How Much Does it Cost to Move to Tokyo?

The short answer, a lot.

Some background.

I plan to move to Tokyo next month so that I can prepare for Jeremy’s school entrance in April. I also need to prepare to rejoin the workforce. The company’s entrance ceremony, nyuushashiki (入社式), is slated for April 1st and I’m so excited. Jeremy’s school entrance ceremony, nyuugakushiki(入学式), is a week later, probably around April 8th. There is a lot to plan for, including arranging for his care until he starts school, his enrollment in an after school program, my daily commute, getting an apartment ready, the mountain of paperwork involved even when moving within Japan, etc.

New employees at a company entrance ceremony in Tokyo. Image from the internet.

New employees at a company entrance ceremony in Tokyo. Image from the internet.

Last week, I went to Tokyo to look for an apartment and managed to find a really nice place in a nice neighbourhood, although it requires a bus to get to the train station. The only way I could get an apartment the size I wanted was to give up convenient access (walking distance) to the train station. However, it is very close to the elementary school that J will be attending, which is great.

The costs involved when moving to Tokyo include, but are not limited to:

  1. Transportation costs
  2. Initial cost of renting an apartment
  3. Furnishing costs
  4. Monthly expenditure for the 1st month
  5. Work/school wardrobes and related expenses

Obviously, these costs vary a lot depending on where you are moving from, which part of Tokyo you are moving to, if you are moving with your family or alone, if the apartment is furnished or not, etc. If you are reading this, you probably want a clearer picture, so I will try to paint a general picture and then specifically my case.

If you are one of those expatriates coming in with all expenses paid and a fully furnished apartment, etc, that is amazing. Kudos.

For the single people who will move into company dormitories (well, not actually dorms but company apartments for 1 person), I envy you too. Those company dorms are usually cheap and can help you save a lot. However, the company I will be working for doesn’t have apartments for families (the biggest assumption is new recruitees from uni are usually single). However, they provide a housing allowance should you decide to live in an apartment elsewhere.

If you are moving to Tokyo for work, some companies will help you with part of those costs, e.g. relocation costs. However, you will still need a substantial amount of money to survive that first month until your first paycheck arrives.

  1. Transportation costs ¥50,000

I literally have no idea about this, I shouldn’t even be blogging about it. The cost will depend on how far away from Tokyo you live and how much stuff you will be moving. My advice is to take as little as you can, because you can buy whatever else you need in Tokyo. There are so many moving companies in Tokyo. Here is a list of English-friendly ones. Luckily for me, the company will cover the moving costs upfront.

2. Initial cost of renting an apartment ¥400,000

This is the mother of all costs.

Apartment sizes are small and the rent is high. Hey, it’s Tokyo.

Before you move in the first time, you are usually asked to pay the first month’s rent, 1 month’s rent as deposit, 1 month’s rent as a commission to the real estate agents, and 1 month’s rent as key money, basically goodwill, which you will never get back. There is also some fee to exchange the lock (about 10,000 – 20,000 yen) and a fee for a guarantor (usually a monthly fee) and/or 24hr mandatory fee for the apartment manager (usually paid annually).

For example, if you get a 2 bed-roomed place (2LDK in Japanese terms) with a rent of 100,000 yen per month, you need at least 4 times that amount to move in. If you choose to change locks, etc, you are looking at approximately 450,000 yen. And then you can get the key to the apartment. Not all places require you to pay the key money or deposit, but even then you will need 3-5 times the cost of the rent when moving in.

3. Furnishing costs ¥100,000

I have neither furniture nor appliances, as I lived in a subsidized, fully furnished student apartment. I don’t plan on buying everything at once, but there are some appliances that I will need from the beginning. Most places are only furnished with an air conditioner. So I will need to get appliances like a fridge, a washing machine, a gas stove or electric burner, a microwave, etc. I will also need curtains, futons (for sleeping on the floor) before I can properly furnish the apartment. Luckily, a lot of these things can be bought from second hand stores, and even if I buy them brand new, they may not cost that much. I am going to need anything from 100,000 to 200,000 yen or more to furnish a family apartment. Let’s say an initial cost of at least 100,000yen.

Could I ever really furnish my future apartment until it is IG worthy like the ones below? I can only dream.


4. Monthly expenditure for the 1st month ¥100,000 

Let’s say I have moved in, bought a few appliances and a futon, and I am ready to start my new life in Tokyo. Since I will be just starting at the job, I won’t get paid until the end of the month. I need money to survive that first month. Groceries, fare to and from work, rent, utilities (in case of pre-paying some fees), and other miscellaneous expenses.

5. Work/school wardrobes and related expenses ¥100,000 

As a grad student, I survived on a wardrobe of jeans and t-shirts. I bought one suit that I used for important presentations, and for all the interviews I attended. But I am going to need enough suits to last the orientation/training period at work, after which I can wear smart casual. I need to upgrade my wardrobe before April.

Contrary to what Sauti Sol is singing, provisions for kids don’t come from thin air. Hakuna sahani popote. Elementary school in Tokyo is free and there are no uniforms, but there are a few expenses like the school bag that could cost up to ¥60,000. (Jeremy is so lucky, Okaasan already got him one!). Generally, at the beginning of the school year, there are a few costs that I am not sure about yet until I get the full list once I enroll him.

Elementary school backpack, known as randoseru in Japanese.

Elementary school backpack, known as randoseru in Japanese.

So yeah, I need about ¥800,000 to move to Tokyo.

Life as a single parent working full time in Tokyo with a first grader will be challenging, but I bet there will be some interesting moments too and I can’t wait to blog about the experience.

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13 Responses to How Much Does it Cost to Move to Tokyo?

  1. bndeda says:

    Wow! ¥800,000! One has to keep reminding themselves not to compare costs with the costs back home. It just seems soooo expensive!! Here in Korea, we have to pay quite a sum for key money. For my two-roomed apartment (what we call back home one bedroomed) I was asked for $10,000 key money and negotiated it to $8,000. There are people who pay up to $200,000 depending on the size of the apartment! But the rule is the higher the key money, the lower the rent. So those people who pay very high key money pay very low rent. But still, I can’t imagine spending $ 200,000 on key money and then getting the same $200,000 back months or years later, with zero interest!!

    And which school bag is this that costs up to ¥60,000??? Was that a typo? Maybe you forgot a decimal point somewhere? Lol! I can’t wrap my brain around that!

    Anyway, wishing you all the best as you transition and I can’t wait to visit!!


    • SK says:

      The 800,000 yen is everything including the apartment, the basic furnishing, and living costs for a month. That makes it cheaper to move in than Korea! But you are saying that you get it back? In Japan, you don’t get back the key money, in my case about $1,000. You might get back the deposit after cleaning costs are deducted. $8,000 for key money, wow! Thanks and come visit soon. The Olympics are almost here as well.


  2. Trix says:

    60,000 YEN FOR A BAG? A BACK PACK?


    • SK says:

      Yes, the bag is 60K but the kids use it for the entire period of 6 years and it comes with a warranty that lasts that long. If a strap is loose, the shop will fix it free of charge and give you an interim bag to use in the meantime. It is ridiculous. It is actually a government directive to use this kind of bag for the kids so they don’t get overloaded with extra books. Here is a link to read more about it

      You can get it second hand of course, or buy cheaper knock off versions, but the original one made of leather is around 60K. Welcome to Japan!


  3. I love seeing Japan through your eyes. Thanks for sharing.



    Good info!


  5. Sheila nadida says:

    That’s a clear picture of life in Japan. Quite interesting read. I wish you all the best as you plan to move and new adventures in Tokyo


  6. teresia wangeci says:

    Weuhh!You are such an adult!But then again…do we have a choice in this adulting thing?Loving this series-moving to Tokyo.I am currently envying Jeremy’s childhood.🤣


    • SK says:

      I would say that 30 right there is the point where one can no longer cling to the semi-adult 20s; at 30 middle age has you in its radar. So we in our 30s have to accept that we’ve crossed over into adulthood, no going back!


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