Cost of Living in Japan



Considered as an economic giant worldwide, Japan’s cost of living is considerably higher than most other countries. Adjusting to the local way of life is one way to ensure you live comfortably without spending a fortune.

Most foreign nationals in this country live in Tokyo, the capital, which was ranked by Mercer as the 5th most expensive city in the world in their 2016 Cost of Living Survey. Consumer prices in Japan are also 2.38% higher than in Singapore and around 95% more expensive than in China. Though the cost of living in Japan is undoubtedly one of the highest in the world, expats who are willing to embrace the Japanese way of life will be astonished as how affordable a good life can be.

Cost of Accommodation and Utilities

Owning a home in Japan is costly and this why the majority of expats choose to rent. Tokyo is famous for its high cost of living; you can find some of the world's most expensive land in this metropolitan city where even a tiny apartment can be very costly. If you are keen on saving while living in the city centre, you can opt to live in Gaijin house (or a foreigner house), an inexpensive type of accommodation which is only available for expats staying for more than a month. Shared or private apartments are also available in the city. Shared apartment are less expensive, however, six to eight people usually share the kitchen and bathroom. Housing in Tokyo is 14% higher than in Singapore so expats can also look for accommodation outside the capital where the rental costs are cheaper.

  • One bedroom apartment (city centre) - ¥ 85,560 or USD 755 per month
  • One bedroom apartment (outside the city centre) - ¥ 56,110 or USD 500 per month
  • Three bedroom apartment (city centre) - ¥ 180,230 or USD 1,600 per month
  • Three bedroom apartment (outside the city centre) - ¥ 108,270 or USD 950
  • Shared apartments - ¥ 40,000-100,000 or USD 350-880

Due to Japan's extreme weather, the most expensive utility bill is for electricity (air conditioning and heating). It is advisable to reserve 10% of your monthly earnings or budget of at least ¥ 20,000 or USD 180 per month to cover their water, electricity and heating.

Food and Dining Out

One great savings tip for expats in Japan is to take advantage of the local produce instead of buying imported products. Supermarkets in this country sell affordable Japanese foods such as seasonal rice, Soya bean products, vegetables and seafood. It is also a good idea to go to the supermarket at night or before the closing time when they can avail huge discounts on perishable products.

  • One litre of regular milk - ¥ 187 or USD 1.65
  • A dozen eggs - ¥ 230 or USD 2.05
  • One kilo of white rice - ¥ 425 or USD 3.75
  • One kilogramme of local cheese - ¥ 1,970 or USD 17.35
  • One kilogramme of boneless chicken breasts - ¥ 895 or USD 7.90
  • One kilogramme of apples - ¥ 650 or USD 5.70
  • One kilogramme of tomatoes - ¥ 780 or USD 6.90

It is important to know that when you purchase goods, you are subject to 5% consumption tax. The total amount on the price tag is already inclusive of the total cost of the item and the sales tax. All residents (permanent or temporary) are subject to tax, national insurance and pension contributions. As a temporary resident, you can claim a refund once you return to your home country.

Naturally, local food is relatively inexpensive. There is a vast variety of economical restaurants offering native cuisine like sushi, noodles and rice dishes. The Japanese are also known for set menus and lunch boxes, or bento that is affordable and readily available in commercial establishments nationwide. Bentos are usually cheaper during lunch time and expats can grab one at convenient stores or at temporary stands in business districts. Other affordable foods sold inside train stations are curry rice, hamburgers, domburi and Korean bibimba.

  • One serving of Nigiri or Sushi - ¥ 1,350 or USD 12
  • A bowl of Ramen - ¥ 590 or USD 5.20
  • One serving of curry rice - ¥ 745 or USD 6.60
  • Meal at an inexpensive restaurant - ¥ 800 or USD 7.05
  • Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant - ¥ 4,200 or USD 35-40
  • A cup of regular cappuccino - ¥375 or USD 3.30

Cost of Daily Transportation

Owning a car in Japan is expensive due to the compulsory bi-annual shakens (inspections), insurance and automobile tax. Parking spaces are also scarce in the city centre and those that are available are often expensive. Expats who will live in rural areas and need to drive to Tokyo or major cities also need to pay toll fees. Many Japanese use the public transportation which is considered as one of the best in the world. There are buses, plains and trains that expats can utilise for their daily commute.

  • Joshaken (Base fare) train ticket - ¥ 20 or USD 0.20
  • Tokkyuken (Limited Express) train ticket - ¥ 500-4,000 or USD 4.40-35.30
  • One-way bus ticket - ¥ 210 or USD 1.85
  • Monthly pass - ¥ 9,240 or USD 81.45
  • Taxi flag down rate - ¥ 710 or USD 6.25
  • Taxi one kilometre rate - ¥ 335 or USD 2.95
  • One litre of gasoline - ¥ 127.16 or USD 1.12


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Cost of Living Abroad

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