Cost of Living in Japan

Japan has a reputation for having an exorbitantly high cost of living for expats, as evidenced by Tokyo's rank of 3rd in Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey for 2017. 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, and that the average Japanese standard of living ranks amongst the highest in the world.

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, but 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 cost up to 2.5 million JPY per year. 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 and the list below shows average prices for Tokyo in June 2018.

Accommodation (monthly rent in good area)

Furnished two-bedroom house

JPY 240,000 - 280,000

Furnished two-bedroom apartment

JPY 160,000 - 240,000

Room in shared apartment

JPY 80,000 - 120,000


Dozen eggs

JPY 220

1 litre milk

JPY 200

Loaf of bread (white)

JPY 265

Chicken breasts (1kg)

JPY 820

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

JPY 460

Utilities/Household (monthly)

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

JYP 45

Internet (average per month)

JYP 4,100

Utilities (average per month for standard household)

JYP 18,000

Eating out and entertainment

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

JYP 4,000

Takeaway meal (e.g. Mcdonalds)

JYP 680


JYP 380

Coca-Cola (500ml)

JYP 130

Beer in bar

JYP 350


Taxi rate per km

JYP 400

City centre train fare

JYP 210

Petrol (per litre)

JYP 132

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