How much do you need to earn every month for a 'normal' life in Kyoto? Here’s a sample budget

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

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

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- One thing NOT to do in Kyoto if you’re headed there during the vacation period

-- Japanese travelers are avoiding Kyoto as the city’s number of foreign visitors continues to grow

-- Wait, Tokyo’s Haneda Airport is home to over three dozen different Pokémon GO species?!?

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Housing and utilities combined at less than 50,000jpy? That's the cheapest I've ever seen, and I'd thought the ~78kjpy places I'd been looking at some years ago were 'inexpensive'...

Would be interesting to see what sorts of accommodation it is these folks are afforded for their money.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

It's the perfect budget for someone with no work experience or skills, and very little hope of any future.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

They forgot to add in the cost of geta wooden sandal repair. I burn through a couple of pairs of these per month.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

With good research, make sure u still have the extra savings After u spend your limits.

Never ever go for Budget Travel if u're with family on vacation. It's mostly for Solo, not even for couple i would say.

Experienced in HK.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I won't nitpick the individual categories, but yeah, to live on your own enjoyably in Kansai, I think 240,000 a month is a decent ballpark total. It can be done on less, 200,000 or so, but you'd have to have cheap tastes. You can't expect someone in their twenties to never go to the izakaya etc. That's no life at all.

For Japanese people, free or near free rent in a company dorm would help a lot.

Obviously, people could just live and home, sponge off their parents, and spent their 240,000 yen salary on themselves. Full marks to those who don't though.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@Hot BobbyToday 08:21 am JST

It's the perfect budget for someone with no work experience or skills, and very little hope of any future.

Speaking from experience?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

No, Kobe White Bar Owner - I don't have personal experience with lack of skills, education or professional experience. Japan attracts a record number of people devoid of anything except a college degree who "teach" English, and this article illustrates the exact type of money they'll be making. And quickly realizing that it doesn't go up much from the starting point. So even with increasing your J-lang abilities, if all you know how to do is "teach" English, you'll require a spouse to survive or need to stay single and scraping by.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Everyone saying it is not high enough ... not sure if there is such a big difference in Kyoto compared to Tokyo but I payed MUCH less in Tokyo even though I did travel around alot every day XD

As I mostly ate Shio Musubi and Edamame my expenses for food were very small, my ~25m² flat was only about 20.000 a month including everything ( I have to admit, that's because I knew the owner and got a special Discount usually they take 50.000 including everything there is)

Going to Movie Theaters and such is luxury which is not necessary and not everyone does this.

Even if I would stay at some other place my hotels hardly ever were more then 3.000 so no idea why they calculate 8000 plus I doubt you'd do this often when you have your flat ..

Clothing and Shoes ... hmm dunno I only bought 2 new Jeans for 3000 each and got a pair of Shoes from a friend within 6 Month, don't think it is necessary to buy new stuff for 5k every month oO

And you can not really add "savings" when you want to know what you need as this would just be a nice extra and is not mandatory.

All together I could easy survive with 50-80k less a month

(except for times I traveled a lot I hardly ever spent more then 150.000 a month)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I'm just curious, with all these "how much is enough to survive" articles out there, are people committed to a life of poverty, have well-off parents to help them, or watched Lost in Translation 500 times? It's a serious question.

I like Taipei a lot, but I wouldn't move there if I had to consider going to the movies as a luxury or my clothes allowance afforded me a pair or two of 3000yen jeans.

Is it an age issue, and these articles are geared toward those fresh out of university, because lots of people move here in their 30s and 40s, too. I can't see how they survive.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I have lived on less and survived, but thankfully those days are gone.

You can put up with it at age 20 to 25, maybe a bit longer, but how dismal would it be to be in your 40's or 50's and have to live like that?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's the perfect budget for someone with no work experience or skills, and very little hope of any future.

Speaking from experience?

You do tend to find it’s the mediocre types finding people to look down upon because they themselves are conscious of being looked down upon by the more successful.

I’m a mediocre rank-and-filer and I get this constantly at work from fellow mediocre rank-and-flilers. It’s a sad pathology.

Very boring.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Kyoto is certainly a lot cheaper than living in Shinjuku. But I want to live and work in Shinjuku. That's just me.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some areas that's significantly different from my cost of living.

● Housing : $1500

● Medical insurance/expenses: $200/month on employer insurance + $200 on copay and prescription

● Commuting/transportation/phone/Internet: $400(I pay cars in cash but) + $200 gas + $200 auto insurance

● Taxes/national pension payments : $2,500 on tax + social security.

LOL, I am paying more on taxes and social security than an average Japan person's cost of living in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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