The cost of living in Japan

As a newcomer may find Japan expensive, it pays to explore the actual cost of living to budget effectively for everything from groceries to healthcare.

Cost of living in Japan

Updated 15-5-2024

Many exciting things come with moving to a unique country like Japan (日本, Nihon/Nippon). Expats can explore its new culture and challenge themselves by learning Japanese (日本語, Nihon go). You will also discover the nation’s incredible cuisine, beautiful places to visit, and interesting museums and attractions. But all of this comes at a price.

To help you navigate your expenses (支出, shishutsu), read this analysis of the cost of living (生活費, seikatsu hi) in Japan:

The general cost and standards of living in Japan

There is no getting around the fact that Japan is a pricey country to live in. As such, the Numbeo Cost of Living Index places it 29th out of 140 countries globally (2023). Still, it is more affordable than places like Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong, the United States (US), and Australia but more costly than the United Kingdom, Germany, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Taiwan, and Vietnam.

A busy crowd fills the streets of Shinsaibashi to visit the local market
Shinsaibashi market in Osaka (Photo: James Matsumoto/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

On average, a two-person household spends roughly ¥290,865 per month in Japan (2022).

This may be why many people struggle to make ends meet, as around 21 million residents live below the poverty line. Among those most affected are single women, pensioners, children, and unemployed individuals.

However, the OECD Better Life Index notes that Japan has a good quality of life concerning education, safety, and environment. This is despite the Japanese yearly average salary of ¥3,970,809 falling short of the OECD average of ¥4,258,462.


Life in Tokyo (東京) costs a pretty penny. It is one of the most expensive cities to call home, globally and nationally.

On average, a single person spends ¥143,000 per month in Japan’s capital, while a family of four might spend around ¥510,000 (excluding rent – 家賃, yachin). When compared to other major cities, Tokyo is:

  • 50% higher than Shanghai
  • 7.5% lower than Seoul
  • 84% higher than Ho Chi Minh City
  • 71% higher than Quezon City
  • 57% higher than São Paulo


Osaka (大阪), another metropolis popular with internationals, also has a high cost of living but is cheaper than Tokyo.

Single expats can expect to splurge about ¥121,246 per month, while a family of four could easily spend around ¥433,546, excluding housing. Renting property is 41.6% less than in Tokyo.

The cost of living in Osaka is:

  • 29% higher than Shanghai
  • 21% lower than Seoul
  • 58% higher than Ho Chi Minh City
  • 47% higher than Quezon City
  • 35% higher than São Paulo


The central Japanese city of Nagoya (名古屋) also attracts its fair share of internationals, given that it is home to many multinational corporations. Its cost of living is higher than Tokyo’s and slightly more expensive than Osaka’s. Excluding rent, singles in Nagoya should expect to spend almost ¥140,000 per month, while a family of four’s expenses would be roughly ¥500,000.

Compared to other cities, Nagoya is:

  • 37% more expensive than Shanghai
  • 16% cheaper than Seoul
  • 67% more expensive than Hi Chi Minh City
  • 55% more expensive than Quezon City
  • 43% more expensive than São Paulo


Bursting with tradition and culture, Kyoto (京都) is an attractive city for new arrivals in Japan. But, as one of the country’s biggest cities — and one of the most popular with tourists — it is also expensive to live in.

Multiple women stop by a local drugstore in the evening
A drugstore at night in Kyoto (Photo: EschCollection/Getty Images)

If you are single, you can expect to spend around ¥124,000 per month before rent, while if you are a family of four, expenses could be as much as ¥450,000.

The cost of living in Kyoto is:

  • 27% more expensive than Shanghai
  • 22% cheaper than Seoul
  • 55% more expensive than Ho Chi Minh City
  • 44% more expensive than Quezon City
  • 32% more expensive than São Paulo


Despite being Japan’s second-most inhabited city, Yokohama (横浜) has far fewer residents than Tokyo, which is reflected in the cost of living. Single expats in Yokohama can get by on approximately ¥118,000 per month, excluding rent, while a family of four might spend around ¥409,527. As such, internationals will find Yokohama one of the cheaper big Japanese cities to live in.

The cost of living in Yokohama is:

  • 17% more expensive than Shanghai
  • 28% cheaper than Seoul
  • 43% more expensive than Ho Chi Minh City
  • 38% more expensive than Quezon City
  • 22% more expensive than São Paulo

Japanese wages and salary

Japanese salaries (給料, kyuryo) are generally lower than other high-income countries, including Switzerland, Singapore, Qatar, Australia, and France. However, it is still well ahead of countries such as Spain, South Africa, China, and Mexico.

The government (政府, seifu) has imposed a minimum wage (最低賃金, saitei chingin) since 1959, which currently stands at ¥961 per hour (時給, jikyu). Of course, given its expensive cost of living, average salaries are generally much higher, around ¥311,800 (2022). However, as in other countries, this number can differ significantly depending on the role, experience, and the city.

For example, jobs in banking and information technology (IT) are among the highest paid in Japan, and employees in metropolitan cities like Tokyo and Yokohama typically earn more than those in less-populated areas.

Housing costs in Japan 

Rental costs in Japan

As in other countries, property rental prices can differ greatly by city and region and by type and size of property. Here are the average monthly rental costs for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center of several Japanese cities:

CityRental cost for a one-bedroom apartment
Fukuoka (福岡)¥67,500
Fukushima (福島)¥50,000
Okinawa (沖縄)¥62,666
Saitama (埼玉)¥60,000

Property prices in Japan

Japan’s housing market is competitive, especially in urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka. As such, you can expect to pay a premium for a home you want to buy. The country’s residential property price index experienced a year-on-year rise of 3% from 2019 to 2020 and a further 6.9% between 2020 and the third quarter of 2021.

Fisherman houses stand side-by-side in Kyoto
Fisherman houses in Kyoto (Photo: Eric Lafforgue/Art In All Of Us/Corbis/Getty Images)

Generally, you will pay just under ¥770,000 per square meter for a city apartment or around ¥436,000 for one further out. On the other hand, houses (single-family) cost an average of between ¥30 million to 50 million, although this price fluctuates depending on the property size and location.

Compared to other Asian countries, Japan is one of the more expensive to buy property. While it is cheaper than the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, it is more expensive than Thailand and Singapore.

The cost of Japanese domestic bills

Utility bills in Japan

Generally, utilities in Japan for an 85-square-meter apartment cost around ¥24,000 per month. To break this down further, you can expect to pay the most for electricity bills (電気代, denki dai) and usually much less for gas (ガス代, gasu dai) and water (水道代, suido dai).

Of course, bills can vary greatly depending on your usage, home, house fittings, and city.

Telecommunications in Japan

After your move, you will want to stay connected to people back home or contact new connections in Japan. Therefore, you will need to access an internet connection, mobile phones with SIM cards, or telecommunications (通信費, tsushin hi). Given the cost of living in Japan, these can be expensive but still affordable.

On average, home broadband internet costs approximately ¥4,000, though you could get cheaper alternatives, such as a Wi-Fi device. On the other hand, you can spend between ¥3,000 to 3,500 per month for a basic mobile plan, increasing to around ¥7,000 to 9,000 for unlimited data.

Healthcare costs in Japan

Japan has a healthcare system that covers both locals and internationals. The Social Health Insurance scheme (社会保険制度, shakai hoken seido) applies to most employees, while others, such as freelancers, qualify for the National Health Insurance (NHI) (国民健康保険, kokumin kenko hoken).

With Japan’s national insurance coverage, your healthcare expenses should be relatively low. The government subsidizes 70% of medical costs for patients aged 6–70, leaving most people with a 30% copayment for healthcare treatment.

This decreases to 20% for children under six and older adults 70–74, then to 10% after age 75. The monthly copayment limit for any individual under the Japanese healthcare system is ¥87,430 as of 2023.

Japanese childcare costs (保育料, hoiku ryo)

Childcare in Japan, suitable for babies and preschoolers, is becoming increasingly popular. Notably, daycare prices differ significantly, from completely free to ¥70,000 a month for public and between ¥40,000 and ¥80,000 for private.

A group of kindergarten students and their supervisors cross the street
Photo: Dukas/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

State facilities also account for parents’ annual income. On average, families spend around ¥20,491.

If you want more dedicated childcare, hiring a nanny is another option in Japan. You should expect to pay around ¥1,454 per hour or roughly ¥3,000,800 per year for their services.

The costs of studying in Japan

Education in Japan generally maintains high standards of teaching but can be expensive. Like most countries, it operates a two-tier schooling system: state and private or international.

Depending on your child’s grade, the yearly cost of public (公立, koritsu) education can range from ¥165,126 for kindergarten to ¥512,971 for high school. Private (私立, shiritsu) and international schools are popular with expat families but also more pricey, with annual fees differing between institutions and locations. Of course, you will pay more in metropolises like Tokyo (around ¥1.97 million).

Even though international schools have become more affordable recently, you should still budget around ¥308,909 for kindergarten and up to ¥1,054,444 for secondary school.

Cost of Japanese food and drinks 

Groceries in Japan

Of course, it would depend on your lifestyle and family size, but, on average, you can expect to pay around ¥38,000 per month (per person) for groceries in Japan, with daily essentials costing around:

  • 1 liter of milk: ¥200
  • 500g loaf of bread: ¥215
  • 1kg of rice: ¥490
  • A dozen eggs: ¥270
  • 1kg of beef: ¥2,300
  • 1kg of apples: ¥665
  • Lettuce: ¥180
  • 1.5-liter bottle of water: ¥123

Restaurants in Japan

Japan has a wonderful dining culture with a wealth of gastronomic experiences, from cheap street food to luxurious fine dining.

An illuminated two-floor restaurant operating at night in Kyoto
A restaurant operating at night in Kyoto (Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Below are some average prices for eating out in Japan:

  • Inexpensive meal at a restaurant: ¥500–1,500
  • Three-course dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant: ¥3,500–11,000
  • McDonald’s combo/cheap ramen meals: ¥650–850

Beer, wine, and spirits

Alcohol prices have steadily risen with inflation, and buying a local beer (0.5-liter bottle) from the supermarket can cost you between ¥200 and ¥450. Indeed, you’ll pay more for imported beers (0.33-liter bottle), around ¥250 to ¥550.

Coffee costs

While Japan loves its kitsch and quirky cafés, it also has many high-end coffee bars and teahouses. On average, a black coffee will cost ¥300 and a cappuccino around ¥440.

Japanese transportation costs 

Public transport in Japan

It is hard to pinpoint public transport costs in Japan because these vary significantly between companies and cities. For the most up-to-date fares for the Tokyo subway or the Shinkansen bullet train (新幹線), for example, visit Japan Rail Pass (ジャパン・レール・パス, Japan Reru Pasu).

If you’re catching the bus, single journey tickets come to around ¥200.

Private transport in Japan

If you prefer the comfort of private transport or plan to buy a car and drive in Japan, there will be further costs to consider. For example, taxis generally start at around ¥580 and charge about ¥400 per kilometer plus a 30% premium for night rides.

If you want your own set of wheels, expect to pay around ¥2.3 million for an average sedan, excluding the cost of fuel (ガソリン代, gazorin dai) (around ¥165 per liter), maintenance, and insurance.

Clothing in Japan 

As with other countries, Japan has a wide range of clothing stores where you can find from affordable brands to high-end designer pieces.

Clothes shop advertises sale in Ginza shopping area, Tokyo
Ginza (銀座) shopping area, Tokyo (Photo: Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images)

To give you an indication of how much stores will charge, here are some average prices:

  • Levi’s jeans: ¥5,400
  • Summer dress from Zara: ¥4,000
  • Nike sneakers: ¥7,800
  • Men’s leather formal shoes: ¥11,000

Leisure activities in Japan

Japan offers a plethora of leisure activities (娯楽費, goraku hi), from museums and cultural sites to concerts, theaters, gaming arcades, karaoke, and more. If you want to indulge, though, it helps to know how much you’re going to spend beforehand:

  • Movie theater ticket: ¥1,500–2,200
  • Karaoke: From ¥100–400 per hour
  • Live performance: from ¥12,000–¥50,000 (depending on the artist)
  • Gym: ¥8,000 per month

Japanese taxation and social security

Taxes (税金, zeikin) are integral when calculating the cost of living in Japan. As such, the country’s tax rates are more or less on par with major economies, including the United Kingdom and Australia.

In addition, Japan imposes an American-style tiered tax system where you pay a national income tax (所得税, shotoku zei), and prefectural and municipal tax (住民税, jumin zei).

Your particular tax rate will depend on how much you earn every year, as below:

Up to ¥1.95 million5%None
¥1.95m to ¥3.30m10%¥97,500
¥3.30m to ¥6.95m20%¥427,500
¥6.95m to ¥9m23%¥636,000
¥9m to ¥18m33%¥1.536m
¥18m to ¥40m40%¥2.796m

Taxpayers can claim numerous deductions (控除, kojo) when filing their returns, including insurance and medical bills, and – for the self-employed – business expenses.

In addition to national income tax, you will have to pay prefectural and municipal income tax. The rates for these are 4% and 6%, respectively. If you are self-employed, you must also pay business tax – the prefectural enterprise tax (事業税, jigyo zei) – at a 3 to 5% rate.

Lastly, you will also contribute to the social benefit system (社会保障制度, shakai hosho seido), covering healthcare, welfare, and unemployment. This is charged at a rate of 14.75%.

Assistance with living costs in Japan

The Japanese government offers certain grants and relief schemes to help residents struggling to meet living costs. In most cases, the person or household must meet income requirements to qualify for assistance. You can see some of these below:

  • Rent Relief Grants (住居確保給付金, jukyo kakuho kyufu-kin): Assistance in paying rent if a household’s primary breadwinner has lost a job or business. The applicant must meet the total household savings thresholds and be actively jobhunting.  
  • Childcare subsidies (幼児教育・保育の無償化, yoji-kyoiku hoiku no musho-ka): Parents with children between 0–5 years can have up to ¥42,000 deducted monthly for kindergartens, daycare centers, and early childhood care. However, families have to meet an income requirement to qualify.
  • Social services for senior citizens (介護・高齢者福祉, kaigo koreisha fukushi): Include home visits, short-stay nursing homes, in-home care, and home nursing services

Useful resources

  • Numbeo – more cost of living figures for Japan as a whole, as well as Japanese cities
  • OECD Better Life Index – provides a deeper look at the quality of life in Japan, including housing, education, and healthcare