JPY200,000 is the Magic Number

JPY200,000 is the Magic Number

Some months ago, I received an interesting request from a lady in a lesser-developed Asian country, wondering if her daughter's fiance, who was living in Tokyo, could support her daughter here in Japan. A natural enough question, given that the prospective groom would be whisking their child away to Japan for a number of years. What made me sit up and take notice, however, was when she explained that he only received JPY100,000 a month from his Japanese employer, plus a place to stay.

I told the lady honestly that JPY100,000 would not be enough for a couple, even if rent was covered, and that her daughter had better start thinking about taking a job. Frankly, even if they really scrimped, it would be hard to imagine a couple surviving on much less than JPY4,000 per day for food and transport, which would total JPY120,000 a month.

In giving her this advice, I also expressed the opinion (yes, I told her to get professional advice as backup) that her daughter would be well served coming to Japan on a spouse visa and then attempt to switch to a work visa as soon as possible. As I understand it, you're normally not supposed to work when you're the spouse of a foreigner.

Hearing what a low salary the prospective groom was receiving started me wondering what Japan's minimum wage is. I've heard various stories about whether there really is a minimum wage in Japan. Theoretically there is one, but given that someone can be classed as a "part-time" worker for up to a year, it's anybody's guess as to whether minimum pay rules really get enforced.

The ILO web site says that the minimum wage varies between professions and prefectures, but for laboring work in Tokyo, it is JPY5,465 per day, which works out to about JPY121,000 per month. So perhaps the unfortunate groom even has a case to lodge a complaint against the (Japanese, in this case) employer.

There is another number in terms of a minimum wage that is probably more relevant to foreigners, and that number is the yen amount that the Japanese Immigration Office considers adequate to allow someone to live in Japan. The actual amount is not official, but I've been told by various consultants that it's around JPY180,000~JPY200,000 per month. Apparently if you can show that you're making this sort of wage, or have contracts totaling this amount, then you are proving your viability in the Japanese society - and thus improving your chances of a visa.

Terrie Lloyd is the founder of DaiJob Inc. He also writes a weekly newsletter for entrepreneurs and business people, about business and political opportunities in Japan. You can find the newsletter at

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