Return to
Japan With Kids Home Page

Forum Main Page
Keyword Search
New Posts
Last Week

Getting Started
Register Here
Edit Profile
Contact Admin

For Admins
Forum Software

Cost of living

Japan With Kids - Forums: General Discussions: Cost of living
By kristine on Thursday, June 8, 2000 - 3:18 pm:

Can all you family people out there give me a rough idea of the cost of living in Tokyo? I would like some idea of the cost of food, utilities etc for a month. I know everyone is different but a rough estimate would be great. Thanks for your time.

By Kit Pancoast Nagamura on Thursday, June 8, 2000 - 4:02 pm:

Dear Kristine,
I'm pressed for time (always, my friends tell me), but I've wanted to respond to your request, particularly since I live in Shibuya-ku, and have been here for over ten years. Here are a few thoughts and estimates; I hope others chime in and give you a more rounded perspective.

I think if you can find a 3LDK for 170,000 yen a month in central Tokyo, it's either a miracle of sorts or you're likely to discover a whole new concept of LDK (like a sofa in the sink, or something). For a family of seven (even when five are children), you might use 250,000 yen as an inner-city minimum monthly rental fee estimate; even finding something comfortable in that range will take a lot of time and hunting (again, this is just my personal take on the situation; I know people who live three to a 6-mat room, too, but I would go nuts).

For schooling, both public and private schools in my immediate neighborhood cost about 20,000 yen per month per child, with added fees if a lunch is provided. I spend about 30,000/week for groceries for the three of us--that covers food and household stuff, cleaning, newspaper fees, video rental, etc., but I go for speed and ease here rather than frugality, I admit. Utilities (water, gas, electric, phone) average out to about 30,000/month--but this figure swings wildly depending on the season, and whether or not we use the clothes dryer.

In many cases, if you are getting an apartment in the 3LDK range, you will also need to pay a "kanri-nin" (or building caretaker) fee, and this can be anywhere from a mere 10,000/month, all the way up to 100,000/month, and there seems to be no real logic to the system--make sure you ask about this before you sign any rental agreements!

Just off the cuff--and these are expenses I don't deal with, but you might--a parking place in my area costs about 40,000/month. Some apartments charge for bicycle parking, too (6,000/year is cheap, and some go as high as 6,000/month).

You've lived in Japan so you probably remember that in order to get an apartment, you usually have to dump down anywhere from 4 to 6 months rent up front--but there are occasional exceptions to this ghastly rule.

I'm out of free moments to internetwork; I hope this helps you get an idea of costs here, but please let me know if you have any specific items/services/needs in mind, and I'll try to dig up the info.

Cheers, KPN

By kristine on Thursday, June 8, 2000 - 4:26 pm:

Thanks for your help.
The company my husband has applied for is offering a salary of approx. 450,000 yen a month. Is this a decent figure and can a family live on that? I don't think they will be offering any rent assistance.
Thanks again.

By A.K. on Friday, June 9, 2000 - 4:53 pm:

After just a brief perusal, here are some advertisements in yesterday's Daily Yomiuri:

Imperial Palace vicinity, 249 sq.m. super deluxe 5 bedrooms, maid room, garden 1,500,000 yen/month

Shirogane, 190 sq.m. compound house, functional, 4 bedrooms, maid room, garden 900,000 yen/month

St. Mary's School at a stone's throw, 224 sq.m., 4 bedrooms, family room, study, maid room, large beautiful garden 1,100,000 yen/month

Roppongi, charming 2 bedrooms, sunny living-dining room 600,000/month

Thousands more! Overseas Corporation e-mail:
(I think these people only do the high-end stuff, but it's worth a shot to email them.)

Back to earth: here are some of the ads in the Tokyo Notice Board dated 19 May 2000:

Fully furnished Condo 35 sq.m. w/ nice veranda in center. 1 min. from Edogawabashi subway station Yurakucho line 156,000 yen/month, one month deposit, no key money, no agent fee, preferred nice couple. Call 03-3205-5387 or 090-3437-1657

Ebisu Garden Place - 3 minutes. spacious 2LDK in a quiet neighborhood. Large bath, kitchen and separate toilet. A/C in al main rooms. 185,000 yen/month. No key money. Call Rob at Advance International 03-3377-7471

1 DK apt in Hiroo: 115,000 yen/month 2 months key money, 1 month deposit, no agent fee. Call 03-5421-3144

Two beautiful apartments, fully furnished newly renovated with view in Nishi-Azabu. (Hibiya line) 10 minutes walk to Roppongi or Hiroo. No key money, one month deposit. Must be seen. 1LDK 190,000/month. 2LDK 260,000/month. Call 090-8113-2281 or email:

If you are willing to travel a bit, you can get more space for less money, for example down in Den en Chofu or out in Mitaka/Kichijoji. But it still won't be what you are used to in the USA. For example I'd say 95% of Japanese housing does not have central air (hot or cold). I live with my daughter in about 20 sqm (a one car garage), and this was recently considered an adequate size for a 4 person family. It's tiny.

By Cornelia on Tuesday, June 13, 2000 - 11:40 am:

Dear Kristine,

If you have children, the deduction for each dependent child is normally 380,000 yen, and they had a special deduction for 1999 of 480,000 per child!

This means that if you have a lot of children you may end up not paying any taxes on an annual income of 450,000 x 12 = 5,400,000. Also usually there are two annual bonuses, one in July/August and one in December. Depending on the company the bonus may vary (excluding foreign employees from the bonus system is sometimes heard of, ie. discrimination), but in the past a bonus has often been equal to about a month's pay, unless the company is facing economic hardship.

So, if you aren't paying any taxes, your National Health Insurance premiums will be much lower, etc. In short, 5.4 million yen will stretch much further.

By Kristine on Tuesday, June 13, 2000 - 2:31 pm:

Thanks Cornelia.
That's something I didn't know and had never heard of!

By Anna on Thursday, June 15, 2000 - 8:48 am:

Here is one possible URL for getting an idea on rent costs:

Look in the "Find a Place" section.

By marniechan on Thursday, June 15, 2000 - 5:50 pm:

Hi Kristine,
I don't know if you or your husband speak Japanese, but if you can and if you have some time, it can be worth it to check out some of the Japanese real estate agents. Some of them are very friendly and accepting of foreigners, and I found that the rents and down payments are less when you go through them as opposed to going through the companies that cater to the foreign community. Good luck with your move!


By Jenifer Larson-Hall on Thursday, June 22, 2000 - 1:16 pm:

Dear Kristine,
With 5 kids you are going to want either someplace that's way expensive in Tokyo (sounds like you won't be able to afford it with what they're offering your husband) or someplace bigger farther out. I would definitely consider the suburbs. My husband has a Fulbright scholarship, and we receive about 350,000 each month, which is pretty adequate for a cheap but not uncomfortable Japanese lifestyle (we have one baby, age 1 1/2. Our rent is only 90,000, and we have a 3-bedroom house. However, we live in a suburb that is about a 75-90min. commute into the heart of Tokyo. We even have a little yard. We used a real estate agent with the Tokyo Housing Bureau, Shunji Watanabe, 03-3501-2496. They apparently rent out houses of diplomats, etc., Japanese who will be out of the country for a few years and want to rent their house out. We didn't have to pay any key money, just 3 months of deposit and a month of rent to the agent for his fee.
If I were you, living on that amount of money, I would find a house in the suburbs (we live in the northeastern suburbs, but it seems like the western suburbs have more resources for children), send my kids to Japanese schools (hence, no tuition) and I think you could make it on 45 man a month. It wouldn't be a luxurious lifestyle by any stretch of the imagination.
We spend about 60,000 on food (that's 3 of us) a month, about 30,000 on utilities, only 6000 for parking, and we bought a very cheap used car.
Hope that gives you some more ideas.

By Scott Hancock on Tuesday, February 6, 2001 - 2:30 am:

Cornelia, I would like to add my two cents to your reference to "bonus" in your post of last June.

My perspective on this is from being a company owner. We make a point of paying by the U.S. style of agreeing on a salary for a year and paying 1/12 of this every month. Period. Remember that in English, "bonus" means something that is given in addition to that which is expected or committed to. We sometimes give people a "bonus". But, if we do, it is in addition to their agreed upon yearly salary.

Although I have never worked for a Japanese company, my understanding is that the Japanese definition of "bonus" is quite different from the above.

My understanding is that a yearly salary is agreed to, but maybe 1/16 is paid each calendar month and the summer and winter "bonuses" are really the 2/16 x 2 worth of the remaining yearly pay. And, as you say, if the company feels it necessary, this amount can be reduced or withheld completely. The result being that people do not end up getting their agreed salary! I call that "loaning the company money" rather than "bonus".

Another variation is to agree on a monthly salary with some vague indication of what the "bonus" would be, but with no guarantee. Implication being that at the time of making the deal, the employee might agree with the expectation of the "bonus", even though it is not committed.

I think it's very important to spell out these vagaries to non-Japanese who may be employed on a local basis. Especially, if they're making some big move for 450,000/month! I think the possibility for misunderstanding is very great when a potential (foreign) employee who is used to an environment where everything is spelled out clearly, tries to make a sensible decision in one where vagueness is more the norm.



By Ana Mickle on Sunday, June 23, 2002 - 11:33 pm:

Hi there! We're moving to Tokyo and due to work constraints, we have to pack up the house before we can get out to look for apartments. We live in North Carolina and have the typical sprawling suburban home. I'm in a quandry as to what to pack since I have no idea what I'm packing for. I'm going for bare essentials, but I'm hoping someone can give me a clue as to how big an appartment we can get for about 850,000 to 900,000 Yen in in or around the Ropponggi/Minato-Ku area. I'm woefully ignorant of the geography and am currently trying to get up to speed, but I believe the office in in the area. Also, is it difficult to find the apartments that allow dogs -- my 4 year old refuses to leave our black lab with her grandparents and if we do she (and I) may just be in therapy for a long time -- :-)!

Thanks for all your help!


By Scott Hancock on Sunday, June 23, 2002 - 11:54 pm:

There are several online resources for this now. Here's a couple to get you started, but also try your own search:

By Scott Hancock on Sunday, June 23, 2002 - 11:59 pm:

The dog requirement is not impossible, but be sure to mention it to each agent you contact as clearly a MUST. This should narrow things down more quickly.

Also, keep in mind the possibility of negotiating as much time as you can in the initial housing when you arrive. If you can get the company to put you into something less expensive than a hotel, you'll have more time to find the permanent place you want. Usually, if you're in a relatively expensive hotel, any company could be limiting the time you have to decide.

There are separate listings online for furnished apartments.

And, for a quick reference, you should see that in the price and area you mention, you will probably get something around 125-160 square meters.
This coverts to roughly 1300-1700 square feet.

Another thing is that it's important to pay attention to the company handling the clearance of your dog into Japan.

There's a quarantine period and I believe this clearance is usually handled by some "specialist" company which takes care of the dog during the quarantine. I have heard unpleasant stories, so it bears your personal attention and interaction with whoever is doing it on this side.

Maybe someone here will have a recommendation.

Just noticed there's a whole coversation about the pet issue if you go to the top of discussions and then to Moving To/From Japan and then the pet topic.

FWIW, Scott

By Admin on Monday, June 24, 2002 - 7:12 am:

If you look down a bit under General Discussions you'll find:

General Discussions: Housing in Japan

Also the Moving to Japan discussion heading will also include some answers to your many questions.

By Karyn Robson on Saturday, September 10, 2005 - 3:24 pm:

I just found out about two great sources of information has lots of tips for living inexpensively in Tokyo and Japan

Or you can join the world of freecyclers. The Freecycle NetworkEis made up of many individual groups across the globe. It's a grassroots movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. You can find out about groups in your area of Japan at

Add a Message

This is a private posting area. Only registered users and moderators may post messages here.