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Cost of Living in Japan

Friday, November 17, 2006 Posted: 11:59 AM JST

I was asked about the cost of living in Japan this week, so I thought it would be a good idea to publish some figures. Please add your own experience with Japanese prices in the comments.

Note: Today's exchange rates are listed at the top of this page.

Renting a small (read 'tiny') apartment in a large city like Tokyo or Osaka comes to about JPY 60,000 at least. And usually that is just a single room. It is possible to find something cheaper, but don't expect much! Many ex-pats pay around JPY 1,000,000 for a Western style house, but an average Japanese family pays around JPY 100,000 to JPY 200,000 per month.

Usually a deposit, an extra month of rent and the real-estate agency fee are required in advance. This system differs greatly from area to area. In Tokyo for example usually the equivalent of two months of rent is required, but in Nagano it can be 6 months, and even more in the Kansai. Only part of the deposit is returned, the rest is used to restore the dwelling to its original pristine look.

Riding the subway or train for an average distance is about JPY 170 - 250. A can of juice is around JPY 110, a 2 liter bottle of mineral water around JPY 200. You can buy a second hand BMW for JPY 2,000,000 and the average second hand Japanese car for about half or even less. Small new cars cost even less than that. However, parking, toll reads and taxes are incredibly expensive.

At restaurants you can get a good meal between JPY 500 and 1,000. I never eat at McDonalds, but I think a Big Mac is around JPY 260 or so. At better restaurants you can expect to pay JPY 1,000 - 3,000. Expensive restaurants charge 7,500 - 10,000 (and of course way beyond that!). Local supermarkets are cheap if you stick to Japanese food. Shortly before closing time there are also huge discounts.

A hair cut will set you back JPY 4,000 - 10,000 as you may have noticed by reading the descriptions below the photos on JapaneseStreets.com. Some people pay as much as JPY 50,000! Clothing prices vary immensely. Just check the photographs on JapaneseStreets.com to get a good idea.

Japan can be quite cheap when it comes to clothes. UNIQLO for example is famous for inexpensive, but high quality clothing. I have bought t-shirts there for JPY 500 and pants for JPY 1,000 - 3,000.

Used clothing stores are everywhere. One famous store, Thank You Mart, charges a single price: JPY 390. Department stores and boutiques however tend to be expensive.

There are also so called 100 yen stores, where everything is JPY 105 (JPY 5 for the sales tax). Especially Daiso is big. They are everywhere and even sell socks, t-shirts, pots, pans and make-up. Unbelievable! They recently started stores abroad as well, so you may run into them one of these days. UNIQLO, of course, recently opened in New York and has been in the UK for years.

To live a reasonably comfortable life in Japan you will need JPY 150,000 a month at the very least.

Keywords: trends_lifestyle

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1 comments so far post your own

1 | At 04:19am on Nov 22 2006, Ad Blankestijn wrote:
Haven't you tried the famous 1,000 yen 10-minute haircut yet? QB House has shops all over Japan and there are other chains imitating them as well. I was a bit hesitant at first, fearing a terrible result, but now I don't want to go anywhere else in Japan anymore! Not only for the price: in fact, I was surprised at the good quality and also satisfied with the high speed. It is much cheaper than Holland where you usually pay between 17 and 20 euros for a simple cut (almost the equivalent of 3,000 yen)! This proves prices in Japan are opening up over a wide range. The only thing I miss is the traditional shoulder massage!
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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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