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The Cost of Living By Yourself in Kobe: Just how much does it cost?

The fees can really add up when it comes to studying abroad in Japan. You’ll have tution, of course, but you’ll also want to be aware of about how much your monthly expenses will be, to. To answer this question, Kobe Study Abroad spoke with some international students who are studying abroad in Kobe about their monthly rent and food expenses. Let’s take a look at some real-life examples of an international student’s life in Kobe, divided into the categories of living, study, leisure, and more!

BE KOBE Monument in Meriken Park

1. Living
International students can live in a variety of types of housing. You may live in a dorm offered by your school, the prefecture or city, or another organization; or a rented “mansion” apartment (an apartment in a reinforced concrete building of three floors or more), an “apaato” apartment” (an apartment in a building made of wood or steel construction, with two floors or less), a share house, etc.

In general, living in an international student dorm will be the cheapest option in most cases, and a look at the data we collected indicates that international students who live in dorms in Japan pay about 35,000 yen (US$277.78) in rent. For “mansion” or “apaato” apartments, however, while the price may depend on which part of Kobe you live in, you could pay between 40,000 – 60,000 yen (US$317.46 – $476.19).

・Utility Bills
Utility bills will include your electricity, gas, and water fees. There was a wide variety of answers in the survey results we received: while some paid between 5,000 – 8,000 yen (US$39.68 – $63.49), some paid over 10,000 yen (US$79.37). If you’re trying to plan a budget for your living expenses, it seems wise to budget for about 10,000 yen (US$79.37).

◎ Tell me more!
If you’re going to live in Kobe… Student Dorms! (Part One)
If you’re going to live in Kobe… Homestay! (Part Two)
If you’re going to live in Kobe… Living By Yourself! (Part Three)

2. Eating

・Grocery Bills
Our survey results saw many responses for a months’ grocery bills in the realm of 20,000 – 30,000 yen (US$158.73 – US$238.1). So about how much should you expect to pay for individual items?

If we use some commonly-eaten foods as examples, 5 kg of rice is 2,253 yen (US$17.88), 1,000 ml of milk is 215 yen (US$1.71), 10 eggs in 235 yen (US$1.87), 1 kg of cabbage is 235 yen (US$1.87), and 100g of chicken is 131 yen (US$1.04). (Source: Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications May 2022 Retail Price Survey (Feature on Trends)

Buy your ingredients at a grocery store. There are 275 grocery stores in Kobe City, making it extremely convenient for this. If you want to buy a large amount for a lower price, we recommend shoppping at Gyomu Super. There are stores that sell imported foods as well. Take a look at this if you get homesick during your study abroad!

・Budget for Eating Out
Your eating out budget will include items like dinner with friends, and going out for drinks, etc. The budget for this will vary from person to person. When we asked students, some said they paid 3,000 – 5,000 yen (US$23.81 – $39.68) a month, and some said they paid 10,000 – 20,000 yen (US$79.37 – $158.73) a month.

Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications​ Organization conducted a survey on the amount of money people spend on eating out in Japan. A bowl of udon, frequently eaten for lunch, was about 693 yen (US $5.50), and a beef bowl was around 430 yen (US $3.41). If you’d like to splurge a little bit on dinner, nigiri sushi for one costs 1,459 yen (US $11.58), and a delivery pizza 1,983 yen (US$15.74). If you go out to a café on the weekend to take it easy, and drink a cup of coffee, it’ll cost you more or less 525 yen ($4.17). (Source: Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications May 2022 Retail Price Survey (Feature on Trends)

◎ Tell me more!
A Side of Kobe You Didn’t Know 6: Where to eat out

3. Getting Around

・Public Transit Fees
Kobe has a well-established public transporation system, so riding public transit to get around is the most convenient option. A month’s transportation fees ranged from 3,000 – 5,000 yen (US$23.81 – $39.68) at the low end, to 8,000 – 10,000 yen (US$63,49 – $79.37) at the high end. If you’re a student, you can use the school transportation certificate (tsuukin shoumeisho) you receive from your school to buy a school transport pass at the station. You’ll be charged a fixed price to ride the train between your school and the closest station to where you live, and because you can freely ride the train between those locations outside of going to school, too, you can save some money!

◎ Tell me more!
Fun in Kobe: Access & Transportation in Kobe City

A subway train headed for Sannomiya, in the center of Kobe

4. Study & Leisure

・Textbook & Study Material Expenses
In our survey, students reported spending between 2,000 – 5,000 yen (US$15.87 – $39.86) and 10,000 yen and up (US $79.37 and up) on their school books and other study materials. Consider the cost of a university textbook to be 2,000 yen (US $15.87) and up for a single book. In some cases you may be able to use books from older students, or you may be able to purchase used books.

・Entertainment Expenses
Entertainment fees include things like seeing a movie or a theater performance, buying books or clothes. The amount of money you spend on these things will vary widely from person to person. The respondents to our survey consisted mostly of those who spent around 1,000 – 5,000 yen (US$7.94 – $39.68) every month, however, there were those who spent 10,000 yen (US$79.37).

For an example of actual entertainment expenses, the entry fee for one person at a cultural facility is about 1,135 yen (US$9.01), and a single person’s use of a karaoke room is 980 yen (US$7.78). If you buy clothing, a single short-sleeved t-shirt is 1,781 yen (US$14.13), and a pair of exercise shoes is about 4,015 yen (US$31.87). (Source: Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications May 2022 Retail Price Survey (Feature on Trends)

There is also a pass available for international students in Kobe, the Happy Memory Pass KOBE, that allows you to enter cultural facilities for free. Use it to take a look around Kobe!

◎ Tell me more!
A One-Day, Two-Night Trip in Kobe
Enjoy an Autumn Full of the Arts with Museum Road: From the September Edition of KOBE PR Magazine
A Side of Kobe You Didn’t Know 5: Oji Zoo

The lively Motomachi Shopping Street

5. Other

・Cell Phone Data Fees
This mostly means your cell phone fees, or, if you’re living alone, also includes your wi-fi fees. These will cost you at least 2,000 – 4,000 yen (US$15.87 – $31.75), and as much as 7,000 yen and up (US$55.56 and up). If you use one of the large carriers for your cell phone, on average you’ll pay 8,471 yen (US$67.23) every month. Cheap SIM cards are also popular among international students, ranging between 3,000 – 4,000 yen (US$23.81 – $31.75), with the ability to cancel at any time. (Source: MMD Research Institute, December 2021 Survey on Prices and Capacity of Telecommunications Services)

・National Health Insurance
National Health Insurance is a system that helps to reduce medical fees in the event that you get hurt or sick. People who spend more than three months in Japan are required to enroll in National Health Insurance. You’ll have to pay about 2,000 – 3,000 yen (US$15.87 – $23.81) a month.

Putting all the above together, just how much does a month of study abroad in Kobe cost? According to the results of our survey, the most common answer was 100,000 yen (US$793.65) a month. Of course, there will be variability amongst individuals, but we hope this can help to give you some idea of what to expect. Kobe Study Abroad also posts the latest information in “Cost of Living in Kobe,” so please take a look!

*The exchange rates used above are those in the “Reference Foreign Exchange Rates” published by the Bank of Japan on May 20, 2022.