Living in Japan can be a complicated process that involves dedication and commitment. We asked a group of ex-pats living in Tokyo what they wish they had known before moving to Tokyo.

Here are some points to make your transition smoother:

Get a working visa

Without a working visa, you won’t be able to find Japan Jobs or look for a company that will hire you prior to departure. Every company will require a working visa. To get a Japan Visa Application form you must contact a Japanese embassy or a consulate.

Make sure you are financially prepared

Japanese Money

The first thing you need to be aware of is that the cost of living in Tokyo is among the most expensive in the world. On the other hand, if you know the right places to shop, especially for food, this could balance out the expensive rental prices and keep your budget intact.

The high cost of living in Tokyo is balanced by inexpensive food products especially if you purchase your Japanese food in the early evening, near closing time.

In addition, you can live like the locals and eat most of your meals in the excellent basic restaurants all over Tokyo. You can have a full meal at most Japanese restaurants for approximately 600 Yen.

Once you have set your mind and decided to live in Tokyo, keep in mind that you may be able to find cheaper housing in the surrounding suburbs of Tokyo rather than in the Tokyo center. Don’t worry about the extra costs of commuting.

The savings you are getting from cheaper housing will still be worth it. Some companies pay for their employees’ commute and this is one way that you can stick within your budget.

Medical insurance

Japan has two main public health insurance systems. Medical insurance in Japan is nationalized, and foreigners are included in the coverage. All residents, including foreigners, must join one of the Japanese public health insurance systems regardless of whether they have private insurance or not. If you have joined one of them, you and your immediate family will only need to pay 30% of the medical fee.

Learn Your Nihongo

Learn To Speak Japanese

Once you take this big decision start learning the language as soon as possible.

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) has been offered by the Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services since 1984 as a reliable means of evaluating and certifying the Japanese proficiency of non-native speakers.

If you wish to work in Japan or become a permanent resident you need to get proficient in written Japanese to get the JLPT 1 level.

See More: Learn Basic Japanese
See Also: Japanese key phrases from the BBC Languages Guide

Understand Japan’s  Customs

Japan Business Tips

Japan’s culture is very unique.

I suggest you get ready for your time in Japan by getting to know a little bit about Japanese etiquette. Knowing some background about Japanese culture will make you feel less confused when being in the company of Japanese people. Avoid the most common, funny, and embarrassing mistakes westerners do in Japan:

  • Always address Japanese people by attaching ‘san’ to their last name
  • Even though bowing is a very important part of Japanese culture, you are not expected to bow. The reason is that bowing is a very complex system that takes into account the social status and age of the person you bow to. If you bow with an inappropriate inclination you might be insulting your fellow Japanese unintentionally
  • Never turn your back on someone in a higher position than you.
  • Never Stare into another person’s eyes. The Japanese avoid eye contact to give others some privacy
  • Before entering a Japanese house and certain restaurants, you must remove your shoes. Slippers are the footwear for inside the house

See More: Culture Of Japan: 10 Common Mistakes Westerners Do About Japan Culture

Converting your foreign license to a Japanese driver’s license.

Residents with valid foreign licenses, who can prove they lived in the issuing country for a minimum of 3 months after the license was issued, may be eligible for license conversion. Converting to a Japanese license can be a time-consuming and complicated process.

Learn about the Japanese educational system

Schools In Japan

For those coming to Japan with kids, getting to know the educational system in advance might help them adjust to the transition. For example, moms must do volunteer work to help teachers teach the class and moms also sit in class replacing their sick child, so he won’t miss out on anything.

The education system is very demanding (very long hours and a lot of pressure), rules are strict and boys have to wear short pants in winter too.

See More: Japanese Culture Quirks That No One Told You About

If you are still committed to moving to Japan then good luck in making your dream come true!

Tokyo Trip Checklist

  • To make sure you have all the important things covered see my first-time-in-Tokyo guide
  • Get your 1,2 or 3-day Tokyo Unlimited Subway Pass to easily get around Tokyo
  • If you want to travel on bullet trains you can save big with a Japan Rail Pass. Here’s why is worth it.
  • You’ll need a prepaid sim or Portable WIFI to stay connected in Tokyo.
  • Check out my detailed Tokyo packing list to make sure you’re prepared.
  • The best site to book hotels in Tokyo is almost always And remember to book early, especially during busy times.
  • For travel insurance (which you need) Word Nomads offer great coverage in Japan and are highly recommended.

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