Moving is stressful.
Even if you’re moving next door, a few mishaps are bound to happen here and there.
Now, imagine moving internationally to a place you’re unfamiliar with. The anxiety of something going wrong doubles instantly. So if you want a stress-free, smooth moving process, planning is vital.
In this case, a sizable part of planning involves deciding on a budget. You need to know how much you’ll need to set aside for the usual costs of moving, as well as the costs you can’t foresee.
This is why today, I want to answer the frequently asked question, “how much does it cost to move to japan?”
I’ll tell you about the cost of moving to Japan, as well as the hidden costs you might fail to consider. I’ll also give you tips on moving to Japan from the U.S. specifically.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
How to Move to Japan: The Basics
The first thing you need to know about moving to Japan is that there isn’t a single, clear-cut way to do it. You can move to Japan on various visas, all requiring different kinds of preparation.
For instance, you can go on a tourist visa and look for a job until your visa ends. I don’t really recommend it, but if you must go that route, you’ll need to bring more money than you would if you were moving with a job.
You can also move to Japan for a master’s or a bachelor's program, which is significantly easier. However, you’ll still need to find a job afterward if you’re considering living in Japan permanently.
Most engineers prefer to come to Japan on an engineer visa or a highly-skilled professional visa. I talked about these visa types and more in my post about getting a visa as an engineer in Japan. If you’re specifically curious about the visa types and processes, I recommend you read that post first.
Overall, the actual moving process is mostly easy. You can get most of your belongings and furniture through the border without much of a problem. The rules regarding that aren’t super strict, luckily.
If you have pets, ensure all the pertinent documentation is ready, and you’ll be fine. Japan only requires a quarantine of seven days for pet cats and dogs brought into the country.
Keep in mind that this quarantine can be longer if you don’t have all your documents and are unable to provide sufficient information about your pet.
Now that we got the basics out of the way, let’s see the specifics of how much you’ll need to set aside to move to Japan.
The Overall Cost of Moving to Japan
Considering you have a job and a visa, you’ll spend the most on traveling costs and rent.
If you don’t have a job yet, check out my guide on how to find a job as a software developer in Japan.
Keep in mind that even though you’ll be working, you need to be prepared to support yourself for at least a month before your first paycheck arrives if your new job doesn’t offer a relocation fee. I’ll get to this in a bit.
Overall, you need at least 500,000 JPY in cash to sustain yourself for the first month in Japan. This includes cheap housing and all the other expenditures except travel expenses.
Overall, I believe it would be wise to set aside at least 700,000 to 800,000 JPY if you can. This should cover your travel expenses as well as your first two to three months of stay.
In general, it’s a good idea to plan your budget for longer than you’ll need. You never know what can happen, and there’s no better feeling than being prepared when that happens.
How Much Money to Bring When Moving To Japan: The Specifics
You might have heard that Japan is very expensive to live in. I’m here to tell you that this simply isn’t true, and it depends greatly on the person.
As I’ll explain shortly, you can find affordable shops and groceries, as well as dine out rather cheaply — you just need to know where to go. This is why it’s safe to say that your biggest expense will be rent.
Depending on the city you’re moving to, you might need to spend more than you were planning to. The housing market can be tough to manage, especially in a big city such as Tokyo.
As you don’t know what your housing situation is going to be like for sure, I recommend bringing 600,000 JPY for the first few months, just to be safe.
Let’s now look at some of the specific expenses that may arise when moving to Japan.
The price of plane tickets might not be a big deal. However, because you’re moving, you might have to spend on extra baggage.
Overall, it’s safe to say that you should at least put aside at least 600 to 700 USD (90,000–100,000 JPY) for the plane ticket.
Keep in mind that if you’re on a budget, websites like Skyscanner are your friend here. If you’re not strict about your travel date, I recommend looking up the cheapest flight between dates that suit you and planning everything around that flight.
Another budget-friendly tip is to look for flights with layovers rather than direct ones. These are usually considerably cheaper. Since you’re already traveling long distances, a layover shouldn’t be that big of a deal anyway.
We’ll cover commuting and other traveling costs within the country a bit later.
When you first move to Japan, finding a permanent apartment can be a challenge. As I mentioned above, the housing market is a tough one in Japan’s big cities.
This is why people often find furnished temporary housing when they first arrive in Japan. This is a place to stay while you look for another place, so to speak.
Although these types of apartments are convenient as they’re ready to move in, they’re usually a bit more expensive than regular flats.
Another budget option is to look for shared flats. This is an option as long as you’re fine with living with other people, of course.
Generally speaking, renting a one-bedroom apartment by yourself will cost you around 120,000 to 200,000 JPY a month in Tokyo. For a furnished one, around 220,000 to 250,000 JPY is probably a more accurate estimate. Remember that these costs are just averages, and your mileage may vary.
If you’re fine with sharing a flat with others, you can find a place to live for as cheap as 70,000 to 100,000 JPY monthly. If you’re moving by yourself, this can be a good option. You’ll save money and also have the opportunity to make friends while looking for a place of your own.
If you don’t know where to start, I recommend reading Japan Dev’s guide on how to find an apartment in Japan as a foreigner. You’ll also find information about other cities in Japan there.
As I mentioned, people usually claim that Japan is expensive to live in, and Tokyo is one of the worst offenders in this regard. However, if you know where to go and what to eat, you can actually get by relatively easily.
Sticking with traditional Japanese food and finding places with set menus can be a good idea if you like eating out. You can have a hearty meal for about 1000–1200 JPY (6–8 USD). Don’t expect anything fancy, though.
With a budget of 2400 JPY daily, you can expect to spend around 72,000 JPY monthly. If you enjoy cooking at home, you can save more money, of course.
If that’s the case, setting aside 20,000–25,000 JPY (134–168 USD) monthly for groceries should be enough.
You might not have to spend on furniture immediately because finding a permanent apartment can be challenging in Japan. However, once you find one and sign your rental contract, you’ll have to furnish your new home — at least the basics.
By basic furnishing, I mean the essentials like a bed, a fridge, a wardrobe, and a laundry machine. You can also add other items that are essential to you. For instance, you don’t necessarily have to buy a TV if you usually watch stuff on your laptop. It’s all up to you.
For all of the above, including basic appliances such as a hair dryer or a simple coffee maker, you should save up at least 200.000 JPY (1430 USD).
Although you might be tempted to spend more on better comforts, even your first home might not be as permanent. For the first few months, I highly advise truly sticking to the basics. Simply put, you don’t know whether the furniture you buy will fit in another apartment should you have to move again.
If you’re fine with buying used furniture, you can also check out Facebook groups with the keywords “Sayonara sales” and the city you’re moving to (i.e. Sayonara Sales Tokyo). You can also use Craigslist Tokyo.
It’s not really common for Japanese people to buy used furniture, so the best used furniture you’ll find will be sold by expats and students who are moving out of Japan.
Healthcare and Transportation Costs
Assuming that you’re moving to Japan with a job contract, your health insurance costs will be taken out of your paycheck automatically.
Since Japan has a robust insurance system, it’s safe to say that most of your regular health expenses will be covered by the public health insurance system.
The only requirement for public healthcare is that you stay in Japan for longer than one year, which shouldn’t be a problem since you’re moving here long-term.
As for your daily commuting costs to and from work, you don’t need to worry at all. In Japan, employees’ transportation costs are covered by the employer. You’ll either be reimbursed for your commuting expenses or will get an extra monthly amount on top of your salary.
For leisurely traveling, I recommend setting aside at least 5,000 JPY (around 35 USD) monthly. As driving is not really viable and common in the bigger cities of Japan, you’ll be using public transport, which is rather inexpensive.
Hidden costs become an inevitable part of your budget that you can’t exactly foresee, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan for it. Being prepared for the hidden costs I’ll mention below and setting aside some extra cash is a good idea if you don’t want your budget to take a hit.
I already mentioned that if you’re employed in Japan, public health insurance will cover your healthcare costs. However, some treatments and procedures might very well fall beyond the scope of your insurance. When that’s the case, you might have to pay up an unexpected amount.
Also, keep in mind that Japan is an island country. It’s pretty far away from the U.S. and Europe, and this affects the shipping prices if you need any of your belongings to be shipped to you. You might also face high shipping charges for packages to your friends and family overseas.
Similarly, you might face criminally expensive ticket prices when you want to visit your friends and family. It’s best to plan such trips way in advance. Picking the dates with the cheapest flights is another option if your dates are flexible, of course.
Moving to Japan from The U.S.
If you’re moving to Japan from the U.S., you’ll find that life in Japan is actually cheaper. While it’s true that Japan might feel expensive compared to some countries in the world, life in its most expensive city, Tokyo, is still about 25% cheaper than in New York.
Keep in mind that while living might be cheaper, rent is still expensive, and the apartments will usually be much smaller than in the U.S. Living in tiny apartments is very common in Japan, especially in big cities.
Additionally, while you may find it easier to get by in Japan, you could still struggle with the culture shock initially. Japan has a very distinct culture.
For example, tipping is very much frowned upon in most places in Japan. I explained the rules of tipping in Japan in detail in another post. Check it out to avoid awkward situations.
Similarly, Japanese food in the U.S. is actually an Americanized version of Japanese cuisine, so temper your expectations. When you first arrive in Japan, it might take you a while to get used to the food.
Having said that, the food is consistently cheap and delicious, so you shouldn’t have any issues.
Do Companies Cover Relocation in Japan?
As I conclude today’s post, I’d like to talk a bit about relocation fees as well.
In some cases, your relocation costs might be covered entirely or partially by your company. While this is definitely a more common occurrence in the tech industry, you might still find companies in other industries willing to reimburse you for some of your relocation costs as well.
Generally speaking, you’ll have better luck with foreign tech companies and startups rather than big, old-school Japanese companies.
Relocation support usually comes in the form of visa sponsorship and a set amount in relocation fees. In some cases, your company might even offer to cover your initial housing costs.
As I said, it all depends on the company, but tech startups like Mercari, PayPay and Money Forward are among the companies that provide good relocation support. These companies can even provide support for getting your residence permit card, opening a bank account when you arrive in Japan, and may even offer means to get your first cell phone.
You’ll find many companies similar to the ones I mentioned above in the Japan Dev company list. Make sure to check the listings out regularly to not miss out on any opportunities.