What it costs to live in Japan in USD
How much does it cost to live in Tokushima, Japan total for two adults and a baby?
Note: there is an updated 2019 version of this article available here.
For 654 EUR or 732 USD we are able to rent a nice 70 square meter / 750 square feet apartment, or "mansion" as they are called here. A mansion is a place in an apartment complex built from concrete, while an apartment is one built from wood.
I like to browse apartment listings in our area and our place seems to actually be on the larger and newer side. Even if we did find something better, we would be unlikely to move because of the various fees involved, which tend to equal several months worth of rent.
Another surprise for me was all the things that are not included and which you are expected to move out with you when you leave. Furniture I can understand, but you are even expected to bring in and at the end uninstall your own stovetop and fridge.
I discovered that my home office would be a sauna in the summer, so I had to install an extra air conditioning unit. That will also have to be moved if we ever get a new place.
For 89 Mbps up & down we are spending 43 EUR or 49 USD per month. This is not the fastest option that would be available, but we decided to rather spend less, as this is already unnecessarily fast.
Electricity, gas and water
For these combined the monthly cost is 190 EUR or 213 USD per month. Of these costs electricity is 42%, gas 45% and water comes at 13%.
I hadn't spent any money on gas before moving to Japan. It's used for the stove, but apparently the water heater also uses it.
To me this was the biggest sticker shock, which I didn't mention at all in my old post as I wasn't paying it yet, as I was still tax resident in Finland. Now I'm currently paying 508 EUR or 569 USD for my health insurance here. That's not a typo or a yearly cost, that's what it costs every single month.
I tend to think of it as just another form of tax, as it's based on your income. If you are thinking about moving to Japan, after you become tax resident (coming from Europe that seemed to typically switch after 3 years) this will be an expense you should mentally prepare yourself for.
The only way to reduce this which I could find was to join some kind of health insurance union. I went through the application process to join one for artists and web designers, but could not join as maintaining your own online candy store did not count as being webdesigney enough. My accountant seemed to agree that I should just suck it up and pay the usual national insurance fee.
It covers 70% of medical costs, so even after paying the monthly fee, you still pay at hospitals too. It seems there is some cap on how much you have to pay at maximum if you get hospitalized for a longer time, although I don't quite understand how it works.
The costs seem to be very reasonable though, with a short doctor's visit to refill a prescription usually costing about 10 dollars after insurance. Dentists are also rather cheap, with visits seemingly never costing more than 50 dollars even with anesthesia and laughing gas (which you have to hunt for, most clinics don't offer it). The only surprise was that if you want a tooth-colored filling instead of a metal one, you would have to pay a big premium, around $500.
My wife makes delicious home-cooked meals, for which our costs are 377 EUR or 337 USD per month. We almost never eat out, but when we do a single meal is usually about 7 - 15 USD per person.
Confession: I have the bad habit of buying random snacks from the 24 hour convenience store strategically placed almost right next to our apartment, and run up a monthly bill of about 265 EUR or 297 USD there.
It's very easy to spend $10 a day in convenience stores. When I'm bicycling I'll often stop to buy a drink and a candy bar. In the evening we might want some Häagen-Dazs ice cream. In the morning I might want to start with a Red Bull (which I recognize as my worst spending habit, also unhealthy). At night I'll get peckish and get a yogurt. It adds up easily, from many seemingly small purchases.
Total monthly cost for our phones is 111 EUR or 124 USD.
I am on b-mobile, which costs 22 EUR or 25 USD, but doesn't include a phone, for which I estimate I'll have to budget an extra 20 bucks each month if I want to buy a new device every 3 years.
Wife's DoCoMo phone subscription is 79 USD or 71 EUR per month. To me that seems insanely high, as I was used to paying around 10 USD back in Finland. It does include the phone though. Looking to switch wife also to b-mobile, but it is only allowed penalty-fee-free during one month every 2 years.
One peculiarity is that you have to show clear proof of identity when getting a SIM card. In Europe I would just get one at the counter of a kiosk or grocery store as casually as buying a pack of gum. Here I had to upload a scan of my passport when ordering one online and even had to re-upload when it wasn't clearly legible from the scan, so apparently they take it seriously and have people actually checking them.
If we lived in Tokyo a car would be unnecessary, but here in Tokushima it is not really optional. We wouldn't be able to go anywhere without a car, especially not now with a baby.
Our Suzuki Wagon R is now nearing the end of its life. We got 5 years out of that car and I recall spending about 7000 EUR or 7800 USD on it, so that's about 116 EUR or 130 USD per month. Now we are looking to buy a new one, which will probably end up costing around 13000 EUR or 14530 USD. For that price you can get a new Mazda Demio. For the total I'll go with the old cost, as we haven't bought anything yet.
For fuel we spend 17 EUR or 19 USD per month. This is for wife's commute and short weekend trips.
There are all kinds of random things you end up buying when you have a child, with every month tending to have at least one random expensive thing to buy. One month it will might be a car seat, the next a bunch of vaccinations. It's very varied, but average spend has been 91 EUR or 101 USD per month based on the last 10 months.
He just had his first birthday and just started daycare, which will additionally cost 442 EUR or 495 USD per month, so from now on for our son Aito we will likely be spending about 533 EUR or 596 USD per month.
Misc things like furniture, clothing, fixing/inspecting the car etc. random expenses total around 221 EUR or 247 USD per month.
All in all living in Tokushima, Japan for our family costs around 3035 EUR or 3313 USD per month . I am only including essentials of living here. Biggest thing I am leaving out is foreign trips, because they aren't really a part of what "living in Japan" costs. When I wrote this I assumed 1 EUR = 113 JPY, 1 USD = 101 JPY.
I hope this was useful or interesting to you. Please do check out our monthly japanese candy subscription, if that sounds interesting to you.
This was an update written from scratch to a previous blog post, which was generally well received, but did receive some criticism (mostly because I counted our expenses separately, so this time I combined them). Now that we've lived here in Tokushima for over 5 years, I thought it was time to post an update.