Ginza, shopping, night scene
Photo: Jordy Meow/Pixabay Ginza is one of Tokyo's glitziest shopping districts

Tokyo is the third most expensive city in the world to live in

According to Mercer’s 2020 Cost of Living survey, Japan’s capital is one the costliest cities for expats

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen

No matter what people have to say about the property prices in London or New York, neither of these costly cities seem to compare to the Asian capitals that continue to dominate the rankings for cost of living expenses. Multinational consulting firm Mercer’s 2020 Cost of Living Survey has determined that Tokyo comes in third for the most expensive city to live in as an expat. The city was ranked second in 2019, but was overtaken this year by Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, with Hong Kong topping the table for the second year running (to no one’s surprise). 

The survey includes over 400 cities and is designed to help companies and governments determine appropriate compensation for their expatriate workers overseas. The ranking factors in costs including housing, food, alcohol and tobacco, utilities, transportation, recreation and entertainment, clothing and other everyday expenses. All prices were measured against the US dollar and New York City, where Mercer’s headquarters are, was used as the base city for comparison.

The survey results were calculated in March, and also include an analysis of consumer buying habits in the midst of the global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Stay home protocols saw a rise in purchases of ‘comfort food’, home entertainment and cleaning supplies. Hong Kong was the most expensive city to buy snacks such as chocolate and frozen pizza, while New York was the place where people shell out the most for detergent and antiseptic spray, and Mexico City was where video games and family board games cost the most. 

There’s no doubt the cost of living in Tokyo is high, but we’re glad the city still has plenty of cheap eats.

If you’re planning on heading out in Tokyo, read our guide on how to stay safe while out and about.

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