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An Expat Talks about Moving to Tokyo, Japan

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Tokyo

Name three things that you wish you had brought and three you wish you had left at home.

I wish we had brought: box fans (it gets really hot here in the summer, and there is no central AC.) A roaster oven or convection oven. Traditional Japanese apartments don't have ovens. Food, including sugary cereals, Gatorade drink mix, and sweets. The "sweets" they sell here are very different.

I wish we had left: some of my clothes, our golf clubs

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What advice would you give someone preparing to move to your area about the actual move, choosing a neighborhood and finding a home?

When choosing a home, pick something near a train station, as this is the easiest way to get around. Most Tokyoites spend at least an hour commuting by train, so don't let the distance worry you. Most real estate agents only speak Japanese, so bring a translator with you. Expect the kitchens to be galley style, and for the washing machines to be in the bathroom or on the balcony. Make sure your neighborhood also have plenty of markets nearby-refrigerators are so small, you have to shop daily!

What type of housing do you live in? Is this typical for most expats in your area?

We live in a two-bedroom apartment, called a "mansion". This means it is newer construction, built mostly of concrete and brick. It is a small building, with only 5 other tenants. The owner lives on the first floor. Our neighborhood is all Japanese, and we are the only foreingers in our area.This is not typical - most expats either live in high-class apartments that cater to foreigners, or else in tiny traditional apartments. It depends on your payscale. (ie executive or English teacher)

How did you choose your neighborhood and find your home or apartment?

My husband's company gave us a real estate agent. We told her what we were looking for, and our price range. We also brought our dog with us, so it was much more difficult to find a place. Most places that allowed dogs were much more expensive.

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Are your housing costs higher or lower than they were in your home country? What is the average cost of housing there?

Housing costs are at least double what we paid in Texas. We had an 800 sqft apartment in Texas for about $900 a month. Here, for the same amount of space we pay close to $2000 US. For apartments catering to executives and foreigners, look to pay between 3000-$5000 US. For a traditional apartment, depending on the area, anywhere from $500US-$1000US.

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Expatriate Health Insurance

Get a quote for expat health insurance in Japan from our partner, Cigna Global Health.
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