If you want to live in Japan, you'll need to accept something first. Japan isn't cheap. Not by a long way. It may have culture, history, a stable economy, and a reputation as one of the most modern and innovative societies around, but what it doesn't have is tiny price tags.
But while you'll struggle to find anywhere that you save a fortune while living like royalty, some places are more affordable than others. If you want to live well without sacrificing your life savings in the process, check out these ten cheapest places to live in Japan.
Drive less than an hour from Tokyo and you'll hit on the coastal city of Kamakura. At one point, it was the political center of Japan. Those days may be gone, but it's still got a unique place in Japanese society, not least for its stunning location.
Nestled between wooded hills and packed with Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, it's easy to see what draws so many visitors to the city every year. For more long-term visitors, the city has plenty to recommend it, including affordable accommodation and a cost of living that, by Tokyo standards at least, is dazzlingly low.
If you like boats, beaches, and bargains, you're going to love the beautiful port of Chiba. Set a very convenient 30 miles away from Tokyo, the city is packed with attractions like Chiba Debra. Hoki Museum, Makuhari Messe, and the SSAWS ski resort.
Despite being within striking distance of the capital, the cost of living in Chiba is blissfully low, putting it within easy reach of people who want to enjoy the good life without robbing the bank first.
Who says big cities are always expensive? Yokohama may be one of the largest cities in Japan, but it's also pleasantly affordable. A one-bedroom studio apartment in the center shouldn't cost you much more than $1300 per month - cast your net a little wider and you shouldn't have any problems in finding somewhere in the outskirts for between $700 to $1000.
Utilities, groceries, and entertainment are all similarly affordable. Asides from affordability, Yokohama offers its residents a host of benefits, including an easy 30-minute commute into Tokyo and the kind of wining, dining, shopping, and recreation opportunities that are more than a match for the capital.
Living in Tokyo might be exciting, but it's not exactly easy on a shoestring budget. Fortunately, there are a plethora of cities in the wider Tokyo metropolitan area that offer all the advantages of the big city, but at a fraction of the cost.
Despite being just a short commute from the capital, life in Kawasaki is much easier on your wallet. Rental prices are around 50% less than in Tokyo, and the overall cost of living won't stretch your budget to breaking point.
Even leaving aside its affordability, the city still has a lot to offer, including a picturesque riverside location, a strong job market, and a very attractive clutch of shrines and museums.
If you want to enjoy Japan's rich culture, not to mention some of its finest beaches, you'd do well to set your sights on Naha on the island of Okinawa. Blessed with a stunning coastline, a diverse tropical interior, and glorious weather, it's heaven for nature lovers.
Fortunately, it's not exactly hell for those on a budget either, with a good selection of very affordable housing options and an overall cost of living that won't blow a hole in the bank.
The one thing you'll need to bear in mind is that Okinawa is tiny and about as remote as it's possible to get. Getting around Naha won't be a problem, but once you break free of the city limits, you're on your own.
According to ksemoving.com, Japan's third most populous city also ranks as one of its most affordable. Housing prices are reasonable, the cost of utilities, groceries, and other essentials are all low enough not to be a concern, and the public transportation system is both affordable and decent enough to make getting from one part of the city to the other a cheap breeze.
On top of all that, Osaka is said to be one of the most easy-going and friendly cities in the entire country.
If the thought of living like a king for less than $2000 a month appeals to you, you might want to consider Sapporo. For just a little over $700 a month, you'll be able to stretch to a very reasonable apartment in the heart of the city.
Groceries, utilities, and other essentials are all equally affordable. If all that wasn't enough to tempt you, the relaxed pace of life and annual traditions like the Hanami festival and the Sapporo Snow Festival just might.
Inside Tale ranks Kyoto as one of the best cities to live in Japan. As the cultural and religious hub of the country, it's packed to the rafters with religious places, temples, shrines, and other places of note, including Kinkaku-ji, Kamigamo Shrine, Shimogamo Shrine, Tō-ji, and Daigo-ji.
Yet despite its historical and cultural importance, Kyoto doesn't charge its residents a premium to live here. Housing options are extensive and, by and large, incredibly affordable. Groceries might be a little pricier than they are in certain other parts of the country, but the overall cost of living is still low enough to let you get by on around $1900 a month.
In 2020, questionjapan.com ranked Fukuoka as one of the five cheapest places in Japan to live. In the year since, not a lot has changed. Housing is still incredibly affordable (expect to find a very attractive city center apartment for less than $700 a month), and the cost of food, entertainment, utilities, and other essentials come in at around 25% less than you'd pay in Tokyo.
If you needed any further reason to make it your next home, the numerous parks, beaches, shrines, bars, restaurants, and booming job market should help.
1. Tsushima Island
If you're a fan of the great outdoors, you're going to love Tsushima Island. Over 80% of the island comprises of a nature reserve, packed with mountains, pristine beaches, tropical vegetation, and sublime scenery.
While big-city attractions are thin on the ground, there's still a lot of historical and cultural delights to enjoy, along with a jam-packed events schedule that includes the likes of Banshoin Temple Lantern Lighting Festival, Izuhara Port Festival, and Watazumi Shrine Traditional Festival.
The cost of living is almost unbelievably low, with around $1200 per month being more than enough to let you live in style.
You can also read:
- 20 Must See Attractions in Japan
- The 20 Best Things To Do in Japan for First-Timers
- The 20 Best Places to Live in Japan
- The Traveler’s Guide to HIking in Nagoya, Japan
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson