Hello world! Here’s the thing. I moved from Vancouver, Canada, to Tokyo, Japan. In Canada, I used to make more money, yet my quality of life is somehow better
across the Pacific ocean. This is largely in part due to the cost of living
being cheaper for my family. How could this be, in one of the most
expensive cities in the world Well the first thing you need to know about the cost of living reports about Tokyo you see touted in the news, is that it was probably from the likes
of the Mercer Report, or the Economist Intelligence Unit, which I’ll quote “The survey itself is a purpose-built Internet tool designed to help human resources
and finance managers calculate cost-of-living allowances and
build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers.” In other words, those reports are meant for
high-flying business people, with the expectation that they can live
their same New York lifestyle in any one of the comparison cities. The report is pegged to the US dollar and it’s for a basket of goods that you would never buy if you lived like a local. What this means is that while a currency of a country
might go up and down, making it cheaper or more expensive
in any given reporting year, if you’re a local, this would have way
less of an effect on you. Currency fluctuations are a big reason why Tokyo was not even in the top 10 one year, then the most expensive city the next. So what is the reality for the average Japanese family? Is it expensive living in Japan, living in Tokyo? So, I went to the statistical agencies of both
Canada and Japan, and boy, did I have fun with charts. If you love stats, get ready for an action packed video! I just love scrolling through them. So much data! Haha, I’m messing with all of you. I did in fact look at all these charts, but I realized that in the end, there were a few major differences
that were the most important to point out. In general, housing in major Japanese cities
is cheaper than in Canada, especially if you consider homes within a 30-60
minute commuting distance to the core and the number of people living in the cities. But why? A couple important factors are
housing sizes and zoning. Japanese homes are smaller, so they cost less. The average new Japanese home is about
1,000 square feet, or about 100 square metres, whereas it’s about double that at 2,000 square feet,
or 200 square metres, in Canada. It’s not only the overall size of housing though, it’s the available configurations. In Japan, you can get housing as small as 10 square metres, which is roughly 100 square feet, up to really, any size you want. This means that people are more able
to sacrifice the size of their living space in order to get closer to where they want to be. This also makes it so that you don’t need
to get roommates or tenants in order to afford a particular space. This variety in housing sizes is largely aided
by zoning laws, which are less restrictive in Japan. Zoning, if you’re not all into urban planning, is the set of rules that say what kind of buildings can be built in certain zones, and what they can be used for. Japanese zoning laws are mostly controlled
at the national level, and allows for homes to be built almost anywhere on practically any size or shape of land. This permits the housing market to self-solve and build the types of buildings that fit the demands of any particular area. So all told, for a budget between
$1,000 and $2,000 Canadian a month, a family can either afford to buy or rent an apartment or stand alone home within a 30-60 minutes commute
of the downtown core of Tokyo. Oh, right, silly me, using Canadian figures. In the default global currency, the U.S. dollar, this is roughly between $750 and $1,500 a month. Another part of the housing equation is utilities, like energy, water, and gas. While Japan is much more expensive than in Canada, Japanese use less in all of these categories, meaning the end amount of money spent
isn’t much different. So the great thing about living in the Tokyo area, is you don’t need to own a car. The public transportation system is such that it’ll probably be easier to take a train to work. Also, most employers will pay
your transportation fees. But what about shopping? Wouldn’t a car be good for that? Most of the things you need, from grocery stores, to household goods, to doctors, are within walking or biking distance. On top of that, getting things delivered
is generally free or very affordable. And delivery is so extensive, that unless you’re shopping for something specialized, if you really wanted to, you don’t have to leave the house for many things. For example, I used to love to go to the giant
electronic store Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara. It’s many, many floors or electronic goodness, But when you can get free, same day delivery, it’s actually more expensive and time consuming
to leave the house. So I hardly go any more. So with company subsidized public transit
and cheap deliveries, the Japanese person’s budget for transportation is significantly less than the Canadian person’s. Now in some rural places,
owning a car would be a necessity, but then housing would be much more affordable, and in some cases, it’s near free. The downside to Japan’s public transportation is that it’s pricey. You get good quality, but you pay for it. For example, if I want to travel
to the other side of town and back, I’d be looking to spend about $10 to $15 US dollars. And if you add some family members to that equation, getting somewhere can easily be more expensive
than a restaurant meal. Even though a car is not a necessity
for most living in Tokyo, about half of all households own a vehicle, but it’s generally more of a luxury than a necessity. Elementary school in Japan starts at grade 1, so when children are 6 years old. Children younger than that fall under
the daycare or preschool system. In Vancouver, I was regularly paying about
$800 US dollars a month. And this was even for unlicensed facilities
run out of people’s homes. In Edogawa, on the Eastern edge of Tokyo, the maximum amount for a licensed daycare for 0 to 2 year olds is $500 US dollars a month. This fees drop as income does, all the way to zero. More importantly, past 2 years old, that price more than halves, to $200 USD a month. And if you have multiple kids under elementary school age, your second kid’s price will be dropped in half. And even, even more amazingly there’s a have two get the rest free policy. All additional kids enrolled are
completely paid for by the government. In general, I would say the quality of care was excellent. I think we did luck out with our teacher, who remained with my son’s class
for the entire 3 years he attended. But again, since these are publicly regulated facilities, not home-based businesses, I think the quality of care is much more consistent
that what I found in Vancouver, where it can be a huge struggle
to get anyone to take care for your child, let alone get a licensed facility. The Japanese facilities also have a school nurse and come with an in-house food program, where food is made fresh on the daily. Field trips were common, there was a good outdoor space to play, and little walks to local parks were frequent. The big downside to childcare programs like this in Japan is the availability of space. Whether your kids can get in or not kind of depends on the need. The more need you have, the more points you have, and the more likely you are to get into a space. Where we were located, there wasn’t a problem getting
into a privately run but publicly regulated daycare. However, in certain wards of the city, some people have no option but to go
to unlicensed facilities, which cost more like $1,000 USD a month. If you can get in, it’s great, and affordable. If not, those childcare costs can add up. The next thing I’ll talk about isn’t a major cost difference, but since the way it’s done is a bit different than Canada, and I know quite different than the United States, I thought it’d be good to talk about health care. Japan has universal health care coverage, with all residents required to get health insurance. Although I have read about 10% of people that
should get insurance don’t. But that’s for a different video. If you work as an employee, then your employer will split your
monthly premium with you. In effect, you’ll pay about 5-6% of your income for the health insurance portion, but double that if you’re self-employed like me. Okay, I was going to do motion graphics for the rest of this health care costs explanation, but I realized it’d be no better than me just talking to the camera. Anyway, paying the monthly insurance premium is one thing but you still have to pay every single time
you visit the doctor, and you have to pay 30%. Gasp! 30%! Yeah, well, the cost is actually not that bad. For example, I visited our local doctor and it cost $5 to renew the prescription. And I don’t think I’ve ever paid much more than $20 for any of my visits. For the insurance premiums, and the co-payments, there are monthly and annual limits, as well as provisions for the elderly, for people with disabilities, for children, for people on low income, so in effect, if you’re poor, you can still get coverage and you never really have to worry about going
bankrupt due to medical bills. While I do have to pay to visit the doctor in Japan, something that is free in Canada, in Canada you still have to pay
a lot of other medical expenses such as prescriptions, dental, and vision. Under Japan’s national public health insurance scheme, the government controls the prices of all procedures performed and medications prescribed by hospitals and clinics. The result is that prescriptions, dental, and vision are all significantly cheaper in Japan than in Canada. Plus my kids are completely covered for all that stuff. If you total up all the costs, I don’t think there’s much of a difference between health care in Canada and Japan, if you’re a regular employee. However, I’m self-employed, so I do think it costs my family maybe a couple hundred dollars a month extra Overall, I’d say the cost of living for my family is less in Japan than it is in Canada, with the big cost differences being childcare, transportation, and housing. If you look at the charts of what
Canadians spend their money on, housing and transportation are the two
biggest budget line items. I should more of a habit of saying this, but links to the sources can be found in the description. For nearly every single topic I covered, I have a video that kind of shows the experience. So I’ve made a playlist which I’ll link to in the description that shows you kind of the everyday living in Japan. As always, thanks to all those that support me on Patreon and I’ll be making a more detailed talk-to-camera video about a Japanese family’s income and expenses on the X channel. Wait, why didn’t I just say vlog? Thanks for watching, see you next time, bye! What’s the cost of living like where you’re from?