A Guide for Moving Abroad to Japan
Japan, also called “Nihon” by the local people, is a dream place to move to for many people, be it manga fans or sushi enthusiasts! Known not only for its famous cherry blossoms in March, diving resorts in Okinawa, hot spring towns, such as Onsen, Mount Fuji, and many more tourist attractions, Japan is also a technology and financial hub of Asia. Many professional expatriates seek work opportunities and move to Japan.
What You Need to Know About Japan
Japan is a part of the Ring of Fire, meaning that there are occasional tsunamis and earthquakes in the region. The country is actually an archipelago of 6,852 islands, and the five main islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa. Japan is one of the most urbanized and densely-populated countries in the world. It has the second-longest life expectancy at birth of any country in the world, at 84 years. However, the Japanese population is rapidly aging, with over ⅓ of the country’s population entering the early retirement age of 60.
Tokyo is Japan’s capital and largest city, officially known as Tokyo Metropolis, and is home to over 13 million people. Tokyo is not only the political and economic center of the country but also educational and cultural. Japan is considered a very safe place to live and visit. In fact, in 2020, Japan scored number 9 in the Global Peace Index, after countries such as Iceland and New Zealand.
Besides what we know about Japan from pop culture and manga, Japan has a culture based on hierarchy, family setting, and work. Japan has been isolated from the rest of the world for an extended period of time, allowing it to maintain its uniqueness for a long time, which is still ingrained in people’s minds.
The country is notoriously known for, sometimes called, “brutal” office culture, where the results are more important than one’s well-being. The teams often carry out work, and workers won’t leave the office before their boss or team leader. This often leads to exhaustion from unnaturally long work weeks.
Japanese people are very orderly, and that is also seen in Japanese cities, which are always kept clean, roads well-maintained and designed, and drivers driving carefully and following the rules.
Japan Healthcare System
Japan has a universal health system, in which the Government covers 70% of the costs of the medical bill for selected medical procedures, such as hospital and doctor visits, prescriptions, etc. The Japanese citizens cover the remaining 30% out of pocket or with the help of private health insurance in Japan.
Foreigners working in Japan and staying in the country for more than three months are also covered by the Japanese universal health system, which consists of SHI and NHI. For more information on the subject, view our article explaining the Japanese Healthcare System. Learn how the two types of Japanese universal healthcare work and the best way for an expatriate in Japan to access healthcare.
- Compare multiple quotes and coverage options
- Work with an insurance expert at no additional cost
- Find the best plan for your needs and budget
Immigration Rules for Moving to Japan
If you would like to enter Japan first on a tourist visa, in most cases, you need to arrange your tourist or short-term visitor visa that lasts for up to 90 days in advance. Japan has “general visa exemption agreements” with these 68 countries, meaning that you can get a tourist visa on arrival in Japan if you are a citizen of one of these countries. However, please bear in mind that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Japan has temporarily suspended the above agreements.
Work Visas in Japan
Japanese immigration rules are robust, but when it comes to working visas, it offers three major visa types: for white-collar workers, other work and trainees, and working holidays. For each of these work visas, you would need to have the permit granted in your country of residence by the Japanese consulate or embassy before entering Japan. Your employer will help you with the visa process, as you need to have one to sponsor your visa.
Interestingly, there are many different sub-categories of visas, allowing the visa holder to work only in a specified area, for example, engineering, journalism, education, business management, international services, art, entertainment, etc. For white-collar work visas, applicants have to have some university degree and considerable work experience in the given field.
The same rule applies to the “other works and trainees” visa, where while you don’t need a particular degree, you have to pass a specific skills test to be granted the work visa and residence permit. If you change jobs while you are in Japan and your new job falls into a different professional field (e.g. from education to engineering), you will need to change your residence status.
Moving to Japan for Work Opportunities
There are many job opportunities in Japan. The apparent job of an English teacher is a popular way if you want to move abroad and live in Japan. Some Japanese companies might hire a foreigner to be the “English” face of the company. In that case, you can be a translator, sales manager, IT professional, service staff, etc. Many multinational companies in Japan need engineers, bankers, lawyers, and other professionals to fill in senior positions.
Cost of Living in Japan
Those moving to or thinking about moving to Japan should know that Japan is quite expensive to live. According to data from numbeo.com, the estimated monthly cost for a single person in Tokyo without rent is $1,174.35 USD (as per data retrieved in May 2021). Why is living in Japan so expensive? For one, Japan is an archipelago of Islands, meaning that many items have to be imported to the country, which increases the overall costs of goods.
Dairy prices are considerably overpriced, with a gallon of milk costing about $7 USD. The other reason is that Japanese culture puts huge pressure on the excellence of the goods and services, and that, anywhere in the world, comes with a premium price. Thirdly, as a business, political and cultural center of Japan, Tokyo itself is also the most expensive city in Japan. In fact, it is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in.
Read: Cost of Living in Japan