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Moving to Japan

Have you ever thought about moving to Japan? Relocating to a new country can be both an exciting and challenging endeavor. Japan, with its unique culture and traditions, is no exception. Today, we’ll talk about the essential information and insights you need to make your move to Japan a smooth and successful one.


Japan offers a different kind of experience to people from the West. From its stunning landscapes and vibrant cities to its deep-rooted traditions and delectable cuisine. However, moving to a new country requires careful planning and preparation. In this post, we’ll talk about the various aspects of your relocation journey, from understanding visa requirements to managing your finances, finding accommodation, and immersing yourself in Japanese culture.


Whether you’re moving for work, study, or the adventure of a lifetime, it makes a difference to have the knowledge and tools to navigate the process with confidence.

Life in Japan

As of 2023, Japan has been ranked as the 13th best country in the world for quality of life. It is renowned for its exceptional healthcare system, ranking third globally, and its outstanding safety standards, ranking sixth. These factors contribute to Japan’s impressive life expectancy of 84 years, on par with Switzerland and Liechtenstein according to the latest World Bank data. As an expat, you will be pleasantly surprised by the healthy lifestyle ingrained in Japanese culture, including clean eating, regular exercise, and a strong connection with nature.

When it comes to landscapes, Japan offers a diverse array of options. In the northernmost region, centered around the island of Hokkaido, you can experience breathtaking mountains and indulge in thrilling winter sports. Down south, the sandy beaches of the Okinawan island rival those of Hawaii and Mauritius in beauty. In between, lies the mainland of Honshu, dominated by bustling metropolitan cities. Tokyo, the eastern anchor of the renowned ‘Taiheiyo Belt’, boasts a population of 39 million and is accompanied by other prominent cities like Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Hiroshima. A staggering 74 million people, out of Japan’s total population of 125 million, call this region home.

The Job Market in Japan

Japan presents a wide range of job opportunities for expats, encompassing diverse fields such as teaching English, IT, and many others. Japanese companies highly value foreign language skills, especially in English, French, Spanish, and other languages, as they often encounter difficulties in communication. Expats in Japan commonly find employment as waiters/waitresses, factory workers, caregivers, call center representatives, translators, English teachers, tour guides, and office administrators. Additionally, there are prospects for expats in areas like real estate, law, advertising, finance, IT, and accounting. Tokyo, Osaka, and other regions in Japan serve as hubs for job seekers, with many positions offering visa sponsorship opportunities. However, it is essential to recognize that foreigners face challenges in securing jobs in Japan, as companies may prioritize Japanese citizens due to language barriers and visa requirements. Expats may also need to obtain a work permit or long-stay visa to legally work in Japan.

Cost of Living in Japan

When it comes to the cost of living for expats in Japan, it is important to note that it varies depending on the location. However, compared to other popular destinations around the world, the cost of living in Japan is generally lower. Take Tokyo, for example, where expenses are 53% lower than those in New York City.

For a single person, the average monthly cost of living without rent is estimated to be around $1,200. Let’s break down some of the estimated monthly costs for a single person residing in Japan:

  • Accommodation and utilities: In the city center, a one-bedroom apartment costs approximately ¥80,289.10 ($770), while outside of the center, it is around ¥53,150.37 ($510). Basic utilities for an 85m2 apartment range from ¥5,480.00-16,000.00 ($53-$153).

  • Food: Monthly expenses for food typically fall between ¥30,000-50,000 ($289-$481).

  • Transportation: Budgeting for transportation, including expenses like public transit or commuting, usually amounts to around ¥10,000-15,000 ($96-$145) per month.

  • Internet and mobile phone: Allocating funds for internet and mobile phone services generally ranges from ¥6,000-10,000 ($58-$96) each month.

For expats seeking to rent an apartment, here are the average monthly prices in a few cities commonly chosen by expats:

  • Tokyo: A one-bedroom apartment ranges from $945-$1,155, while a three-bedroom apartment costs approximately $2,052-$2,508.

  • Kyoto: A one-bedroom apartment typically costs between $522-$638, whereas a three-bedroom apartment ranges from $1,035-$1,265.

  • Sapporo: A one-bedroom apartment is usually priced at $279-$341, with a three-bedroom apartment costing around $522-$638.

An important consideration in the cost of living in Japan is internet service, which typically amounts to about $32-$39 per month. Overall, while the cost of living may fluctuate depending on the location, Japan generally offers a more affordable lifestyle compared to other desirable destinations around the world.


Less Expensive Cities in Japan

In Japan, like everywhere else, the cost of living can vary greatly depending on the location. If you’re looking for affordable cities to live in as an expat, here are a few options:

Sawara: Known for its affordability, Sawara offers an average cost of accommodation around $600. This makes it a suitable choice for digital nomads and expats seeking a budget-friendly location.

Sapporo: Famous for its snowy landscapes, Sapporo is one of the cheapest places to live in Japan. The cost of living here is lower than in Tokyo, with the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment ranging from $279 to $341.

Kyoto: With its blend of tradition and modernity, Kyoto is another affordable city in Japan. The cost of living in Kyoto is lower than in Tokyo, and the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is approximately $297 to $363.

Osaka: Known as the nation’s kitchen, Osaka boasts an unbeatable cost of living. It is more affordable than Tokyo, with the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment ranging from $531 to $649.

Kawasaki: Situated between Tokyo and Yokohama, Kawasaki is one of the cheapest places to live in Japan. The cost of living here is lower than in Tokyo, and the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is around $531 to $649.

It’s important to keep in mind that the cost of living in Japan can vary across different locations, and the prices mentioned above are subject to change.



Tokyo, Japan

Moving to Japan is a significant step that requires careful preparation to ensure a smooth transition. This section will walk you through the crucial aspects of preparing for your move to the Land of the Rising Sun.


Understanding Your Motivation: Begin by reflecting on your reasons for moving to Japan. Whether it’s for work, education, or personal growth, understanding your motivation will help you set clear goals for your journey.


Research and Information: Take the time to research Japan’s culture, society, and local customs. This knowledge will not only prepare you for what to expect but also help you adapt more seamlessly once you arrive.


Language Skills: While many Japanese people do speak English, learning some basic Japanese phrases can be immensely helpful. Consider enrolling in language courses or using language learning apps to get a head start.


Visa and Legal Requirements: Depending on your purpose for moving, you’ll need to navigate the Japanese visa process. Research the specific visa type you require and ensure you meet all the necessary criteria.


Financial Planning: Establish a budget for your move, including expenses for visas, travel, accommodation, and initial living costs. It’s also a good time to open a local bank account or set up a currency exchange solution.


Healthcare and Insurance: Familiarize yourself with Japan’s healthcare system and consider international health insurance. Ensure you have copies of your medical records and any necessary prescriptions.


Packing and Logistics: Decide what items you’ll bring with you and what you’ll leave behind. If you plan to ship your belongings, research international shipping options and logistics.


Housing Search: Start your search for accommodation in Japan. Research different neighborhoods, consider your budget, and reach out to real estate agents or online platforms to find suitable options.


Cultural Sensitivity: Gain an understanding of Japanese customs and etiquette. This will help you integrate into society and make a positive impression.


Support Network: Connect with expat communities and networks in Japan. Building a support system before your move can ease the transition.


Remember that preparation is key to a successful move. 


Visa Requirements

Moving to Japan involves complying with specific visa requirements based on your purpose of stay. Navigating the visa process is a crucial step in your relocation journey. In this section, we’ll break down the essential information you need to understand Japanese visa requirements.


Visa Types: Japan offers various visa categories, each tailored to different purposes such as work, study, tourism, or family reunion. Identify the type of visa that aligns with your reason for moving to Japan.


Eligibility Criteria: To obtain a Japanese visa, you’ll need to meet specific eligibility criteria set by the Japanese government. These criteria often include requirements related to your job, educational institution, or relationship with Japanese citizens or residents.


Documentation: Prepare all necessary documents for your visa application, which may include a valid passport, visa application form, photographs, and any supporting documents required for your specific visa category. Ensure that your documents are complete and up to date.


The Application Process: Research the visa application process for your chosen visa type. Depending on your nationality and the type of visa, the application process can vary. It’s essential to follow the official guidelines and submit your application to the appropriate Japanese embassy or consulate.


Duration and Extensions: Different visa categories come with varying durations of stay. Understand the permitted length of your stay and whether your visa can be extended if needed.


Health and Background Checks: Some visa types may require health and background checks. Ensure you complete any required medical examinations or provide relevant certificates as part of your application.


Financial Requirements: Depending on your visa type, you may need to demonstrate financial stability. Be prepared to show proof of financial resources to support your stay in Japan.


Application Fees: Determine the visa application fees for your specific visa category. Budget for these costs as they can vary depending on your nationality and the type of visa.


Consulting with Experts: If you’re unsure about the visa process or your eligibility, consider seeking advice from immigration experts, legal consultants, or your employer or educational institution, if applicable.


Timelines and Planning: Start the visa application process well in advance of your planned move to Japan. Visa processing times can vary, so it’s essential to plan accordingly.


Understanding and meeting visa requirements is a critical step in ensuring a successful move to Japan.


Logistics, Including SDC International Shipping

International Shipping

When you’re moving to Japan, the logistics of transporting your belongings and organizing the details of your move is an essential part of your journey. 


International Shipping Options: Research the various international shipping options available to you, including the services provided by SDC International Shipping. SDC offers comprehensive shipping solutions, including air freight and sea freight, tailored to your needs.


Hiring Professional Movers: Consider whether you’ll hire professional international movers like SDC International Shipping. Experienced movers can handle the complexities of packing, shipping, and customs clearance, making your move more manageable.


Customs Regulations: Familiarize yourself with Japan’s customs regulations and work with SDC International Shipping to ensure compliance. SDC can guide you on what items may be subject to restrictions or duties, helping you avoid delays or complications.


Packing and Inventory: Create a detailed inventory of all the items you’re shipping, and consult with SDC International Shipping on proper packing and labeling. Their expertise can streamline the process.


Shipping Timeline: Plan your shipping timeline in collaboration with SDC International Shipping. Determine when your items need to arrive in Japan to align with your moving date, factoring in shipping times, customs clearance, and potential delays.


Insurance Coverage: Explore insurance options for your belongings during transit with the guidance of SDC International Shipping. Their expertise can help you choose the right coverage for peace of mind.


Shipping Costs: Budget for the costs associated with international shipping, including services from SDC International Shipping. These expenses can include shipping fees, insurance premiums, customs duties, and taxes.


Temporary Accommodation: If your belongings will arrive in Japan before you find a permanent residence, consult with SDC International Shipping on securing temporary accommodation for storage until you’re ready to move in.


Customs Clearance: Understand the customs clearance process in Japan and collaborate with SDC International Shipping to ensure smooth clearance. They can assist with documentation, payment of duties or taxes, and customs inspections.


Receiving Your Shipment: Coordinate the delivery and unpacking of your belongings in Japan, with guidance from SDC International Shipping. Ensure that you or a representative is present to receive your shipment and inspect the items.


By integrating SDC International Shipping into your logistics planning, you can benefit from our expertise and experience in international relocation, making your move to Japan more efficient and stress-free. International shipping and logistics are essential components of your journey, and with the right partner, you can navigate them with confidence.


Finding suitable accommodation in Japan is a vital aspect of your move, as it significantly impacts your overall experience in the country. Let’s talk about finding the right home for yourself and your family in Japan.


Determine Your Budget: Start by establishing a clear budget for your housing expenses. Consider factors such as rent, utilities, and any upfront costs associated with renting or buying a property.


Location Matters: Research different neighborhoods in Japan to find the one that best suits your needs. Think about proximity to work or school, public transportation, and the availability of essential services like grocery stores and healthcare facilities.


Rental vs. Buying: Decide whether you’ll rent or buy your accommodation in Japan. The choice may depend on your long-term plans and financial situation.


Real Estate Agents: Consider enlisting the services of a local real estate agent who specializes in assisting expats. They can help you navigate the housing market and find options that align with your preferences.


Online Resources: Utilize online platforms and websites that list available properties. Many of these platforms offer a range of housing options, from apartments to houses.


Lease Agreements: If you’re renting, review lease agreements thoroughly. Pay close attention to terms, conditions, and any additional fees. Seek clarification if you have any doubts.


Furnishing: Determine whether you’ll be renting a furnished or unfurnished property. This decision can impact your initial costs and the convenience of your move.


Utilities Setup: Arrange for the setup of utilities such as water, electricity, and internet services. Confirm the details and costs associated with each service.


Visit Properties: If possible, visit the properties you’re considering. This allows you to get a feel for the space and its surroundings, ensuring it meets your expectations.


Legal Considerations: Be aware of any legal considerations or cultural norms related to housing in Japan, such as garbage disposal rules and community practices.


Accessibility and Inclusivity: If you have specific accessibility or inclusivity needs, communicate them to your real estate agent to ensure your housing meets your requirements.


Finding the perfect home in Japan may take time, but with careful research and the right support, you can secure accommodation that suits your needs and preferences.



Managing your finances when moving to Japan is a crucial aspect of ensuring a successful transition. In this section, we’ll explore financial planning to help you navigate the complexities of a new financial environment.


Budgeting: Start by creating a detailed budget that outlines your expected income and expenses in Japan. This will give you a clear understanding of your financial situation.


Currency Exchange: If you have funds in a different currency, consider the most cost-effective way to exchange your money into Japanese yen. Compare rates offered by banks and currency exchange services.


Banking in Japan: Research the various banking options available in Japan. You may need to open a local bank account, which can simplify financial transactions and reduce currency conversion costs.


Credit and Debit Cards: Check whether your current credit and debit cards can be used in Japan. Inform your bank about your move to avoid card issues due to international transactions.


Transferring Funds: If you plan to transfer funds from your home country to Japan, explore the most efficient and cost-effective methods, such as wire transfers or international online banking services.


Taxes: Understand the Japanese tax system, including income tax, consumption tax, and any tax treaties between your home country and Japan. Consult a tax expert if necessary.


Emergency Fund: Set aside an emergency fund for unexpected expenses. Having a financial safety net can provide peace of mind during your transition.


Health Insurance: Familiarize yourself with the Japanese health insurance system and your obligations as a resident. Ensure you have suitable health coverage in place.


Savings and Investments: Consider your long-term financial goals. You may want to explore savings accounts, investments, or retirement plans to secure your financial future.


Financial Advisers: If you have complex financial needs or investments, consider consulting a financial adviser with expertise in international finance.


Local Costs: Research the cost of living in your specific city or region in Japan. Costs can vary, so understanding local expenses is essential for effective budgeting.


Effective financial planning is a cornerstone of a successful move to Japan. By taking the time to manage your finances proactively and seeking the right advice when needed, you can ensure that your transition is not only smooth but also financially secure.


Local Services

Understanding and accessing local services in Japan is crucial for your well-being and the overall quality of your life during your stay. Let’s take a look at the various essential services available in Japan and how to navigate them as a newcomer.


Healthcare System: Gain insights into Japan’s healthcare system, which provides high-quality medical services. Learn about the various types of insurance and choose the one that best suits your needs.

  1. Health Insurance in Japan for Expats and International Citizens: This website provides information about Japan’s healthcare system and how foreigners can be a part of it.
  2. Healthcare In Japan: Ultimate Guide For Expats And Digital Nomads: This guide offers comprehensive information on Japan’s healthcare system specifically for expats and digital nomads.


Medical Facilities: Identify local medical facilities and hospitals in your area. Know their specialties and services, especially if you have specific medical requirements.


Health Insurance: Explore the different health insurance options available in Japan, including the National Health Insurance and private plans. Ensure you have adequate coverage for your health needs.


Registration: Register with your local ward office, also known as the “city office” or “ku office.” This registration is mandatory for all residents in Japan and allows you to access various services.


Utilities and Services: Set up essential utilities like water, gas, and electricity. Learn how to pay bills, schedule maintenance, and report any issues promptly.


Garbage Disposal: Familiarize yourself with Japan’s garbage disposal rules, as they vary by location. Learn the schedule for different types of waste, and follow the guidelines for recycling and sorting.


Public Transportation: Understand the local public transportation system, including buses, trains, and subways. Get information on routes, schedules, and transportation cards for convenience and cost savings.


Schools and Education: If you have children, research local schools and educational opportunities. Ensure you understand the enrollment process, curriculum, and any additional support services.


Language Services: Seek out language support services or language schools if you need assistance with the Japanese language. These services can help you adapt and communicate more effectively.


Emergency Services: Know how to contact emergency services such as the police, fire department, and medical services in case of emergencies.


Local Events and Community: Explore local events and community gatherings to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and connect with residents. Participating in community activities can enhance your experience.


Japan has a vibrant expat community, particularly in major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. These communities offer support, resources, and a sense of belonging to expats living and working in Japan. Here are some ways to connect with expat communities in Japan:


Online Expat Forums: Websites such as InterNations (https://www.internations.org/japan-expats) and Expat.com (https://www.expat.com/en/destination/asia/japan/) have active forums where expats in Japan can connect, ask questions, and share advice and experiences.


Access to local services is vital for a successful transition to life in Japan. By taking the time to learn about and utilize these services, you’ll not only meet your daily needs but also become an active and engaged member of your new community.


Moving to Japan is a significant step, filled with excitement, challenges, and boundless opportunities. Through careful planning and preparation, you can make this transition smoother and more fulfilling.


Please contact us for more information.


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