Mar 8, 2018
We’ve lived in Niigata now for the better part of a year, and we've enjoyed the tree change that countryside life has brought us. If you might be moving to this neck of the woods for work, study, or family, it’s likely that you’re wondering what to expect - particularly when it comes to managing your finances. Here’s a bit of an observation of our expenses so that you can try and plan ahead if you’re headed this way.
Rents are much cheaper
Granted, we do live in the countryside right now, so it's not really a fair comparison to a city location - but our rent out here is incredibly reasonable. We currently pay 58,000 yen a month for a 6DK. We are about a 5 minute bike ride/10-15 minute walk to our local train station which also has Shinkansen services that go to Tokyo and Niigata City, which means we don’t feel cut off at all despite our quieter pace of life right now. We are also about the same distance to supermarkets, convenience stores, post offices and more. Because of this, I ride or walk whenever the weather is clear and this helps to limit expenses too.
Your electricity and gas bills are likely to be eye watering
You know the saying “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”? Well, we were wondering why our rent was so cheap when we have a large and conveniently located house. I’m going to tell you, if you move to Niigata you’re going to have pretty out there heating bills if you’re not careful. I like to think that my husband and I are pretty aware of our budget and try to ensure we are only running what is necessary, but our monthly heating bills in winter are routinely more than our rent. Summers are cooler than what Tokyo suffers through, but not drastically - so you’ll still likely be running A/C and dehumidifiers like we do. Our electricity bills weren’t as bad in summer, but still fairly expensive. In the sweet spot months of spring and autumn, it might be a time to squirrel away some yen to help out the bill fund when it’s colder outside.
To car, or not to car?
We went from being a two car family back in Tokyo to being a one car family out here. Part of that was to save on costs as we went from full time income to student budgets - but also because I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the idea of driving in the snow. If you do get a vehicle, my best tip would be to ensure you have snow tires for it, and that ideally it’s got 4WD.
Food seems cheaper
We lived in Tokyo for four years, one of those which was in the heart of the city. Produce out here seems substantially cheaper - perhaps because we are out amongst the growers themselves! Plus, we have some amazing neighbors who love to share the bounty of their gardening hauls with us. There’s a farmers market nearby too (again, it’s in easy walking/cycling distance) so we tend to shop there regularly for our fruit and veggies.
After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!