To help you get the most out of your rent money, let’s go through the average cost for different neighborhoods in Tokyo and some tips for finding the right place to live—for the right price.
- Is Tokyo expensive?
- Average cost by ward
- Which ward should I live in?
- Can I afford central Tokyo?
- Central Tokyo’s border wards are a good middle ground
- What are the cheapest wards in Tokyo?
- Outside the 23 wards
Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities in the world. It made the number 10 spot on Deutsche Bank’s annual Mapping the World’s Prices report in 2019 and is the third most expensive city for expatriates on Mercer’s 2020 Cost of Living Survey.
However, you’ll often hear from people that Tokyo isn’t “that expensive,” which isn’t false, depending on your location and lifestyle. Indeed, the Deutsche Bank report lists the average price for a “typical” Tokyo two-bedroom apartment as US$1,903 (¥203,730).
Following the 30 percent rule, you would need to earn around ¥679,000 per month to afford that “typical apartment” and still live comfortably. Most landlords won’t even rent to you unless you can prove you make three times the cost of rent per month.
Prices drop once apartments get more than ten minutes away from a station.
Most readers are not making that kind of bank. The average salary of someone in their 20s in Tokyo is around ¥280,000 per month.
Plus, Tokyo is a big city. Within it are 23 wards, each large enough to be their own city, 39 smaller municipalities and even a couple of islands. Rent differs greatly between them all. You’ll find that the realistic price of a”typical” apartment is much lower. Especially if you use GaijinPot Housing Service, which offers credit card payments and no guarantor required.
Here is a quick look at the average price for each ward according to Japan’s National Association of Real Estate Transaction Associations.
Note: rent prices are indicated at a per month rate, before utilities and other maintenance costs.
|Tokyo Wards||Average cost per month by Japanese apartment size|
Which do you prioritize more: budget, space or commute time?
While many of us would prefer a large home to stretch out our legs, some of us would willingly give it up for a 30-minute commute to work even if it costs more than 30 percent of our salary.
If you work in the outer wards, such as Nerima-ku (ward), you can find a lovely home within the ward without spending more than 25 percent of your salary, and you won’t have to commute very far. Then you can travel to the more exciting wards such as Shibuya on your days off.
You may have to spend more than 30 percent of your salary for as little as 25 square meters.
If you want to live and work in the more expensive wards, you may have to spend more than 30 percent of your salary for as little as 25 square meters, depending on the apartment’s age and distance from the nearest station. But if a quick and stress-free commute is more important to you, plus easy access to downtown Tokyo, go for it.
Keep in mind that living further away from a train station will also save you money. Prices drop once apartments get more than 10 minutes away from a station.
Unsurprisingly, central Tokyo has the highest rent prices. Like any other city: if you want to live downtown, you have to pay a premium. It is, after all, the heart of Japanese business, politics and bureaucracy.
Tokyo’s central wards are:
Minato-ku, home to most big-name companies, embassies as well as foreigner-favorite Roponngi, is the most expensive place to live in Tokyo. Chiyoda-ku, where you’ll find the Imperial Palace, is a close second. And if you dream of living close to shopping and entertainment meccas like Shibuya and Ginza in Chuo-ku, you better be prepared to lay down a lot of cash.
Meguro-ku lies right alongside Shibuya-ku. Don’t get us wrong, it is still pretty expensive. It has slowly matured into one of Tokyo’s most cultured and trendy wards. Search along the popular Toyoko train line, and you’ll start finding 1DK apartments for around ¥90,000 that will offer you convenient access to Shibuya-ku and Minato-ku through the Hibiya line.
The Oimachi line is another excellent line that runs through Shinagawa-ku and Meguro-ku with convenient transfer to greater Tokyo. Still, it’s close enough to affordable Ota-ku and Setagaya-ku, where the average price of a 1DK is around ¥72,000.
- If your goal is Shinjuku-ku, consider neighboring Toshima-ku and crazy cheap Nakano-ku.
- If your goal is Chiyoda-ku, search around Bunkyo-ku and Taito-ku.
- If you want to live or work in Chuo-ku or the bay area, try Koto-ku and Sumida-ku.
- If Minato-ku or Shibuya-ku is your jam, try Ota-ku and Setagaya-ku.
Of course, these are options if your goal is to live close enough to central Tokyo without feeling the pressure.
Generally, the farther out you go, the cheaper the apartments will be. The eastern- and northern-most outer-lying wards are the most budget-friendly wards in Tokyo:
Spending around ¥70,000 can score you a sizeable 1LDK apartment of at least 40m. You’ll feel like an absolute king living in that kind of space compared to what you’ll find closer to central Tokyo. Moreover, they might even be modern, brand new homes. The only way you’re going to find that kind of space for anything near that price in central Tokyo is if the apartment is older than your parents. It all depends on your priorities.
You could consider living outside the 23 wards if you really want to save some money. If you choose a reliable train line and a large station, there’s not much difference in lifestyle. For example, a train to Shimbashi station from Wako City, which is just over the border in Saitama Prefecture, takes 40 minutes. It’s on both the Yurakucho and Fukutoshin subway lines. You can explore greater Tokyo’s many train lines here.
Ready to move in? Be sure to read what you need to rent an apartment in Japan. Share houses are also an increasingly popular option; with some interesting options like social apartments that offer a luxury living experience for a fraction of the cost. You can read more about finding an apartment in Japan in our Japan 101: Moving In and Moving Out section. Good luck!