Relocating to another country can seem very daunting, and among many other factors, monthly living costs is one of the main things many foreigners take into consideration when deciding on their move. After all, we want to make the most of our salary as well as keep our finances balanced. While the problem with living costs can be difficult to figure out on your own, this article intends to address a few key concerns an incoming foreigner might have on moving to Japan.
#1 Housing costs
A simple estimate figure for a single-room apartment in Tokyo can be placed anywhere between ¥50,000 to over ¥10,000 with an average of ¥70,000 per month. Prices are usually determined by factors such as the area and distance from the station, where a general rule of thumb would be the more convenient and highly populated the area, the higher the prices. There is however, a slightly more complicated side to finding housing in Japan that comes with its own set of expenses.
You may have already heard, looking for a place to stay in Japan comes with great overhead cost. It is the norm for tenants to find themselves forking out 2 to 4 months of payment upfront, and this is due to a few fees that are custom in the Japanese housing market, known as 敷金(shikikin) and 礼金(reikin).
What are 敷金 and 礼金?
敷金 is a security deposit, usually a month’s worth of rent that will be refunded upon moving out of the apartment. 礼金, known as “key money” on the other hand, is a sometimes mandatory, non-refundable fee equivalent to one to two months’ rent that is paid to the owner of your place of rental, as a courtesy for essentially allowing your stay.
Apart from the security deposit and key money, the real estate office that was involved in helping you find your new home may incur an agency fee for their work, usually equivalent to one month’s rent. Depending on your place of residence, 管理費 or a maintenance fee may be added to the monthly rent, which will go towards utilities for common areas of the building and general upkeep.
Once you have found a place to stay, you will start receiving utility bills in your mailbox each month, which in Japan will be: electricity, water and sewerage, and gas. How much these bills will be will of course differ from time-to-time, with electricity bills running higher in the colder months for example. A general estimate for the total cost of all three utility bills can be anywhere between ¥6000 to ¥10,000 a month.
#3 Telecommunication and Wi-Fi
Japan is an easy place to stay connected, with multiple mobile carriers for you to choose from offering various plans to suit your needs. Popular ones include big companies like NTT Docomo, Softbank, or AU to newer companies like Line Mobile or Rakuten Mobile, among others. Based on your preferred carrier, a monthly phone bill can be expected to be between ¥2000 to ¥3000 a month for talk and data coverage.
Prices for Wi-Fi coverage for your home will differ depending on providing companies as well, but should cost between ¥3000 to ¥4000 a month.
The cost of food can be very subjective to an individual’s lifestyle, with those who prepare meals at home generally being able to keep costs lower than those who dine out. A few days’ worth of groceries at the supermarket can be bought for about ¥2000, while one may find themselves spending over ¥1000 each day by eating out. However with Japan being a country where consumers are spoiled for choice, those who might not have time to prepare meals will be able to find food that suits their budget with the abundance of convenience stores and cheap eateries around town.
Depending on your lifestyle, you may expect to spend anywhere from ¥30,000 to ¥50,000 and beyond.
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Also published on Medium.