What is the cost of living for a family of four in Tokyo?

In this article we take a look at the cost of living in Tokyo for a family of four.

Please note that the cost of living estimates below are for an average family of four living in Tokyo. The scenarios would not be representative for ex-pat families living in high-end housing and with children attending private international schools.

To get an idea of the cost of living for a single person, please see: What is the cost of living for a single person in Tokyo?

What is the cost of living for a family of four in Tokyo?

The average monthly cost of living for a family of four in Tokyo is about ¥417,000 ($3,864). This is according to survey data from Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication (2016) and is calculated for families who live in rental housing.

Breakdown by category

What does the typical 4-person family spend on rent, food, utilities, etc. in the Tokyo 23 Wards? The cost breakdown below is based on 2016 survey data by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The average rent shown below is for a 3LDK (3-bedroom) apartment located within a 15-min walk of the station. Average rent, of course, varies widely by station. Average rent for ex-pat style, family-sized apartments in prime areas like Roppongi, Azabu Juban, Hiroo, and Ebisu are much higher (at the low end, you would expect to pay at least ¥1,00,000 to ¥2,000,000 per month for a 3LDK ex-pat style apartment).

  • Average monthly rent: ¥125,000
  • Food: ¥80,000
  • Utilities (gas, water, electricity): ¥20,000
  • Transportation & Communication (including Internet): ¥46,000
  • Entertainment & hobbies: ¥33,000
  • Clothing: ¥15,000
  • Daily / consumable goods: ¥12,000
  • Education: ¥26,000
  • Savings: ¥60,000
  • Total: ¥417,000

Scenario 1: ¥200,000 monthly budget

The monthly sample budget below is calculated for a 4-person family living in Tokyo’s northern and eastern wards (such as Adachi, Katsuhika, or Edogawa), where average rent is the lowest among the 23 wards.

Tokyo’s 23 Special Wards (Ku in Japanese). Image: Wikimedia

In this scenario, dad works and earns about ¥4,800,000 a year. Mom is a stay-at-home mom who takes care of their two young children (under school-aged). The family rents an older 2DK apartment (a 2DK is an apartment with two rooms in addition to the dining/kitchen area). They save money on rent, so that they can cover other expenses. This is admittedly a tight budget. Note that this young family is not currently putting any money away in savings.

Scenario 1 Breakdown: 4-person family living on about ¥200,000 per month

  • Average monthly rent: ¥67,000
  • Food: ¥53,000
  • Utilities (gas, water, electricity): ¥17,000
  • Transportation & Communication (including Internet): ¥14,000
  • Entertainment & hobbies: ¥10,000
  • Clothing: ¥15,000
  • Daily / consumable goods: ¥14,000
  • Education: ¥15,000
  • Savings: None
  • Total: ¥205,000

Scenario 2: ¥300,000 monthly budget

The monthly sample budget below is calculated for a 4-person family living in Tokyo’s western suburbs or just outside Tokyo proper (for example, in Chiba, Saitama, or Kanagawa prefectures).

Tokyo Metropolis. Source: Wikipedia

In this scenario, dad works and earns about ¥4,600,000 a year. Mom has a part-time job (earning about ¥1,000,000 a year) and also takes care of two young children.

Here is a sample scenario for living expenses totaling about ¥300,000 a month.

Scenario 2 Breakdown: 4-person family living on about ¥300,000 per month

  • Average monthly rent: ¥87,000
  • Food: ¥65,000
  • Utilities (gas, water, electricity): ¥22,000
  • Transportation & Communication (including Internet): ¥20,000
  • Entertainment & hobbies: ¥25,000
  • Clothing: ¥15,000
  • Daily / consumable goods: ¥22,000
  • Education: ¥25,000
  • Savings: ¥20,000
  • Total: ¥301,000

Scenario 3: ¥400,000 monthly budget

The monthly sample budget below is calculated for a 4-person family living in one of Tokyo’s western wards, such as Setagaya. In this scenario, both parents work. They have two elementary school-aged children. Dad makes about ¥5,000,000 a year. Mom makes about ¥2,800,000 a year.

Because this family has school-aged children, they rent a bigger apartment (60-sqm or above) and have more educational expenses.

Scenario 3 Breakdown: 4-person family living on about ¥400,000 per month

  • Average monthly rent: ¥127,000
  • Food: ¥80,000
  • Utilities (gas, water, electricity): ¥24,000
  • Transportation & Communication (including Internet): ¥21,000
  • Entertainment & hobbies: ¥30,000
  • Clothing: ¥25,000
  • Daily / consumable goods: ¥23,000
  • Education: ¥30,000
  • Savings: ¥40,000
  • Total: ¥400,000

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Image: Via Pixabay (royalty-free)