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5 min read

Moving to Japan: A Guide for Expats and Digital Nomads

Author

Gabriele Culot

Published

February 28, 2024

Last Update

June 28, 2024

A view of a rural street in Japan

Table of Contents

Step 1: Prepare your documents

Step 2: Manage your finances

Step 3: Arrange housing and accommodation

Step 4: Consider career opportunities and working arrangements

Step 5: Organize healthcare and education

Step 6: Ensure your safety

Step 7: Immerse yourself into Japanese Culture

Make Japan your new home country

Key takeaways
  1. Japan has emerged as a popular choice for expats and digital nomads in recent years.
  2. Applying for one of the many Japanese visas and finding jobs calls for thorough research and careful planning.
  3. Deel’s step-by-step guide shows you how to effortlessly navigate the Japanese visa process and settle into your new home.

Japan has seen a growing number of foreign residents over the past few years. The blend of modern innovation with traditional culture and history provides an attractive draw for expats and digital nomads to this island nation.

The advancement in remote work technologies, coupled with Japan's robust infrastructure, has also contributed to its success as a destination for Western and Asian immigrants alike, as has the popularity of Japanese media among American and European audiences in the last few decades.

Known for its innovative tech industries and business-friendly environment, Japan encourages foreign nationals wishing to live, work, or start a business there. However, moving to Japan also carries its unique set of challenges. Therefore, thorough preparation is essential to navigate the process smoothly. This guide will take you through the necessary steps to relocate to Japan successfully.

Step 1: Prepare your documents

Before moving to Japan, ensure that you have all the necessary documentation for legal entry and residency. Here's what you need to consider:

Visa types in Japan

The Japanese government offers different types of visas for non-Japanese citizens intending to enter the country. These include:

  • Temporary visitor’s visa: Visit for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days
  • Working visa: For those seeking employment in Japan. The type of working visa depends on your professional field
  • Long-term resident visa: For those whom the Minister of Justice recognizes as requiring a long-term stay or permanent residence, it entitles the holder to a residence card
  • Spouse or child of Japanese national visa: For family members of a Japanese national
  • Working holiday visa: Available for citizens of some countries aged 18 -30, allowing work and travel in Japan for up to a year
  • Student visa: For those accepted into a Japanese educational institution for studying

Japan announces new digital nomad visa

Japan is set to introduce a digital nomad visa allowing remote work for up to six months. Available for nationals of 49 countries, including the UK and the US, it will require a ¥10 million income and private health insurance and will not entitle holders to a residence card.

The digital nomad visa should be available starting in March 2024, so start planning your next trip, and stay tuned for more details about this visa.

Visa sponsorship

Unless you're married to a Japanese citizen or a long-term resident, foreigners typically require sponsorship from a future employer or a guarantor residing in Japan for a work visa.

Essential document checklist

Preparing all your documents ahead of the Japanese visa application process can help you avoid any delays or complications. Depending on your visa type, these documents may include:

✅ Passport: Your passport should be valid for the duration of your visa

✅ Passport-sized photos: The photos should be 45mm x 45mm and taken within the last six months

✅ Visa application form: Fill in and sign the application form, following specific requirements for your visa type

✅ Proof of outbound travel: This details when and how you intend to depart from Japan

✅ Proof of financial capability: A bank statement or similar documentation showing that you can support yourself during your stay

✅ Certificate of eligibility: Issued by the Japanese Ministry of Justice, this document verifies your compliance with the conditions of the immigration law

✅ Proof of employment: If applying for a work visa, this should be a job offer letter or contract

✅ Relationship proof: If applying for a dependent visa, documentation proving your relationship to the visa holder is required

✅ Certificate of authorized employment/study: Issued by a Japanese educational institution or employer

Importance of Authenticating and Translating Documents

Japanese authorities require certain documents to be authenticated, particularly if your country isn't party to the Hague Convention on authentication of documents. Use a reputable service to get documents professionally translated into Japanese to ensure legal recognition by local authorities.

Step 2: Manage your finances

Japan is known for its unique blend of modernity and traditional culture. Managing your finances effectively will help you to make the most of your experience while living in Japan. Here’s what you need to consider:

Cost of living in Japan

Here’s a list of the costs you can expect when living in Japan:

  • Renting: A one-bedroom apartment in major cities like Tokyo can range from ¥80,000 ($730) to ¥150,000 ($1,365) per month. In smaller cities and towns, the rent may be lower, averaging around ¥40,000 ($365) to ¥80,000 ($730) per month
  • Buying property: Real estate prices in Japan vary greatly depending on the location and property size. It's important to research and consult with local experts before considering purchasing property
  • Food and drink: Grocery costs in Japan can be reasonable, especially if you opt for local options. Eating out at local restaurants can vary, with a meal for two costing anywhere from ¥2,000 ($18) to ¥5,000 ($45)
  • Transport: Public transportation in Japan is efficient, but commuter costs can add up. The average monthly cost for transportation passes is around ¥10,000-¥15,000 ($90-$135)
  • Owning a car in Japan comes with additional costs such as parking fees, taxes, and maintenance
  • Utilities: Electricity, water, gas, and internet services in Japan can vary based on region and usage. It's essential to factor in these costs when managing your budget

Taxation

When considering your financial situation in Japan, it's essential to be aware of your tax obligations. Japan operates on a progressive income tax system, with rates ranging from 5% to 45% based on your income bracket. Additionally, other taxes or contributions, such as health insurance and pension fees, may need to be accounted for.

Banking and currency exchange

Japan has a well-developed banking system with numerous local and international banks. You can easily open a Japanese bank account by visiting a nearby branch with the required identification documents, proof of address, and employment details.

The official currency of Japan is the Japanese Yen (JPY). Currency exchange can be done at authorized banks, post offices, or currency exchange offices.

Step 3: Arrange housing and accommodation

Securing the right accommodation is crucial for a successful transition when moving to Japan. Here, we’ll explore the housing options in Japan and the necessary steps to take.

Renting vs. buying

Due to the complex real estate market and cultural preferences, renting is a popular choice for expats in Japan. This allows flexibility and avoids high upfront costs associated with purchasing property.

Finding suitable housing

Japan offers various housing options, including apartments, houses, and share houses. Online platforms such as Suumo and At Home are widely used for property searches, allowing you to filter by location, budget, and other preferences.

When selecting a property, consider factors such as proximity to transportation, amenities, and neighborhood safety. Visiting the property in person is recommended before finalizing the lease agreement.

Lease agreements in Japan typically include:

  • Detailed description of the accommodation
  • Rental amount and payment terms
  • Security deposit requirements
  • Lease duration and renewal options
  • Tenant responsibilities and any specific rules set by the landlord
  • Whether pets are allowed

Take the time to thoroughly review the lease agreement, seek assistance if needed, and ensure it aligns with your needs and preferences.

Step 4: Consider career opportunities and working arrangements

Exploring job opportunities in Japan offers a unique blend of traditional business practices and cutting-edge innovation, making it an interesting destination for skilled professionals worldwide. The country is renowned for its strong economy, hosting numerous global corporations, particularly in the technology, automotive, and electronics sectors. While securing employment can be competitive, many expatriates find rewarding roles that offer a decent standard of living despite the high cost of living in urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka.

Job market overview

Initiating your job search in Japan requires familiarity with the latest industry trends. Online job portals such as Daijob and GaijinPot Jobs are excellent resources for expatriates, listing opportunities that often require or prefer English-speaking candidates. Japan's technology sector, alongside traditional industries such as manufacturing and services, remains a significant employer. Additionally, there is an increasing demand for healthcare, education (especially English teaching), and tourism professionals.

Leveraging professional networking platforms like LinkedIn is also valuable, as personal connections can significantly impact job prospects in Japan. While English is used in many international companies, proficiency in Japanese opens up a broader array of opportunities and is highly regarded in the job market.

Understanding work culture in Japan

Japanese work culture is known for its formality, dedication, and emphasis on harmony and respect. The corporate hierarchy is steep, with a clear chain of command and a collective decision-making process that may appear time-consuming to those used to a more direct approach.

Work hours have traditionally been long, with overtime often expected. However, recent shifts towards improving work-life balance mean that some Japanese companies are actively trying to reduce excessive working hours. Moreover, while full-time work is still prevalent, part-time agreements have become increasingly popular.

Understanding and adapting to these cultural nuances—such as the importance of after-work socializing and meticulous attention to detail in your work—can significantly enhance your professional experience in Japan.

Step 5: Organize healthcare and education

Adjusting to life in Japan involves navigating its healthcare system and identifying suitable educational options for dependents.

Healthcare system in Japan

Japan boasts a high-quality and accessible healthcare system with universal health insurance coverage. All residents, including expatriates, must enroll in the National Health Insurance or the Employees' Health Insurance schemes, ensuring affordable access to a wide range of medical services. While there may be language barriers in some healthcare settings, larger hospitals in cities often have staff who are English speakers.

Education options in Japan

For families with children, Japanese schools offer a variety of educational paths. While public education is highly esteemed, the language of instruction is Japanese, posing a challenge for those without proficiency. International schools provide curricula in English and other languages, offering a smoother transition for expatriate children but often commanding high tuition fees.

Step 6: Ensure your safety

Japan is celebrated for its safety, boasting one of the lowest crime rates globally. Expatriates and visitors benefit from the peace of mind that comes with living in a society that values respect for the law and personal property. 

Nonetheless, it’s wise to stay informed about natural disaster preparedness, as Japan is prone to earthquakes, typhoons, and other events. Earthquake drills and safety protocols are part of life here, ensuring the community remains vigilant and prepared.

Step 7: Immerse yourself into Japanese Culture

Fully experiencing Japanese culture is essential for a rewarding expat journey. Engaging with its deep-rooted traditions and modern practices can significantly enhance your experience in Japan.

Traditional ceremonies and festivals: Japan is renowned for its many traditional ceremonies and festivals, such as the Cherry Blossom Festivals (Hanami) in spring and the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto. Participating in these celebrations and events can provide insight into Japan's rich cultural heritage and community spirit.

Culinary exploration: Japanese cuisine is an integral part of the country's culture, offering diverse flavors and dishes beyond just sushi and ramen. Embrace the opportunity to explore local eateries and cafes, learn to appreciate seasonal delicacies, and, if possible, take a cooking class to understand the art and precision behind Japanese cooking.

Politeness and social etiquette: Japanese people place great importance on respect and politeness. Familiarize yourself with basic etiquette—such as bowing, the proper use of chopsticks, and the importance of taking off shoes when entering a home—to show respect and improve social interactions.

Language learning: While challenging, learning the Japanese language, even at a conversational level, can exponentially enhance your experience. It facilitates daily activities, deepens your understanding of the culture, and connects you with local people.

Fashion and trends: While traditional attire like kimonos is worn on special occasions, Japan, especially Tokyo, is a hub for contemporary fashion and trends. Embracing local fashion can be an exciting way to express yourself and blend in with the urban landscape.

Public baths and hot springs (Onsen): Experiencing an onsen is a must-do in Japan. These hot springs are not just about bathing but are deeply ingrained in Japan’s culture as places of relaxation and socialization.

Make Japan your new home country

From the busy streets of Tokyo to the landscapes of Kyoto, from the iconic Mount Fuji to the snow-covered landscapes of Hokkaido, Japan offers a unique combination of ancient tradition and cutting-edge innovation, making it an ideal destination for expats and digital nomads, who can explore the country on the world-renowned bullet train.

Careful research and planning can ensure a smooth relocation if you're considering a move to Colombia. For extra support, Deel can guide organizations and their employees through the visa application process and help them shop for insurance plans.

Discover how Deel can help you obtain the necessary visa, or explore the Deel blog for more information on relocating abroad.

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