Compare 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Japan

To enjoy a decent quality of life on a moderate amount of money is a tough question when moving to Japan. But it is totally possible! Expats can settle down where the cost of living far more reasonable than urban Tokyo, and still get a good job and live very well. Without further ado, let’s get into the list of 10 cheapest places to live in Japan (with the comparison) in this location guides:

1. Yokohama

💵 Cost of living for ex-pat: $2,262/ month

1bedroom studio rent in the center: $1.362/ month

Hotel: $75/ night

Dinner: $6.95

Coffee: $2.83

Surprise, a big city on the list of the cheapest places to live in Japan. It’s true.

Why you may want to live in Yokohama?

cheap places to live in japan

Yokohama city at night

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A livable version of Tokyo regarding living expenses: Yokohama is almost the largest city in Japan (only after Tokyo). This city’s modern shopping and entertainment options are truly rivalry to these of Tokyo.  However, the main reason people keep staying here is the fact you can easily afford Yokohama housing, which ranges from $750 to $1000.

Close to Tokyo: if you have your business in the capital, living in Yokohama is still no problem. From Yokohama Station to Tokyo train stations, you just need a 30 minutes ride, making Yokohama called a commuter town. Fun fact, this city is also near Hakone where take a hike in the Mount Fuji, have a view over Lake Ashinoko.

Family city: I don’t mean you must have a family to live here, but it would be a lovely choice if you do. The local government not only offers tremendous educational and childcare support but also built the best family facilities, high-quality elementary schools.

Why you may NOT want to live in Yokohama?

cheap places to live in japan

Yokohama

Well, I can not find many negative aspects of living in this beautiful city. According to Normadlist, there may be a lot of people smoking here and a hostile towards LGBTQ+.

Where to live in Yokohama?

is it cheaper to live in japan

Yokohama station

Many ex-pats choose to live close to the Yokohama Station in Yokohama, which is a futuristic and trendy outskirt. If you prefer some places with more historical and cultural traces, Yamate is worth considering. Don’t forget its rose gardens will bloom beautifully in May and November. The last area, The Minato Mirai 21, is the rising star of Yokohama real estate, thanks to its attraction to business, shopping, and tourism. You can admire skyscraper, and sea labor here.

2. Kyoto

💵 Cost of living for ex-pat:$1.930/ month

1bedroom studio rent in the center: $625/ month

Hotel: $65/ night

Dinner: $6.36

Coffee: $3.86

Kyoto is a top tourist destination that no traveler wants to miss and also considered as one of the cheapest places to live in Japan.

 is it expensive to live in japan

Kyoto

Why you may want to live in Kyoto?

Beautiful natural setting: It is a city surrounded by mountains, and there are three rivers going through it. In springs, you can admire cherry blossoms at the riverside and during fall, you will see all the mountains exploding with golden flushed color thanks to the foliage.

Japanese cultural capital: Kyoto’s history and culture have been really well preserved. People come here to stay in ryokan (traditional guest house), to see Shinto shrines, to visit the tea house in the Gion district, and to meet the geishas. However, Kyoto has not been home to the tradition; it is trying to expand its reputation for modern art. The mix of old and new set this unique city apart from any other cheapest places to live in Japan.

University city: Many of Kyoto citizens are college students (10%). Besides, the quality of the university here is highly praised by educators.

Why you may not want to live in Kyoto?

The tourists: Kyoto is one of the most unique cities in Japan and also a top tourist destination that no traveler wants to miss. If you stay in Kyoto, you have to cope with the crowded streets and noisy restaurants some times of the year.

The fun: While there are plenty of bars, pubs, and clubs, don’t expect the variety that you will find in areas of Tokyo or Osaka.

Where to live in Kyoto?

 is it expensive to live in japan

Kyoto real estate

So if you decided to be a long term visitor in Kyoto, I highly recommend you choose accommodation in the northern, for example, Kitayama or Demachiyanagi districts. These places are much more economical to live and still closely linked to the city through public transport. Besides, you may enjoy the mountainous scenery and the cuisine here.

“Kyoto has a small-town feel and a spectacular natural view”

3. Naha Okinawa

💵 Cost of living for ex-pat: $1.917/ month

1bedroom studio rent in the center: $713/ month

Hotel: $48/ night

Dinner: $7.34

Coffee: $3.78

is it cheaper to live in japan

Naha Okinawa

Why you may want to live in Naha Okinawa?

Longevity: Okinawa holds the record for the longest longevity of life in Japan. Therefore, you can have a guess that the climate is good and the lifestyles are healthy here.

Weather: Some people compare its weather to Florida but it was not as humid.

 what is the cheapest city in japan

Scuba diving in Naha Okinawa

Oceans, scuba diving, and other water sport: Okinawa subtropical beauty is displayed through long beaches and beautiful blue Pacific Ocean. Whether you have a scuba diving certification or not, you can dive into The Blue Cave at Cape Maeda safely with the help of a guide, since it is only seven meters deep. Besides, you can take a surf class, or spend an afternoon snorkeling!

Many Americans: Actually, you don’t know whether it is a good or bad thing for you. But, yep, there are many American people (including kids) living in and near the military bases in Okinawa. If you have kids, they will find it easier to make friends and adjust to the culture.

Why you may NOT want to live in Naha Okinawa?

Airconditioning: you may find old houses lacking “central” airconditioning. Please check in advance.

Transportation: The main city of Naha, where the airport is located, has a comprehensive public transit system, but once you leave the city, you’re on your own. Furthermore, the antique cabs and their drivers are a relic of days gone by. So, you would better have a car rented to save money and time.

Not much to do: Let’s exclude the beaches. Naha Okinawa doesn’t have many other things to offers. So you may miss the city lights, the shopping malls, and amusement parks.

Where to live in Naha Okinawa?

is it expensive to live in japan

Sunabe, Chatan, Mihama Area

The most popular area to American Military is Sunabe, Chatan, Mihama Area, which is situated nearby the Kadena AFB and Camp Foster. Even though it is close to beaches and shopping places, houses here tend to be smaller and higher priced. At least they are equipped with American features. Or you can stay in Yomitan Area, which is quieter with cheaper prices and a more authentic feel to living in Okinawa.

4. Fukuoka

💵 Cost of living for ex-pats: $1,692/ month

1bedroom studio rent in the center: $660/ month

Hotel: $125/ night

Dinner: $6.70

Coffee: $2.83

Let’s leave Honshu, the main island (home to Tokyo, Osaka…), we will visit the southwest island Kyushu. Here, Fukuoka is the biggest city.

 what is the cheapest city in japan

View of Fukuoka city

Why you may want to live in Fukuoka?

Bustling and peaceful at the same time: This city offers convenient public transportation and a variety of shopping malls, bars, karaoke, … On the other hand, there are numerous parks, such as the famous Ohori Park, shrines, riverfront, and beaches.

 what is the cheapest city in japan

Ohori Park

Food: Fukuoka is popular for its 150 yatais – street food stalls which provide an incredible nightlife experience. Fun fact, ramen is actually claimed to originate from this city.

Start-up city: In recent years, Fukuoka has seen a rapid trend of start-up and it really opens its door for foreign entrepreneurs (check out the start-up visa). Even if you don’t intend to build a company on your own, there are many other job opportunities like an English teacher, hospitality, …

Lower cost: Above all, the expense here is much more reasonable. To rent a fully furnished 45m2 studio in Tokyo typically costs you around ¥116,000 ($1000), but the price in Fukuoka is 40% cheaper. Utilities bills and groceries are only about 26% of these in Tokyo. By saving that much, you may live in a more spacious house and enjoy life better.

Why you may not want to live in Fukuoka?

Can’t speak Japanese: As far as I am concerned, most people in Fukuoka don’t speak English well. So if you are a non-japanese speaker, it may be hard for you to get used to live here or make friends.

Cold winter and humid summer: In summer, it is extremely hot and humid here. The effect is contradictory when it comes to winter.

Where to live in Fukuoka?

Fukuoka residential areas

The most common option is Hakata, the city center. Because it has a huge station which gonna take you anywhere else in the shortest time, and it is closest to all the amenities. If you want a more quiet and romantic atmosphere, stay near Ohori Park area. Nishijin is also a good choice for educational purposes and convenient transport.

5. Tsushima Island

💵 Cost of living for ex-pats: $1,281 / month

1bedroom studio rent in the center: $476 / month

Hotel: $48/ night

Dinner: $5.71

Coffee: $3.33

Watazumi Shrine in Tsushima Island

Why you may want to live in Tsushima Island?

The cheapest among the cheapest places to live in Japan: Look at the prices above, where can you find a better deal?

Nature and agriculture: 89% of Tsushima is natural preserve, percent with natural vegetation, and numerous mountains. Many of its inhabitants still practice various agricultural techniques passed down through generations ensuring a lasting relationship with the environment. The perfect place to visit if you value local, eco-friendly, outdoor-oriented living. Between its vast number of beaches to lounge on and mountains to climb.

Tsushima Island festivals

Iconic culture sights and festival: Tsushima is also home to many fantastic historical and cultural treasure sights. To name a few, they are Izuhara Port Festival, Banshoin Temple Lantern Lighting Festival, Watazumi Shrine Traditional Festival …

Why you may NOT want to live in Tsushima Island?

Tsushima Island

Jobs: This is a big problem since local in Tsushima usually do farming, fishing, or trading to earn their livings. Even in the city, there are not many job opportunities, especially for foreigners.

Entertainment: if you live in the big city all your life, you will definitely have a hard time getting used to this place. It is like 100% opposite from the fast and fun pace of Tokyo life.

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6. Osaka 

💵Cost of living for expat: $1,553/ month

1bedroom studio rent in the center: $628/ month

Hotel: $50/ night

Dinner: $10.97

Coffee: $2.74

Why you may want to live in Osaka?

A port city in the Kansai area, Osaka has been known as Japan’s third most populous metropolis. While the other second cities have the reputation for high cost of living, Osaka, surprisingly enough, is something of an exception to the rule. It appears on a list of the cheapest places to live in Japan. The truly vibrancy and futuristic makes this city a great option for those who expect to live in a large space but not spend too much on living expenses as in Tokyo. 

Osaka is home to gigantic manufacturing businesses

If you are immigrating from a Western country to somewhere in Japan for a working purpose, be prepared that the new culture might be a bit hard to get on well with because most Japanese are not really open-minded and easygoing as expected. But Osaka may surprise you because here you’ll find the friendliest and most outgoing people in the entire country. You’ll make friends in no time and feel more at home here than any other city.

What’s more, Osaka offers a high level of community service, including a good environment for children’s education and international medical facilities. 

On top of that, Osaka is certainly unbeatable for its affordable cost of living. At around 170,000 Yen per month, that accommodation fee and monthly expenses, compared to Tokyo standards at least, is dazzlingly low.

Why you may NOT want to live in Osaka?

Nightlife in Osaka is said to be turbulent so be careful when popping into nightclubs or bars on your tod. Check the location and reviews before your visit. 

Where to live in Osaka?

Osaka is a diverse and cosmopolitan city with good preparation for supporting foreign expats. The construction of the Bay Area consisting of Yumeshima and Sakishima Islands District features as a grand plan for attracting foreign companies, which makes this area a potential place to live in the future. 

If you are seeking for tranquil residential areas, Mino city is just everything you need. An area filled with nature, Mino is also extremely accessible with only 30 minutes commuting from Umeda and one hour from Kobe City.

Among that, Chuo-ku and Kita-ku, which are in the center areas of Osaka, are places that most foreign expats choose to hang a hat. They are representative of Osaka’s lively atmosphere, offering numerous shopping districts and tourist spots. 

7. Kamakura

💵Cost of living for expat: $1,251/ month

1bedroom studio rent in the center: $533/ month

Hotel: $40/ night

Dinner: $6.50

Coffee: $3

Why you may want to live in Kamakura?

Less than a 45-minute ride away from Tokyo and you’ll get to see the Western coast of Kanagawa Prefecture – city of Kamakura, preserved through ages and completely hidden from the road. This city was Japan’s political center once in the past. Today, it still has a unique place in Japanese society, featuring stunning locations and holiday spots for both Tokyo inhabitants and foreign tourists. 

Kamakura is a coastal town hugging Sagami Bay, in Kanagawa prefecture

There are a wide range of reasons why people should relocate to Kamakura. This city is a perfect choice for those who seek a seaside small town, developed enough but a lot more greenery and not too crowded. Nestled between wooded hills and packed with numerous temples, shrines and historical monuments, it’s easy to see why the town is loved by both locals and tourists alike. Moreover, Kamakura’s streets are remarkable. As you discover, you will notice an incredible blend of original Japanese residence and prevailing architecture, which matches the miscellaneous dwellers that settle down there. 

For more enduring inhabitants, the city has plenty to recommend it. Housing prices are blissfully low, whilst utilities, groceries, and other essentials are at a fraction of the cost, and the public transportation system is both reasonable and decent enough to make getting from one part of the city to the other a cheap breeze. 

Why you may NOT want to live in Kamakura?

Keep in mind that the so-called Shonan area (Fujisawa, Kamakura, etc) has a negative reputation for the serious congestion, especially on weekends as well as rush hours over the year. The trains can be packed with tourists as well. Needless to say, you have to keep in mind the salt and sand in the air that may sometimes affect your laundry and car.

For those who find their home in Kamakura for its miles upon miles of white beaches, it is worth noting that Kamakura may not be what people from South Australia would expect, in terms of summer crowds, noise and the color of the water and sand. 

Where to live in Kamakura?

Stay close to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine and Zaimokuza beach, you’ll be guaranteed with more fresh air and rugged coastal scenery.

8. Chiba

💵Cost of living for expat: $1,684/ month

1bedroom studio rent in the center: $681/ month

Hotel: $54/ night

Dinner: $7.3

Coffee: $3

Why you may want to live in Chiba?

If you are in favor of golden sandy beaches, clusters of boats going up and down, and bargains, you’ll definitely fall in love with the beautiful port of Chiba. Located on the east side of the Tokyo metropolitan area, Chiba has an urban vibe and is home to wonderful areas in its own right. 

The city is packed with attractions like Chiba Debra, Hoki Museum, Makuhari Messe and the SSAWS ski resort

Despite being four-sided surrounded by a network of rivers and sea lines, Chiba prefecture is a famous commuter town because of its connection to Tokyo and other touristy areas. It sets a very convenient 30 miles away from Tokyo by high speed train. Chiba is also home to Japan’s main international airport, Narita International Airport, and many travelers pass through the area when they arrive. 

Why you may NOT want to live in Chiba?

Though living in Chiba will hurt your wallet way less than in Tokyo for sure, average cost in Chiba is still somehow higher than in the United States. If you do a simple calculation, you’ll see that shopping in Japan normally costs 1.18 times more than in the United States. Specifically, the cost of living in Chiba is 1.33 times higher than in Houston and 1.27 times higher than in Oklahoma City. Groceries in supermarkets are also more costly than in the USA. For example, in Chiba you have to pay 188 JPY for a can of milk, 300 JPY for a bottle of beer from a known brand and 2,600 JPY for sausage. 

Moreover, most of the built up areas (concrete sprawl) could be considered as chaotic and it is highly likely that you encounter local yobs and yakuza at night. Stay away from them if you don’t want to be in trouble. 

Where to live in Chiba?

The Funabashi area is highly recommended for its great and cheap restaurants. In Funabashi, you can drink with only 1,000 yen and enjoy local nightlife in nearby restaurants and bars. Besides, Matsudo is also a great choice which is less densely packed compared to Funabashi, Kashiwa, and of course Tokyo. You have a lot more space for walking, riding your bike and the most amazing ramen shops in your area. Kashiwa has all of your shopping needs. What’s more, no other city can beat its cheap rental costs, with only 32,000 yen for a 1K at Kashiwa Station. 

9. Kawasaki

💵Cost of living for expat: $1,506/ month

1bedroom studio rent in the center: $858/ month

Hotel: $54/ night

Dinner: $7.3

Coffee: $3

Why you may want to live in Kawasaki?

If you’re looking for a taste of Tokyo but prefer a life that is much easier for your wallet, then Kawasaki, among a plethora of cities in the wider Tokyo metropolitan area, might be a good back-up plan. Located about halfway between Tokyo and Yokohama, Kamakura is home to an extensive canal network and a number of temples and galleries. Though this city is futuristic and a center of business, it isn’t all industry and hard work. 

It’ll take you around an hour by commuter services to reach the heart of the Japanese capital

Rental prices are around 50% less than in Tokyo, which means expats can certainly find a better quality of accommodation for the same price in Kawasaki. Even leaving aside its affordability, the city still has a lot to offer, including a picturesque riverside location, a strong job market, and a very attractive clutch of shrines and museums.

Why you may NOT want to live in Kawasaki?

Speaking of disadvantages, the pollution in the southernmost areas is definitely one reason that makes foreigners hesitate to move here. The area is known to be somewhat unsafe too, as reported by a number of expats. One more thing, Kawasaki’s city center, the one around Kawasaki station, is also not for dwellers who can’t deal with the crowds of the city proper. 

Where to live in Kawasaki?

Good neighbourhoods are all in the northern part of Kawasaki. Shin-Yurigaoka is considered to be a very good place. There is also a high concentration of foreign expats in Mizonokuchi and Miyazakidai, which are neighboring areas with easy commuting access to the heart of Kawasaki. It isn’t terribly fancy, but convenient enough, with plenty of local things to enjoy and very accessible.

10. Sapporo

💵Cost of living for expat: $1,461/ month

1bedroom studio rent in the center: $488/ month

Hotel: $27/ night

Dinner: $9.43

Coffee: $2.76

Why you may want to live in Sapporo?

The second largest city of Hokkaido prefecture and actually Japan’s 5th largest city today, Sapporo is a good base for anyone looking for a slightly different experience to life on Honshu. Sapporo functions as many modern cities do, it also has the office environment that attracts thousands of both domestic and foreign residences. Interestingly, the city is big enough to have most things and small enough not to be chaotic.

Sapporo is blessed with a rich variety of nature, intriguing landscapes, cool weather, fresh and rich seafoods. Sapporo also does not have as many natural catastrophic events as other regions of Japan. 

Sapporo is the cultural, political and economic centre of life on Hokkaido island

Living in Sapporo ensures that the overall cost of living won’t stretch your budget to breaking point. For just a little over $700 a month, you’ll be able to stay in a very reasonable apartment in the heart of the city. Groceries, utilities, and other essentials are all low enough to not be a concern. 

If all that wasn’t enough to tempt you, the unperturbed lifestyle and annual festivals just might. As for winter, it is the world’s largest snowiest city. It’s certainly a destination for outdoor activities and sporty games such as skiing and snowboarding. Plus, for many years, the city has hosted everything from the Hanami festival, Sapporo Snow Festival to the Winter Olympics.  

Why you may NOT want to live in Sapporo?

First thing to know is job opportunities are really insufficient here, even if you’re Japanese – English bilinguals.

Besides, driving is a nightmare. It is true that Sapporo has the largest number of traffic lights inside it, compared to any other city in the world. Be prepared that a 5 minute drive in most cities could last to 20 or more in Sapporo.

Last, if you’re not born for super cold weather and snow sport games then Sapporo is not really a suitable option for you. Its northerly location makes it present on a list of the coldest cities in Japan, with < 0°C virtually every day during the winter. During the most intense cold spells, the temperature can drop to -15 °C (5 °F) or even below. 

Where to live in Sapporo?

The best neighborhoods are said to be in the west near the mountains. Fushimi and Maruyama are tranquil with quaint tea shops, museums, architectures, and also lovely apartments that fit your shoestring budget. Fushimi is best if you choose a car to be your means of transport as the area is far away from any stations. Maruyama is known as the most unique neighborhood in the city with very fantastic buildings. 

Head to Chuo-ku, the most central district in Sapporo if you aim for nice accommodation and convenience. It is quite a large area, giving you a good balance between entertainment and calm.

FAQs:

+ What is the cheapest city in Japan?

Fukuoka. It costs an ex-pat only approximately $1,692/ month to survive (in Tokyo it is $2,514/ month). If you move to this city with a family, then the cost is around $3,413/ month (in Tokyo it is $5,953 / month). Overall, Fukuoka is a perfect combination of rich history, culture, and modern life (with surprising cheap thrills).

+ Is living in Japan cheap?

I know rumor has it that living in Japanese is costly. Reality check: Japan is more expensive than other Asian countries, but it is not that expensive compared to Western Europe or American. It is even cheaper, especially if you live further from Tokyo. And it depends on your spending habits too. Some foreign students only spend less than 150,000Yen/month ($1428/ month).

+ How much does it cost to live in Japan USD?

The cost of living for a single working person in Tokyo is between ¥178,463 (1,701USD) and ¥337,296 (3,213USD) a month, including rent, food, discretionary spending, transportation, and taxes and insurance. Now cut the number off by 10%, you get the average figure for other places. This is the estimation of the government. In the 5 cheapest places to live in Japan we mentioned above, you can find a better deal.

+ How much is the average rent in Japan?

The national average rental price for a studio apartment with one bedroom ranges from ¥50,000 ($470) to ¥70,000 ($660). However, the price will be not less than ¥100,000 ($950) when it comes to the center of Tokyo or other desirable areas.

About Yuu Sato

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.