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Surprisingly Expensive Things in Japan

Is Japan really as expensive as many people believe?

By 1 min read 18

Japan goes through phases of being reasonably priced and incredibly expensive. In an earlier podcast, we talked about the cost of living in Tokyo. Rent, taxes, and insurance can suck your money away in a heartbeat. But what I think makes living in Tokyo expensive is those every day, small things that seem to cost more than they should.

I think fruit is expensive here… but quality meats are reasonably priced.
I think anime figurines are expensive here… but manga books are super-cheap.
I think movie tickets are expensive here… but renting a film isn’t too bad.


I’ve only lived in three countries, so my sample set of “normal prices” is rather skewed. What about you? What kinds of things do you find surprisingly expensive in Japan?

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  • Emily_7 says:

    I would really appreciate if you provided more information, ideas, background, or examples in your articles. You choose interesting topics, and then end them abruptly without saying much that’s interesting about them. Instead of jumping right to asking what people think, it would make for more engaging reading if you did some research.

    • Simone says:

      I could not agree more. I am heading to Japan in a month and was hoping to use this list to figure out what kinds of gifts to bring. Wish there was more specific information or even a list.

  • Compared to prices of things that I usually buy in NYC, Tokyo is only more expensive when it comes to buying fruit and perhaps juice boxes. A lot of what I get in NY is Japanese – either from there or influenced by Japan – so I sure do miss those Lawson 100 bottles of tea, konbini snacks and Don Quihote supermarkets. But what makes Japan more expensive for me is that I want to eat/drink pretty much everything…

    Finding budget accommodations is certainly cheaper and less foreboding in Tokyo, though those strict check-in and early check-out times are a drag.

    NY’s public transit fares are going up in a couple of weeks, so Tokyo’s cheaper there too…even when the greenback bought only ~77円, most desired routes were still lower in cost or on par with the MTA.


  • Ding says:

    Strawberries. Coming from America where produce is cheaper than cheap, I was very surprised at what a lot of the produce cost in Japan. Logistically, I understand why this is the case, but it still came as a shock when I saw a box of strawberries going to 2,100 yen.

  • Jesse Voutour says:

    The items I found quite expensive compared to the places I have been were; coffee (especially at a coffee shop), local phone calls (NTT charges by the minute where most other countries have a low flat rate cost), cheese (even the locally made types), rice, beer (over double the cost),and pizza (double to triple the cost in Canada). Beer and Pizza are like staples here in Canada.

    Then of course there are other imported goods which tend to be much more expensive than what I’m used to, like; gasoline, pork, corn, and furniture. Still, there are many reasonably priced products in Japan. It’s like anywhere else, research and budget yourself and you’ll be okay.

  • maulinator says:

    Japanese fruits and vegetables go through a mroe rigorous screening process before making it to the grocery store than in the US. Dented or misshapen produce is considered unsellable in Japan, so farmers and middlemen take extra care in producing and handling fruit and vegetables. One example is the 10,000 yen mangoes from Yamaguchi. The magnoes are individually wrapped so that they do not hit the ground and get wounded whent hey ripen. The extra care is a factor in the higher prices.
    Real food is for rich people.
    The poor can eat processed food (McD’s and stuff). Processed food in Japan is about the same as the US. You do find deals too You definitely get more fries in the little fry bags in Japanese McD’s than the US coutnerparts. I find that candy in Jpaan is cheaper thanin the US.
    Whereas US farmers are more about the overall output, the Japanese farmers are more about each individual piece of fruit. It is a different pihlosophy in manufacturing I think. And results in such a discrepancy in prices.
    Cigarettes in Japan are cheap! Due to less tax than the US. And more importantly CUban cigars are cheaper in Japan than in the US (where they are illegal and cost upwards of $100 for a regular Monte Crsito #2 and Cohiba Esplendidos- forget about it!!!!!). Rare scotch and some French wines are cheaper in Japan.
    Anime figures are more expensive in Japan as you are paying for an actual licensed product. You can buy the knock off on YJ (usually from China) if you want but you are only encouraging the pirates and counterfeiters. The quality on ocassion is also a bit lower.
    Al utilities are more expensive in Japan. Water, gas, electricity, cable, internet are more expensive than in the US. However, the internet access in Japan is far superior/faster than most of the US.
    Most luxury good are more expensive In Japan than in the US, and NY has a better selection.
    What is weird is that digital downloads are more expensive in Japan than in the US. The whole internet thing is supposed to reduce thse cost discrepancies, but Japan is always more expensive and has less selection than in the US. Outside of licensing, there should be no other reason for this.
    Golf is super expensive in Japan, for obivous reasons.
    But who even rents films anymore????? Really?????

  • ingrid says:

    Maybe expensive, but the taste of their vegetables and fruit are good, very good. Ahhh
    All fresh

  • Kaya says:

    This makes me wanny cry ;'( As a Frutarian is it hard to live in Japan then? Anyone knows where I can buy cheap fruits in Japan?

  • Monty Graves says:

    A friend of mine owns a medium/large size grocery market in Fukuoka-shi. I enjoy browsing the isles for oddities and comparing things to my home here in Oklahoma. One day I was looking at the produce and was surprised to find okra. But it was, to me, very expensive. There was a package of five pods that were about 13cm in length. Approximately ¥350. Here I can buy an entire grocery bag full of okra for that amount! Shocking!

  • Russ Schaeffler says:

    I think Toronto is expensive at least more than outside the Tokyo area.

  • Caitlin Self says:

    Coming from San Diego, I also think fruit is rather expensive! Though I agree with others who have said the quality of the fruit is good. I might have to pay 93 yen for one apple, but it will be gigantic and delicious. They have decent sales if you shop at the right time though, so I try to stock up when I can!

    Other things that are expensive: tomatoes, avocados, mixed salad greens, whole wheat flour, chickpeas & other beans (normally found at specialty stores), whole wheat pasta, BUTTER (maybe because of the butter shortage), and cheese. (OH and rice…definitely pricier here, but the quality is better too.)

    As for meat, I also think it is sort of cheap, which makes me wonder about its quality. It is realllly fatty (&marbled), but being a health-nutty San Diegan, I wonder if it is good fat (grass-fed) or bad fat (corn-fed, soy-fed, etc.)…probably industrialized bad fat. On the flip side, salmon is ALWAYS priced well! But in my lazier moments, I miss frozen tilapia fillets.

    Other things that are cheap: greek yogurt, milk, soba noodles, tea, cabbage, sesame oil, healthy-ish prepared snacks(onigiri, etc.)/bento boxes…but that’s about it?

    There are random things that are high quality, but reasonably priced, like pens, notebooks, and stationery. Gotta love the 100 yen shops for that!!

    • noob168 says:

      Are 100 yen shops really still 100 yen? Because in USD that would be really cheap now…

      • noob168 says:

        Sounds like they’re more like dollar and up stores unlike 99 cents only and dollar tree in the US.

        There’s a lot of Daisos now in LA area most items are $1.50.

      • Caitlin Self says:

        Even though they’re called 100 yen shops, they do have varying prices. The 100 Yen Lawson’s near me has prices from 50 yen – 500 yen, including beer, wine, slippers, snacks, etc. It’s perfect for when you need to buy a dinner bowl, notebook, snack, or even super cheap-o wine.

        Daiso is a much larger chain of 100 Yen shops, and are similar to what Theo Lubbe described. They have cheap stuff, but varying prices. I’ve never seen anything there for more than 1000 yen…but I haven’t looked at jeans and outfits he mentioned.

        *Also, tax is sometimes included (and listed below the upper price).

  • andreamiyata says:

    I agree that fruit seems expensive. In my country (U.S.A.), fruit is not usually sold piece by piece, but rather by weight or in larger bags. But, the fruit here tends to be larger, sweeter, and fresher so I don’t mind paying a bit extra.

  • Manuel says:

    I completely agree, fruits are incredible expensive here!!!

  • Daniel Diego Wildin says:

    I found hida beef, in Takayama, surprisingly expensive. But then again, it’s soooo delicious… my mouth starts watering Homer style just thinking about it.



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