A City-by-City Guide to the Cost of Living in Japan

Japan has a strong economy with a high quality of life, and the Japanese yen is one of the most stable currencies in the world. But despite its popularity among expats, the cost of living in Japan is high relative to other countries. In fact, the Mercer Cost of Living Index places Tokyo ninth on its list of most expensive cities, right behind Singapore and New York City.

Before you buy a one-way ticket to Nagoya or Yokohama, here’s what you need to know about the cost of living in Japan and how much monthly costs vary from city to city.

Understanding the cost of living in Japan

Japan is home to almost 124 million people, of which around 2.3% were born overseas. Moving to Japan is appealing for all sorts of reasons. Students travel to Japan to learn Japanese or teach English. Backpackers and digital nomads head to Japan to see its Buddhist temples and explore its culinary scene. Some expats even retire there.

But the cost of living in Japan depends on where you live, your lifestyle, and whether or not you’re a permanent resident. NomadList puts the monthly cost of living in Tokyo at $4,947 for a digital nomad, $3,904 for an expat, and $2,200 for a local.

Tourists and short-term visitors can expect to pay more for travel costs and temporary accommodation, while official residents with a Japan work visa get access to Japan’s national healthcare system and other benefits.

Although salaries in Japan are relatively high, they may be lower than in your home country. A software engineer in Tokyo can expect to earn a $45,466 salary, while a teacher earns an average salary of around $35,190 per year.

If you’re earning money from an overseas employer, you’ll need to check the exchange rate to see how far your money will go in Japan. For this article, we’ve reported most figures in U.S. dollars (USD), so you can easily compare it to other currencies.

The cost of living in Japan by city

Cost of living in Japan: entrepreneur talking on the phone

Japan is a densely populated country, and many visitors head to iconic cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. These also happen to be some of the most expensive cities in the world. If you want to save money, consider moving to a smaller city or a rural area.

Here’s how the cost of living in Japan varies in four major cities.


Tokyo is home to around 14 million people, and its metro area is the largest in the world, with 37 million inhabitants. Residents appreciate its bustling lifestyle and efficient public transport system, but food and housing costs more than in other major cities.

According to Teleport.org, a single person renting a small apartment in the city center can expect to pay $1,100 per month, while a large apartment goes for $1,800.

Here is a sample of day-to-day living expenses in Tokyo:

  • Housing: $1,100 for a small apartment
  • Food: $9.20 for lunch and $3.90 for a cappuccino
  • Transport: $80 for a public transit pass
  • Health: $90 for a gym membership


Osaka is significantly smaller than Tokyo, with only 2.75 million residents, but it’s still the third-largest city in Japan. Osaka has a milder climate and more affordable real estate than Tokyo, making it an appealing alternative for those who want a city lifestyle.

Here’s what you can expect to pay each month to live in Osaka:

  • Housing: $600 for a small apartment
  • Food: $7.50 for lunch and $3.30 for a cappuccino
  • Transport: $84 for a public transit pass
  • Health: $73 for a gym membership


Kyoto is one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations, thanks to its beautiful temples and famous cherry blossoms. Located close to Osaka, it has a similar cost of living and a slightly smaller population of 2.6 million people.

Here’s how much it costs to live in Kyoto:

  • Housing: $660 for a small apartment
  • Food: $7.40 for lunch and $3.60 for a cappuccino
  • Transport: $100 for a public transit pass
  • Health: $83 for a gym membership


Fukuoka is located in the south of Japan, on the island of Kyūshū—but you can still reach Tokyo in less than five hours via high-speed train. Fukuoka is popular for its regional varieties of ramen as well as its figs and other locally grown fruit.

Here’s how much you can expect to spend each month in Fukuoka:

  • Housing: $580 for a small apartment
  • Food: $6.80 for lunch and $3.90 for a cappuccino
  • Transport: $82 for a public transit pass
  • Health: $68 for a gym membership

Average monthly living expenses in Japan

Person holding an envelope with bills

The cost of living in Japan is high, but it’s still possible to get by in its major cities on a budget. There are plenty of ways to cut costs, from sharing accommodations with other students or expats to cooking at home instead of eating out.

Here are four factors that can significantly impact the cost of living in Japan.


Although the average cost of housing is nearly twice as much in Tokyo as it is in Osaka and Kyoto, you’ll find a wide range of accommodations in all of Japan’s big cities. You might find that a one-bedroom apartment in Tokyo outside of the city center is more affordable than a studio apartment in central Osaka.

Renting an apartment can be challenging if you don’t have a Japanese acquaintance, school, or employer to act as your guarantor. You’ll also be expected to pay a deposit, agency fees, and even liability insurance. Be sure to estimate your monthly rent and utility bills, including Wi-Fi, before committing to live in an apartment long term.

Food and drink

You’ll find a wide range of food and drink options in Japan, including regional specialties and international chains. In fact, Osaka is the second-most gastronomically diverse city in the world, with over 35,638 restaurants, of which 20,695 are international.

Of course, eating out for lunch and dinner every day can be expensive. You’ll have a lower cost of living in Japan if you get in the habit of eating bento boxes—prepared meals sold at convenience stores—instead of ordering lunch at a cafe.

Drinks can add up too, especially in Tokyo, with prices averaging around $2.30 for a coffee, $2.95 for a Coca-Cola, and $4.54 for a beer.

Public transport

Japan has an extensive rail network and efficient public transport systems in most of its major cities. You can easily get by without owning a car or motorcycle.

If you’re living and working in Japan, you can save money by getting a commuter pass for the local public transit network. If you’re a tourist traveling around the country, you may benefit from a rail pass instead.

Just remember that some trains have reserved seats, and you may need to reserve a ticket in advance before arriving at the train station. The train from Tokyo to Nagoya costs $60-$85 for an unreserved seat and $70-$90 for a reserved seat.


Health insurance is another big factor in the cost of living in Japan. Although Japanese residents have access to the National Health Insurance program (NHI), non-residents will need to arrange their own health insurance coverage.

If you’re moving to Japan for work, such as to teach English as a Second Language, you may have access to employer-based Social Insurance (SI). Otherwise, you can choose your own international health insurance coverage.

Japan has an affordable healthcare system, but it isn’t free. You‘ll have to pay a 30% copay for most medical expenses, subject to an out-of-pocket cap.

Sending money to Japan

Woman holding some bills while using her phone

Moving to Japan can be an exciting adventure, but it can also present some challenges, such as the high cost of living in major cities like Kyoto and Osaka. Fortunately, despite the high cost of rent, other expenses like public transport and healthcare may be more affordable than similar monthly expenses back home.

Whether you need to send money to Japan or want to send your earnings back home to your loved ones, you can save money by using an international money transfer app, like Remitly, with affordable fees and a competitive exchange rate.

Over 5 million people have used Remitly to transfer funds around the world. Download the app today to send your first transfer!

Further reading