Just how expensive is Tokyo?

When I told people that I would be staying in Tokyo for a few months the most common question I was asked was:

Isn’t Tokyo super expensive?

So let me address this once and for all: No, Tokyo is not expensive.

Disclaimer: Blah blah, “expensive” is a relative term, blah blah, this is just my opinion. It’s certainly not a cheap city to live in (it’s no Chiang Mai), but it’s not outrageously pricey either.

Some of you will have a hard time believing me, so let’s make sure we’re on the same page.

What do you consider expensive? When I think of expensive cities, I think of places like San Francisco, New York, London, where a studio apartment costs $3000/month. You know, places that make your wallet want to start drinking before noon.

For a studio apartment in Tokyo you could expect to pay anywhere between $600 and $1500 per month. Super reasonable right?

Why everyone thinks Tokyo is expensive

Historic reasons: Turns out, Tokyo used to be one of the most expensive places in the world, back in the 90’s. But then the Japanese economy plateaued. Prices have not changed much since then, but its reputation as an ultra-pricey location remains.

Houses are smaller in Japan: Japanese homes and apartments are tiny. Like, super tiny. So the cost per space is quite high. However, comma!

  1. This is not unique to Tokyo – homes are small no matter where you go in Japan.
  2. This is a cultural thing. Even the super rich live in smaller places. Japan is an island and it’s mostly mountains, so space is precious.

Average cost of living in Tokyo

With all that being said, here are the kinds of prices you can expect to see in Tokyo (in US dollars) as of 2017:

  • Rent for 1 bedroom at a share house: $400-$800
  • Rent for a studio or 1 bedroom apartment: $600-$1500
  • Rent for a 1 bedroom fancy-schmancy apartment: $1800-$3500
  • Coffee from convenience store/vending machine: $1 - $1.50
  • Fancy hipster coffee – $2-3
  • Lunch at a sit-down restaurant: $10 (max!)
  • Drinks and dinner: $20-$30
  • Japanese Beer: $2-$5
  • Imported Beer: $7-$10
  • Cheap lunch from convenient store: $3-$5
  • Train/subway ticket: $1.20-$3.50 (depends on distance)
  • 10 minute taxi ride: $15-$20

With that knowledge, hopefully that encourages some of you to visit this lovely metropolis!

Have you ever thought about visiting Tokyo?

Or Japan for that matter? What’s held you back? Let me know in the comments below!