How to Move to Japan From The United States

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A Brief Overview of Japan

Located in East Asia, Japan comprises four main islands surrounded by numerous smaller ones, offering diverse landscapes and cultural experiences.

The Japanese yen (¥) is the currency, and with a population of approximately 124 million people and stunning major cities, including Tokyo (Japan’s capital), Yokohama, Osaka, and Nagoya, Japan attracts millions of expatriates seeking its unique charm. 

Moving to Japan from the US can be a smooth transition with proper preparation. However, if you’re not properly prepared, adjusting to life in Japan may pose significant challenges due to the language barrier, different cuisine, and cultural differences.

Despite the hurdles, armed with the right knowledge, you can soon enjoy life in this captivating island nation. 

In this guide, we'll cover all the essentials of moving to Japan from the US, addressing the question, 'How can I live in Japan?'

From the steps needed to relocate to securing employment, managing finances, and making new friends, we'll ensure you have all the information needed to make your transition as smooth as possible.


Japanese Culture: What to Know

Understanding and adapting to Japanese culture is essential for any American planning to live or spend an extended time in Japan. From greeting customs to table manners, there are numerous cultural nuances you should know about.


1. Greetings and Manners 

Japanese greetings are known to be traditional, and bowing is the custom. The bow's depth and duration convey respect, and deeper bows are reserved for higher-ranking individuals.

Also, it's essential to use both hands when accepting or offering business cards, accompanied by a slight bow, as a sign of respect. 


2. Gift-Giving Rituals

Gift-giving is profoundly significant in Japanese culture. It is a means of expressing gratitude, respect, and goodwill.

The presentation of gifts is an art form, with meticulous attention paid to wrapping and packaging. 

Importantly, you’ll want to be aware of certain cultural sensitivities. When it comes to gift-giving, the number four should always be avoided in gift sets due to its association with death. 


3. Table Etiquette

In Japan, dining is all about tradition and etiquette. 

Before enjoying a meal, it’s customary to express gratitude by saying “itadakimasu,” signifying humility and appreciation. Equally important is the phrase “gochisousama deshita” uttered after the meal, acknowledging the culinary experience.

The proper use of chopsticks is also essential, with taboos against gestures like pointing or passing food directly between chopsticks.


4. Shoes and Slippers

In Japanese culture, there is a strong emphasis on cleanliness, respect, and maintaining harmony within shared spaces.

Upon entering a Japanese home or establishment, guests are provided slippers (indoor shoes). These slippers are often colour-coded: one type is for general indoor use, and another is for the bathroom.

When entering a bathroom, you must switch from regular indoor slippers to special bathroom slippers (usually kept near the bathroom entrance). After using the bathroom, switch back to the regular indoor slippers before returning to the common areas.


5. Honorific Suffixes

Honorific suffixes play a crucial role in respectful interactions in Japanese culture. For instance:

6. Upholding Social Harmony 

Adhering to social norms, such as wearing masks when feeling unwell, exemplifies consideration for others. 

Similarly, displaying patience and respect while communicating in English is widely appreciated, while efforts to learn basic Japanese phrases contribute significantly to fostering smoother interactions across cultural boundaries. 

Furthermore, observing practices like refraining from eating on the go, minimising noise in public spaces, and exercising discretion in behaviour cultivates a sense of communal harmony and respect for social decorum in Japanese culture. 


How to move to Japan from the US

Navigating visa requirements can seem daunting when moving to another country, but the process can run smoothly with the right information.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of everything you need to know about Japanese visas and the application process. 


Visa Types and Eligibility

For more information, visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. This official website provides comprehensive details about different visa categories, application procedures, required documents, and more.


The Application Process 

1. Obtain Your Certificate of Eligibility

If you’re applying for a visa through company sponsorship, the sponsoring company in Japan will typically handle the visa application process on your behalf. They will assist you in obtaining a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), a crucial document for visa applications.

The COE proves that you meet the eligibility criteria for your desired visa category.

Once you have the COE, you must present it when applying for the visa at a Japanese embassy or consulate. Along with the COE, you’ll submit other necessary visa application documents.

If you’re not sponsored by a company but still require a COE (for instance, students, dependents, or those seeking long-term visas for cultural or academic purposes), you’ll need a representative in Japan to submit the COE application on your behalf.

Your representative can be a school, relative, legal representative, or employer.

The COE application typically requires documents demonstrating your eligibility, financial stability, a clear criminal record, and health and safety information.


2. Visit the Japanese Embassy or Consulate

Schedule an appointment at the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate to complete the visa application process. 

Generally, you must visit the Japanese embassy or consulate in person. However, if this isn’t possible, you can authorise a proxy to drop off and pick up the application on your behalf. This requires filling out an authorisation form, which the proxy must submit along with their ID. 

Official visa applications submitted by an organisation's representative do not require an authorisation form.

It's important to note that the Japanese government only issues visas through its embassies or consulates abroad. You must first contact the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate to inquire about the required documents, opening hours, and whether you need to make an appointment.


3. Submit the Required Documents

When applying for a visa to work in Japan, you will need to prepare and submit a variety of documents to support your application. In addition to a COE, essential documents required for most work visa applications include a:

It's important to note that this is not an exhaustive list, and depending on your specific situation or the type of visa you are applying for, additional documents might be needed.


4. Pay Any Necessary Visa Fees

Pay the applicable visa fees, which vary depending on the type of visa and the number of entries required. For example, a single-entry visa costs approximately $27 USD, while a multiple-entry visa costs around $55 USD.

Embassies and consulates generally accept payments by money order, cashier's check, and sometimes cash, but rarely personal checks or credit cards.

If you're being sponsored by a company, they’ll cover these fees as part of your sponsorship.


5. Attend Your Appointment

Depending on your situation, you may also be interviewed by consular staff as part of the visa application process. This interview typically covers questions about your planned stay in Japan, your background, and the purpose of your visit.

Bringing all required documents to your appointment is crucial. Missing documents can lead to delays in processing your visa or even a denial of your application.

If your company sponsors you for a work visa, your employer can help you prepare your documentation, and in some cases, a representative from your sponsoring company may accompany you to the embassy or consulate for your appointment. 


6. Get Your Visa

Once approved, you’ll receive your visa, allowing you to legally enter Japan and begin your stay!

The time it takes to receive your visa can vary depending on a number of factors, including the specific policies of the Japanese embassy or consulate where you applied and the type of visa you are applying for. However, the standard processing time for most visa types is 5 to 10 business days. 

Make sure to carefully review the visa details, including any conditions attached to your visa type.


Additional Considerations

Finding a Job in Japan

There’s a lot to consider when getting a job in another country, beginning with knowing your salary expectations. 

Japan is known for offering competitive salaries, varying significantly by region, industry, experience, and education level. In 2023, the average salary in Japan was approximately 4.14 million yen annually (around $27,270 US), translating to about 345,000 yen monthly (around $2,295 US). This figure represents a general average across various sectors and locations​​.

The highest salaries are typically found in Tokyo, followed by Yokohama and Osaka, with Tokyo's average monthly salary being ¥574,000, equivalent to approximately $3,820 US. 

While the average salary in the USA may be higher than in Japan, the cost of living and expenses can also be higher in the US, particularly in healthcare and housing. 

With that in mind, let’s explore how to navigate the job market in Japan.

Websites tailored for international job seekers in Japan, such as Daijob, GaijinPot, and Jobs in Japan, offer job listings across various industries. These platforms are particularly valuable as they cater to English speakers and often feature companies open to hiring international talent.

Additionally, leveraging global platforms like Glassdoor and LinkedIn can provide deeper insights into company cultures and salary expectations, with the added benefit of networking with professionals. 

Direct outreach to companies and using recruiting agencies specialised in assisting foreigners can significantly enhance your job search. Agencies like Robert Walters and Hays Recruitment are known for their expertise in connecting international candidates with opportunities in Japan.

Networking can also be incredibly helpful. Engaging in industry-specific events, joining local networking groups, and connecting with professionals already established in Japan through platforms like LinkedIn can uncover opportunities not often available through traditional job searching methods. 

For those in the US dreaming of moving to Japan for work, the journey requires patience, persistence, and a proactive approach, but by combining your use of dedicated job platforms with the personal touch of networking and direct company engagement, you can greatly improve your chances of finding your dream job in Japan. 


Making Friends in Japan

Relocating to Japan presents an exciting opportunity to immerse yourself in a culture rich with history and unique social norms. However, the transition can be daunting, especially when building a new social circle. 

Making friends and connecting with fellow expats can significantly ease the adjustment process for Americans moving to Japan. Here are some strategies to help you navigate Japan’s social landscape. 


1. Dive into Japanese Popular Culture

One of the quickest ways to bond with locals is through a shared love of Japanese popular culture. Japan's entertainment world, including music, movies, anime, and manga, holds a special place in the hearts of many Japanese people. 

Familiarising yourself with trending shows, popular bands, or the latest manga can serve as a fantastic icebreaker and show your genuine interest in the culture.

You don’t need to become an expert overnight; knowing key names and titles can spark engaging conversations. Additionally, discussing your country’s popular culture can provide a fascinating exchange of ideas, deepening your connections.


2. Join Clubs and Attend Events

Japan’s vibrant community life offers numerous avenues for meeting people with shared interests. 

Whether you're into sports or cultural activities, there's bound to be a club or event that interests you! 

Websites like Meetup are excellent resources for finding local events where both Japanese people and foreigners come together. 


3. Explore Language Exchange Apps and Social Media 

Language exchange apps like HelloTalk and HiNative are fantastic tools for meeting Japanese people interested in language practice. 

Additionally, social media platforms, including Instagram and Twitter, are also popular in Japan and can be effective for reaching out and connecting with locals.


4. Connect with Fellow Expats

Navigating a new country can be much easier with advice from those who have already made the journey. 

Online forums and social media groups, such as r/Expats and InterNations, serve as invaluable resources for connecting with the expat community in Japan. 

These platforms offer a space to exchange tips, seek advice, and find support among people who understand the challenges and rewards of expat life. 

Sharing experiences and asking questions in these communities can provide practical advice on everything from the job market to cultural nuances, making your transition smoother.


How Much Money Do You Need to Move to Japan, and How Should You Budget Your Move? 

From the cost of your flight to setting up your new home, there are several expenses you'll need to consider when you’re figuring out how to move to another country

Here's a comprehensive guide to help you budget your move to Japan from the US.


Initial Moving Costs

1. Flight Costs

The price of airfare to Japan varies significantly based on your departure location, the time of year, and how far in advance you book. 

The average cost of a flight from the US to Japan is around $1,100, but with potential savings of $100-300 if you catch a seat sale or are willing to take a stopover. 

To get the best deals, try to avoid peak tourist seasons, which are during the cherry blossom season from March to May and the autumn foliage period from September to November.


2. Shipping Your Belongings

If you plan to bring your belongings overseas, you'll need to factor in the shipping cost. This includes inspections and customs fees and can easily run into thousands of dollars. It might be best to leave as much as possible with a trusted family member or in storage back home. 

If you do decide to ship your possessions, the total cost will depend on the distance and their total weight and size.


3. Initial Accommodation

When you first arrive in Japan, you may need to stay in temporary accommodation, such as a hotel or hostel, while you search for a more permanent residence. 

The cost will vary depending on the duration of your stay and the type of accommodation you choose.


Monthly Living Costs in Japan

Living costs in Japan can vary greatly, particularly if you choose to live in a large city like Tokyo. Here's what you need to know about the monthly income required to live comfortably in Japan.

Living Expenses

For a single person: Approximately $847 US (¥127,330) monthly, not including rent. 

For a family of four: Approximately $2,988 US (¥449,140) monthly, not including rent.

Rent Expenses

For more information on the cost of living in Japan, you can visit the Numbeo website.


Additional Considerations

When gearing up for your move, it's essential to stash away some funds not just for those planned expenses like rent but also for the fun bits—eating out, enjoying local entertainment, and exploring. 

Remember, those unexpected costs can sneak up on you, so adding a safety net of about 10-20% to your budget is a smart move. 

We recommend opening a savings account for your adventure. It's a great way to monitor your savings goal and ensure you don't accidentally dip into those funds. Say you aim to relocate in 12 months; setting aside $1,000 monthly will get you to a comfy $12,000. 


What to Know About Finding a New Home: Where Are the Best Places to Live in Japan?

Relocating to Japan requires some planning, especially when finding a place to live. 

Many expats start with long-term Airbnb rentals. However, working with a local real estate agent is ideal if you’re looking for a more permanent residence. They can help you navigate the rental market, understand local norms, and find a place that fits your budget and preferences.

Here’s a guide to the best places to live in Japan. 


Tokyo: The Heartbeat of Japan

Known for its ultramodern skyline, Tokyo offers a fast-paced lifestyle with endless entertainment, shopping, and dining options. It's an ideal location for those seeking employment opportunities in various industries, including technology, finance, and fashion.


Osaka: A Blend of Business and Cuisine

Osaka, Japan's third-largest city, is renowned for its vibrant food scene and friendly locals. 

It's a significant economic hub, offering numerous job opportunities, particularly in the manufacturing and service sectors.

Living in Osaka balances the hustle and bustle of city life and the warmth of a close-knit community. It’s a great choice for those who appreciate food, culture, and a bit of history, all within reach of Kyoto for weekend getaways.


Kyoto: Living Amongst History

Kyoto, the historical heart of Japan, is a haven for those who love to immerse themselves in culture and history. It's home to numerous world heritage sites, temples, and traditional tea houses. 

Kyoto offers a more laid-back lifestyle than Tokyo and Osaka but doesn't disappoint in its selection of cafes, restaurants, and art galleries. It appeals to those looking for a serene living environment without completely detaching from urban life.


Fukuoka: A Haven for Entrepreneurs

Fukuoka, located on the northern shore of Kyushu Island, is becoming increasingly popular among expatriates, especially entrepreneurs. 

The city is known for its startup-friendly environment, with the local government offering support for new businesses. 

Fukuoka combines urban convenience with access to nature, making it an attractive option for those seeking a balance between work and leisure.


Sapporo: For the Love of Nature and Snow

Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, offers a unique experience with its snowy winters and mild summers.

It's a paradise for winter sports enthusiasts and anyone who enjoys the beauty of nature. Sapporo has a vibrant nightlife and diverse cuisine and is less crowded than Japan's more southern cities.


Finding a Job in Japan with Relocation Support

Japan's unique blend of tradition and innovation makes it an ideal setting for personal and professional growth. Relocation support simplifies moving abroad by offering financial support and helping with the visa application process. Whether you're enticed by the bustling streets of Tokyo or the serene beauty of Kyoto, is your gateway to a fulfilling tech career with relocation support in Japan.

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