Living cost in Japan

Living cost in Japan

Living cost in Japan based on actuals. Prices and tips on ways to minimise the cost. Enjoy life in Japan with less money worry.

Regardless of the reputation of high living cost, Japan attracts many students from all over the world to study. Why? Here, the truth about living cost in Japan based on actual experiences explain it all.


  • Is Japan expensive to live?
  • How to minimise the living cost in Japan
  • The average cost of living in Japan per month: Examples
  • Living expenses – Breakdown explained
  • What Pathway Japan can do for you?

Is Japan expensive to live?

Living cost in Japan

Students often ask “Is Japan expensive?”. Let’s see what you think after reading the page.

Economy: The Japanese economy is seen to be stable over the years. Rarely see a sudden price increase nor yearly price increase, so it is fair to say the economy is rather stable. The only obvious change in prices you see in Japan is when VAT increases.

As from 1st October 2019, VAT in Japan has increased from 8% to 10%. The VAT is a tax added to the cost of goods & services. Grocery remains at 8%.  As a result, there has been an apparent change in prices and the daily cost of living.

For example, buying a notebook at the 100Yen shop was ¥108, but it is now ¥110. So the difference is ¥2. It may seem small, but watch out you don’t go crazy at 100 Yen shop!

100Yen shops are very economical where you can purchase almost every daily items.


Housing: In Japan, housing prices are also stable. Rent is generally maintained for a number of years, rarely see the price increase at every renewal. The facilities are also maintained to good condition in almost every accommodations. 

For example,

  • Unfurnished studio apartment in Tokyo is approx. ¥60,000 ~ ¥80,000.
  • Shared house in Tokyo including utilities is approx. ¥45,000 ~ ¥70,000.

How to minimise the living cost in Japan

Being a student, you may want to cut down on the expenses as much as possible. In that case, there are ways to minimise the overall expenses and live comfortably in Japan. So you can focus on your study and enjoy Japan with less money worries.

Living cost varies by individual, depending on your lifestyle. The following tips are simple and effective. The key point is to get used to thinking in JPN yen and become familiar with your local area. 

Tips on housing
  • The further away from central Tokyo, the cheaper the rent is.
  • The further away from the big cities and the stations, the cheaper the rent is.
  • Cheaper rates apply for a longer stay period in some types of accommodation.
Daily grocery shopping Tips:

There are always shops with bargain sales which locals utilise.  Pick up leaflets at the local supermarkets. These are information on discounted groceries and are usually published daily/weekly. Because of photos, you will be able to see which items to go for.

Find local shops and compare the prices with supermarkets. Groceries are usually cheaper than those in the supermarkets. Supermarkets sell their groceries in packages, which are added to the price of groceries. However, local shops often sell groceries without packages and are usually local products. Hence, there’s a difference in the price.

 Tips to minimise your living expenses

1:   Identify basic needs while living in Japan.

2:   Identify fixed costs and variable costs. For example, National Health Insurance is a fixed cost to which everyone living in Japan must contribute. The variable costs, such as daily food expenses can vary depending on your lifestyle.

3:   Find good deals. Look around locally.

4:   Set a monthly budget that is not too tight so that you can stick to the plan.

5:   Implement your plan. Try for a month or two so that you can make changes where more savings can be made.

The average cost of living in Japan per month: Example

Figures are an average cost per person living in Tokyo based on the actual experiences.  A comparison by accommodation type will give you some idea of ‘how much you will need’ to live in Japan.

Currency in Japan is Japanese Yen (¥). The figures include 10% VAT.

Accommodation Studio Shared House
Rent exc utilities and furnishing 70,000  
Rent inc utilities and furnishing   68,000
Living expenses * 42,780 30,180
Total JPN ¥ 112,780 98,180
Living expenses * Studio Shared House
National Health Insurance 1,900 1,900
Utilities (electricity, gas, water) 7,600  
Mobile phone Calls and Data 2,900 2,900
Wifi 5,000  
Transport Commuting pass (within 15 minutes journey) 5,380 5,380
Daily grocery 20,000 20,000
Total JPN ¥ 42,780 30,180

Breakdown explained

National Health Insurance

Those staying in Japan for more than three months are required to register at the local public office. You will receive a National health insurance card upon registration.

If you ever need to see a doctor or go to the hospital, you will present the card at reception. With this card, 97% of your medical costs will be covered. You will pay the remaining 3% of the costs.

International students are usually Non-Taxpayers in Japan. This means that the monthly fee is kept to a minimum.  However, the fee depends on the region you live in. It is approximately ¥1,900 per person. You can pay the monthly fee by direct debit if you have a bank account in Japan. Otherwise, settle the payment at the local public office or any convenient stores using pay-in slips.


Gas, Electricity and Water costs vary by region.

  • Gas approx ¥3,200 per month.
  • Electricity approx ¥3,300 per month.
  • Water approx ¥2,200 is paid every two months.  

Shared accommodation includes utilities in the rental, but not when renting privately.

Living cost in Japan


Mobile phone: There are many network providers in Japan and offer various packages. 

SIM package (Phone calls + 2GB Mobile data) is approx ¥2,900 per month. No minimum contract period.

The call limit is set to about 10 minutes for this price. If your call exceeds 10 minutes, you can hang up and call again for another 10 minutes.

Data only may be cheaper. However, you may need to call your school, landlord, local public office, and so on. Therefore, it is always good to have the option for the calls too.


WiFi: Portable WiFi is approx ¥5,000 per month. It is a small device that gives you internet access to your mobile phone, laptop or any device with WiFi interface.

Cost of WiFi is included in the shared accommodation rental, but not for private property.

Living cost in Japan


Pasmo/Suica is a top-up travel card. You can use it on any overground trains, subways or buses. ¥200 ~ 350 within 30 minutes distance. However, it cannot be used on Shinkansen or other long-distance super express trains.  You can also use it at the convenient stores to buy goods. 

Commuting pass is available monthly, three-monthly or six-monthly. The fare depends on the lines you use. E.g. Odakyu line from Shimokitazawa to Shinjuku (approx. 15 minutes journey) ¥5,380 per month.

Daily grocery

Living cost in Japan

Approx ¥20,000 per month is a doable spending amount on groceries.

  • Milk 500ml ¥150
  • 1 pack of 4 Eggs ¥160
  • 6 slices of Bread ¥155
  • 350ml can of beer ¥210
  • Japanese Wagyu beef 8 slices ¥700
  • Pork for stir fry 250g ¥500
  • 1 Onion ¥100
  • 1 Tomato ¥170
  • A bag of crisps ¥108. No Salt & Vinegar nor Cheese & Onion unless you go to a shop that sells foreign food. How about trying Japanese crisps?
  • 2kg Rice ¥980. 2kg is about 28 bowls of rice. Yes, it’s true that the Japanese eat rice 3 times a day! So if you eat rice once a day, 2kg will last you for a month.

Dining out

Dining out in Japan is very reasonable too but depending on what type of food you like. It is said that the Japanese businessmen spend an average cost of ¥500 on lunch. We call it a One-coin lunch!

  • Mc Donald or KFC set meal ¥650
  • Gyudon ¥390
  • Family restaurant set meal (main, rice, drink) ¥1,600


Japan has been the country with the biggest music industry in Asia since the Beatles came to Japan in 1966! To date, many bands from the UK, USA and all over the world have performed in Japan. There are music festivals such as Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic during summer in Japan too.

Rock & Pop performance by a famous band is approx ¥8,000 ~ 10,000 per ticket. However, there are many smaller venues in Tokyo where international and Japanese artists perform. A gig in smaller venue is approx ¥5,000 ~ 8,000 per ticket.

Karaoke is still the number one entertainment in Japan. With your friends, work colleagues, family or even alone, you can rent a room for approx. ¥1,500 per person. There are snacks, drinks or light meals you can order from the room. No wonder the Japanese love to spend hours singing!

Cinema is approx. ¥1,900 per ticket. Tokyo Shinjuku is the entertainment district where many cinemas are showing old and new Japanese movies as well as Hollywood movies. Kurosawa fans will have the chance to watch the digitally remastered 7 Samurai on the big screen!

What Pathway Japan can do for you

Information: Japanese staff can provide you with local information and more tips to living cost in Japan.

Budget preparation: Pathway Japan can prepare an annual budget including tuition fees, accommodation rent and living expenses. This will allow you to prepare for a long-term study in Japan.

Financial advice: Detailed and clear advice in financial matters such as setting up a bank account and money transfer.

National Health card application: The registration process can be tricky. Especially if it is your first time in Japan, and everything is written in Japanese!  No need to worry, Pathway Japan can assist you with the registration.

Mobile phone set up: Set up a SIM card for your mobile phone to help you start your living in Japan.

Study package includes above and everything you need for your study in Japan.

If you prefer a quick solution, One-Go package is a Free application service that includes necessary processes to study in Japan.

Pathway Japan is always happy to assist you.

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