Japan has one of the highest costs of living in the world, comparable to that of London and Manhattan and is frequently ranked as the most expensive city on earth when it comes to real estate.

  • For a three-bedroom apartment in central Tokyo you should expect to pay over 600,000 yen per month (presuming the apartment is relatively new and is well furnished with quality amenities. Some of the more luxurious areas of Tokyo (like Jingumae for instance) might fetch 800,000 yen or more per month for this size of apartment – location is a prime factor in determining monthly rent.

Utility costs naturally vary depending upon consumption, efficiency (split heating and air conditioning systems are much more efficient then central heating and cooling), etc.

  • A typical water bill for a 3-bedroom apartment would likely be in the range of between 3,000 and 5,000 yen per month (water bills come bi-monthly).
  • gas bill would be in the range of 6,000 to 8,000 yen per month.
  • The electric bill will likely be at least 15,000 yen per month, although it’s not unheard of for expats to see electric bills 5 times this amount (particularly during the summer and winter months).

Miscellaneous expenses can include:

  • Cable television typically costs around 4,500 yen with Internet access being around the same.
  • Mobile phone charges naturally depend upon use but most cost between 6,000 and 10,000 yen per month.
  • Landline telephone bills can be expensive with international dialing but are generally only a few thousand yen.
  • Housekeepers are available for around 1,500 per hour and babysitters can be found for between 1,500 and 2,500 per hour.
  • Dry cleaning costs are roughly 1,500 yen per suit and 300 yen per shirt.

Schooling, as is addressed in the sections related to education, can be particularly expensive at the international schools.

  • Tuition can range from around 1.2 million yen to more than 2 million yen depending upon school and present level of schooling (elementary, junior high, or high school).

Food costs are naturally dependent on where you buy (a supermarket, convenience store, specialty store, discount store, or elsewhere), the quality of the food being purchased, and so on. Average convenience store prices for some of the essentials include:

  • Carton of milk – 238 yen
  • Carton of juice – 298 yen
  • Butter (x1 stick) – 208 yen
  • Beer (x1 can) – 210 yen
  • Bag of chips – 120 yen
  • Coca Cola (500ml bottle) – 134 yen
  • Carton of eggs – 218 yen
  • Cherries (x1 small container) – 458 yen
  • Cigarettes (x1 pack) – 320 yen
  • Loaf of bread – 168 yen
  • Cheese – 357 yen
  • Apples (x2) – 336 yen
  • Tomatoes (x2) – 199 yen
  • Bananas (x3) – 298 yen
  • Onion (x1) – 98 yen
  • Potato (x2) – 156 yen

Transportation, while considered reasonable by some standards, can be expensive as compared to some other Asian cities.

  • Taxis in particular can be rather costly with a 20-minute trip across town costing 2,500 yen.
  • Train trips across the city typically run no more than 400 to 500 yen, while monthly train passes often cost around 6,000 to 8,000 yen (which is often provided for by employers).
  • Bus tickets are 200 yen for any stop along a bus’ particular route.
  • Gasoline prices naturally fluctuate on account of global oil prices, but recent standard gas prices have moved between 120 and 130 yen per liter with high octane being sold for 150 yen per liter.

On the leisure front, there are expensive ways to spend your time and cheaper options, as well. Restaurant costs naturally vary widely depending upon cuisine, quality, etc.

  • Movie tickets often fall between 1,800 and 2,500 yen per seat.
  • Concert tickets vary widely from just a few thousand yen to more than 10,000 yen depending on the venue, group(s) performing, etc. Fuji Rock Festival – an annual music festival held just outside Tokyo with a variety of international musicians runs 16,800 yen for one day entrance and just 40,000 yen for the full three day performance.
  • Gym memberships typically run about 10,000 yen per month with additional costs for add-on programs, the ability to use any outlet within a given chain of gyms, etc.
  • An outstanding Italian dinner for two (with a bottle of wine) can be found for around 20,000 yen, while an exquisite traditional teppanyaki dinner for two can easily cost more than 40,000 yen.
  • A meal for 4 can be multiplied against these numbers, but it is certainly possible to have a decent meal in Japan (even with four people) for less than 10,000 yen. The Web site Guru Navi (http://www.gnavi.co.jp/en/) can provide some helpful cost expectations before heading out for a meal at a particular restaurant.