Living in Japan is wonderful but the actual process of moving here is often a long and somewhat complicated. I get asked a lot how did we end living in Tokyo so I decided to share our journey with you, plus some hints.
Please note I’m not an expert and these are my opinions based on my experience- it may be different for you.
- You can’t come “live in Japan”. To move to Japan you need a either a working visa, which you get either by being hired by a Japan-based company (or being direct family of someone that gets hired by a Japan-based company) or a student visa.
- WORKING VISA: Once a company sponsors your visa, you will have to renew it in intervals (1, 3, 5 years).
- STUDENT VISA: depending on your school/studies you can stay in Japan with a student visa from 3 months up to 2 years.
- You can only work part-time with a student visa, and you need permission from the Minister of Justice in advance.
- Finding a job in Japan can get complicated, specially if you’re not fluent in Japanese. If you can’t speak Japanese, fluent English is mandatory.
- Working for a Japanese company can be very draining and demanding. See my post here for more info.
- In Japan there’s demand of engineers and English teachers. Teaching English in Japan has quite a bad reputation: one of the first Google suggestions when you search “teaching English in Japan” is “Horror stories”. I however don’t have real first hand info about this issue so it may be an urban legend.
- The culture clash. As my friend Jen says, there are three steps of living in Japan: You come, and you love it for the first year. After the first 12 months or so you start to see the less nice side and complain a lot about everything. A while later either you stop complaining and decide that overall the good things compensate the bad, or you leave Japan.
- Bringing pets requires time and patience. Japan is a rabies free country and the import department requires tests and documents done 5 or 6 months before moving. If not your pet can face 3 months of quarantine in a cage at the Airport.
- Tokyo is not a cheap city to live in. It’s not as expensive as London for example (for us and our lifestyle at least) but it’s definitely on the more expensive side.
- Most of the Japan rents have a series of mandatory payments you have to make at the beginning of your contract that can easily come up to six months of rent.
- Visiting home for Christmas and other events will get expensive and the trip is long (if you’re not from Asia).
How did we do it?
We new that we would like to live in Japan so The Husbun started to do interviews for Japan-based companies a couple years ago. He is a great engineer with years of experience so he was our safest bet. We got ready to bring Drogo with us many months in advance, just in case. The Husbun has a working visa and I, as his wife, have a dependent visa.
The company that sponsored The Husbun’s visa was not a perfect match but once you’ve moved in it’s easier to find the perfect job. Doing interviews face to face really helps in the process of getting a job (the same goes for the extra Japanese we started learning as soon as we landed here).
During the process of doing the visa (about a month of documents and waiting) we came to Tokyo to find an apartment. Finding a place to live without Japanese and with a pet makes your options very limited and the prices quite higher. We found our dream apartment in a week and we’re never leaving this place EVER.
MOVING TO JAPAN CHECKLIST:
- If you want to bring your pet, get all the info ASAP. Click here.
- Find a job or studies in the Japanese city of your choice. Best of luck!
- Get your visa. Be patient as the process takes time.
- Decide where you want to live: consider the commutes and commodities near you.
- Find an apartment or a dorm to live in. If you’re renting, be ready to say goodbye to a portion of your savings.
- Open a bank account. Shinsei Bank is foreigner-friendly. To open a bank account you need a Japanese phone number. To get a Japanese phone number you need a bank account. Solution: rent yourself a Japanese sim card.
- Check the sayonara sales (Craigslist, Facebook) for cheap secondhand furniture and appliances!
- Enjoy your new life in the most amazing country ever! 日本へようこそ! (welcome to Japan!)
Please feel free to ask me any further questions and I will try my best to help you!