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Tips for newcomers

by Sreekumar B.A on 12/13/2004 | Comments | Viewed 2970 time(s) | Full Page View

Tips for New comers for Moving and Getting Settled in Japan

This content is taken from globalcompassion

Moving to Japan and establishing a life here isn't easy. Even Japanese people returning from abroad struggle to readjust. If you are coming with an organization or to work in a specific company, then communicate carefully in advance. How will you get from the airport to your first destination? Will someone meet you? If you don't speak Japanese or already know the transportation system, have someone meet you or provide very detailed instructions. Once you have your feet on the ground, know how and when you will get your Alien Registration Card and arrange for National Health Insurance (if needed). Unless your housing is being provided, you will almost certainly need urgent help in this area. Get all the help that you can, because you'll need it. People who help you may have to invest significant time and money. They'll understand this better than you, but they may have a hard time saying "no." Consider the strength of your relationship before you through yourself in someone's arms.


Don't over pack. Of course, you should use every square inch of space that you can, and you'll never have enough space. If you have extra space and want to use it, here are a few suggestions. First, think about what special things will provide a touch of home. During the first few months, you'll probably be craving some kind of comfort food or familiar smells around the house. Even if you can buy that special something here in Japan, it may take awhile to figure out where. So bring enough to get you through the first couple of months.

Some things that we wanted and couldn't easily find at first: spices for Indian cooking, Coconut flakes, Papads, Rice powders. You should also bring vitamins (if you use them) and medicine (especially common cold medicine, aspirin/Tylenol, and children's medications).

Arriving At the Airport (Narita)

When you arrive at the airport, you should ideally have someone meet you there with a car (this is especially true if you are flying into Narita, which is located about two hours by train or car outside of Tokyo. If that's not possible, have someone meet you and go with you on the train. In that case, or if the car is too small, you can choose from various delivery services at the airport. They will deliver your luggage to any address in the Tokyo area the next day for a very reasonable cost. You should be able to find someone who speaks English who can help you out. By the way, when you fly out of the country, you can also deliver bags TO the airport (even several days in advance). Whatever you do, don't try to carry all your bags on the train unless you are truly desperate. You will most likely be changing trains, going up and down stairs, possibly even crossing streets, etc.

Alien Registration Card

You need an Alien Registration Card if you are planning to stay more than 90 days in Japan. If you want to take pictures in advance, the pictures are similar to passport photos, except they should measure 4.5 cm by 3.5 cm. You'll need your Alien Registration Card to rent an apartment and establish your basic services (banking, phone, etc.). To register, go to the local ward office (like a city hall) where you live.


Make sure that you bring, or have easy access to, enough money for the initial transition. You will have to pay Yen 100000 to Yen 250000 in advance to rent housing, and the rest will be for furnishings and food until your first paycheck comes.

Searching a House

Searching a house is not that easy in Japan. If you need to find your own housing, then be prepared to work hard at it. In most cases, you either need to speak Japanese well or have a Japanese speaking person who can spend parts of several days helping you out.

1) Visit local realtors. Virtually all rentals are handled by realtors. Once you know the town where you will live, go to the nearest train station. You will find local realtor's offices located on the main streets right around the station. You can most likely visit them one by one on foot. The offices are easily identifiable by the postings they all have in their windows. At the realtors office, you can look at the available apartments (sometimes they'll have stacks of them on sheets of paper). Again, it helps to know approximately what you're looking for. In this case we have to pay advance money (partially refundable), key money (non refundable), rents in advance.

2) Urban Development Board (UDC). Another option is searching UDC apartments. Advantage is that we don't have to pay key money. All we have to pay is 3 month rent as advance and first months rent will be taken from this amount. You can view the UDC site here


National Health Insurance is relatively cheap, and I believe it's available for most long term residents, including students. You can inquire about this at the City Hall where you sign up for your Alien Registration Card. The cost of National Health Insurance is based on how much money you make. During our first year, the cost was extremely low because they didn't have any record of what we were earning (we didn't hide anything, that's just the way it was). After the first year, the cost for health insurance and other local taxes you may have to pay may increase.