Spend much time on the Internet, and you’ll meet plenty of overseas Japan fans who’re dreaming of moving to the country. It’s an understandable ambition, since Japan is, in many ways, a pretty awesome place to live.
Of course, you can’t live off awesomeness alone. You’ll still need enough money for rent, food, and various other expenses. But maybe you’re hoping to keep your expenses low by settling down not in the bright lights of Tokyo, but in the more traditional, tranquil, and slower-paced city of Kyoto. In that case, how much money would you need to earn to live a normal life as a single person?
That’s the question labor organization Kyoto Sohyo wanted to answer, and so it conducted a survey, with the help of the University of Shizuoka, polling roughly 400 men in their teens, 20s, and 30s who live alone in Kyoto. The survey’s goal was to find out how much you need to be making every month to “live normally,” and the amount they came up with was 245,785 yen, with a nearly identical figure of 242,735 yen for women who were also polled.
The survey results broke down the individual men’s living expenses as:
● Food (groceries and eating out): 44,441 yen
● Housing: 41,667 yen
● Utilities: 7,419 yen
● Furniture/home supplies: 3,836 yen
● Clothing, shoes: 5,921 yen
● Medical insurance/expenses: 1,137 yen
● Commuting/transportation/phone/Internet: 18,612 yen
● General entertainment: 27,510 yen
● Hairdressing: 3,726 yen
● Grooming supplies: 687 yen
● Miscellaneous (including party expenses and presents) : 23,434 yen
● Taxes/national pension payments: 49,595 yen
● Savings: 17,800 yen
The itemized women’s expenses were more or less the same, with a roughly 9,000-yen cheaper food expenditure being about the largest difference. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the figures represent average monthly expenses, the survey isn’t necessarily saying the average person will be buying 5,921 yen’s worth of clothing each and every month, but that overall clothing expenses throughout the year would work out to an average of that amount per month.
Taking a closer look at the general entertainment category, that number includes 4,988 yen of durable goods shopping for things such as TVs or audio equipment, 5,000 yen for day trips, 7,500 yen for overnight travel, and 8,000 yen of uncategorized leisure expenses, which is where the cost of movie or concert tickets would go, for example. The researchers specifically mentioned that they built the budget to include the cost of periodic visits back home to visit one’s parents, although with the assumption that said parents live in Japan.
Once it had its “normal Kyoto life” budget worked up, Kyoto Sohyo next calculated how much you’d have to earn, at an hourly rate, in order to cover the expenses the survey laid out. Working 8 hours a day and five days a week, and assuming that you take time off for New Year’s, the Obon summer holiday period, and other Japanese holidays, Kyoto Sohyo came up with an average of 150 hours worked per month, which means you’ll need to be making 1,639 yen an hour, before taxes, to follow the survey’s budget and live the life it depicts.
However, there’s one last number the researchers want people to pay attention to: 882, Kyoto’s minimum wage. A full-time, minimum-wage employee working 150 hours would make just 132,300 yen per month, and minimum wage would need to be increased more than 85 percent to give that minimum-wage worker Kyoto Sohyo’s “normal” lifestyle.
One could argue, however, that Kyoto Sohyo’s normal-life budget isn’t exactly a picture of a completely bare-bones lifestyle. 27,510 yen a month is by no means a lavish entertainment budget, but it’s not exactly peanuts either, especially considering that it includes an average of 12,500 yen per month for pleasure travel. There’s also the fact that going out to eat, one of the most common leisure activities, is covered in the food section of the budget.
So it might be more accurate to call Kyoto Sohyo’s model an enjoyable-life budget, since while it still requires you to be pretty thrifty, it’s structured with the assumption that you’re not going to be taking on extra shifts to make ends meet or living a stoic monk-like existence, but rather that you’ll be working essentially 9 to 5, and going out on your days off to do things like travel, eat in restaurants, watch movies with friends, and go shopping.
Because of that, it seems like it’d definitely be possible to survive in Kyoto on less than 245,785 yen, especially if, as a foreigner, the sightseeing destinations you’re primarily interested in seeing are within the confines of Kyoto itself, which would cut down on the Kyoto Sohyo budget’s travel expenses. That said, remember what we said earlier about Kyoto Sohyo’s numbers painting a picture of an enjoyable life. No matter how much you love Japan, your enjoyment is going to increasingly fade the closer you get to the poverty line, so if you’re daydreaming of moving to Kyoto, looking for a minimum-wage job because you don’t have the language or professional skills to find something that pays better, and just enjoying living a Kyoto life, be aware that you’re probably going to end up in the red very quickly.
Sources: Kyoto Sohyo, NHK News Web, Jin
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