Cost of Living in Japan

There was an article last week a while back about teaching salaries in Japan that I wanted to revisit. Reason being that there was a part of that article that I didn’t address: Is it expensive to live in Japan? Well, to answer this question you have to consider a number of different factors, just like you would living in America, Australia, Britain, or any other country. To put it simply, yes…it can be…depending on where you live. Living in major cities, in or around major transportation hubs, near schools, or upscale areas can significantly affect your living costs (primarily housing costs).


I don’t have much to compare my cost of living to, because I’ve only lived in Ibaraki, but I do know apartments the same size as mine (not all that big to be honest) would cost at least 20,000 yen more…if you get a good deal. Here’s a copy of one of my latest pay stubs, and it shows the expenses that come out of my check before I even get it:

As you can see, my rent costs me 53,000 yen,
Income Tax ¥6,500
Employment Insurance ¥1,752
Health Insurance ¥14,070
Pension Insurance ¥24,087
Local Tax ¥12,700

TOTAL: ¥112,109

The tax adjustment of -6850 doesn’t usually happen (I’m assuming it did because it’s the last check of the year). So please overlook that. Generally I kick off my month with ¥112,109 in expenses, bringing my ¥292,000 wage down to ¥179,891 or somewhere in that area.


In addition to housing, what else do we need to consider when living in Japan? Gas bills, water bills, internet, electricity, groceries, etc.. These expenses for me haven’t been very high, because I try to save energy whenever and where ever I can. For example, it’s now a normal thing to turn on the shower, get my washcloth nice and soapy, and then turn off the water as I lather up, I dry my laundry (like most people do in Japan), and when I sleep (usually), I turn my air conditioner off, or during those winter months, using a space heater may cut some costs here and there.

The Essentials

Internet: ¥4882 (fixed price)
Gas: ¥3739
Water: ¥4336

TOTAL: ¥12,957

¥179891-¥12,957= ¥166,934

Other Bills

ACT Gym Membership: ¥3675 (fixed)
Kyokushin Membership: ¥8400 (fixed)
Softbank Cell Phone Provider: ¥3833 (usually lower)
TOTAL: ¥15,908



Hmm…what else? I do have to pay student loans, which run about 30,000 yen per month, and I like to put an extra 10,000 into my US bank for a bit of a “cushion.”

leaving me with ¥111,026

and groceries run me anywhere between ¥50,000 and ¥60,000 per month (if I’m taking my protein supplements). So if we use ¥55,000 as my figure, I’m left with


Going the Tokyo two or three times in a month can easily reduce this amount by half, but honestly I don’t go to Tokyo all that often.

When all is said and done, I would usually have between 20000 and 40000 yen leftover, which is great for savings or investing (which is what I generally do, but not in recent months, since I’m moving).

The final synopsis, here in Ibaraki, although my salary’s not the highest in the world…it’s not as expensive to live here as you might think…it’s totally do-able, and if I can do it…guess what? It’ll be no problem for you!!

Donald Ash

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  • Donna

    I saw this job ad and thought you might look into it … Its a bit of transition from the English Teaching situation to something a bit more administrative but still related…….


    • Donald Ash

      Donna, thank you so much for the heads up on that administrative position, that’s really thoughtful of you. I will definitely have to look into it.

  • Mehran

    Hi. Can you tell me about dentists and dentistry there? I am from India and wish to settle in Japan. Thankyou :D

    • Donald Ash

      Hi Mehran. That’s one of the things I’m curious about but haven’t quite done yet. As soon as I do, I will definitely make a post about it. Thanks for posting.

  • I only make about ¥66500 a month since I work part time, but my bf gives me some weekly money for like groceries or whatever too. Rent is ¥34680 and includes utilities, my landlord is a nice old gay guy with his boyfriend in upstairs apartment, so I got reaaally lucky with rent here. Everywhere else around my area is like over ¥45000

  • In the winter, try using an electric blanket at night instead of a space heat. Because of that, my husband and I actually spend less money on electricity in winter than we do in the summer! You can find one at Jusco for about 2,000 yen. And I don’t know about up north, but down south on the lil ol’ island of Kyushu there is a grocery store call Mega Trial/ Super Trial/ Trial where everything about 20~30% cheaper than other grocery store, hardware stores, electric stores, and camping supply stores. It’s like the Wal-Mart of Japan, but I’ve only seen it on this island.

  • Alice9 Lee

    Hi, I find your blog extremely useful and I would like to thank you for sharing your experiences with the world.

    I do have a few questions that I would like to ask.

    First, does the fixed price of the internet bill cost the same everywhere throughout Japan or just around your area?

    How much does water bill and newspapers cost approximately?

    • Donald Ash

      Hi Alice!
      Thanks for your questions!
      I don’t know if the internet rates are fixed from all over Japan, but I will try my best to find out!
      Water? Generally runs me 3000-5000 yen (usually on the lower end of that range). I’m not sure how much newspapers cost, though. As far as water and utilities go
      I guess it all depends, I pay for mine here in Tsukuba, but I know friends in Tokyo who have it bundled in with their apartments (Does that mean that rent + utilities make us end up paying about the same thing? Hmm…)

    • Why this response is 3 years late, I have no earthly idea. But thank you soooooo much for the compliment. I wanna keep being useful to people…more than anything.

      Internet prices can and will vary. It can depend on the apartment and whether or not your internet company has to do a full setup – or just use an existing setup. In the latter case you end up paying much less. It can also depend on the company who’s providing your service, whether you decide to use their router, etc.

      My last internet bill was ¥4428 yen or $36.95 (at the time of this reply.

      I’ve never been a newspaper subscriber so I’m not really sure, there. Not all apartments have a water bill (not that I remember). I know it’s not expensive (can’t find my pay stub from last month “D’Oh!”). I wanna say it runs me between 1500 and 2500 a month…but don’t quote me on that just yet.


  • ophat

    a company from Japan will hire me to be their employee, they provide me Yen 180,000 per month with free accommodation, but i have to pay for each meal. so with this salary could i live in Japan?

    • Joe

      Yeah. I am pretty sure. You would just have about ~30000 yen less than the guy who wrote this article.

  • arpit

    I want to buy a mobile phone with au connection in Nagoya. I don’t want to call frequently, only basic plan is required. but internet is needed. can anybody tell me how much it cost with mobile. I want to know both monthly rent and initial mobile phone cost.

  • KK

    Hi Donald,

    Cool site and thanks for all your interesting postings. Not sure when you wrote this article as I couldn’t find a date but I am hoping you can answer a question or two…

    From the list of deductions on your pay stub, which ones are mandatory (I am pretty sure income tax and local tax are unavoidable…)? I am trying to figure out how to budget my expenses by having a better idea of much one actually takes home. In US (I live in CA), unless you have super high or super low income, one expects a 25% to 35% reduction before take home (and hope to get a nice refund check after all the deductions you can claim at the end of the year). In your experience, or the people around you, how much is the approximate take home pay?

    Also, you mentioned you put some money in US bank as “cushion.” So does it mean you spend wire transfer fee every month to send money back to your US bank account? Is there some way around it? Thanks for your help in advance… :)

  • James Rampage

    I was at my local college and I noticed a paper on a poster board offering a teaching position that pays about 280000 yen a month. Can someone here assist me by telling me a good break down with this money? I read the article above, but it kind of lost me.

  • SamanthaHill1444

    TOP Group phoned me this week about a teaching position in Japan through Nichii Gakkan, the owner of the ESL schols in Japan. The highest amount they pay is 30,000 a year. They offer insurance, monthly travel stipend, and help with finding an affordable place to live. HOWEVER, the more I read about costs of living, the more I am a skeptic. If I were to live outside of a city, could I live without struggle? I don’t plan on accepting a big city position as I do not think the cost of living would accomodate my salary. I just graduated college, and I don’t know of anyone that has lived in Japan. I need TONS of advice. Help?!

  • Gabe

    Great post! I was wondering why your pension is so expensive? I thought it would usually be less than 15,000 yen?

    • I really don’t know why my pension is so expensive. I wanna say it’s calculated based on your salary, but it’s something I’d really have to look into. A good question to keep me on my toes!

      Thanks, Gabe!

  • operagust

    Do you think that a Diem of 60 euros per day could be enough to live in this region? (accomodation is already payed)

  • Naser

    Hi. I get a job in osaka, my gross salary will be 250000Y.i want to know may i go to japan in this salary with my wife? If i go to japan in this salary how much money i can save?

    • I’ll be honest, 250,000 is not an extremely high salary, but on the flip side it’s not the lowest I’ve seen. There are jobs that started teachers as low as 200,000 yen a month WHICH IS RIDICULOUS (in my humble opinion). A 250,000 yen salary for you and your wife? That may be pretty tough, but it depends on so many factors, do you have other financial obligations? Do you have expensive habits? It really depends on your lifestyle, the apartment you get, etc.

      I believe it is entirely possible to save if you plan your life/budget around it.

      I hope that makes sense.


    How about the food?. is it included in your groceries?. the electricity? your internet how many MPBS?..the cost of train and taxi?

    • More good questions, thanks El Burna!

      Food, hmm…it changes for me and this is where things may vary for me. I spend between 24,000 and 32,000/ month on food. Sometimes more if I have to restock my protein supplements. I’ll have to locate a current electricity bill and find out the MPBS for my internet and come back to update this comment.

      • EL BURNA

        i want to set this straight once and for all, hahaha….because i’m planning to save for as much as $2500.

        how much do you spend to the following items mentioned below as of this current date.

        1. Groceries
        2. Breakfast
        3. Lunch
        4. Dinner
        5. Electricity
        6. Water
        7. Gas.
        8. Mobile Plan
        9. Entertainment

        thanks and more power to you.

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