Before starting van life in Japan, we were not entirely sure how much we would be spending each month. We did some rough calculations and came up with a budget of ¥37,500 per week or ¥150,000 per month for 2 people. We thought this would be a reasonable amount since if we were renting an apartment in a city in Japan with bills, then our monthly outgoings might come to a similar figure.
While travelling, we keep track of all our expenses using an application on our phone and it automatically calculates how much we spent every day and divides the items into different categories.
Please keep in mind that it is definitely possible to do van life in Japan cheaper than how we do it. We eat out a lot and don’t really hold back if we want to do something like visit a castle or museum.
If we wanted to make it cheaper, we could definitely cut back on a few areas such as drinking less alcohol, eating out less, doing laundry by hand, visiting less onsens and doing less activities and this would help to reduce expenses.
Personally, we feel that eating out, going to onsen and visiting local sites are part of the enjoyment of travel in Japan so that’s why we don’t mind spending money on those things!
Below, we will share how much van life in Japan really costs on a monthly basis, based on 2 people sharing.
1. Gasoline - ¥26,000
We travel slowly and sometimes spend a few nights in the same place so this reduces the amount of gasoline we need. Obviously, the more you move around, the more you will be spending on gasoline.
Some parts of Japan are quite hilly and we found that we used more gasoline on days when we were driving in mountainous areas. We can travel around 7km for each litre of gasoline in our van. We highly recommend the free application gogo.gs which will advise you of where you can find the cheapest gasoline!
2. Food Shopping - ¥29,200
This includes all the food we buy from the supermarket or convenience store and eat in the van. We usually buy a big bag of rice as it can last for many weeks and provides many cheap meals.
We also like to go to the supermarket near closing time as many items are heavily discounted and you can find some good bargains. We also like to make a lot of our meals from scratch so this also saves us money.
3. Alcohol - ¥10,800
We usually buy some beers to drink at the weekend and also keep a bottle of sake and shochu in the van. We love to try local sake in different areas we visit so this also adds to the alcohol cost.
4. Onsen - ¥9600
We usually visit onsens or sentos 3 times per week. Sentos are always cheaper than onsens so we try and go there as much as we can. In order to save money, we also use our portable shower which we fill up with hot water from our kettle. We also discovered that some beaches which are popular with surfers provide free cold showers that anyone can use.
5. Activities - ¥5200
This includes entrance fees to parks, castles and museums. We like to visit local sites so we can learn more about the area and we have found that entrance fees in Japan are generally quite cheap compared to other countries we have visited.
6. Eating Out - ¥ 25,680
We love to eat out and it is one of our favourite things to do when traveling in Japan. This cost also includes any snacks we buy from street vendors as well as eating out for lunch or dinner.
7. Pocket Wifi - ¥7628
We use a company called FUJI WIFI for our pocket wifi and it is through the network Softbank. The cost of our pocket wifi is quite high since we wanted the best one available since we both work online and need a strong internet connection.
The pocket wifi we have offers unlimited wifi and if there are any issues with the speed slowing down, the company will send you out a new device. We haven’t had any problems with the FUJI WIFI pocket wifi and would highly recommend it if anyone needs strong wifi while travelling in Japan.
If you are interested in working online, click here to check out our bog post about how to become a digital nomad.
8. Laundry - ¥4000
We usually do our laundry once per week at a coin laundry. There are many coin laundries in Japan and they are affordable to use. A wash usually costs ¥600 and then drying costs around ¥400.
The whole process takes around 90 minutes so you can just park up outside the coin laundry and wait for your clothes while they are washing and drying.
It’s tempting to pack light and not bring many clothes, but we made sure to pack around 8 outfits, underwear and socks so we only have to go to the laundry once per week.
9. Parking - ¥1200
We HATE paying for parking but sometimes it’s necessary, especially if you are in a city. We spend an average of ¥300 per week on parking fees.
Miscellaneous Costs - ¥6000
Random items which don’t fit into other categories went into this category. Examples of items inside this category include medicine, haircuts, shampoo and gas for our cooking stove.
11. Vehicle Insurance - ¥4164
We have a yearly policy that insures both of us to drive the van. We split the annual fee by 52 weeks to give us the weekly cost of insurance. The insurance we have is third party insurance.
So the total cost for 2 people living in a van is ¥32,368 per week or ¥129,472 per month.
After calculating this figure, we were very happy as it was below our estimated budget which we set before starting our trip. As I mentioned before, it’s definitely possible to cut down on many of these areas but we still want to enjoy our lives so that’s why we eat out so much and have a few drinks at the weekend.
If we compare this to living in a city in Japan and renting an apartment, we are much happier living in our van since we can spend the same money we might spend living in a city but also have the opportunity to travel at the same time.
Since releasing our YouTube video and publishing this blog post, we have had a lot of questions asking us about retirement savings. There are some extra expenses that we have each month such as pension payments, medical insurance and travel insurance that we have not included above since they do not directly relate to the cost of van life in Japan.
We hope that sharing our monthly expenses was helpful and gives you an insight into how much van life in Japan really costs!