When it comes to studying abroad, perhaps one of the most important yet dreadful things that come to mind are the costs and expenses in a foreign country. Is it expensive or affordable to study in Japan? Let’s take a closer look and decide if studying in Japan is right for you!

Cost 1: Tuition Fees

In Japan, universities are classified into three broad categories: national universities, public universities, and private universities. Out of these three, national universities have the lowest tuition fees. Regardless of the major that you choose to pursue, the tuition fees are set at a flat rate. Tuition fees for one academic year are 535,800 JPY, and enrollment fees are 282,000 JPY for first-year students. In addition, enrolled students will also have to pay several additional fees throughout their program, such as facilities and maintenance fees, alumni association fees, and education enhancement fees.

Public universities have a slightly higher cost than national universities, but the difference is meager. Meanwhile, compared to national and public higher education institutions, private universities have the highest tuition fees, which vary depending on your major. According to Japan Study Support, for courses in humanities and social studies, such as sociology, law, and economics, tuition fees at private universities are 1.4 times higher, and art courses cost 2.3 times higher. For those who aspire to become doctors or dentists, studying medicine and dentistry is the most expensive, as tuition at a private school can be 6.2 times higher than that of a program at a national or a public university.

Cost 2: Housing 

International students can choose from several types of accommodation, such as university dormitories, share houses, or private apartments by a third-party housing company. University dormitories are often chosen for international students who have just arrived in Japan and want to enjoy reliable and relatively affordable housing. For those who want to have more privacy, they can opt to move to a private apartment in the later years of their program, although this option can be more expensive.

Housing rent can vary greatly from one area to another in Japan. In Tokyo, it is generally quite more expensive than in all other areas in Japan, including other large cities such as Osaka and Nagoya.

The amount of rent in a city varies based on a couple of conditions, such as size, the year that the apartment complex was built in, type of house (whether it is a studio, called 1R, or an apartment with a separate kitchen, called 1K), walking distance to the nearest station, and the availability of facilities nearby (such as supermarkets and convenience stores). For instance, a 1K apartment in Tokyo can vary between 68,300 JPY to 123,800 JPY depending on the ward that it is located in, which indicates the distance from the city center.

Cost 3: Living Expenses

Cost 3a: Transportation

Unless you live in an on-campus dormitory, most international students commute every day to school by train or bus. Students in Japan are eligible for a discounted commuting pass, which can be 1 month, 3 months, or 6 months. Transportation costs will be cheaper if you live closer to your university. The average 1-month cost for students is estimated to be 5,000 JPY to 10,000 JPY per month.

Cost 3b: Food and Drinks

Your eating habits will also determine the food costs that are counted towards your living expenses. If you prefer not to cook and choose to enjoy the culinary scene of Japan, a typical lunch or dinner at restaurants and eateries tend to range between 800 JPY to 1,000 JPY. A coffee will cost you from 200 JPY to 600 JPY, and breakfast sets at cafes are around 400 JPY. This, of course, is if you choose to eat out. University canteens provide meals on the cheaper side, such as ramen, soba, udon noodles, curry with pork cutlet and rice, karaage (fried chicken) rice, and other Japanese staples, for as low as 300 JPY to 500 JPY.

If you are cooking yourself, you can save quite a lot of money. Average food costs per month are often around 18,000 JPY to 25,000 JPY, depending on your eating habits.

Cost 3c: Miscellaneous 

For phone contracts, you can choose from a handful of telecommunications providers in Japan, such as Docomo, SoftBank, au, and other smaller providers like Y! Mobile and LINE Mobile. Depending on your need for a data package, if you want to save money, you can choose a phone contract for as little as 2,000 JPY.

As a student, you might need to purchase textbooks, stationery, and other study materials, which will likely cost you 3,000 JPY per month.

Regarding health insurance, all international students are required to enter the National Health Insurance Scheme provided by the Japanese government, which costs about ¥2,500 per month.

Cost 4: Social Life 

There are many things to do and see in Japan, especially in Tokyo, for very little money. If you want to pursue a hobby, you can choose to join a club or a circle, in which you can learn about the Japanese tea ceremony, martial arts, dancing, and other cultural activities. Outside of the campus, you might also choose to go to museums, art galleries, and book stores for free or for discounted prices with your student ID card.


Living expenses in Japan, especially in Tokyo, can be rather high compared to other countries. However, you should not let this discourage you from pursuing your dreams of studying in Japan. With a scholarship, a part-time job in Japan, and good budgeting skills, you will be able to sustain your life in Japan with a bright future open ahead of you.


“Expenses for Studying” – Japan Study Supporthttps://www.jpss.jp/en/life/before/7/

“How Much Is the Average Rent in Tokyo in 2019?” – Gaijinpothttps://blog.gaijinpot.com/how-much-is-the-average-rent-in-tokyo-in-2019/

“Cost of Living for Foreign Students in Japan” – Japanistryhttps://www.japanistry.com/cost-of-living-for-foreign-students-in-japan/