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2020’s Perfect Guide on Moving to Japan

With the growth of the internet which is responsible for virtually connecting each and every corner of the world, the opportunity to grow and prosper can now practically present itself anywhere. Your job, schooling or the decision to move near your loved ones can become the reason for your inter-county move.

But moving to a new place, especially to a new country is a big challenge. It calls for a great deal of courage and the ability to make wise decisions. Presently, there are many developing countries that are offering grand opportunities to expats and hence are enticing manpower to their land. And Japan is one such prospering nation. 

Japan is climbing on the global development ladder very rapidly.

The country is home to some of the biggest cities in the world as well as the origin point of some mouth-watering dishes.

It is full of young and vibrant minds that have worked really hard to make Japan a bustling, growing, economic hub.

But the country has still not lost sight of its roots which just makes it all the more appealing to the people worldwide.
Now, if you wish to have a look at a more detailed study of the lifestyle in Japan, then come let’s evaluate the pros and cons of moving to this nation in a little more detail.

What are the pros and cons of moving to Japan?

Japan in the past years has become a hotspot for expats because.

● The education system is remarkable
The US News and World Report recently ranked Japan’s schooling system as one of the best. So, whether you decide to send your child to the free public schools or you have planned on admitting him to a private international institution, in any case, you can rest assured that your child will receive a world-class education.

● You can easily find a job here
As mentioned earlier, Japan is a bustling economic hub. Hence, the country has many opportunities even for expats, given you have some valuable skills. Also, for those of you who are fluent in English, many Japanese schools have openings for teachers and the pay is also steady. So, if you love being around kids, then this can be your calling.

● Getting a visa for Japan is easy
Japan offers many kinds of work visas. Moreover, you can also get a temporary visa in case you are involved in some research work or in some job that is not remunerated. We are very appreciative and open to allowing foreign talents to work within our borders.
The disadvantages of moving to Japan are as follows.
● The cost of living is high
Japan since a very long time, has been on the top of the list of those places where the cost of living touches the sky. Though in the past few years efforts have been made to reduce these costs, to say that renting a home in Japan is now easy, would seem unfair.
● Absence of work-life balance
Japan has a very hard-working culture as a result of which people here often lose sight of the work-life balance. No matter what job you are in, but in Japan, you are often expected to show up early and leave late. Even taking vacations is sometimes frowned upon.
● Renting for foreigners can be difficult
In Japan, houses are lent through brokers and many of these brokers are not fluent in English. So even if you find a home in Japan that you would like to rent, it is not going to be easy to strike a deal, for some cases.

Are the locals friendly towards foreigners in Japan?

When you are moving to a new country, a major concern that surrounds you is whether or not the locals are going to behave friendly and open with you.

This factor plays a key role in deciding how you are going to feel about your new home in some time, whether you will be able to live happily there or not.

Well, we don’t know about other nations, but if you are considering moving to Japan then you will be happy to know that Japanese culture and society is very polite. The people here are very sweet and in general accepting of others. The only barrier here is language.

Yes, a majority of native people in Japan are not fluent in English or any other foreign language, and some of them feel shy to interact with foreigners in alien languages. However, if you have a command over your Japanese then everything should turn out just fine. So, if you know Japanese, then just brush up on your language skills and you may even get an invite to have dinner at your neighbors!

Which cities should be favored while moving to Japan?

If you are an expat who is about to leave for Japan then here is the list of cities that you should consider moving to-

● Tokyo
Tokyo which is both the heart and capital of Japan is a favored choice of expats who are living in this nation. It is so because the capital city has many high paying job opportunities which can help you in building a life here. However, life here can get pretty busy with more than 38 million people residing in the city.

● Nagoya
If fast and busy life is not your thing, then you should check out Nagoya where the atmosphere is pretty much laid back and quiet. You can find in the neighborhood many other expats who are making their living through vehicle manufacturing business.

● Osaka
Osaka is rumored to offer the best food choices to people. This city is the second largest in Japan and it is a little less crowded and a lot cheaper than Tokyo.
However, if these cities do not turn out to be in accordance to your liking, then you can also check out the small towns of Japan like Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Hiroshima, and Hokkaido.

Is Japan a safe country?

On moving to a foreign country, safety is a crucial element to consider. Then, from that point of view, Japan is one of the best places to move. The crime rate here is very low even though the total population here comprises of more than 100 million people.

According to the NationMaster report, the murder rate in Japan is as low as 1.02 as opposed to the 5 of the United States, the rape rate here is just 1 as compared to the high 27.3 of the US. In the international homicide rate, the country ranks at 44th and at the murder rate (per million people) it stands at 111th rank. Pretty much disciplined and crime-free, wouldn’t you agree?

However, the major source of calamity here is nature itself. Yes, Japan has faced many natural calamities in the past few decades. Now even though measures are being taken to predict these disasters well in advance, but still there has not been much progress.

What are the requirements to move to Japan?

If you are planning on moving to Japan then you should know that the process of obtaining a visa for here is largely identical regardless of the fact whether you are a British, American or Australian citizen. So, as for the legal requirements you are required to present –

● Your Visa application form
● Your passport
● A photograph
● A certificate of eligibility, both original and a copy

Note: a certificate of eligibility is a certified letter from a Japanese person that guarantees to support you financially for the duration for which you will stay in Japan. It is usually from an employer or from an educational institution if you are coming for studies.

How much is the cost of living in Japan?

The cost of living in Japan is very high, so much so that it is ranked as one of the highest in the world. The monthly cost is estimated at around 280,000-300,000 JPY (2500-2700 USD). This is basically a result of the geographical position of the nation because as an Island country Japan is surrounded by water on all sides and has to highly rely upon imports.

Let’s have a look at these costs in a little more detail.

Cost of living: City vs. Rural

That cost of living in Tokyo is astronomical. This can be understood by the fact that Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, consistently ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world in terms of average costs of living. In this city and those which lie nearby, one can only find small houses with sky-high rents.

However, the cost of living in rural areas is comparatively very less. The rent here is approximately 50% less as compared to the rent of a house which is located in central Tokyo. Also, on the food in supermarkets in the countryside, one can save almost 20% on average! Selecting rural areas as your residing location will be a way to make your plan of moving to Japan more down to the earth.

Cost of living: City-wise

Here is the monthly cost of living in Japan in some of the most popular cities.

  • Osaka

Single Expat

181,000 JPY

2,100 USD

Family of 4

530,000 JPY

6,300 USD

  • Tokyo

Single Expat

244,600 JPY

2,200 USD

Family of 4

730,000 JPY

6,700 USD

  • Yokohama

Single Expat

204,000 JPY

1,900 USD

Family of 4

700,000 JPY

6,400 USD

  • Fukuoka

Single Expat

145,000 JPY

1,300 USD

Family of 4

367,000 JPY

3,400 USD

  • Kyoto

Single Expat

167,500 JPY

1,500 USD

Family of 4

450,000 JPY

4,100 USD

Grocery Prices

As stated earlier, the grocery prices in Japan are high as a result of its geographical location. Most of the food items here are imported, so the food and alcohol here cost more than what you will find in other Asian countries.

A list of the prices of some of the common food items is mentioned below.

Food Item



One quart of milk



One pound of chicken



One dozen eggs



One pound of Apples



One Bottle of wine



Utility costs in Japan

Utilities are generally not included in rent in Japan. Now, how much the utilities will cost depends upon the place where you are living. But on average an expat can estimate spending around 20,000 JPY (190 USD) per month on electricity, water, and gas. The internet can cost you anywhere between 3,000 to 9,000 JPY (25 USD to 75 USD) depending upon the plan you select.

Cost of education

The education in Japan costs nil as public schools are free for both Japanese and foreign students. The only costs parents have to bear is that of the uniform and other such expenses which round off to about 4,000 JPY (35 USD per year). However, if you choose to send your child to a private or international institution then it can cost you anywhere from 2,000,000 JPY to 2.3 million JPY per year.

Rent prices in Japan

The rent of houses in the main cities is very costly. However, if you choose to live somewhere on the outskirts the rent prices drop significantly.

Monthly rent for 900 sqft accommodation in the main city

197,391 JPY

Monthly rent for 900 sqft accommodation outside the main city

112,128 JPY

Monthly rent for 480 sqft studio in a good neighborhood

119,023 JPY

Monthly rent for 480 sqft studio in a so-so neighborhood

92,673 JPY

Travel and transportation costs

Despite being an expensive country, transportation and travel costs in Japan are reasonable. Let’s get to understand what will be your day-to-day transportation means and costs are like, after moving to Japan. People usually choose buses and trains as a favorable means of commutation. The average cost ranges from 170 JPY (1.50 USD) for a single fare ticket in the metro to 20,000 JPY (185 USD) for a one-way ticket on the bullet train.

So, this was all about the cost of living in Japan, now let’s move towards our next section.

What are the social and cultural etiquettes in Japan?

When you move to a new place, it is important to learn about its customs and norms in a little detail as it saves you from committing any cultural faux and also helps you in fitting in. And especially if the country in concern is a nation like Japan which is known for its rich culture, then it becomes all the more important to learn about its traditions. It will make your social life after moving to Japan comfortably and smoothly. So come, let’s begin!

● Greetings
The traditional greeting in Japan comprises of bowing down before the other person as a sign of respect. For this, you bend at your waist level while keeping your back and neck straight and your hands at your sides.

● Hierarchy
Hierarchy in Japan is considered very important both in the work culture as well as in everyday life. People here respect their elders and interact very politely with them. So For example, if you are moving to another room and you have someone elderly along with you then you are expected to hold the door open for them in order to allow them to pass first.

● Eating and drinking
There are many customs in Japan as far as eating and drinking are considered. In Japan, if during the meal you are sharing dishes with others then it is not acceptable to eat from the communal plate, instead, you should serve food onto your own individual plate and eat from there. Likewise, if you are out drinking with others, then you are expected to serve a drink in other people’s glass. Someone else will then pour your drink for you. Also, ex-pats should take note that eating on the go is considered rude for non-casual occasions in Japan.

● Chopsticks
Chopsticks are an integral part of food in Japan and you will come across them from time to time. Hence, it is good to remember that you should never play with your chopsticks nor should you use them to point at anyone.
If you are not using them at the moment then you should not hover them in the air instead, you should lay them down on the hashioki. Also, remember to never leave your chopsticks sticking straight into the bowl as it is symbolic of funerals and deaths.
Lastly, never rub your chopsticks to free them of the residue, such behavior is considered rude in Japan.

● Pointing
Pointing at someone with one finger in Japan is considered rude in our culture. Hence, you should use your whole hand while keeping your fingers straight when giving directions or gesturing toward something.

● Feet and shoes
When you are entering someone’s home, remember to take off your shoes. Moreover, some businesses also follow this etiquette and require you to remove your slippers before entering. Pay attention to signs in order to understand what you should do or not do.

Is it difficult to score a job in Japan?

It was difficult to get a job in Japan in the early 2000s, but now with the changing times and growing international companies scoring a job in Japan for foreigners is not as difficult as it used to be.

So, if you will apply in the early springs or late summers which are the prime hiring months, there is a good probability that you will succeed in getting a job.

How to get a job in Japan as a foreigner?

The following are the tips to get a job in Japan.

● For getting a job in Japan consider moving to Japan, as that increases your chances immensely. This is because if you are already in Japan then the company will not have to pay to move you.

● It is easy to get a job in Japan if you have a university degree or if you have 10 years of working experience in your field.

● You should know the Japanese language in order to get a job in Japan. Most employers will require you to pass a minimum Level 2 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test to offer you a job.

● You should have your references ready.

What are the minimum wages and average salary in Japan?

The average minimum salary in Japan is 4 million JPY (37,800 USD) per year while the average minimum wage here is 874 JPY (8 USD) per hour.

What is the business culture in Japan like?

Just like the business culture in any other part of the world, the business culture in Japan is also very formal. There are some norms and traditional customs that one is expected to abide by, lest you offend your employer. It’s recommended to get yourself familiar with Japanese business culture in advance of actually moving into the nation. Now some of the common work business culture etiquettes here include-

● In Japan, privacy is valued. Hence, avoid asking too many personal questions about family or work history at the beginning of a working relationship.

● While meeting a business partner or colleague, greet them by bowing down and wait for them to offer their hand.

● Hierarchy is respected in Japanese business culture too. This can also be observed in their seating arrangement.

● Japanese traditional working culture favors politeness. Hence, try to remain as quiet and as unobtrusive in a meeting as possible.

Social security and benefits in Japan

A social security number is a 12-digit number that is issued to all Japanese residents who have registered with their local government and have lived in Japan for at least 3 months. This social security contributes towards-

● Public assistance
● General public health services
● Maternity leaves and child allowances
● Public housing
● Old age benefits like retirement pension, etc.

How does healthcare work in Japan?

Japan has a public healthcare program and a foreigner living in Japan can use it just like a Japanese citizen. Moving to Japan and stay in the nation may mean that you would be in need of having healthcare service to maintain your own health condition. There are 2 schemes under Japanese healthcare-

● First is the Japanese National Health Insurance, available to unemployed people who are working for less than 30 hours a week or are students.
● Another is the Japanese health insurance which is available to full-time employees.

Under both these schemes, the individual is required to pay only 30% of their healthcare costs, while the rest 70% is paid by the government.

An overview of private health insurance

There is not much difference between private and public health insurance in Japan, unlike other Asian countries. In fact, most private health insurance plans in Japan are either opted by people who have a terminal illness or by those who are foreigners. However, there are some benefits of having private insurance as well. These include-

● There are some plans that cover the 30% co-pays that are usually the responsibility of individuals.
● For those with long illnesses, this 30% can mean a lot.
● Private insurance is more extensive and covers many things that public insurance doesn’t.

How to find a doctor or dentist in Japan?

General practitioners in Japan are not common. Hence, for finding a doctor you would have to visit a clinic. Even though walk-in appointments are common, but still it is better to check online before physically paying a visit.

However, for getting a dental check-up it is mandatory to get an appointment beforehand. You can do so by calling their office or by booking online.

Public transportation in Japan

Public transportation in Japan is efficient and reasonably priced. The network is well-connected and it takes you to your desired location in a very small time.

People in Japan typically use buses or trains as favorable modes of commutation. However, one can also use ferries or domestic flights to travel.

The average cost of transportation ranges from 170 JPY (1.50 USD) of a single fare ticket in Tokyo’s metro to 20,000 JPY (185 USD) for one way ticket on the bullet train.

What types of Visas are available?

The types of visas you can apply for include-

● Work permit visas
The type of work permit visa you can apply for depends upon your job. Japan has nearly 30 different work visas like for artists, instructors, entertainers, etc.

● Self-employed visas
Expats who want a self-employed visa will need to apply for an investor or business visa. Though getting this visa will offer you more flexibility, but the process to gain it is not easy.

● Residency permits: temporary and permanent
For getting a residency permit, you will first need to figure out whether you intend to stay for a long or short period. If your stay is for a short duration (15 to 90 days) then you might be allowed to come to Japan visa-free. However, for a long-term residency, you will have to apply for a long-term residency visa, for which you will need a certificate of eligibility and residence card.

● Cultural activities visa
Cultural visa is the common route for martial arts students. For this, you will need a list of normal documents along with proof of your cultural activities.

● Volunteer visa
Under an agreement between the UK and Japan, UK citizens can volunteer in Japan for 1 year. For this, you must work with a registered charitable organization.

How to find a house when moving to Japan?

Finding a house to buy or rent in Japan is fairly simple. Here is how you can do it.

● Renting a house or apartment
If you are looking to rent a house in Japan, it should be easy. The landlords here do not treat the foreign tenants any differently from the Japanese citizens. The average rent here falls between 50 to 70,000 JPY (470-650 USD).

● Internet and mobile phones
In order to get a Japanese phone number, you should know that here we have three main phone providers: Softbank, Docomo, and AU. Now for getting a Japanese number, don’t forget to take your Passport, Japanese stamp, and a form of payment along with you.
As for popular internet providers, the names include KDDI, Asahi Net, Fusion Gol, etc. The average cost of getting internet lies between 3,000 to 9000 JPY.

● Sharehouse
At the BORDERLESS HOUSE, one can live under the same roof with other locals and foreigners. This gets you a chance to interact with people belonging from diverse language and culture groups. It also creates an opportunity to learn. For searching for accommodation with the BORDERLESS HOUSE, just check out our website

How to set up financial establishments in Japan?

As a new resident of Japan, it becomes important for you to learn to manage your finances. Here is how you can set them up!

Which bank accounts should you open in Japan?

There are two banks that are very popular with the ex-pat community in Japan.

● Japan Post
To open an account with this bank you neither need a Japanese phone number nor a Hanko. You can just need to give your work number and sign the documents.

● Shinsei bank
At this bank also you won’t need a Japanese phone number, but you will need a Hanko. Another benefit this bank offers is that here you can fill all the forms in English here.

However, if a Japanese phone number is not an issue for you then you can choose to open an account with Japan Post bank, Mitsubishi UFJ financial group, Norinchukin bank, etc.

So, this is all you need to know about moving to Japan if you are an ex-pat who has newly shifted here!

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