Japans Daily Cost Of Living For Students and Expats

The average cost of living in Japan is around 280,000 – 300,000 Yen per month. That’s between $2,500 – $2,700 USD. If you’re prepared to live like a local, your costs can significantly be reduced compared to the high cost of expatriate consumption.

While tax consumes up to 40% of your income, rent and transport will account for the vast majority of your additional outgoings. We explore the average daily expenditures associated with living in Japan, the cost of many regular items, and which cities are the most and least expensive.

Rent Prices In Japan

Accommodation is likely the most significant expenditure you’ll face living in Japan. The average monthly rent for a one-room apartment in Japan is 50,000 – 70,000 Yen. ($450 – $625 US) In any major city such as Tokyo, that price would rise significantly to a starting point of 100,000 Yen ($900 US) per month.

Apartments available for rent listings in Tokyo

An alternative solution is to stay in a ‘Gajin,’ or guest house. Their prices can range from 40,000 – 100,000 Yen ($360 – $900 US), and if your stay in Japan is temporary, it saves you having to furnish your own apartment and possibly sign apartment contracts along with additional starting fees for your housing.

Additionally, Gajin houses may have other benefits included in their prices, such as utilities or wifi.

Utilities

Average combined utility costs are around 10,000 Yen ($90 US) per month with 4,000 Yen spent on electricity, 3,000 Yen on gas, and 2,000 Yen on water.

How to Pay Utilities via Plaza Homes

Connectivity

Mobile phones are available to anyone with a visa and a Japanese bank account. A regular subscription will set you back around 6,000 Yen ($50 US) a month, but cheaper alternatives are available for around 2,000 Yen.

You can obtain internet access at home through a pocket wifi device or broadband access, which cost on average 2,500 and 4,000 Yen ($22 and $36 US) respectively. 

For cheap internet alternatives, try a local paid wifi hotspot or manga cafe.

Health And Leisure

There are a wealth of activities to enjoy in Japan that comes at a reasonable cost.

Haircuts range from 1000 to 4000 Yen ($9 – $36 US), with the latter offering additional services such as a head massage and shampoo.

A movie ticket costs 1800 Yen ($16 US), while a concert ticket will set you back around 6,000 Yen ($55 US) depending on the location of your seat.

In Japan, the average monthly cost of health insurance is around 35–40,000 JPY (330–370 USD). Your medical expenses will not change, and you may utilize the lump sum payment from your individual insurance to cover the 30% that is usually left over after government health insurance coverage.

Food

Groceries are reasonably priced in Japan if you stick to local delicacies and seasonal produce. A kilo of rice costs around 500 Yen ($4.50 US) while a liter of milk is 246 Yen ($2.20 US).

The average dinner out costs 1,000 to 3,000 Yen ($9 – $27 US), though cheaper restaurants can charge as little as 500 Yen ($4.50 US), and a set lunch menu will set you back about 1000 Yen ($9 US).

A cup of coffee is around 300 Yen ($2.68 US).

Cost To Live In Japan As An International Student

Below is a breakdown of the average student expenditure per month. These figures are variable depending on the location of your residence.

International students have three options: university dormitories, guesthouses, or private renting. Flat sharing is less prevalent in Japan than in Western countries, so spaces are limited, and most students end up privately renting.

Average Monthly Expenses

Average Apartment Rent60,000 Yen$535.00 USD
Utilities9,500 Yen$85 USD
Groceries20,000 Yen$180 USD
Monthly Public Transport5,000 Yen$45
Tuition/ fees/ textbooks80,000 Yen$715
Cost can vary substantially from prefecture to prefecture

JR East (one of Japan’s most popular railways) offers students a 20% travel discount with a three-month pass costing around 20,000 Yen. 

The average transport expenditure for a student is 5,000 though this can increase depending on how far your accommodation is from your school or university.

Other (phone / internet)   15,000 Y   135 USD

Do Foreign Students Pay Tax In Japan?

International students pay tax according to Japanese law. Income tax includes all sources of money, including grants.

As a student, you will be required to pay resident tax once your earnings surpass 930,000 Yen ($8,305 US) per year. And income tax is payable on gains of over 1,300,000 Yen ($11,600 US) per year.

Are Students Allowed To Work In Japan?

You can work for up to 28 hours (across all forms of employment) while studying in Japan. However, if you are traveling on a student visa, you will need to apply for an additional work visa to enter into employment.

Students in Japan

Some venues students are not allowed to work in, such as bars, video game arcades, pachinko parlors, adult stores, love hotels, or anything related to the sex trade.

Regardless of your role, employment in any of these types of establishments is illegal.

How Much Does It Cost To Live In Japan As A Foreigner?

The average monthly expenditure of a single person in Japan in 2020 was 150,506 Yen.

In general, the cost of living in Japan sits between 280,000 to 300,000 Yen ($2,500 – $2,700 US) per month.

As a general rule, the average monthly wage in Japan is 515,000 Yen ($4,600 US), you will spend around 40% of your total income on taxes, health insurance, and pension.

Income tax sits at around 20%, with a 4% prefectural tax and 6% residence tax. A further deduction of 10% covers health insurance.

How Much Is Per Hour Salary In Japan?

The Minimum wage is currently 1,013 Yen ($9 US) in Tokyo, though other regions differ. For example, Kyoto is 909 Yen, while Okinawa has one of the lowest rates at 790 Yen ($7 US).

Prices Of Everyday Items in Japan

Item      Yen   USD

Mcdonalds meal700 Yen$6.28
Average restaurant meal900 Yen$9.99
Coke(16 oz)142 Yen$1.28
Starbucks latte450 Yen$5.00
Beer (1 bottle)260 Yen$2.40
Bottle of Wine1750 Yen$18.00
Cigarettes 505 Yen$4.53
1 Km taxi ride400 Yen$3.59
1 liter of Gas142 Yen $1.28 L
prices vary slightly from city to city

How Much Does It Cost To Live In Japan For A Year?

Because Japan is 124 miles away from mainland Asia, it must import many food items, thus heightening the cost of products such as milk or cheese. These typically cost two to three times more than they would in the US.

Combined with location, Japanese culture values items that are high-quality, which can push prices higher, based on demand vs availability.

A single-individual living in Tokyo can expect to spend around 240,000 Yen per month ($2,145 US).

The most expensive cities in Japan include Tokyo at 244,600 Yen ($2,184 US) per month and Yokohama at 204,000 Yen ($1,822 US) per month.

The most affordable cities include Kyoto at 167,500 Yen ($1,495 US) per month and Fukuoka at 145,000 Yen ($1,300 US) per month.

Conclusion

When relocating to Japan as an ex-pat, student, or foreign worker, it’s a good idea to budget at least 300,000 Yen ($2,700 US) as a figure for monthly expenditure.

Known for being one of the most expensive places in the world to live, you can save a lot of money by living like a local and embracing Japanese food and culture.

MT Lee
My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.