Japan is a country full of interesting culture, great food, cool people—and lots and lots of fees. Some expenses, such as apartment “key” or “gift” money (礼金, reikin), are well-known, but there are many others that will creep up on unsuspecting new foreign residents to Japan.
Prepare yourself by reading about a few of the lesser-known fees below—and, importantly, some of the ways you can reduce them.
National Pension (国民年金保険料, kokumin nenkin hokenryo)
Most know about the Japanese health insurance system, but many people moving to Japan don’t realize that paying for the national pension is an obligation as well. As much of a hassle as it is, if the national health insurance and national pension aren’t automatically taken from your paycheck, you’ll have to sign up at city hall.
The good news is that many countries have a pension exchange treaty with Japan, which means that you might see the money again even if you don’t live in Japan until retirement. You can also choose to withdraw a lump-sum upon leaving Japan if you prefer.
Your Japanese pension payment will typically cost ¥16,410/month (for 2019 to 2020). One of the best ways to cut down on pension payments is to pay in advance via bank transfer (you’ll make savings of ¥15,760 if paying two years at once, which would be ¥379,640 in total).
If you are having financial troubles, you can also request a delay or reduction in payment, depending on your situation.
- Understanding the Japanese Pension System Part 1/3: What Is It and How Does It Work?
- Understanding the Japanese Pension System Part 2/3: What Will I Pay?
- Understanding the Japanese Pension System Part 3/3: How Do I Collect?
NHK: Japan Broadcast Corporation (NHK受信料, NHK jushinryo)
Paying the national television station fee is another obligation that you might not know about until the NHK fee collector comes to your door. Like many Japanese and non-Japanese residents, you can argue that you don’t watch NHK, but if you have television equipment that is capable of receiving NHK, then you are technically supposed to pay the fee.
The NHK fee will cost ¥2,520/every 2 months. There are a few ways you can reduce the NHK fee. The NHK fee is most expensive for those with satellite television (¥4,460/every two months). You can bring down your NHK fee by only receiving terrestrial broadcasting (¥2,520/every 2 months).
Also, be sure to pay by bank or credit card transfer to get the lowest rate (¥2,520/every 2 months rather than ¥2,620/every 2 months).
One other trick is to pay your NHK fee upfront for one year (¥13,990/1 year, saving ¥1,130).
The last alternative is to simply refuse to pay the fee. Though it is a legal obligation, NHK cannot force you to pay and there are unlikely to be repercussions if you don’t foot the bill.
You probably realize that extending your period of stay will cost a fee (currently ¥4000) for a renewed visa. In addition to this fee, you may have to pay from ¥300 to ¥500 per copy to receive official documents, such as your certificate of residence (住民票, juminhyo) and tax certificate (税証明書, zeishomeisho).
The main ways to reduce these fees is to avoid procedures that require the fees in the first place. Of course, this suggestion isn’t always feasible, so your best bet is probably to reduce incidental fees by going in person to get the documents (and avoid paying for the self-addressed envelope) and going to offices close to you (to reduce train fare).
Apartment Renting Fees
The deposit (敷金, shikikin) and gift money (礼金, reikin) given to the apartment owner upon moving in are well-known, but did you know that another half dozen fees exist?
To move into your apartment you will be hit with:
- agency fee for the realtor (仲介手数料, chukai tesuryo)
- damage insurance (損害保険料, sonpo hokenryo)
- key exchange fee (鍵交換代, kagi kokandai)
- guarantor company fee (保証会社利用料, hosho gaisha riyoryo)
- cleaning fee (クリーニング費用, kuriningu hiyo)
The renewal fee, 更新料, koshin ryo, is where you will be charged for renewing your contract. It’s usually one or two months’ worth of rent paid after two years renting.
Whether you’ll have to pay a 100 percent of these fees depends on the apartment owner and your ability to bargain in Japanese, but preparing a decent amount of money for moving in is a good idea.
Ways to reduce your apartment fees? Naturally, one of the best is to reduce these upfront fees is by choosing a place that doesn’t charge them in the first place (礼金なし, no key money, 敷金なし, no deposit).
Guesthouses and student dormitories don’t tend to charge as many fees, but it’s also worth checking the GaijinPot Housing Service for apartments that accept foreigners and don’t require a guarantor, key money or deposit money.
Neighborhood Association Fee (町内会費, chonaikaihi)
町内会 (chonaikai) also known as 自治会 (jichikai), are Japanese local communities of citizens or a form of neighborhood association usually divided by city districts. They usually organize cultural and educational activities, like your local summer festival 夏祭り (natsu matsuri), ensure a clean and safe neighborhood by organizing neighborhood patrols, and provide information and assistance in case of a natural disaster.
They collect a mandatory membership fee to anyone who’s new to the neighborhood. They are generally geared towards house/building owners or families with children but they can come to your rented apartment and collect a fee just based on the fact that you are living in their district.
The fee depends on your city but it’s usually from ¥200 to ¥1000 per month (paid annually).
Legally, you cannot be forced to pay this fee if you are considered a temporary resident. You can ask your landlord if this fee is not already included in your management fee, or ask other tenants if they also pay for it. It is however considered as a support fee to your neighborhood so if you can show it some love!
This list is far from exhaustive but hopefully can give you a head start on saving for coming to Japan.
Have you been hit with any unexpected fees in Japan? Share your experience in the comments so other people don’t get caught out!