Cost of Living in Japan

Japan has a reputation for having an exorbitantly high cost of living. Nevertheless, it's quite possible to live a good life in Japan without breaking the bank. It's 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, ranking second in Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2019 – Osaka ranked 19th and Nagoya 33rd out of 209 expat destinations surveyed.

Cost of food in Japan

It's easy to find good deals on meals in Japan due to fierce competition between restaurants. Eating out can even work out cheaper than cooking at home if expats don't mind a frequent diet of noodles. It's 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,  expats should bear 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 compared to other Asian countries, it's highly efficient and the easiest way to travel around the country. Most expats opt not to own their own vehicle. Driving is often more trouble than it's worth in bustling Japanese cities, as 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 should also note that extra cost, such as the cost of uniforms, stationery and field trips, usually aren't included in the high school fees. 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 January 2020.

Accommodation (monthly)

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

JPY 150,000

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

JPY 280,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

JPY 77,900

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

JPY 125,000


Dozen eggs

JPY 237.50

Milk (1 litre)

JPY 192

Loaf of white bread

JPY 190

Rice (1kg)

JPY 615

Chicken breasts (1kg)

JPY 800

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

JPY 500

Utilities (monthly)

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

JYP 48

Internet (average per month)

JYP 4,700

Utilities (average per month for standard household)

JYP 20,000

Eating out and entertainment

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

JYP 5,500

Big Mac Meal or equivalent

JYP 695


JYP 390

Coca-Cola (330ml)

JYP 146

Local beer (500ml)

JYP 500


Taxi rate per km

JYP 410

City centre public transport

JYP 185

Petrol (per litre)

JYP 140

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