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 third in Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2020 – Osaka ranked 22nd and Nagoya 26th 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 rather expensive at first, expats should bear in mind that they are always top quality, super fresh and 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 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 it is important to bear in mind that competition is fierce and costs can be pricey even for small, sub-standard spaces.


Cost of healthcare in Japan

Japan has universal public healthcare. All Japanese citizens have public health insurance while companies must often also provide additional insurance to their employees. This means that for expats, healthcare costs can be relatively low. Although, in some cases, private care and private insurance are necessary, such as for expats who are staying in Japan for only a short term. The standard of care in both public and private hospitals is high as Japan's healthcare system is one of the best in the world. It's still a good idea to conduct some research on the different public and private options available to expats.


Cost of transport in Japan

While public transport 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 a vehicle seeing as driving is often more trouble than it's worth in bustling Japanese cities – the cost of parking being just one of the cons in a long list containing few pros.


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 costs, such as for uniforms, stationery and field trips, usually aren't included in the pricey tuition fees.


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 April 2021.

Accommodation (monthly)

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

JPY 170,000

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

JPY 320,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

JPY 85,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

JPY 140,000

Groceries

Dozen eggs

JPY 260

Milk (1 litre)

JPY 210

Loaf of white bread

JPY 220

Rice (1kg)

JPY 500

Chicken breasts (1kg)

JPY 960

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

JPY 520

Utilities (monthly)

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

JYP 35

Internet (average per month)

JYP 4,000

Utilities (average per month for standard household)

JYP 22,000

Eating out and entertainment

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

JYP 5,000

Big Mac Meal

JYP 700

Cappuccino

JYP 390

Coca-Cola (330ml)

JYP 150

Local beer (500ml)

JYP 500

Transport

Taxi rate per km

JYP 420

City centre public transport

JYP 210

Petrol (per litre)

JYP 140

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