Thinking of Moving to Japan? Here’s What You Should Know

People waiting to cross the road in Japan

Whether you’re seeking out the beautiful architecture of traditional Japan and the slew of tranquil gardens in Kyoto or looking for its modern delights in sushi bars and the anime culture in Akihabara, there’s so much that Japan has to offer. With so much media showcasing the respectful culture and the innovative conveniences found throughout the urban districts of Japan, it’s also becoming a popular spot for those looking to make a home in the Land of the Rising Sun. But before you relocate to Japan, here are a couple of practical things you must know:

1. You need to have both a Japan Residence Card and the right work visa.

The first item to think about procuring is your Zairyu card, which basically means your Japan Residence Card. Any mid to long-term residents (3 months and longer) are required to obtain one. If you’re going to live in Japan, this is something you want to get done from touchdown. Not only is it required for all official government transactions, you’ll also need it to get a phone plan, open your bank account, and even find a place to rent.

Of course, you’ll need to find work to sustain yourself. For this, you should know that it’s illegal to work in Japan without a work visa. According to Matcha’s Japanese Work Visa how-to, there are 17 types of work visas you can get depending on the nature of your work. Once you know which category you’re in, make sure your job meets the status of residence and your educational merits fit the job if you have any specialized work. The process should be easier if you already have a company looking to hire you.

2. Living in Japan can be expensive.

It should be noted that the cost of living in Japan can be quite steep. You need to be good with your spending habits and make sure that you have the means to earn a living. According to Numbeo’s cost of living database, a single person’s monthly costs exclusive of rent averages ¥120,432.12, which is roughly equivalent to $1,108.29. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is ¥84,330.75 ($776.06) within the city center and lower outside. The cost of living in areas like Tokyo can be quite high because of the location and the tax on imported goods. Expats can find cheaper food options in family restaurants and can seek out more affordable living quarters in places like Fukuoka and Kyoto.

3. There are 8 regions you can live in (each with varying expat communities).

Japan is more than just stunning Tokyo. When thinking about the kind of place you see yourself living in, you’ll want to look at the 8 main regions – Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu, Kansai, Chugoku, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa. Though you may have your own personal reasons for choosing (such as family or a job), it’s a good idea to pick a place with a solid expat community. ExpatBets’ Japan guide notes how a lot of foreigners are able to base their choice based on the immersion and lodgings they can find. These accommodations are said to range from ryokan and temple lodgings to pension homes and capsule hotels.

After moving to Japan, you'll see traditional temples and modern buildings together.

4. You’re going to want to learn Japanese.

Though you can get by with some standard phrases and English in popular tourist hubs, it’s important to know that less than 8% of the Japanese population speak English fluently. Foreign Policy’s article on the subject reveals that less than half the population speak any English at all, and most sentiment reveals that they don’t plan on changing this much. Because there is not much importance given to learning English, you’ll need to learn the local tongue if you plan on living—and thriving— in Japan.

5. Japan is ripe for exploration if you follow the culture.

There is so much to explore in Japan, and it’s quite friendly to tourists and immigrants alike as long as you adhere to societal standards. There is much importance given to politeness and putting the greater good above individualistic pursuits. If you are mindful about that, you can enjoy the eclectic things to find in the nation. You can even ease into it by melding cultures, like by going through the Top 10 Tokyo Burgers.

These are just some of the most important things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of moving to Japan. Once you’ve got these all set, you’re ready to take on Nihon’s delights.