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

Photo: A home-cooked Japanese-style dinner!

Photo credit: mrhayata

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