Japan Cost of Living
The cost of living in Japan is shockingly reasonable! Of course, “reasonable” is all relative. Naturally, Japan’s cost of living exists on a bit of a spectrum. There are definitely areas in Japan that are more expensive than others. Tokyo, for example, has a higher cost of living than certain rural/farmland areas in Japan. I don’t think that’s too shocking, but . . . what about the places in between?
Let’s take Hayama as an example. We are a family of four living in Hayama, Japan. Hayama is a beach town about one hour from Tokyo. It’s certainly not the big city like Tokyo. At the same time, it’s quite populated and it serves as a haven for beachgoers in the summertime. The Japanese Imperial Family even has a house in Hayama. We’ve been living in Hayama for about two years, so our cost of living in Japan will focus specifically on Hayama for a family of four.
Housing Costs in Hayama, Japan
We both work for employers that pay our housing costs, so we have no housing costs in Japan. However, we’ve met a lot of other expats and Japanese friends in our neighborhood. We polled our friends here and calculated the average rent for a three bedroom/two bath house in Hayama (walking distance to the beach!) to be approximately $1,500 a month. Some homes can rent for more than $3,000 a month in Hayama, but we’ve found that $1,500 a month can get you a nice home.
Move-in costs for a $1,500/month rental, however, can really add up. When moving into a new place to live in Japan, upfront costs before moving in can include: first month’s rent, last month’s rent, a realtor’s fee (around the cost of one month’s rent), and a deposit!
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The Average Japanese Home has Some Amazing Features
If you’ve never seen a Japanese home, you would probably be amazed by some of the features you can find in them. Number one: tatami floors! Tatami mats are traditionally made of woven straw and then placed together in standard sizes to form a larger tatami floor. Traditional Japanese homes generally have at least one room in the house with a tatami floor. Floors are always protected in a Japanese home in that it’s customary to remove your outside shoes while inside a Japanese home (and even in certain restaurants).
Number two (no pun intended): the toilets! The toilets in Japan are unlike any other toilets you’ll ever see! Most homes have electric toilets that can be set to heat up in the winter and to cool in the summer. There are also several different features on the toilets that allow for “cleansing,” drying, self-flushing, automatic lid and seat opening and closing, and even a noise maker! These high-tech toilets aren’t just limited to homes. Restaurants, airports, and even shopping malls have the “standard” Japanese toilets with all the gadgets and features found in a typical Japanese home.
Transportation Costs in Hayama, Japan
Cost of Buying a Car in Japan
The price of a car in Japan is quite reasonable – especially compared to where we’re from (the Bay Area/California). You can easily purchase a brand new five-seater vehicle in Japan for under $14,000. The cost of used cars is even better! Because Japan has such great public transportation, people don’t tend to put a lot of miles on their cars – meaning that you can buy a used car with low miles for really cheap! For example, we purchased a small five-seater (used) vehicle for only $2,000. Even better – it only had 45,000 miles on it!
Although you can generally find a pretty good deal on a car in Japan, if you plan on driving, you’ll want to factor in the cost of gas and tolls when calculating transportation costs. Gas in Hayama, Japan runs about $4.72 a gallon. Taking the freeway adds to transportation costs as it inevitably consists of paying multiple tolls . . . and tolls can add up to be pretty expensive! For example, it costs about $30 (one-way) for us to drive from our house to the Narita International Airport, which is about seventy-seven miles away in Tokyo.
Best Way to Save Money on Transportation in Japan
The best way to avoid toll costs is to take public transportation. Japan has an amazing, reliable and safe network of trains that run every couple of minutes per line. Japan Railway (JR) lines run locally, but you can also take a JR line pretty far out by simply switching lines. The cost of taking the JR line in Japan really depends on the distance that you’re riding. One stop on the JR line can cost less than $2, which makes the JR line a popular mode of transportation for professionals traveling to and from work. To take the JR line from our house in Hayama to a stop in Tokyo (about thirty-seven miles away), we pay $8.30 (one-way) for an adult ticket. Kid tickets are always half price.
The JR lines are common/everyday modes of transportation for local travel, but Japan also has the Shinkansen bullet train for longer distances. The bullet train operates at up to 200 miles per hour. Just like the local trains, tickets for the bullet train depend on the distance. For example, a bullet train ride for about 280 miles from Tokyo to Kyoto (the former capital of Japan) costs $130 one-way.
Costs of Food and Eating Out in Hayama, Japan
If you love sushi, there is no better place to travel than Japan! Japan has the most reasonably priced sushi we have ever seen . . . and it’s everywhere! Japan is famous for its sushi-go-rounds: restaurants where plates of sushi constantly circle around on a conveyor belt for diners to select from. The cost per plate at a sushi-go-round depends on the type of sushi that’s selected but can cost as little as $1 for a two-piece sushi plate. Our family of four can easily get full on massive plates of sushi at a sushi-go-round for less than $30 total!
Of course, there’s more than just sushi in Japan. Don’t get us wrong, we love Japanese food! But, one of our favorite restaurants in Japan is actually a local seaside Italian restaurant. We’ve also been to plenty of delicious Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Chinese restaurants here in Japan. In general, for our family of four to go to dinner at a higher end (but not super expensive) restaurant in Hayama, it costs about $60 total.
Cost of Food in Japan
If we’re looking to save money, however (which we usually are), we generally just buy food at the local supermarket. Of course, you have to buy food when it’s in season (an off-season cantaloupe can cost as much as $30)! If you buy in season, the prices at the local supermarkets are really reasonable. For a quick comparison: an avocado costs $1.50; a baguette costs $1.00; ten eggs (eggs at the market are sold in packages of ten rather than a dozen) cost $2.50; a pound of chicken costs about $3.00 a pound, and a 5-piece sushi package costs about $4.50.
In total, our family of four spends about $750 in food costs (including groceries and eating out) a month.
Utility Costs in Japan
We have no utility costs Hayama Japan, but this is because our employers pay our utilities. So, just like housing costs, we polled our expat and Japanese friends in our neighborhood to get an average cost of utilities in Hayama. We found that utilities for a three-bedroom home (including gas, electric, water, and garbage) cost an average of about $200 a month.
One thing to keep in mind with utility costs in Hayama: People tend to have higher electric bills in the summer. This is because Hayama is very hot and humid during the summer. Because of this, a lot of people tend to run their air conditioners quite often, which tends to drive up utility costs during the summer time.
Entertainment Costs in Japan
Entertainment costs can add up in Japan, but it all depends on personal preferences. We spend an average of about $200 a month on entertainment.
There are tons of free things to do in Hayama, Japan. Going to the beach, hiking, visiting shrines and temples, watching parades and firework shows are just a few. We tend to gravitate towards the free events, but (of course) not everything is free!
We recently took a family trip to Disneyland in Tokyo. Tickets for a one-day pass at Disneyland cost us $218 ($66 per adult and $43 per child). Tip for anyone planning a trip to Tokyo Disneyland: go during the week and use Fastpass (which is free)!
If you don’t like the hustle and bustle of Tokyo Disneyland, Japan is famous for its relaxing onsen/hot springs. About an hour away from Hayama (in Hakone) is a hot spring themed park with “baths” made of coffee, wine, and green tea. The park also features indoor and outdoor pools, slides, and an open-air scenic bath. Tickets for a one-day pass cost us $80 ($25 per adult and $15 per child).
Japan also has an incredible Fuji Safari Park, which is about an hour and a half drive from our house. It’s unlike any park/zoo we’ve ever been to! The park has a “safari zone,” where you can drive your own car through a zone of free roaming animals, including lions, tigers, and bears (Oh My!). If you don’t want to drive your own car through the safari, you can ride on the park’s “jungle bus” for an extra cost. The park also features a petting area, where kids can pet kangaroos, meerkats, and warthogs. Tickets for a one-day pass cost us $76 ($25 per adult and $13 per child).
Two Final Thoughts If You Are Thinking Of Moving To Japan
First, try to learn Japanese . . . but not for the reason you might think. You can actually get by in Japan if you only speak English. This is because a large percentage of people speak English in Japan (English is taught as early as elementary school in Japanese schools). However, you should try to learn Japanese because people really appreciate you attempting to speak it (even if you sound terrible)! Full disclosure – we speak very little Japanese and we probably sound terrible speaking it . . . but we always try!
Second, make friends with the locals! It’s a great way to learn about Japanese culture and you’ll likely get invaluable insight on how to spot great (cost-savings) deals in the area.
We’ve met some really great people in Japan. It’s an amazing place to work, visit, and even live . . . and the Japanese cost of living does not need to be that expensive, we hope we’ve convinced some of you to consider exploring Japan. Perhaps, one day, we’ll see you roaming the streets of Hayama. If so . . . jaa
About the Authors
Christina and Amon are YouTube vloggers living in Hayama, Japan. With their two young girls and they love to explore Japan during their free time. They are approximately three years away from financial independence and early retirement. Cristina and Amon document their financial independence journey (including ways they make money, save money, and invest money) on their YouTube channel: Our Rich Journey.
YouTube Homepage: www.YouTube.com/OurRichJourney