Is living in Japan cheap?

I have seen several V/Blogs that say yes… To this I say…


Let’s start with a video on life in Japan. There are a million different channels with a million different experiences each with a million different points of view. This one talks about Japan on the cheap… and all I have to say is:
This Vlog is the Japanese language student variety (I’m assuming from the tone and fast evolution of Japanese ability). I wish I could I have done that and I even wish I could do that now, but the tuition is so expensive. Here is a link to one schools tuition fees and that is pretty standard.

Anyhow, this particular Vlog is of the cutesy, candy variety

Ok… take 2 metformin now… and…. Go!

*A note on this vid.  She mentions living in a Leopalace.  These are fully furnished apartments famous for drifters and paper thin walls.  If you don’t spend much time at home, and just need a place to put your stuff, it might be for you.  Nobody I know or have ever met has a nice thing to say about those places, but if your going to stay under a year, I suppose its ok.

Quickly! Take 2 more metformin… there you go… it will be ok… Shhhhhh….

Incidentally, the sales tax went up nationally 5% since then and is about to go up again in a bit..  So that stuff she has… mo money…  Anyhow, lets sharpen our teeth on reality shall we:


I am married, so yeah its more expensive, but our income is almost doubled.  There are associated expenses not covered here, such as medical, food, sanitary, travel and just doing stuff as well as student loans (which I according to my math, I will be square when I am 75). I don’t even want to know how much we spend on Maxipads because those things are everywhere!  So lets keep it at the basics.  The basic non-Japanese salary is around 250,000 yen a month (about $2,500 USD).  So lets use that as a base line.

The apartment: Shopping for an apartment is a harrowing experience and most apartments are of a substandard quality. There are really nice ones, true, but on average they are hovels. I won’t go into buying a place as permanent resident, which you can and will be refused places based just on that, I will just talk about the expense. My place is about a 20 minute bus ride (or walk depending on traffic) to the station. It is a 3DK which means 3 rooms with a dinette/kitchen. I live just on the of the Tokyo border line, so I am not in Tokyo, but literally a 5 minute walk to Tokyo. So the apartment avoids those nasty Tokyo taxes.

This apartment is very close to what my apartment is like.

This apartment is very close to what my apartment is like.

So lets begin… My 3DK apartment is advertised as 65,000 yen a month. But the reality of having a Japanese apartment is that you need a guarantor, which is a co-signer who is responsible if you bounce. That person must have a job and earns a certain amount. My wife’s parents would be happy to be our guarantor but alas they are retired, so we have to enroll with a co-signer company, which will cover you for an extra amount per month. For us it is 44,160 yen a year, or 3,680 exta a month. So rent is 68,680 a month.
So to get into the apartment, these are the associated fees which must be paid on every second anniversary… yes… this amount must be paid every 2 years! 1) 2 months rent 130,000 2) fire insurance: 11,000 3) Broker fee 68,250. We are fortunate that we don’t have to pay key money.  So…

209,250yen ($2015 USD) paid upon entry and then every 2 years

These are the bills for July.
68,680 ($660 USD) monthly rent

Here are the utility bills which obviously vary depending.
Water- A caveat here is that I have a bad back and RLS, which a long hot shower helps a lot, so this is higher than average:
4,052 ($40 USD) for water usage
3,350 ($33 USD) for the sewage fee

Electricity- There is no insulation so prices vary wildly. I think the record low for electricity is about 3,000 yen in the spring and autumn. Summer and winter get expensive.
6,070 ($60) Electricity

Gas- our particular place uses propane, which is the most expensive option, and unfortunately most common. This is where my long showers get me in trouble.
7,330 ($73) Gas

The national pension program, or money for your retirement. Full time employees are supposed to have their employers cover some of it, but many companies bend over backwards to avoid paying that. For me as an Assistant language teacher, my company uses loopholes in the laws to not pay into the program, so I pay more and will eventually get less.

20,544 ($255) monthly for my wife’s pension (her pension is a bit more than mine, but she is able to receive a lot more back once she retires)
14,980 ($150) monthly for my pension

The national health insurance plan mirrors the pension program as your employer is supposed to cover a portion. My employer does not and I am forced to buy insurance designed for those who are self-employed. The amount of money you pay is based on the previous year’s tax returns. Like I have said before, I am a man that usually aligns himself on conservative issues, but this form of health care is far superior to the US model whose healthcare is indefensibly immoral.
18,500 ($185) Monthly for my health insurance
10,440 ($105) Monthly for my wife’s health insurance
We don’t have a TV, so we don’t pay the NHK tax (they still try to collect though, and insist that if I have a cell phone, that counts as a TV)

And finally there is residency tax. Again this is based off of where you live and how much you make. I live just outside of Tokyo city limits, so I avoid a much higher tax. It’s pretty much income tax that hasn’t been automatically deducted from your salary. This is paid 8 months out of the year, or in one lump sum if you can float it (which we can’t) so I will instead put it as a monthly fee.
30,200 ($300) Monthly for my residency tax
23,600 ($235) for my wife’s residency tax

Now for some of the other fees which I will just combine:

17,700 ($175) for our Iphones (we bought the 4s just before the 5 came out. They were trying to dump as many as possible)
9,068 ($90) for our personal wi-fi… it was cheaper than the data plans for our ipads. Wi-Fi is still rare here, and I use it at work too.
3,564 ($35) for internet (This is a steal for a broadband connection. Our apartment has a deal with the carrier to get 50% off the plan)
1,007 ($10) for HULU. (Hulu is more like a very limited, baby Netflix that offers western movies… crap selection, but my wife loves it)
So let’s break this down in just monthly fees (not the extras for every other year and moving into an apartment):

Rent: 68,680
Sewage: 3,350
Water: 4,052
Gas 7,330
National pension: 14,980 + 20,544 = 35,524
National health insurance 10,400 +18,500 =28,900
Residency tax 30,200 + 23,600 =53,800
Iphones 17,700
Personal wi-fi 9,068
Broadband internet 3,564
Hulu 1,007

Total feel the pain 232,975 ($2,250ish) or roughly 50% of our total income.

Is Japan cheap? 

Survey says!



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