Destination Japan: The Ultimate To-do List for Newcomers to rock it out
Friday, July 27, 2018
Moving to another country is much more than simply packing, but doesn’t have to feel like the end of the world!
Life in Japan, especially in large cities such as Tokyo or Osaka, seems like it’s all fun and games. Japan may be the home country of anime - a never-ending list: from Bleach and One Piece to Fullmetal Alchemist and Madoka Magica-, technology - Sony, Canon, Toshiba, and so on -, or video games - do names as Nintendo or Square Enix ring any bells? - but it is also the land of paperwork and bureaucracy. Moving to a new country is a tricky process that can drive you out of your mind, but no worries, we have you covered! Here is our to-do list to help start your new life in Japan on the right foot.
- Receive your 在留カード (zairyucaado, residence card).
The residence card is your basic ID card in Japan, it identifies you as a legal resident in Japan and you should have it with you at all times. It contains relevant information such as your name, birthdate, resident status, period of stay, and so on. If you arrive at one of the major ports of entry (Haneda, Narita, Chubu, and Kansai), your residence card will be issued immediately by the immigration authorities. If you do not arrive at one of these ports, you will receive the residence card at your address around 10 days after your arrival.
- Register at your town, city or ward office.
Once you have arrived in Japan, you will have 14 days to register your address. Depending on where you live, this will be at your local town, city, or ward office. Bring your residence card and your passport with you and fill in the required forms. Don’t worry if your Japanese is not perfect, many offices have sample forms in English and other languages, and the staff are usually willing to help you out.Pro-tip from the IZANAU staff: it’s a good idea to look into any courses or activities hosted by your local office. They are usually cheap or even free and could help you improve your language skills and get to know more about Japanese culture.
- Enroll in public health insurance.
Japanese laws state that everyone living in Japan must be covered by public health insurance. If you are working full time, your company usually provides the opportunity to join its 健康保険 (Kenkōhoken, or employer health insurance). This means that the employer takes care of the necessary paperwork and deducts the monthly fees automatically from your salary. Those who are not eligible to join the employer health insurance must enroll in the 国民健康保険 (Kokumin Kenkōhoken, or National Health Insurance). In most cases, 70% of your health costs will be covered by Health Insurance. Insured patients only have to pay 30% of the total cost of treatments. Most Japanese clinics and hospitals accept public insurance. The fees for the National Health Insurance‘ will be billed to your address and can be paid easily at your nearest convenience store.
- Open a bank account.
Just a few days ago we shared our guide on how to open a bank account in Japan. If you missed this article, you can check it out here!
It is not difficult to get a bank account in Japan, even if you don’t have a strong command of the Japanese language. Our favorite foreign-friendly options are Japan Post Bank and Shinsei Bank. On the one hand, JP Bank doesn’t ask you for a telephone number in order to create an account, but on the other hand, Shinsei Bank offers comprehensive support in English.
- Set up a Japanese cell phone number.
Choosing a cell phone carrier can definitely grind your gears; there are so many operators and a wide range of different plans, which can be one of the worst possible combinations if you struggle with decision-making (indecisive people of the world, unite!). Luckily, we already wrote an article about this topic, so feel free to take a look at it.
- Take Japanese lessons.
Maybe this point doesn’t seem to be as important as the tips above, but believe us, it is. If you are planning to stay a long time in Japan, you need to improve your Japanese skills. They can be essential for both your job and your social life. You can enroll in a Japanese language school or check if your local community offers language courses for foreign residents. If you are not into taking classes, there are other options that may suit you better; you can join a language exchange, watch Netflix in Japanese, or start reading manga or books... even just having small talk with your flatmates or coworkers can be good practice! All you have to do is speak the language as much as you can. Remember: practice makes perfect, so do your best, or as they say in Japan, 頑張って (ganbatte)!
Did you find our guide useful? How many points of the list did you know in advance? Are you ready to deal with Japanese bureaucracy? Register on IZANAU and find the perfect job for you in Japan.
About the Author
Half writer, half reader. Tokyo based and deeply in love with - you can easily find me meandering around Shibuya or Shin-Okubo. Communication and marketing assistant by day, video game localizer by night.