Japan is a beautiful country. There are plenty of places to explore, and cities to live in. However, while it’s a great country, it is often over-glorified. There are negatives to staying in Japan as well as the apparent positives.
One hot topic often discussed when considering moving to Japan is the cost of living. While many factors go into the cost of living in Japan, you can get a general idea, as well as some of the pros and cons, in this article.
Cost of Living in Japan
Calculating the cost of living in Japan isn’t terribly straightforward, especially if you come from a country like America. Sure, you can calculate the cost of the exact same things and compare the costs across the two countries, but the way things work in America isn’t how they work in Japan.
For example, while you can buy a car in Japan, it’s not necessary and is often much more of a hassle than it’s worth. They are often much more expensive to have in Japan and can increase your cost of living to match or go above what you were spending in the US.
Food and house sizes can also change your cost of living. If you eat local foods, you’re going to save a lot more money than if you try to eat like you did in your original country. Rent is also cheaper in Japan, but you get a smaller place to live.
Tokyo is an exception on rent costs. However, you can live pretty close to the city and still save a lot of money, as long as you don’t try to get a big place to live right in the center of the city.
I you adjust to life in Japan, and their culture, including how to travel around and foods to eat, you can end up saving a lot of your income. Depending on where you live, it’s possible to spend about half the money in Japan than you were in the US. Even when compared to the change in income, it’s a lot cheaper to live this way in Japan than in the US.
Overall, it’s estimated that if you take the average person in Japan, and compare them to the average person in the US, the cost of living for someone in Japan is about 32 percent lower than the cost of living for someone in the US. This includes calculating interest and taxes, rent, nights out, childcare, and more.
Living in Japan: Pros and Cons
The low cost of living is one of the many reasons people want to move to Japan. However, while there are plenty of pros that make the move sound worth it, you also need to be aware of some of the cons that come with moving to Japan, or just another country.
Japan is marked as the 10th safest country in the world. This means it beats countries like Finland, Germany, Canada, and Switzerland. Despite the violent animes coming from Japan, you’re not likely to be robbed or attacked when walking home, even at night. Crime rates for Japan have been declining since the 1990s, and are expected to continue the trend.
b. Unique Culture
There’s a lot of unique culture in Japan. The history is long, and rich, including samurais, geishas, various religions, and all sorts of martial arts. You see examples throughout the country. The best examples are the temples and shrines found everywhere in Japan, even in the heart of cities. Even the more modern culture is full of interesting aspects, including anime.
While some parts have become Westernized, much of Japan is still quite unlike you’ll see anywhere else in the world.
c. Convenient Public Transportation
For those from the United States, public transportation is a pro. In the US, it’s almost impossible to travel without owning your own car (and sometimes one vehicle per family member) unless you live in a major city.
However, in Japan, you can travel from any point in the country to the completely opposite side without ever needing a personal vehicle. There are some areas a little out of the way, but between buses, trains, and taxis, you won’t ever be left stranded.
d. Amazing Food
Japan is known for having some pretty amazing food. This is where foods like tempura, ramen, and sushi come from. By living in the country, you get access to these foods much easier than anywhere else, and for a much cheaper price.
Much of the food is healthy and fresh as well, with little in the way of unhealthy, artificial foods, dyes, and additives. If you go out to eat, you’re able to try many different Michelin-star restaurants as well.
e. Plenty of Things to Keep You Occupied
When you have free time, you don’t ever have to worry about being bored. No matter what you like, you won’t be without something to do. If you like being outdoors, there are plenty of green spaces, hot springs, and mountains to explore.
For animal lovers, there are zoos and animal cafes. Shopping centers, manga stores, and museums are also plentiful throughout the entire country.
a. Language Barrier
If you plan to go to another country, especially to live there, the language barrier is going to be a problem. Even if major cities speak a fair amount of your language, like English, you will still need to know the language to live there.
Otherwise, you’ll have problems connecting and struggle with basic aspects of life, like purchasing items and getting bank accounts. Some people can pick up the language naturally while living in a country, but others have to make an effort to learn.
b. Work-Life Imbalance
Japan focuses heavily on work. It’s common to work long hours. Then, you’re expected to go to after-work meetings and events.
Many people find themselves with little time after work to go and hang out or relax before they’re expected to go to bed to get ready for the next day. You’re even supposed to prioritize work over family, children, and your health. This is very hard, and rightfully so, for people to adjust to.
c. Culture Shock
While immersing yourself in a culture you’re excited about can be fun, it’s not always easy. Visitors often get to see the beauty of Japan and the culture, without all of the negatives. However, the social rules, work-life balance, and the general strangeness compared to other cultures can be quite a shock as well.
Generally, you want to give yourself at least a year or two in another country to get used to the changes before deciding you don’t like it.
d. Hard to Find the Right Clothing Sizes
Most people know that Japan is not the best country for being overweight. Most of the time, there isn’t much clothing available for someone even on the heavier side of a healthy weight. Clothes are impossible to find, and weight limits for certain things are a little too low.
However, even being skinny and tall is a challenge. It’s a struggle to find clothes tall enough to fit you, and many doors and apartments are made for shorter, smaller people. So make sure you watch your head whenever you go anywhere.
e. Sexual Harassment
Though serious crime is very low, that doesn’t mean you’re completely safe. For women, Japan can be a bit of a struggle. Sexual harassment is a big deal. It’s common to be touched inappropriately, especially in the workplace or on the train.
Pictures taken under women’s skirts are also fairly common. Workplace harassment is especially bad, as it’s usually the boss who takes advantage of young, new female workers.