Living in Japan

Living in Japan

1. Currency and cost of living

The Japanese currency is the yen. There are four types of bill (¥1,000, ¥2,000, ¥5,000 and ¥10,000) and six coins (¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100 and ¥500.) All the main currencies can be changed at banks that handle foreign exchange. Exchange rates are the same at all banks.

Payments are usually made in cash in Japan, although most stores accept credit cards. Checks are not commonly used. Also, there has been an increase in the number of stores accepting debit card (A system that allows people to make payments using cash cards issued by banks, post offices or other financial institutions. Accounts are settled immediately after the transaction is done.)

*Japan is known to be one of the most expensive countries in the world. The following are just some examples of typical products and services:
Coca-Cola (350 ml can) ¥141 ($1.16)
Hamburger ¥110 ($0.90)
Milk (one liter) ¥203 ($1.66)
Bread(1 kg) ¥421 ($3.45)
Rice (10 kg) ¥3,963 ($32.48)
Dry cleaning (business suit) ¥1,073 ($8.80)
Tissues (five boxes) ¥341 ($2.80)
Movie theater admission fee ¥1,800 ($14.75)
Gasoline (one liter) ¥106 ($0.87)
Delivered pizza (one pizza) ¥2,048 ($16.79)
Video rental fee (one rental) ¥354 ($2.93) (exchange rate: US$1= ¥122)
Source: Study on Retail Prices of Major Consumer Goods and Services between Japan and Abroad, the Economic Planning Agency ( 2001).

2. Cost of study
  The money to be paid to universities, junior colleges and specialized training colleges includes admission and tuition fees, fees for use of facilities and equipment, and other expenses. The following table shows the average cost for the first year for universities, junior colleges, specialized training colleges and Japanese-language institutes.

For the second year onward, students pay ap-proximately 70% of these figures, as they pay the admission fee in the first year only.

3. Living expenses

The average monthly living expenses, including school expenses of international students in Japan, shows that such living expenses are considerably higher for Tokyo than for other regional cities.

Average monthly living expenses, including school expenses, of an international student (unit: Yen)


Hokkaido ¥141 ($1.16) Tohoku 118,000
Kanto ¥203 ($1.66) Tokyo 158,000
Chubu ¥3,963 ($32.48) Kinki 136,000
Chugoku ¥341 ($2.80) Shikoku 117,000
Kyushu ¥106 ($0.87)
Average 140,000
4. Accommodation
The national government, local governments and universities run residences for international students, but since these accommodations are limited, few international students are able to benefit from them. About 73% of international students live in private accommodation. The housing situation in Japan is not very good, and it is very difficult to find accommodation, especially in the Tokyo metropolitan area. When looking for private accommodation, one can inquire at a real estate agency in the chosen area as well as at school offices. Those with the status of residence of “college student” may seek accommodation through the Center for Domestic and Foreign Students.
  According to the Center for Domestic and Foreign Students, monthly rent of accommodations is as follows. However, the accommodations handled by real estate agencies tend to be higher than this.Monthly rent for an apartment in Tokyo:

Monthly rent for an apartment in Tokyo:
  a) 6-tatami-mat (9.6-square meter) room (shared toilet):
less than ¥40,000
  b) 6-tatami-mat room with cooking facilities and toilet:
about ¥40,000
  c) 6-tatami-mat room with cooking facilities, toilet and bath:
about ¥60,000
  d) 6-tatami-mat room with cooking facilities, toilet, bath and air-conditioning:
about ¥66,000

Condominiums built of reinforced concrete are usually more expensive than an apartment. Outside the Tokyo metropolitan area rents tend to be lower, except in large cities.

Upon signing a contract to rent an apartment, Japanese customary practice requires the tenant to pay not only the rent but non-refundable key money equivalent to one to six months’ rent, called “rei-kin” (kenri-kin) in Japanese (payable to the landlord, amount differs in each district). The landlord keeps a returnable deposit equivalent to one to two months’ rent called “shiki-kin” (hosho-kin) in Japanese, as security in case the tenant should fail to pay the rent of the room. Part of shiki-kin will be paid back to the tenant when leaving the room. In addition, the tenant should pay a commission equivalent to one month rent to the realty dealer. The system of shiki-kin and rei-kin differs according to the district.

The Center for Domestic and Foreign Students publishes “Ryugakusei no tame no Shukusha Annai (Housing and Dormitories for Students from Abroad)”, and operates the 12 nationwide Student Housing Guidance Offices (Refer to Chapter 15) providing regional accommodation information. You can check the levels of shiki-kin and rei-kin at each district on the center’s web site (https://www.naigai.or.jp).

* International students housing general compensation system

This system is operated by the Center for Domestic and Foreign Students, and aims to provide for emergencies like fires and to avoid troubling the guarantor concerning moving in. There are two plans according to the compensation periods: the one-year plan (¥7,500 for insurance premium and other share of costs) and the two-year plan (¥14,000 for share of costs.)

This compensation system is available to those who have entered (with the status of residence of “college student”) or are sure to enter a university / junior college / college of technology / specialized training college’s postsecondary course (senmon gakkou) in Japan; or those who have entered (with the status of residence of “college student” or “pre-college student”) or are sure to enter a Japanese-language institute that is a sustaining member of the Association for the Promotion of Japanese Language Education (361 institutes as of March 3, 2003.)

You can sign up at your institute, but you cannot apply if that institute is not a member of this system. For further information, inquire to the Center for Domestic and Foreign Students, or the institute at which you are enrolled or are going to enroll. You can check the institutes that are members of this system at the center’s web site (https://www.naigai.or.jp/insurance/ryudata/Anshin2.htm).

5. Guarantor

A guarantor or contact person is often required when submitting an application for admission to a higher educational institution such as a Japanese-language institute, specialized training college, university, etc. The reasons are various, such as to provide a financial guarantee for the student’s academic expenses or to overcome obstacles concerning any legal procedures on the status of residence after gaining admission.

As for the documents to be submitted, while some schools require only a letter of guarantee and written pledge, others ask for the guarantor’s residence certificate and certificate of employment. A recent trend, however, sees an increasing number of schools only asking for a contact person rather than a guarantor or, as for Japanese students, only asking for a guarantor at the time of admission. Inquire directly to the school you wish to apply to for details.

A guarantor is required when seeking accommodation and part-time work. A guarantor not only provides a financial guarantee but is morally responsible. Therefore, the student should build a reliable relationship and take care not to get his or her guarantor into trouble.

6. Part-time Work
  An international student is allowed to have a part-time job upon receiving permission from the school attended as well as from the nearest Regional Immigration Bureau, and under the following conditions:
(1) The part-time job should not prevent the student from carrying out his/her core activities in Japan.
(2) The purpose is to earn money for tuition fees and other necessary expenses of study in Japan.
(3) Employment should not be undertaken at service establishments that operate entertainment and amusement businesses or sex-related businesses; or business that erodes moral values of students.
(4) The number of working hours is as shown in the table above.
Type of student Maximum working hours Status of residence
a. International students who study at universities or similar educational institutes
b. International students who study at colleges of technology or postsecondary courses of special- ized training colleges
Within 28 hours per week (up to 8 hours per day during long school vacation periods) College student
Research students
(kenkyu-sei) who mainly
audit classes or are auditors
Within 14 hours per week (up to 8 hours per day during long school vacation periods)
Students in Japanese- language institutes (shugaku-sei) Within 4 hours a day Pre-college student
  The most common part-time jobs available to international students are restaurant work, followed by language teaching, cleaning, sales, etc.
The main points to consider when deciding on a part-time job are as follows:

(1) The work does not interfere with studies
(For example, late-night work will affect a student’s ability to concentrate in nexts day classes.)
(2) Methods of payment
(taxes; payment on a daily, weekly or monthly basis; payment in cash or through the bank; etc.)
(3) Safety (Is there any danger of accidents? What about insurance if an accident occurs?)
The most important point for the student is to take care of his or her health and not allow the work to interfere with studies.
The welfare sections of universities and the Center for Domestic and Foreign Students provide information on part-time work that is available to students with the status of residence as “college student.” In addition, public “Hello Work” employment offices provide information about part-time work for international students with a “pre-college student” status.

* the Center for Domestic and Foreign Students https://www.naigai.or.jp/infojob/Rindex.htm
* Hello Work https://www.mhlw.go.jp/kyujin/hwmap.html

7. Expenses for medical treatment
  The law stipulates that international students staying in Japan for a year or longer should enroll in the National Health Insurance system. Subscribers to the National Health Insurance system have to pay only 20% to 30% of medical expenses for any treatment covered by the insurance. Expenses for medical treatment not covered by the insurance must be paid in full. Enrollment procedures are carried out at the local ward or municipal office, and payments are made monthly. The premium varies by area, and students without a source of income while in Japan usually pay a reduced premium.

The AIEJ International Student Medical Expenses Reimbursement Program offers an additional refund (maximum 80%) of part of the medical expenses incurred (excluding expenses for medical treatment not covered by the National Health Insurance system). Accordingly, using the National Health Insurance system and AIEJ’s reimbursement program, an international student will only have to pay a minimum of 6% of a medical bill for any treatment covered by the insurance.

Should a student have to see a doctor as an outpatient, the charge for prescribed medicine will be covered by AIEJ’s International Student Medical Fee Reimbursement.

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