Cost of Living in Tokyo
Tokyo is widely known as being an expensive city. Indeed, this reputation is deserved, although the 'most expensive city in the world' crown is periodically passed around several world cities.
Actually, Tokyo is not really that expensive for local Japanese people. It is a much more expensive place for foreigners for a variety of reasons, including the high cost of western style housing, foreign goods, international schools etc. Those expatriates that can make the jump to local style living will benefit from a noticeable reduction in the cost of living.
Having said that, if you're an expat hired overseas with family i.e. wife and some children of school age, you are going to be living a very costly existence and this should be carefully noted when negotiating your salary and allowances. The days of the full expat package are dwindling as employers seek ways to reduce costs, favouring single people when recruiting. This means some expats leave their family behind in order to secure the job they want, or just to significantly reduce their monthly living costs. This is only practical if you can visit home regularly of course.
Other options include living far out of Tokyo in a satellite city/neighbourhood but you should carefully consider the time spent in transit and whether or not the savings would be lost on travel costs. There is also the option of sending your children to a Japanese schools rather than spending big money on international schooling.
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In truth, there are very few foreigners that could live like a Japanese salaryman slave. Most foreigners are going to want the perks of a full expat lifestyle. With this in mind, the prices quoted on this living in Tokyo page are for just such people.
- Centrally located apartment (Shibuya), 150 - 200 sq. m. - JPY1M per month
- Annual fees for international school 2 - 2.5 M Yen per child
- Western food for family of four, JPY250K per month
- Running a vehicle (gas and routine maintenance) JPY50K per month
Your costs are likely to be substantial in your first year. Initial set up costs, such as buying furniture, huge deposit on accommodation, buying a car etc will severely deplete your budget. The above are very rough estimates as everyone will have their own needs and expectations. You will also need to factor in your health insurance costs and any tax liability, again different for each individual.
Many employers will already be aware of the cost difficulties expatriates experience in Tokyo and will be willing to help with many of the initial outlays, such as apartment deposits. The above costs are likely to me quite manageable for a higher level executive... but if your company is not assisting you, it's time to read through our 'Living in Tokyo on a Budget' pages.
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