Japan can be perceived as an enigmatic country, and with relatively small international student communities, it can be hard for people outside the country to understand what living in Japan as a student is like. Thus, extensive research about how much Japanese student life can cost you is recommended before making the moving there. By gathering as much information as possible, students will reduce the chances of having any shocking revelations about how much life in Japan will cost them after they’ve already arrived.

Cost of accommodation

After tuition fees, the biggest expense for students is without a doubt, housing. International students are presented with four options when it comes to accommodation :

1. University dormitories : this  is usually the cheapest solution for college and graduate students. Japanese university dormitories can be quite different from those found in other countries. For example, dormitories might be limited in quantity and space, and when available, they might have strict rules, such as no guest policy or strict curfews. Other dormitories are separated by sex, and do not offer single rooms. For those are not accustomed to having a roommate, this might take some adjustment. Despite this, university dormitories are usually located within the school premises and thus commuting time and overall cost is greatly reduced. Moreover, living in a university dormitory may the easiest way of making new friends.

PRICE : On average, dormitory fees vary from ¥20,000 to ¥60,000 per month, depending on the room and dormitory type.

2.  Private renting : this is the best accommodation type for students in terms of privacy, freedom and rules. In Tokyo, apartments can be smaller than in some cities. For example, in 2017, a brand new apartment was 63.24m², and an average existing apartment was 60.11m², for an average price of ¥105,000 per month. Usually when tenants move into apartments they are usually completely unfurnished, meaning that students are faced with high initial moving-in costs. Despite this, over 80% of students chose this type of accommodation in 2017.

PRICE : On average, private renting fees vary from ¥50,000 to ¥110,000 per month, depending on the apartment size and location.

3. Homestay : this  is the most efficient way for international students to learn more about the Japanese language, culture, customs and lifestyle in Japan. By applying for a homestay, students can experience ordinary life of a Japanese family, and are often invited to join various family activities that are usually difficult to be involved in as an international student. However, homestay locations can be distant from the student’s university, and thus students might be faced with a different commuting journey from their peers.

PRICE : On average, homestay fees vary from ¥80,000 to ¥100,000 per month, depending on the room and deal type.

4. Guesthouses and flat-sharing : this the most convenient way for students who want to live in a private room, without having the burden of buying furniture. Generally, there are several solutions to finding an ideal apartment or guesthouse anywhere in Tokyo. However, most shared apartments and guesthouses do not offer en-suite rooms, meaning that most students have to share toilet and kitchen facilities with a room mate or the numerous members of the guesthouse.

PRICE : On average, guesthouses and flat-sharing fees vary from ¥70,000 to ¥100,000 per month, depending on the room and deal type.

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Cost of transport

Many public transport companies offers daily commuters special passes with different deals, depending on the duration of the pass. These “Commuter Passes” can be offered as a three month, six month or yearly pass, offering up to a 20% discount when compared to the daily costs of commuting every day for these same periods of time.

Cost of food & drink

Japanese universities are well known for offering low-priced delicious meals. For example, a plate of Japanese curry can cost as little as ¥300. Most university dining halls also offer breakfast for a similar price. Thus, three meals can cost less than ¥1000 on campus. Outside of universities, restaurants offer several lunch deals, which vary from ¥500 to ¥2000, offering various lunch options. Dinner is usually pricier, as is the case in most countries. Japanese convenience stores offer an assortment of clean and easy to prepare meals with an average price range of ¥200 to ¥500. Costs drop significantly if students have the opportunity to cook. For reference, here are the prices of some basic ingredients : Rice (10kg) : around ¥2000, Bread (1kg) : around ¥400, Milk (1L) : around ¥200. On top of this, vegetables and various fruits are readily available and affordable for everyone.

Cost of phone and medical

Phone Contract : Unlike most countries, it is quite difficult to find a pay-as-you-go phone contract. However, there are plenty of monthly contract deals for around ¥2,000.

Medical Insurance : All international students are required to join up for the national health insurance program which varies in costs between ¥1,000 to ¥2,500 per month. Being covered by the Japanese National Health Insurance program ensures that when students need to visit a doctor, or go to the hospital, they will only be subjected to one third of the total cost.