Location Situation: Can an English Teacher Afford to Live in Tokyo?

Source: Gaijin Pot

In the years I have lived in Japan, I have changed from more rural (southern Chiba and Okayama) living and working locations in Japan to the urban (Tokyo and Osaka) when it comes to my teaching career.

One thing that has never changed, though, is the raging debate on precisely which locales offer the better income-to-savings potential.

While it’s undeniable that housing costs drop significantly once you venture outside of the big cities, in many cases salaries tend to drop, too. This creates a quandary for anyone hoping to save some money through their time teaching English in Japan.

In short, which is better: a higher-paying urban job with more expensive living costs or a rural one that offsets lower salaries with increased savings on rent and other items?

Average monthly rent in Japan

Statistics on the average monthly rent for apartments by prefecture across Japan show a clear gulf in costs not so much between the cities and the countryside, but between Tokyo and everywhere else.

According to stats from realestate.co.jp, the average rent for a 1K/1DK apartment (a single room apartment incorporating a small bath, shower, toilet and kitchen) was ¥78,000 per month in Tokyo, by far the highest in Japan.

In contrast, the cheapest was Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu where the average rent for this type of apartment was only ¥34,000. So if you go rural, you can save more than half your rent money.

Seems like a pretty open and shut case doesn’t it?

Crowded Yamanote line train in Tokyo.

Well, not really. You see, salaries for teaching in areas like Miyazaki are also significantly lower. A reasonable teaching job in or near Tokyo will pay something in the range of ¥270,000 to ¥290,000 a month. Even entry level jobs will pay at least ¥250,000 per month. In Miyazaki, such …continue reading