equivalent brands)                   ¥12,000

Laundry detergent                                                                                                                            ¥450

              Now that you have established and got around cost for a place to live and utility, let’s talk about filling up the belly. Food is life and Japan has no shortage of authentic food from ramen to sushi. 

            There are also lots of wallet friendly restaurants that offer full meal including donburi, rice, hamburger, and ramen from 500 yen to 1000 yen. These restaurants are located in most business areas and large train stations. You can also opt to get bento or lunch boxes which are sold in convenience stores and department stores and food stands. Some restaurants also offer set menus (teishoku) at around 1000 yen.

            If you aim to save your food allowance, you can cut your food expenses by getting your food at the local supermarkets which are significantly less expensive. You can also consider buying pre-cooked products at discounted prices shortly before the store closes in the evening time. The key here is being familiar and shopping around to get a knack of average prices and discount days and time. Basically, the more you stick to in-season Japanese food, the more money for food you save.

Here is a guide of estimated food expenditure

Basic lunchtime menu in the business district                            ¥1000

Combo meal in fast food restaurant                                               ¥700

500 gr (1 lb.) of boneless chicken breast                                       ¥500

1 kg (2 lb.) of apples                                                                          ¥800

1 kg (2 lb.) of potatoes                                                                      ¥300

1 liter (1 qt.) of milk                                                                            ¥200

12 eggs                                                                                                 ¥200

1 kg (2 lb.) of tomatoes                                                                     ¥450

Bread                                                                                                     ¥200

Beer in the supermarket                                                                     ¥200

Bottle of a good quality red table wine                                            ¥2000

Soda                                                                                                       ¥200

            Next to consider in living in Japan and of course, its cost for connectivity like phone and internet unless you want to go on a hermit mode and disconnect to the online world, connectivity should be a part of monthly expenses. You can get mobile subscription plans that are available from 2000 yen to 6000 yen per month with standard 2-year contract though you need a residence card to apply. Handset can be bought outright or monthly installment. Home internet access such as pocket wifi device can be availed at monthly fees starting from 2500 yen. You can opt to subscribing to faster broadband or fiber optic internet connection for a monthly fee starting from 5000 yen. Some apartments come with free use of internet like Modern Living Tokyo (that’s us).


            What’s the point of moving to Japan if you cannot travel? These are your commuting and transportation options to consider. Cycling, if you are health buff and wants a cost-effective mode of transportation. Japan is a country filled with bicycle parking that are located near most railway stations and malls. There are also local buses and trains which is the main mode of transportation. Commuting and transportation costs about 12000 yen monthly.


            Living is not living if you are not enjoying, so let us talk about leisure and entertainment. Geez, there is no scarcity of things to do and enjoy here in Japan. Common entertainment such as movie theaters cost around 1000 yen to 2000 yen. Live performances by international and local artists come in plenty a year, with prices starting from 7000 yen. Karaoke is so popular in Japan it is even included in some console games, you can sing your hearts out and have your own live performance in various karaoke establishments with hourly rates start from 200 yen. If you are health enthusiast, sports do not differ from western sport with exception to Sumo wrestling. Seats for popular sports like sumo, football and baseball ranges from 1000 yen to 15000 yen. You can stay fit with gym and fitness club membership for 8000 yen to 9000 yen. Rent a tennis court at 2000 yen to 3000 yen per hour. Bowling at around 900 yen to 1500 yen.  You can also pamper your inner child with amusement parks and water parks. The admission prices for these places range from 2000 yen to 15000 yen.



            Japan is also a great mix of modernity and tradition. You can go on shopping and burn your wallet’s economy you can also take a trip to 100 yen shop and dive into discount galore. You can also walk to some hundred-year-old shrines. There are tons of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples all over Japan. Take advantage of travelling to places where festivals or matsuri are being held. Japan has plenty of festivals happening throughout the year. Japan is rich in tradition and festivals come with parades, dancing, street food, fireworks and honoring Kami or God. Is 12000 yen monthly transportation cost still sound expensive if you can feast your eyes and heart with Japan’s awesome and culture rich festival? I think not!



            So, my friend, are you ready to go to Japan? Sure you do, so what are you waiting for? Know the place, the space, the locals, the travel to and from, and remember, don’t just live in Japan, live smart in Japan so you can both enjoy while you are saving some of your cash at the same time. See you there.


Ready to experience Japan? Well, happy searching!