The decision to live and study in Japan is a big one! There are a lot of unknowns:
How will daily life be?
Where will you get your daily necessities?
What will you do in your free time?
However, one of the most fundamental questions to ask before you actually commit to moving to Japan is, "how much should I budget to live and study in Japan?"
Use our calculator for a quick breakdown of the cost of living in Japan as a student
First, run through the questions here and answer as truthfully as you can. We have built this to give you a reasonable estimate – your true cost of living in Japan will be determined by your actual lifestyle!
This cost of living calculator will estimate your budget to live in Japan for 1 month as a student.
Does your estimated budget match your expectations?
Japan is known as a high cost of living country, but in reality, it depends heavily on your lifestyle. Going out lots, eating non-Japanese food, and a taste for spirits will be heavier on your wallet. Truth be told, you can probably do it far more frugally than this calculator is capable of estimating. Students often find unique ways to save money (and even earn a bit of extra pocket money by working a part time job!)
There are ways of bringing down your cost of living, including:
Where you live in Japan makes a big difference
If you're wondering what's included in a study abroad budget for Japan, you probably noticed a heavy focus on where you live, what you eat, and your discretionary spending habits.
One of the biggest factors in your cost to live and study in Japan is which city you will study in, and what type of accommodations you choose.
Live in the city or further out?
Simply put, the further away from central Tokyo or Osaka you live, the cheaper the cost of living will be (generally speaking).
Cities come with tons of amenities, things to do, and places to spend money. Plus, when you have more people in one area, demand drives a slightly higher price than if you were in the countryside.
To illustrate this, even something as simple as an apple will be more expensive in Tokyo than in Saitama prefecture, just 30 minutes away by train.
Here's a sample comparison of some typical cost differences between Tokyo and the "countryside" (basically anywhere outside of metro Tokyo or Osaka).
1LDK Apartment rent
Bag of apples
Beer at an izakaya
Lunch at café
This is not to say money is wasted in the big city – often times your part time job and future career will pay more to compensate for these cost differences. It's better to choose the location based on your personal goals and the lifestyle you want to live.
What type of accommodations will you choose?
It should come as no surprise that your cost of living in Japan will be through the roof if you expect to stay in a hotel the whole time. For the majority of people living in Japan, and especially students, it's just not an option.
When you really break it down, there are 4 major types of accommodation choices for students:
How you eat heavily affects your cost of living in Japan
If there is one universal truth to saving money and bringing down your overall budget as a student in Japan, it is that eating more local food is less expensive than trying to eat like you do in your home country.
You can easily pick up a 20kg (44lb) bag of rice for ¥2,500 ~ ¥3,500 yen depending on what type you're after, and this will last you up to 2-3 months.
Tack on some fresh vegetables from the local green grocer (八百屋さん), miso soup made from scratch, and a preference for fish over beef, and you'll do pretty well.
It's not uncommon for single students to have a grocery budget of less than ¥30,000/month (~$300 USD). Where it gets expensive is when you see that awesome cut of wagyu beef or that packaged sushi on sale and you upgrade your dinner. Not a bad thing – this is meant to be a life experience! But do note that what you eat has a direct effect on your grocery budget in Japan.
Eating out can be really cheap. Or really expensive.
Your local neighborhood will have a bunch of options for quick meals! Many times, these come in under ¥1,000 (~$10 USD) and you'll be very pleased with the quality. For that matter, even convenience stores in Japan offer a great budget-oriented option for an easy lunch under ¥600.
However, if you find yourself hitting up 2-3 izakayas on a Friday night and taking a date out for dinner on Saturday, don't be surprised that your cost of living in Japan quickly starts to shoot up. Dinner at an izakaya might run you ¥1,500 ~ ¥3,000 per person, plus drinks.
Eating out is very reasonable for the most part, even in major cities like Tokyo or Osaka, but the ease with which you can overdo it takes some people by surprise. People who would normally only go out for dinner once or twice a month in their home country can quickly find themselves eating out multiple times per week, because there are just so many easy options and the invites from friends never end!
Be careful not to run into a restaurant that doesn't post its menu outside. You could find yourself with a bill of ¥20,000 or more, which can really ruin your monthly budget (although the experience might be amazing!)
You control your cost of living in Japan
Before you set out to live and study in Japan, make sure you put together a personal budget. Factor in things like tuition, flights, and the accommodations you intend to choose, but also make room to enjoy the experience a bit.
It can be tempting to say, "oh, i'll just do without traveling at all," or, "I will eat at home 100% of the time without fail."
The truth is, you should plan to do some things you're not used to, experience things with newfound friends, and live it up a little bit, rather than spending every Friday and Saturday in your room.
Saving up before you travel to Japan will help you immensely. A few hundred dollars a month extra goes a long way towards having an easier budget in Japan. You can also get a part time job to be able to afford some small luxuries.
You know yourself best! Hopefully the Japan cost of living calculator on this page helped you see what potential costs look like, but don't be afraid to ask around, too! Reach out to us if you have any questions.