What is really expensive for the Japanese?

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In this article, we will examine pricing of different types of products and understand what is really expensive or cheap for the Japanese population. Is the cost of living in Japan as expensive as some imagine?

Many create the widespread idea that life in Japan is expensive because of television shows showing artisanal fruits costing 200 USD. Is it right to imagine and compare with that?

Comparing prices and living costs between Japan and Brazil is a huge mistake. Japan has a totally different economy and salary, with some products expensive and cheap, with a totally different lifestyle and cost of living.

I think most should know that electronics and technological products in Japan they are much cheaper. And they should know that foods like fruits, vegetables and meats have a higher value, but not inaccessible. Are we going to make comparisons correctly?

What is expensive in Japan?

Japanese wages are around 700 to 1200 yen an hour, according to job or region. So as an average we will take around 200,000 yen a month for you to calculate the financial conditions of the Japanese.

This is around 6 thousand reais, but do not imagine that money as 6,000 reais. In this article, you will see that despite the high prices of some products, the Japanese are able to spend less than a Brazilian and their minimum wage.

Food is expensive in Japan

Fruits, vegetables and meats have a very high value compared to other countries. However, this doesn't seem to affect the minds of the Japanese so much, they don't stop consuming such things because they are expensive, since it is totally accessible to their salary. Of course they do everything to save money and spend it on more important things.

In Japan, if you want to eat meat, fruits and vegetables without spending too much, there are thousands of options that can cost even less than in Brazil. Japan is full of restaurants with the most different dishes and they are very accessible to the Japanese.

A large part of the population rarely eats at home, and on the street they have the opportunity to try most of the world's dishes and even sweets and things derived from fruits. In Japan, you only eat the best and the best, even if you don't produce.

Not to mention the industrialized products that are super cheap, the Japanese party with drinks, snacks and sweets. In Japan it is possible to go on a beef carvery with only 30 reais.

What is really expensive for the Japanese?

Taxes and insurance are expensive in Japan

One of the things that weighs the most on the Japanese salary is taxes. Despite being well used, it is quite expensive and can consume up to 30% of salary. There is no public health and other free insurance in Japan, you have to pay.

In this part of taxes we are including the amounts spent on health insurance, unemployment and retirement. That's because in Brazil we have everything for free paid with taxes, in Japan we pay separately to have these services.

When buying something in Japan, you need to pay 10% of product tax. So much so that most stores in Japan display the price with tax and without tax to customers. So remember to pay attention to the prices of things.

These insurances and taxes end up weighing on the pockets of the Japanese. But on the other hand, they are necessary, since most of these taxes are health insurance, security and non-mandatory but necessary retirement.

Highway tolls are spread all over Japan taking more money out of Japanese pockets. It is impossible to live in Japan free of taxes that are visibly everywhere. I personally think it's good, seeing how it's used.

What is really expensive for the Japanese?

Other expensive Japanese products

It is difficult to specify what is expensive or cheap here, since there is a wide range of products, especially in a capitalist country like Japan, where consumption is extremely large and diversified with countless things that you may not even know exist.

We made a short list of things that the Japanese tend to complain about when they pay, even though they are not expensive. Of course the list could go on longer. What's normal is people complaining about paying dearly for one thing, but not another.

  • Dry cleaning – (+800 yen / 20 reais);
  • Sports such as Golf, can generate expenses of up to one million yen with products and clubs;
  • Movies at the cinema cost more than 1500 yen / 45 reais;
  • Imported cars + taxes to maintain + tolls;
  • Imported wines;
  • Train tickets, mainly shinkansen (bullet train);
  • Rent in city centers or Tokyo;
  • Taxi (I think it's super expensive);
  • Accommodations and hotels, depending on the level, can easily exceed 60 USD;
  • Entrance to parks and some tourist attractions;
  • Private medical consultations;

Made in Japan products – The Japanese highly value the products that are made in Japan, this is one of the reasons why rice is expensive, since rice is produced locally there.

Custom shirts and clothing can cost more than 60 USD, mainly for anime and teams. Sometimes it is much cheaper to buy something imported or made in another country than something Made in Japan.

Just like any country, living in urban centers, tourist cities, or popular places will always be more expensive. Shopping at supermarkets instead of convenience stores also helps Japanese people save money.

During my experience in Japan I noticed that product values change dramatically from one location to another and from one brand to another. Despite this, I found life in Japan relatively cheap and fun. Especially in food!


What is cheap in Japan?

Food is relatively cheap for the japanese - As already mentioned, most Japanese eat in quality restaurants and it doesn't consume even an hour of work for them. While in Brazil there are restaurants that consume the entire day's earnings, especially if the restaurant serves food from other countries or regions.

Rent is relatively cheap – A large number of the population live on rent, rent in Japan does not consume even 30% of the minimum wage. In Brazil, rents of good houses consume more than one minimum wage. Of course it will depend on location, size, etc.

Electronics and furniture – These products can be both expensive and cheap, but most of the time you can find thousands of affordable options. Some electronics are up to 5x cheaper than in Brazil. My opinion is that the prices of electronics in japan are the same as in other countries that don't charge absurd taxes and where stores don't try to exploit their customers.


The rest of the products and services are relatively cheap for the Japanese, they may even seem expensive to us foreigners, but they don't weigh on the Japanese pocket. One of the problems of calculating or compare prices of what is expensive or cheap, will depend on the priority that the person sees in the product.

Sometimes, when something is unnecessary, it can cost just 1,000 yen that we already think is expensive. 1000 yen is like 10 BRL for a person who earns approximately 2,000 a month, do you think it is spending too much?

Is living in Japan really expensive?

In the end, Japan is not expensive if you make some life adjustments. Doing some research on the internet I came to a small conclusion that Japan is economically cheaper than countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada and even a little cheaper than the USA. It doesn't matter if the country has something more expensive than another, what matters is the population's purchasing power and the fact that other things are cheaper.

Money and consumption in Japan is very different. With a minimum wage (about 200,000 yen), for a month, I was able to have lunch only in restaurants, go to different paid tourist spots, travel to various cities and buy various junk. Spending that money made me feel like I was rich, because I did a lot of things that I would never have been able to do in Brazil.

It all depends on the person too, whether you want a super meal or buying a luxury product or car is going to be really expensive. If you don't like so much luxury, you can have a good meal for less than 500 yen. So before you complain with a full belly, keep in mind that everything in Japan or any country has relative prices, it can be either cheap or expensive.

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