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Cost of Living in Japan

Cost of living. A lot of people ask me about it, complain about it when they’re here, but I think I’ll let the numbers do the talking:

Starbucks grande hot chocolate

Movie ticket
– except on the first day of every month, when theaters offer ¥1000 specials; shows after 10 pm are ¥1200.

Subway club sandwich
w/ “large” drink +¥300
and two chocolate chip cookies +¥200
= ¥990

Precooked white rice at most supermarkets

Transportation between Osaka and Tokyo (550 km)
¥13240 by unreserved shinkansen, 155 minutes
¥21500 roundtrip fare by ANA
¥3500 by highway bus, 8 hours
¥400,000+ by taxi (someone tried this between Osaka and Fukuoka)

Levi’s blue jeans
~¥10,000 at department stores

English books

Frosted Flakes cereal
– the box is smaller than you’d expect
– not too many other kinds of cereal are available except at import stores (Honey Nut Cheerios ¥800)

1 L lowfat milk
– not all carry lowfat milk

1 L Minute Maid Orange Juice

Western style beds


City streetcar fare

Average monthly salary for first-time English teachers
– before taxes

Social pension payment/month

Social insurance payment/month

Unemployment insurance payment

Japanese-style bicycle with basket

Cars in Japan
Don’t even think about it. Although the initial cost would be comparable to those in most countries, being in Japan gives you the “opportunity” to obtaining a Japanese driver’s license, learning to drive on the left side, paying for auto insurance, and covering required inspections every two years (¥100,000+). Trains and buses will never be more convenient than they are here – use them.

Air travel
Not terrible if you’re going from a major city like Tokyo, but be sure to avoid traveling during Shogatsu (early January), Golden Week (early May), and Obon (mid-August), when fares can double or triple.

Many bars offer beer from ¥300-500, but on the weekends, clubs usually have a high cover of ¥3,000+ to enter; drinks may or may not be included. Look for nomihodai (all you can drink) deals.

International first class postage
¥110 (letter)

Monthly membership to a gym
¥7,000, usually ~¥10,000

1 355ml can of Coca Cola

1 small, small serving of Häagen-Dazs ice cream

One bundle of 5-6 bananas

One big red apple


Melon (cantaloupe)

“Super” fruit
There is a demand for “luxury” fruit items like ¥100,000 mangoes, ¥200,000 watermelons, even ¥40,000 oranges… naturally I haven’t been able to taste these and determine the difference, but I can’t imagine how it’d be worth it.

One slice of chocolate cake from the bakery

Usually charge a base fare of ¥500-600, about 10X that you’d expect in Beijing or other parts of SE Asia.