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Moving to Japan > Tips for Moving to Japan

Moving to Japan

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Summary: If you're moving to Japan, gain insight from expats living in Japan about making the move. Topics covered include what they wish they had brought (and left behind), visas, culture shock, cost of living and more. It's a must read for anyone thinking about moving to Japan.


If you're thinking about moving to Japan, read these tips from expats living Japan. From what to bring (and leave behind) to culture shock, visas and more, their insight is invaluable.

What to Bring When Moving to Japan (and what to leave behind)

When we asked expats living in Japan what they wish they had brought when moving to Japan and what they wish they had left at home, they replied:

"I live on navy base. I have most things but if not I order on line. It does cost a lot to live in Japan. Learn to use the train for getting around Japan. It opens up a whole world to you. Driving a car should be limited. There are tolls on the highways quite expensive $$$$. Mass transit is the way to go. There is a craigslist in every area to find used stuff & cars on cheap. I suggest a IPHONE from the carrier Softbank. It has a GPS on it I rely on & a train app for Japan that will tell you which trains to get on to get where your going. Just FYI. Rugs would help keep the floor warm too," said one expat who moved to Kanagawa Perfecture, Japan.

"3 things wish I had:- 1)Food stuff from home. 2)Winter clothing. 3)My red wing safety shoes. 3 things wish I left at home:- 1)My computer - can get good one in Japan. 2)Camera - can get good one in Japan. 3)Reference book," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Japan.

"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," commented one expat who made the move to Japan.

"Book, lots and lots of books, there really isn't much of a selection of books or magazines here unless you are willing to fork out around 15-20 dollars per magazine. Hienz canned tomato soup, soup here costs around 7 dollars per tin and is very salted. A Plasma, they are half the price here and you can get international ones," remarked another expat in Tokyo, Japan.

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Deciding Where to Live in Japan

When we asked expats living in Japan to offer newcomers advice about choosing a neighborhood and finding a home, they replied:

"I live on base but I have lived off base before. They don't insulate their homes out in Japan. I would suggest a electric blanket., Space heaters for your rooms for the winter. I know the military use gas ones not elec," said one expat who moved to Kanagawa Perfecture, Japan.

"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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Japan.

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Typical Housing for Expats

When we asked expats in Japan about the type of home or apartment they life in and whether that is typical for expats, they replied:

"I lived in a Mansion ( high rise) 10 yrs ago off base. I had a agent find me a place. Its best to have a Japanese represent you to landlords. They will speak for you & if any problems ,can represent you," said one expat who moved to Kanagawa Perfecture, Japan.

"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)," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Japan.

"Typically in flats, houses are rather expensive an full of many small rooms, which for my taste is unpractical," commented one expat who made the move to Japan.

Housing Costs in Japan

"Electricity is high!!!!! No insulation. Get gas space heaters for the rooms to stay warm in the winter. The stackable washer dryer is what we had but the vent didn't vent to the outside . They had it come back inside which caused a major mildew problem in the bathroom. A lot of Japanese wash their clothes but hang their clothes on the balcony to dry. It is subtropical here so there is a lot of moisture in the air. Bleach will be your best friend to keep down on the mold in your restroom," said one expat who moved to Kanagawa Perfecture, Japan.

"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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Japan.

"Mexico-Japan? You've gotta be kidding! I could buy out a small village for what I pay monthly, thank god my husband company pays for the flat, electrical and water, we once got a water bill for 1000usd! and we don't have any kids," commented one expat who made the move to Japan.

Advice for People Moving to Japan

"Think small. A lot of American furniture won't fit in the pats here. I would come with my important papers & luggage. get your place then shop & have furniture delivered. Or by used from craigslist or recycle or 2nd hand stores. There are plenty! There are food places all over mexican, Italian, Indian, Outback, TGIF,. I'm an hour from Tokyo. It's easy to find food places you like. Average meal 10-12.00 to eat out, train ride 6-8.00 each way to Tokyo. Plus size clothes are very rare to find. If you a small person you will find your size clothes," said one expat who moved to Kanagawa Perfecture, Japan.

"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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Japan.

"Real estate agencies will show you everything even places that don't meet your requirements, ex:2 bedrooms instead or 3, no parking, etc... See the floor plans before seeing any of them, it will save you a lot of time. And once you have narrowed it down, visit the flat a time when you know that your nieghbors will be in.... Some flats don't have insulation and you can hear if your nieghbor just sneezed," commented one expat who made the move to Japan.

Banking in Japan

We asked expats which banks in Japan they use and their experiences. They said:

"I found a bank in the U.S. with online services, which had special rates for using only electronic services. Within Japan, my company provided help getting the local bank set up. We also use Lloyd's of London's service to wire funds to the U.S," said one expat who moved to Sendai, Japan.

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Finding a Job in Japan

If you're searching for a job in Japan, expats talk about popular industries and how expats find employment.

"There are many jobs in construction, entertainment, food service, and on the military bases as well. There is a high level of unemployment on Okinawa year round," said one expat who moved to Okinawa, Japan.

Expat Health Insurance in Japan

Expats living in Japan interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

Join our Japan Expat Forum

Visit our Japan Forum and talk with other expats who can offer you insight and tips about living in Japan.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000. Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Some of Joshua's more popular articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and 5 Best Places to Live in Spain. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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First Published: May 23, 2019

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International Schools in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo has many international schools and bi-lingual schools for expat students. Here are several of the more popular options.

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