Cost of Living in Japan

Japan has a reputation for having an exorbitantly high cost of living for expats. Nevertheless, it's quite possible to live a good life in Japan without breaking the bank. It is important to remember that Japanese salaries are also quite high. The average Japanese standard of living ranks among the highest in the world.

The vast majority of Japan’s expats live in Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya. These are the three largest urban areas. Tokyo is by far the most expensive Japanese city. However, this is also where most of the higher-paying jobs are available.


Cost of food in Japan

Particularly in Tokyo, where competition is fierce, it is easy to find good deals on meals, evenings out and other forms of entertainment. Eating out can even work out cheaper than cooking at home if expats don't mind a frequent diet of noodles. It is also worthwhile to check out the basement floors of most department stores, where there are food courts selling goods at extremely reasonable prices.

While vegetables and fruit might seem very expensive at first, it is worth bearing in mind that they are in immaculate condition and are usually locally grown. Seafood and fish are relatively cheap and most supermarkets offer evening discounts to get rid of that day’s stock (fresh foods are very rarely kept for sale on the next day).


Cost of accommodation in Japan

The largest expense an expat will have in Japan is accommodation. There is a wide range of options available to suit every possible taste and preference. However, competition is fierce and costs can be pricey even for small, sub-standard spaces.


Cost of transport in Japan

While public transportation in Japan is expensive, it is highly efficient and the easiest way to travel around the country. Most expats living in Japan opt not to own their own vehicle. Driving is more trouble than it is worth in bustling Japanese cities. The cost of parking far outweighs that of using public transport.


Cost of schooling in Japan

Expats relocating to Japan with children will need to factor in the cost of schooling. Most foreigners choose to send their children to international schools which follow the same curriculum as they would in their home country. International school fees in Japan can be extremely high. Parents will also need to factor in various other expenses associated with schooling, such as the cost of uniforms, stationery and field trips. Some schools also charge various additional fees for holding a place for a student as well as for applications. 


Cost of living in Japan chart

Note that prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Tokyo in October 2019.

Accommodation (monthly)

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

JPY 152,400

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

JPY 297,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

JPY 79,500

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

JPY 128,600

Groceries

Dozen eggs

JPY 235

Milk (1 litre)

JPY 181

Loaf of white bread

JPY 193

Rice (1kg)

JPY 593

Chicken breasts (1kg)

JPY 835

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

JPY 490

Utilities (monthly)

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

JYP 44

Internet (average per month)

JYP 4,600

Utilities (average per month for standard household)

JYP 20,100

Eating out and entertainment

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two

JYP 5,000

Big Mac meal or equivalent

JYP 695

Cappuccino

JYP 396

Coca-Cola (330ml)

JYP 159

Bottle of local beer (500ml)

JYP 500

Transportation

Taxi rate per km

JYP 410

City centre public transport

JYP 193

Petrol (per litre)

JYP 142