The Remote Worker’s Guide To Living & Working In Tokyo
Table Of Contents
- The basics of working remotely in Tokyo
- Tokyo's best neighborhoods for remote workers
- Coworking and general wifi situation for remote workers in Tokyo
- Tokyo transportation: how to get around
- Tokyo’s foreigner and digital nomad communities
- Healthcare and well-being in Tokyo
- Leisure and entertainment in Tokyo
- Overcoming Japan's language barrier and communicating
- FAQ on remote workers living in Tokyo
~Anthony Bourdain on the first time he went to Tokyo.
Tokyo is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. The waters of culture and history run deeper here than most places, and it’s the most unapologetically authentic place I’ve ever been. There’s not a lot of, “ization” here, western or otherwise. As a global hub for culture and technology, it’s at the crosshairs of the perfect place for remote workers from around the globe.
This guide offers an in-depth look at the realities of life in Tokyo, Japan; it’s geared toward digital nomads who want to spend a couple weeks here, and to remote workers who want to make it capital-h Home.
Embracing Tokyo's Lifestyle: The Basics
How Safe Is Tokyo?
On the whole, Tokyo is one of the safest cities in the world. Even petty crime is almost non-existent here; you’re far more likely to be robbed by a fellow traveler than you are a local.
Tokyo gets all 4 seasons, none of which get too extreme. This is, in my opinion, the best of all worlds when it comes to weather.
Summers are hot and humid, with highs getting into the mid 80s. In the winter, you’re looking at daytime temps in the 50s with evening temps getting into the 30s. So yes, chilly, but it’s a far cry from a Minnesota winter.
Daily Life In Tokyo
Daily life in Tokyo blends the concepts of efficiency and being present in the moment. If your coworking or office is far from home, you’re going to be commuting, whether that’s on the train or by bike. And when you’re at work - you’re at work. But after hours - the world is your oyster. Shows, izakayas, interest clubs, bars, restaurants - it’s yours for the picking.
Cost Of Living In Tokyo
The average cost of living for a remote worker living in Tokyo is around 375,000 Yen (~$2,500 USD) per month. Sure, you could live lavishly and spend 10x that per month (just like in every other city in the world), but with some planning and a bit of self-control, you can keep costs very manageable.
Tokyo Monthly Housing Costs
- Monthly rent for a furnished 85 m2 accommodation in an expensive area is about ¥371,746, while in a normal area, it's around ¥186,312.
- A smaller 45 m2 studio in an expensive area costs around ¥191,724 per month, and in a normal area, it's approximately ¥111,457.
Tokyo Monthly Utilities Costs
- On average, monthly utilities for a single person might include ¥13,965 for electricity, ¥6,738 for gas, and ¥4,404 for water and sewage.
Tokyo Monthly Food Costs
- If you cook most of your meals at home and eat out a couple times a week at casual establishments, you can expect to spend about ¥45,000.
Tokyo Monthly Transportation Costs
- A monthly unlimited Tokyo metro ticket, which will most likely take you anywhere in the city you need to go, costs ¥17,670.
Food and Dining In Tokyo
The Best Ramen/Sushi In Tokyo
You'll rarely see Japanese eat and walk at the same time. You'll inevitably slip up - but it's a good idea to show your respect through Japan's food culture as much as you can.
Budget-Friendly Vs Upscale Restaurant Options In Tokyo
Tokyo has an insane range of restaurants for every budget - hell you can even go to 7-Eleven and eat like a king. Your typical plate at a standard sit-down restaurant will run you about ~$8 USD. You can also find ultra-luxury restaurants that come in at an eye-watering $500/plate. Take your pick!
Tokyo's Best Neighborhoods For Remote Workers
Some of the best neighborhoods for remote workers include Chuo, Shibuya, Meguro, and Shinjuku, with normal monthly rents ranging from ¥90,000 to ¥130,000. More cost-effective districts like Suginami, Itabashi, and Nerima offer rents between ¥65,000 to ¥90,000.
Housing in Tokyo: From Short Term to Long Term
Best Sites To Find Short Term Rentals In Tokyo
The best sites for short term Tokyo rentals are obviously going to be your standard AirBnb, Tripping.com, etc. Some good Tokyo-specific sites for short-term rentals include Gaijinpot and Tokyo Room Finder as well.
Best Sites To Find Long Term Rentals In Tokyo
Coworking & General Wifi Situation In Tokyo
^Photo by Airam Dato-on
What Is Wifi Like In Tokyo?
Wifi is widely available; there’s even an app called Japan Connected Free-Wifi that will connect you to over 92,000 wifi hotspots throughout the city.
With that said - Japan’s cafe culture is not really a “sit and do work there for hours” situation, so while you definitely could do that, you’re probably better off hitting a coworking spot.
Coworking Spaces and Community Hubs
Tokyo's coworking spaces are more than just workstations; they’re community hubs. Finding a coworking hub not only helps you meet other digital nomads, but it connects you to intimate city knowledge and great events.
There are literally hundreds of coworking spaces throughout Tokyo - here are 3 of our favorites.
3 Great Tokyo Coworking Spaces
- Blink Smart Workspace (~$19 USD/day pass, ~$150 USD/month pass)
- Case Shinjuku (~$14 USD/day pass, ~$185 USD/month pass)
- Ryozan Park (Sugamo) (~$135 USD/month pass)
Living And Working On Tokyo Time
A lot of remote workers with clients and jobs based in the Americas really struggle with the time difference. Tokyo is 14 hours ahead of EST and 11 hours ahead of PST. It can be done; if you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur, you’ll likely need to schedule your client calls early morning (like 4am - 7am), or late (12am - 3am) Tokyo time, depending on where your clients are based.
If you’re trying to work a 9-5 EST job in Tokyo - it’s going to be tough. If you’re a night owl it might work - but you’ll need to be working overnight every night.
Tokyo Work-Life Balance
This will obviously depend a lot on you and your job - but in general, Tokyo blends work and leisure. A lot of Tokyo's professional work culture involves going out with colleagues and having drinks after work. If this sounds good to you - you’ll do just fine here. If not, you may run into some cultural friction.
Tokyo Transportation: Getting Around
Tokyo is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, and it's how many locals choose to get around. You'll also probably be walking a lot - whether it's from point A to point B, or from metro station to your destination.
Speaking of Tokyo's metro stations...
Tokyo Public Transport Options
Navigating Tokyo's Transit System
Tokyo’s Foreigner And Digital Nomad Communities
There are plenty of sports groups in Tokyo that cater to foreigners - so pick up those cleats and get after it.
Healthcare And Well-being In Tokyo
Accessing Medical Services
Foreigners living in Tokyo, like in the rest of Japan, have access to a high-quality and comprehensive healthcare system. Here are the key features:
- National Health Insurance (NHI): All residents in Japan, including foreigners residing in Japan for more than 3 months, are required to enroll in Japan's National Health Insurance system. This system covers a wide range of medical treatments and services. Enrollees pay a monthly premium based on their income and job, and receive a health insurance card.
- Subsidized Medical Costs: Japan’s healthcare costs are heavily subsidized by taxes, and the out-of-pocket threshold for a visit is capped at 90,000 Yen/month. Which is amazing, considering that will get you maybe a water bottle in the US’s medical system.
- High-Quality Medical Care: Like everything else that Japan does, Tokyo is known for its high standard of medical care. Many doctors in Tokyo, especially in larger hospitals, can speak English.
Wellness and Fitness Options In Tokyo
Tokyo has an endless supply of gyms, yoga studios, martial arts schools - you name it.
Leisure And Entertainment In Tokyo
Whether you're looking for a new hobby or you've already got one (or several) - Tokyo has something for you. There's world-renowned powder at 7 resorts less than 3 hours away from Tokyo in the winter. There are year-round running clubs, world-class art exhibits, martial arts clubs, archery, soccer, baseball, yoga - you name it. It's one of the world's biggest cities - it quite literally has something for everybody.
If you’re into drinking and eating - welcome to Tokyo. Once that sun goes down, the city takes on a life of it’s own. To eat with the locals head to Shinjuku, which is lined with countless izakayas (Japanese pubs) frequented by salarymen and tourists alike. For the more chic bars and clubs - Roppongi is your spot.
Japan's Seasonal Events And Festivals
Tokyo is an amazing place for digital nomads and remote workers who want to immerse themselves in real, authentic Japanese culture. There are so many seasonal events and festivals, they’re hard to keep track of. Two of the most famous? Cherry Blossom Season and Kanda Matsuri.
Golden Week, which takes place at the end of April and beginning of May, is one of Japan's most anticipated holiday stretches. It’s a 7-day stretch into which 4 holidays fall, and Tokyo gets BUZZING.
It's a period when many locals travel, but in the city, you can experience special events like the Meiji Shrine Spring Grand Festival, which features traditional performances and ceremonies.
One of Tokyo's three major Shinto festivals, Kanda Matsuri, takes place in mid-May at Kanda Myojin Shrine. It's a grand procession of floats, musicians, and dancers parading through the streets, celebrating the spirit of Japan and it’s Shinto beliefs that still root the country to this day.
Overcoming Japan's Language Barrier And Communicating
The language barrier for basic life in Tokyo is definitely manageable. Things like menus, subway stations and basic signage commonly have english-language versions as well. Most restaurant employees in popular neighborhoods have the english basics down. And for more complex subjects/asks, I used Google Translate. It was super simple, you can download the dictionary to use offline - and it’s free.
Google Translate even has a “photo” version where you can translate Japanese katakana and hiragana to english.
But if you’re going to be in Tokyo long term, and you want to connect more with Japanese people, it’s time dig into Japanese and the learn the language a bit. Here’s how.
Learning Basic Japanese
Japanese Language Schools
Language schools like Coto Academy offer short-term courses, ideal for tourists or remote workers. These courses focus on conversational Japanese, providing essential language skills for daily interactions in Tokyo.
Language Exchange Meetups
Language exchange meetups like those organized by Tokyo International Friends are the perfect way for remote workers to meet new friends and learn Japanese. The environment is casual, and you’re usually kicking back a couple beers while you chat.
FAQs About Living and Working in Tokyo
Q: What is the average cost of life in Tokyo for a remote worker?
A: The average cost of living for a remote worker in Tokyo is around $2,500/month, or 375,000 Yen per month (housing = ~225,000 Yen, utilities = ~25,000 Yen, food = ~45,000 Yen, transportation = ~17,800 Yen, gym/miscellaneous/activities = ~ 45,000 Yen).
Q: What are the best areas to live in Tokyo for remote workers?
A: Chuo, Shibuya, Meguro, Shinjuku, Suginami, Itabashi, and Nerima areas are perfect places for remote workers.
Q: How do I navigate the public transportation system in Tokyo?
A: Google Maps is all you need to navigate Tokyo’s public transportation system; just keep an eye on the station exit numbers.
Q: What should I know about healthcare services in Tokyo?
A: Like everything else in Japan, Tokyo has incredibly high-quality healthcare services, and many doctors in large hospitals speak English.
Embracing Life in Tokyo as a Remote Worker
Living in Tokyo Japan as a remote worker is an adventure filled with new experiences, cultural insights, and professional growth. Whether you're here for a short stint or planning a longer stay, Tokyo offers a dynamic and enriching environment for remote workers seeking a unique blend of work and play.
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