What Does It Cost to Move to Japan From Scratch?

David Taylor

David Taylor is the creator of the Forever Foreign Podcast. He's been a full-time liver and Part-time lover of Japan for... possibly too long at this point.
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Thinking of moving to Japan? Well, congratulations! That’s one item you can cross off the checklist that ends with you enjoying cherry blossom parties and top-notch ramen.

But while it’s a time to be excited, it’s also a time to start budgeting. 

The cost of moving to Japan depends on the situation, but there are several items that are unavoidable when taking the leap. Apartment startup costs and furnishings are just a few of them. Altogether, an airtight budget would be in the neighborhood of $5,000 USD, not including the flight over.

This guide will break down some of those costs so you can make an informed decision and start saving for your big adventure.

Note: The figures in this article are rough estimates and should be used only as a general guide. Your actual costs may be higher or lower, depending on individual circumstances.

Standard Japanese Apartment Deposit Costs

Just like in many other countries around the world, Japanese landlords like to get a little collateral against the risk of taking on a tenant.

Tokyo, the king of high rent
Photo by Arto Marttinen

The standard deposit in Japan is usually the first and last months’ rent. So, for example, if your monthly rent is ¥50,000 yen, you’ll need to pay ¥100,000 upfront as a deposit. Possibly even ¥150,000.

Not all landlords and real estate developers are the same, so this cost can vary pretty wildly, not to mention that rent in the city will likely be higher than ¥50,000. Here’s a brief overview of how rent in Japan varies by prefecture:

LocationAverage rent (1 bedroom plus potential dining room)
No surprises here. The smaller the city, the smaller the rent bill.

Your employer may ease the cost of moving to Japan by providing housing for you. However, this is unlikely for most people.

So far, the tally is ¥150,000. Already pretty steep if you’re paying for it alone.

Japanese Key Money

In addition to the deposit, you’ll also likely need to pay “key money” in Japan.

Key money, or “reikin” is a fee that’s paid to the landlord for the privilege of renting an apartment. This fee is normally one or two months’ rent, and is non-refundable.

In some cases, you may be able to negotiate with the landlord to reduce or eliminate the reikin, but it’s better to expect this cost than to be surprised.

Some of the bigger apartment leasing companies like Leopalace 21 occasionally waive key money fees, but this isn’t always the case.

Crank that total up to ¥250,000.

Other Apartment Fees

We’re not done yet! When moving into a Japanese apartment you’ll often also have to pay a handful of other fees, depending on your situation. Here are a few of them:

  • Real estate agency fees (usually no more than half a months’ rent)
  • Insurance fees (depends on type of insurance, but fire insurance is the minimum and can cost ¥10,000 per year)
  • Guarantor fees (about half a months’ rent)

If you’ve never heard of a guarantor before, it’s someone who vouches for you in case you fail to pay rent. The cost can change based on factors like your job and financial history.

For most Japanese people, they can ask a close relative to act as guarantor, but foreign nationals don’t normally have that option. In comes the guarantor company.

Altogether, this brings the total up to about ¥300,000

Cost of Japanese Apartment Appliances

Hopefully you’ll have a little more inside
Photo by Erik Mclean

Once you’ve paid the upfront costs, it’s time to consider actually living in your apartment. This is another area where your employer matters.

If you’re a JET participant, for example, much of the burden is relieved since apartments are usually held in the local government’s name. Some other companies also provide largely furnished living conditions.

Then there are developers like LeoPalace 21, who typically provide the following:

  • Microwave
  • Stove
  • Refrigerator
  • Washing machine
  • TV

If you’re not moving into one of the above apartment situations, you can expect to pay a minimum of ¥100,000 for these appliances.

Some companies will also offer rental appliances, which can be a cheaper option if you’re only planning on staying in Japan for a year or two.

That brings the total to ¥300,000 plus a possible ¥100,000.

Cost of Furnishing a Japanese Apartment

Moving to Japan from scratch likely means that you’ll need at least a few furnishings for your apartment.

For some, this means a sofa, a bed, a coffee table, and more. For others it might be nothing more than a futon mattress and a good old camping chair in the beginning.

It’s the area of the budget with the most wiggle room, so with that in mind, here are a couple of scenarios you might find yourself in.

At least a coffee table
Photo by Minh Pham

The Extreme Budget Version

At the very least, you’re going to want something to sleep on and a few basics for the kitchen. A decent futon mattress, cover, and blanket from a home furnishing store like Nitori will cost about ¥15,000, and you should consider another ¥5,000 at minimum for things like plates, forks, knives, and towels for the bathroom.

The Middle Ground

For many, the above futon mattress setup is enough for the bedroom (they can be really cozy). But the lack of other furnishings may be a bit too Spartan. Those people may want to add a kotatsu table, chairs, and some more advanced cookware at the very least. Expect that to bring the total up by another ¥30,000.

The High Life

Some people can’t live without the comforts of home. Think full bed frame, spring box mattress, and even a sofa. That will cost a minimum of ¥50,000. More, if you’re looking for a nicer bed or sofa.

Altogether, it costs ¥320-450,000 plus a possible ¥100,000 to move to Japan.

Financial Safety Net

You don’t want to splash all of your cash on day one only to have nothing left for a little ramen and fancy Kit-Kats, right?

In very rare situations (another time where it’s often good to be a JET), you’ll get paid in advance for your first month of work. Boom. Money in your pocket and no worries.

However, the more common situation will see you needing to fend for yourself during that first month. And worst case scenario, you won’t see your first paycheck until near the end of your second month in Japan as some companies have a late-month pay day set up for the previous month’s salary.

Because of that, it’s wise to take a look at the monthly cost of living and stow away enough to keep you afloat for two months.

There are a lot of variables to consider, but ¥300,000 is a good place to start.

That brings the total up to ¥620-750,000, plus another possible ¥100,000.

What’s the Total Cost of Moving to Japan?

When you add up the deposit, key money, furniture and appliance costs, and a safety net for spending in the first months, the total cost to move to Japan is around ¥620-750,000, plus another possible ¥100,000 for appliance-less apartments. That’s $4,715-$5,700 USD plus a possible extra $760.

Keep in mind that these are just rough estimates, and your actual costs may be higher or lower depending on your individual circumstances.

What is a Good Salary for Living in Japan?

Dollar sign green background

The salary you’ll need to live comfortably in Japan will depend on your lifestyle and individual circumstances. On average, a salary of around 5 million yen per year is considered a comfortable living wage in Japan. However, this can vary depending on where you live and your expenses.

For example, if you live in a more expensive city like Tokyo, you may want a higher salary to maintain a comfortable standard of living.

Is It Cheaper to Live in Japan Than the US?

The cost of living in Japan can be higher or lower than the cost of living in the US, depending on where you live and your lifestyle. On average, the cost of living in Japan is lower than in the US, but if you maintain certain diets and lifestyles common in the west, it can get pricey.

Certain foods like beef and good cheese, for example, will bring your monthly expenses up quite a bit. But the overall cost of living numbers favor Japan.

How Much Money Should I Have Saved to Move to Japan?

It’s a good idea to have about $6,000 USD saved up before moving to Japan. This should keep you in good shape as long as you already have a job lined up. If you’re planning on going job-hunting after arrival, you may want to be extra cautious and save another $1-2,000 USD.

This will give you a cushion in case you encounter any unexpected expenses or if it takes you longer than expected to find work.


In conclusion, moving to Japan from scratch can be expensive, but it’s possible to manage the costs with careful planning and budgeting. Make sure you understand the costs involved, including the deposit, key money, furniture, and living expenses, so you can make an informed decision.

With the right preparation, you can make the move to Japan and enjoy all that this beautiful country has to offer.