Living in Japan

How much do I need to budget to move to Japan?

How much money do I need to move to Japan? Is one of the more frequently asked questions we receive at Real Estate Japan.

Below we give cost estimates for two scenarios and a breakdown of the costs and assumptions you’ll want to look at if you are planning a move to Japan.

  • Single person. You are coming to Japan on a tourist visa without a job, with the objective of finding a job before your visa expires.
  • Single person. You are coming to Japan on a work visa and want to start your job ASAP without a lot of hassle getting your apartment set up.

Scenario 1: Single person – Coming to Japan on a tourist visa, without a job

Who: Single person, US citizen, coming from Los Angeles to Tokyo

Status: Coming on a tourist visa, no job in Japan

Objective: Come on a 90-day tourist visa. Find a job at a company that will sponsor you for a work visa within the first 4 to 6 weeks. Receive work visa within 90-days of coming to Japan, assuming average visa processing time of 4 to 8 weeks.

Notes: Will not have income for first four months in Japan, but will receive first paycheck within 6 weeks of starting job at the beginning of month four.

How much money would you have to budget?

  • At a minimum, for this scenario, you would need to have about $5,700 (¥629,000).
  • Please scroll for the breakdown and assumptions.

What assumptions are we using?

  • This is a minimum budget estimate, without a lot of extraneous spending.
  • For housing, we want to minimize move-in costs like deposit and key money.
  • Minimum housing needs until you find a job. The property used in the cost estimate is a bunk bed in a share house located near Kita Senju Station, which is about a 30-minute ride to Shinjuku. No key money, no deposit, no agency fee. The share house has cooking and laundry facilities and WiFi. This is a short-term rental property, which does not require a guarantor. Total Monthly Cost is ¥45,000.
  • Common area in Kita Senju share house used for the cost simulation. Please click on the photo for the full listing.

  • You can stay with a friend for a few days until you can get a short-term rental. Some short-term rentals will accept overseas applications, so it’s possible to have a place ready before you land. If you don’t have a place to stay for a few days, remember to budget for an inexpensive hotel or AirBnB-type rental until you can get a more “permanent” short-term rental.
  • You don’t bring a lot of stuff with you to Japan, other than what can be carried in two checked bags.
  • You cook some meals and/or buy inexpensive ready-made meals, with a daily food budget of ¥1,200 (about $10).
  • You bring your phone with you and use a local SIM card for voice and data. Please see: How to use your cell phone in Japan with JP Smart SIM 
  • You go out very little and/or spend very little when you go out.
  • You “commute” 5-days a week from your Kita Senju home base to a major hub station like Shinjuku to go to job interviews, meet friends, check out the city, etc. The roundtrip fare from Kita Senju to Shinjuku is ¥740. There is also an additional train travel budget built into the estimate.
  • You find a job within 4 to 6 weeks of landing in Tokyo and your work visa is processed by the time your tourist visa expires. (It is possible to apply for a visa extension while your work visa is being processed, but we wanted to keep this as simple as possible).
  • Rent in Japan is usually due by the last day of the month for the next month, so we budgeted for four months rent. This assumes that you will receive your first salary payment within 4 to 6 weeks of the first day you start your job in month four. You have to have money ready to cover the 4th month’s rent because you won’t receive your first paycheck until the start of month five, at the earliest.
  • How to find a job in Japan? Go to GaijinPot Jobs (English teaching jobs, IT jobs) and CareerEngine (for bilingual jobs in Japan)

What isn’t included in the cost estimate?

  • Any expenses you might be carrying at home.
  • Local medical expenses.
  • Long-distance travel in Japan, like a trip to Kyoto or Osaka!
  • Additional expenses (move-in costs for a long-term apartment, getting a local smartphone) starting in month four, if you choose to upgrade your living situation once you find a job.

Scenario 2: Single person, coming to Japan on a work visa

Who: Single person, US citizen, coming from Los Angeles to Tokyo

Status: Coming on a work visa. Will start working soon after arrival. You don’t speak a lot of Japanese, don’t have a guarantor for your apartment lease and don’t want a lot of hassle renting an apartment.

Objective: Hit the ground running. Have your apartment set up before you arrive, so you can start working right away.

Notes: This scenario assumes you make a gross monthly salary of ¥300,000 and that you don’t get any relocation assistance from your company. You have a 3-year work visa and want to sign a two-year lease contract. You will receive your first month’s salary within 4 to 6 weeks of starting your job in month one.

How much money would you have to budget?

  • At a minimum, for this scenario, you would need to have about $7,000 (¥770,000).
  • Please scroll for the breakdown and assumptions.

What assumptions are we using?

  • This is minimum budget estimate, without a lot of extraneous spending.
  • You don’t speak a lot of Japanese, don’t have a guarantor, and want to have your apartment set up for you before you arrive. If this is your situation, we highly recommend the GaijinPot Housing Service.
  • The GaijinPot Housing Service allows you to pay for all your housing-related expenses with a credit card. You could put all your housing expenses on a credit card, which would of course, significantly reduce the amount of cash you need upfront.
  • The sample property used for the simulation is located near Takadanobaba Station on the Yamanote line. This is a busy student-friendly neighborhood with a lot of budget shopping and dining nearby. No deposit, no key money. Total monthly cost is ¥78,449.
  • This GaijinPot Housing Service property located in Takadanobaba is currently available. Please click on the photo for the full listing.

  • You don’t bring a lot of stuff with you to Japan, other than what can be carried in two checked bags.
  • You cook some meals and/or buy inexpensive ready-made meals, with a daily food budget of ¥1,200 (about $10).
  • You bring your phone with you and use a local SIM card for voice and data. Please see: How to use your cell phone in Japan with JP Smart SIM 
  • You go out very little and/or spend very little when you go out.
  • Rent in Japan is usually due by the last day of the month for the next month, so we budgeted for two months rent. This assumes that you will receive your first salary payment within 4 to 6 weeks of the first day you start your job in month one. You have to have money ready to cover the 2nd-month’s rent because you won’t receive your first paycheck until the start of the second month, at the earliest.

What isn’t included in the cost estimate?

  • Any expenses you might be carrying at home.
  • Health insurance, income tax, unemployment insurance, and your pension contribution will be automatically deducted from your salary before you receive your net monthly salary.
  • You will pay local inhabitants tax starting the second year of residing in Japan.
  • Any co-payments for local medical expenses.
  • Long-distance travel in Japan.
  • Additional expenses (like getting a local smartphone), if you choose to level up your living situation after you start your job.

You may also be interested in: How much can a single working person save in Tokyo?

If you will be shipping a lot of items to Japan, please see: Moving to Japan: FAQs and how much it costs