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Can You Really Survive in Japan on a ¥320,000 Monthly Salary?

Moving to Japan is a dream for many adventurous Americans, but the realities of living costs often remain shrouded in mystery. Recent discussions on online forums have pulled back the curtain, revealing frank insights into how far a monthly after-tax salary of ¥320,000 (approximately $2,000 USD) can really stretch for a couple in Japan.

Let’s dive in and separate fact from fiction.

Housing Costs: The Make-or-Break Factor

Finding affordable housing is the key to making a modest salary work in Japan, especially in popular areas around Tokyo like Chiba and Yokohama. Savvy couples have unearthed 2DK/2LDK apartments in Chiba for around ¥100,000 ($645) per month, such as these listings:

  • Chiba apartment 1: https://realestate.co.jp/en/rent/view/889591
  • Chiba apartment 2: https://realestate.co.jp/en/rent/view/889565

However, the sticker price doesn’t tell the whole story. Prepare for sticker shock when it comes to upfront costs, which can devour 3-6 months’ worth of rent. These costs include:

  • Security deposit (shikikin): Usually 1-2 months’ rent
  • Key money (reikin): A non-refundable “gift” to the landlord, typically 1-2 months’ rent
  • Agency fee (chukai tesuryo): Paid to the real estate agent, usually 1 month’s rent + tax
  • Advance rent: You may be required to pay the first month’s rent upfront

For a ¥100,000/month apartment, these upfront costs can add up to a jaw-dropping ¥300,000 to ¥600,000 just to get your foot in the door! That’s before you even consider the cost of furnishing your new home or setting up utilities.

Keeping the Lights On: Utilities & Living Expenses

Once you’ve secured your Japanese abode, brace yourself for the ongoing costs of utilities. Estimates suggest budgeting around ¥50,000 per month for gas, water, electricity, internet and phone service for a household of two.

One user provides a real-world example, recounting their experience in a 57 square meter 2LDK in Tokyo: “I always have my ac/heater on depending on the season, internet ¥3000, phone ¥8000. Total comes to ¥148,000 + ¥40,000 (groceries), so that’s already ¥188,000 per month. If you were to pay that much, that leaves you ¥132,000 a month.”

Filling Your Bellies: Food Costs

Foodies, take note: while Japan offers an endless array of tantalizing cuisine, dining out can quickly devour your budget. Expect to spend at least ¥60,000 per month on food for two if cooking most meals at home. That’s about ¥1,000 per person per day.

User reviews suggest you can scrape by on as little as ¥1,000-¥1,500 per person daily by being thrifty and cooking at home. But if you’re prone to eating out, costs can balloon to ¥2,000-¥3,000 per person each day – potentially gobbling up half your take-home pay for the month!

Can You Make It Work?

So, is ¥320,000 per month enough for a couple to survive in Japan? The consensus is a resounding “maybe.” As user The-very-definition summed it up:

“Everyone says it’s fine, and yes, you can survive on that much but you won’t be saving much unless you are eating at home nearly all the time and, probably more importantly, your S.O. has their own money/job… Two people on that budget can survive here, but you’ll have to choose between going out (local restaurants attractions), travel, and saving money.”

Other users chimed in with similar sentiments:

“In short, if you can find a cheap place to live, you should be ok. If you spend half of your take-home on rent, it’s gonna be more paycheck to paycheck. If your partner can bring in some income, you’ll be way more comfortable.”

“For your salary, I would assume your jobs pays for your transportation fees (train/bus). ¥132,000 isn’t much but definitely enough to still roam and explore. Although, you won’t be saving as much if that’s a concern.”

“With 32000 yen per month I am sure you will do fine even for two. Might not be comfortable in terms of luxury depending on your lifestyle but surely doable, and you can save a little as well if you plan spend correctly.”

The prevailing wisdom? A ¥320,000 monthly salary is enough for a couple to get by in Japan, but you’ll need to live frugally and make sacrifices. Every yen your partner can contribute will make a world of difference.

Choose your living location wisely, cook at home often, and keep a budget to avoid depleting your savings. With some careful planning, you can make your Japanese dream a reality on a modest income.

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