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Cost of Living in Japan

Japan is said to have one of the highest costs-of-living in the world but what do people actually spend their money on and how much do they spend? This article looks at what households in Japan actually spend in a month in various categories.

The data is taken from the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’ “Household Finance Survey” for 2014. The data we’re summarizing below is specifically for households where there are at least two members, and where the head of household is working (for a company, the government, in a factory or a shop/store).

Of note is that the Ministry specifically excludes foreign residents from its survey group, so this information reflects what Japanese households spend.

However, we put up this post to give readers a general idea of what locals (in different parts of Japan) spend for food, utilities, transportation, and entertainment, etc. Obviously, your expenses as a foreigner living in Japan could be quite different (or very similar) depending on your lifestyle!

Also, the data does not include expenditures for rent or a mortgage payment, which is of course, often the highest expense for most households. For information on the cost of renting in Japan, please see our previous posts on the average rent in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, and for other prefectures in Japan.

Average Monthly Expenditures

In 2014, the average household monthly expenditure was 318,800yen (about 2,720usd at today’s exchange rate) for Japan as a whole, with the top three categories being 1) “Food” at 71,200yen, 2) “Other” (which includes such things as reading materials, entertainment expenses, and allowances given/sent to children) at 65,900yen, and 3) “Transportation and Communications” at 53,400yen.

By region, the Hokuriku region (located on the northwestern coast of Honshu and which includes Ishikawa, Fukui, Niigata, and Toyama prefectures), had the highest average household monthly expenditure, at 356,600yen. By expenditure category, households in Hokuriku spent a whopping 71,800yen a month on transportation and communication, versus the national average of 53,400yen. Okinawa had the lowest average monthly expenditure at 239,900yen, a difference of 116,700yen between the highest and lowest regions.

By major metropolitan area, the Kanto metropolitan region, which includes Tokyo and Yokohama, had the highest average monthly household expenditure at 333,400yen.

The Kinki region (in the chart) includes the cities of Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto.

Please click on the chart for a detailed breakdown by region and expenditure category. Also, please note that “Residence” in the table does not refer to rent, but to expenditures on a residence itself, such as household repairs and interior decoration. The data is reported in yen.

Japan household expenditure survey

Cost of Living Expenses Down Year-on-Year

In the Ministry’s most recent flash report (May 3, 2015), it reported that average household expenditures for March 2015 compared to March 2014 decreased 10.6% to about 317,000yen.

Average Household Income

The average household, with at least two members and a working head of household, had income of 449,243yen (March 2015), a decrease of 0.3% compared to March 2014.

How does this compare to your household expenses as a foreigner living in Japan? Or for readers living in other countries, do these expenses seem high to you? Leave your comments below!

Sources: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications 家計調査報告2014年平均速報 and 家計調査(二人以上の世帯)平成27年(2015年)3月分速報

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9 thoughts on "Cost of Living in Japan"

Ola Eliasson

I have a income of 350 000 yen before tax, living in Sweden, in a 2-room apartment alone.
Working as a service technician for the industry.

When I work much overtime I can reach up to 400 000 yen after tax, and I spend perhaps 170 000 yen on living costs.
So Japan sounds pretty reasonable, but I don’t know if the wages are comparable.


Thank you for your comment! According to government data, the average household in Japan, with at least two members and a working head of household, had pre-tax income of about 450,000 yen (March 2015).

Xiong Li

try hawaii ! we have high cost of living too. people or families have 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet! if you want to rent its as much as a mortgage! thats why i want to leave this place!

Junk Misters

I live in Sapporo (single-occupant/single-income), and make about 280,000 yen per month for full time employment (gross)… deductions from my pay eat about 45,000 yen, then another 60,000 for rent, and another 20,000 for utilities, an average of 15,000 for “residency fee”, 50,000 for food (I cook a lot), plus 10,000 for internet and phone, 15,000 for transportation (215,000 so far), and from the remaining 65,000 comes necessary items like toiletries, clothing, medicine, cleaning products, the occasional night eating ramen with friends, and the far too expensive enkais that companies are so fond of having for every excuse imaginable… and this city isn’t even very expensive compared to other bigger cities in Japan. Ultimately, the at-source deductions eat the largest sum. My rent is high for this area (since my company set it up and they don’t usually think too hard about saving money for their employees – they just took “big, because – foreigners”).

However, it still means a savings of around 20% which is considerable. And, when I am released from my lease, I can knock another 25,000 off my rent (and also another 10,000 from utilities for a smaller and more energy efficient place, plus half the transportation by moving closer to city-centre). So, it SOUNDS expensive – but in honesty it isn’t. The medical coverage is FANTASTIC (I paid $50 USD for a complete dental checkup and cleaning… at home, that would have been astronomical)! Fruit aside, food is relatively cheap. Transportation is hideously expensive, but come cycling season, it’s so easy to ride everywhere. And where I come from, even with a wage higher than mine, it would be unlikely to save more than 5% of an income living alone. If that.


My husband made 3.9 million yen last year, and I am working 5 days a week (semi-full time. Basically 2 days are half days so that they can pay me less and not provide benefits :/) and I am on track to make 1.6 to 1.8 million yen this year.

We don’t have kids yet so our expenditures are low and I am putting almost half of my income in savings, while my husband is putting away 2-3man. He knows I am saving up so I can work just part time once we have kids until they are older, so he only asks for 3man a month toward food/rent/utlities. Of course, when I go to work, I buy my own food there. I walk/bike to my job and my hobbies are all at home– tending to the garden, playing with our dog, studying, reading, chillin’ online. Probably we spend 4man on food, 2-3man on transport, and our “house loan” on our mansion (including maintance fees and parking) is 4.5man a month. We could have bought a house but we found a nice 77sqm 1st floor 3LDK with a 50sqm garden so we decided to go the inexpensive route. Yes, I have student loans from uni but they are only about 8500 yen a month, so I can easily pay it off early.

My point is, I think if you aren’t all “buy buy buy buy” and are frugal with your spending, you can comfortably live in Japan.

Bemmu Sepponen

For our family we are spending about 37万 monthly. Details:

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