How to Live in Tokyo with the Cheapest Costs?

Tokyo is known to be one of the most expensive cities to live in Japan. From my experience as a working single adult in Tokyo, the expectations do sometimes, fit into reality. Being the central city in Japan, convenience and abundance of choices do come at a price. In this article, we will go over the cost of living in Tokyo from a single and a couple’s (pair of 2) point of view.

Please note that the figures provided are only estimates, act only as a guideline, and are dependable on each individual preference and lifestyle choice. Moreover, if you are interested in studying the Japanese language, our website provides a lot of useful information that you surely won’t miss! Please go here.

Shall we?

1. An overview of Tokyo

Firstly, let’s have a quick overview of living in Tokyo.

Tokyo is the capital of Japan. It is a city that many foreigners live in when they first move to Japan. There are a lot of amenities available to the residents of this urban city. An estimate of the living expenses for a single foreigner working in this bustling city range from ¥140,000 (USD 1213) and above. This estimate defers depending on individual preferences and lifestyle choices but acts as a good guideline for those who are thinking of moving to Tokyo for the first time. As a couple, this estimated cost of living range might be a little higher from ¥240,000 (USD 2079) and above. Again, this acts only as a guideline and is differentiated based on individual preferences.

2. Salaries

Before we jump into the details of the cost of living in Tokyo, let’s discuss a little about salaries. Salaries in Tokyo are known to be higher than in the countryside of Japan. For an entry-level position, the salary may range from ¥200,000 (USD 1732) to ¥270,000 (USD 2339). A mid managerial position might range from ¥300,000 (USD 2599) to ¥380,000 (USD 3292) and so on. The higher the position, the higher the salary. This range serves only as a guideline and is differential based on actual job contracts. Knowing the salary range may help in estimating the cost of living in determining a budget when one starts living in Tokyo.

3. Cost of living

Now onto the cost-of-living details! I have divided this segment up into 4 main categories: from rent to food cost. I have also included the estimates for a single and a couple’s guide.

4. Rent

One of the most stagnant fixed variables in every individual or couple’s expenses budget is rent.

Depending on which city and how far an accommodation is from the nearest train station, the rent may vary accordingly. Living in the central hub of Shibuya and Shinjuku may be higher than living in northern parts of Tokyo such as in Adachi-Ku.

Along with the location factor comes the apartment size factor which also determines the rental price. The bigger, the more expensive. Most apartments are unfurnished and come with a few initial costs such as deposits and key money.

A standard apartment in Tokyo for a single or couple is usually a room or a kitchen unit that is around 20 to 50m2. Utilities and internet are not included in rent (based on tenant’s actual usage). On top of monthly rent, there is a management fee which isn’t too high (around ¥5,000). The initial costs as mentioned earlier are quite high and can come up to around ¥200,000 (USD 1730), excluding the first month’s rent. Be sure to have enough savings when you first sign a lease in Japan.

On average, a one-room apartment in Tokyo is from ¥50,000 (USD 433) to ¥150,000 (USD 1299) depending on the location. This room type does not include a kitchen, living, dining area, but usually, has a small single electronic or gas stove in the room for tenants.

5. Other renting options

There is also the option of renting a share house in Tokyo, which may be a popular option for those wanting to make friends living in a new city. Sharehouse rent usually is inclusive of utilities and internet. A house is shared between housemates ranging from more than 2. There are common areas such as the living room area and shower rooms, that are shared.

The prices for a sharehouse in Tokyo on average range from ¥60,000 (USD 520) to ¥100,000 (USD 866).

There is also the option of social apartments that host more than 12 tenants and provide a wide variety of common amenities for tenants such as a gym and movie theater.

The price for a social apartment in Tokyo on average is from ¥70,000 (USD 606) to ¥120,000 (USD 1040).

A much cheaper alternative is to rent a dormitory-style room in a sharehouse where the room is split between 2 or more housemates. There is less privacy, but the rent is a lot lower from ¥25,000 (USD 216) and above.

6. Notes with renting in Japan

When renting an apartment or a shared accommodation in Japan, it is advisable to go with a real estate company. There are a few English real estate companies such as GaijinPot Housing and RealEstate Japan. The real estate company will be able to advise and help with your house search.

7. Transportation

Living in Tokyo is very convenient with a very well-connected public transport system.

There are a few train companies and various train lines such as the JR, metro, and private lines such as the Tsukuba Express. A one-way train ticket costs from ¥198 (USD 1.72) and above. The further the distance, the more the train ride will cost.

There are monthly commuter passes available as well.

On average, monthly expenses on transport would be around ¥4,000 (USD 35) and above.

Driving in Tokyo is rather rare. As apartments come with limited parking spaces, driving isn’t really a popular choice. Owning a car comes with a monthly commitment that depends on the car model, mileage, and usage frequency as well which makes it easier for couples and singles to opt for the train option.

8. Food

Meals! A favorite topic for many.

Tokyo is famous for its wide variety of food. A meal in a restaurant ranges from ¥1,000 (USD 9) and above for a single adult. For a couple, meals out in the restaurant can range from ¥6,000 (USD 52) and above.  

Grocery can be a little more expensive than in the countryside. After-sale hours do play a big advantage to consumers. Most pre-cooked meals go at a discount after seven in the evening. Monthly grocery expenses depend on the frequency of cooking and prepping meals.

Cooking is said to be cheaper than eating out. From a single’s perspective, the cost may be so similar that it becomes in-differentiable. Therefore, you might see lots of single-salary men and women eating out after work. From a couple’s perspective, cooking for two at home may help save a lot more rather than eating out.

9. Entertainment

There is a wide variety of shops and clothing lines to choose from in Japan. Shopping in Harajuku may be more expensive than in the outskirts of Tokyo. Nonetheless, the prices among retail stores are consistent and may take a big chunk out of your monthly expenses.

Dining with friends or visiting the local karaoke bar are also included in this category. Socializing and exploring the city with friends is fun, but can be costly as well. An estimate would be around ¥30,000 (USD 260) and above. Again, it is also dependent on how often socialized, shopping, and café hopping takes place a month for the individual or couple.   

10. Example

Let’s take an example for comparison: A young working adult in his late 20s is working and living in Tokyo. He rents an apartment in the central areas of Tokyo and often goes out with his friends. He barely cooks in a month. His expenses could be estimated as below:

  • Rent: ¥69,000
  • Utilities: ¥12,000
  • Internet: ¥4,500
  • Mobile bill: ¥5,500
  • Entertainment: ¥55,000 (¥5,500 per day for 10 days – weekends)
  • Meals: ¥50,000 (¥2,000 per day for 20 days)
  • Transportation: ¥4,000 (for the weekends)

Total: ¥200,000

This example is only an estimate. Expenses may be lower or higher depending on individual preferences. As this example, spends a lot on entertainment, meals, and rent, given that he is living in the central area of Tokyo, his expenses may be quite high for a single individual in Tokyo (if he has a partner, the expenses may be higher in terms of entertainment, meals, and transportation accordingly).

Summary

Depending on lifestyle choices, location, and salary earned, the cost of living in Tokyo changes accordingly. As a student, the cost of living expenses may be lower with living in a dormitory and having cheaper meals from school. Transportation costs may also be omitted if one lives within walking distance to most of the major areas in Tokyo.

I hope that I have covered the main areas when determining the cost of living in Tokyo.

I hope this article helps! See you next time.

ABOUTこの記事をかいた人

Hi, I'm Yen from Malaysia. I can converse in more than 5 languages and am an avid lover of manga, drawing and food. I love working with kids and enjoy sharing stories about Japan as a writer. I'm at my happiest when I get to explore Japan!