How to Move to Japan – Moving to Japan from the US

Moving to Japan from the US is not difficult if you are prepared. If you do not prepare for the move, living in Japan can be a major culture shock. The language barrier, different cuisine, and other cultural differences can be stressful. 

Like you would need to do before any move, there are some hurdles you will need to take on to adjust to life in Japan. Here is what you need to know before moving.

Allow Yourself Enough Time to Get a Visa

Before moving to Japan from the US, it is essential to allow yourself enough time to get a visa. While going to Japan for tourism or if you are there for less than 90 days, you do not need a visa, just a passport, and a return ticket home. However, if you are moving to Japan permanently, you must apply for a visa. 

Getting a visa is not all that time-consuming, but getting your paperwork in order takes some time. While obtaining a visa in Japan is quicker than most countries, you should still apply for a visa at least two months before your move. There are different visa types, so you must apply for the correct one. 

If you’re moving to Japan from the USA, you should apply for a work visa. A work visa in Japan allows you to stay there between four months and five years. Once the five years are up, the visa needs to be renewed. 

Work visas are becoming increasingly popular these days, as international recruiting is so common. Without a work visa, you will not be allowed to work in Japan. There are a number of professions that are acceptable for a work visa. To obtain a work visa, you must have proof of your career and job title. Job titles acceptable for work visas include:

  • Professor
  • Medical services
  • Religious activities
  • Artist
  • Legal/Accounting services
  • Researcher/Investigator
  • Business manager/Investor
  • Journalist
  • Engineer
  • Skilled labor
  • Entertainer
  • International service specialist

Prepare Yourself for the Language Barrier

Learning how to move to Japan from the US comes with multiple challenges, especially the language barrier unless you know Japanese. Unfortunately, there are not many accommodations in Japan for English speakers. 

You will definitely run into Japanese citizens who speak good English, but you will not find that everywhere you go. Before you move, you should try to learn the basics of speaking Japanese. Try to learn simple phrases, such as “yes,” “no,” “I don’t know,” and “bathroom.” Simple phrases and words can be helpful to you when you are trying to navigate your new surroundings. 

What to Know About Finding a New Home

Japan is an expensive country as a whole, but Tokyo is especially expensive. It is expensive to purchase a home in Japan, as it can cost as much as $337,000 ( 35,760,000 JPY). For that price in America, you will likely find a spacious home. 

Homes are usually tiny in Japan because it is a narrow island nation populated by about 130 million people. You can typically choose from different homes, but finding a home with much space is complicated. 

You can also rent, which is more affordable, but your apartment will be even smaller. While you do not need to be a Japanese citizen to purchase a home, you do need your work visa to prove permanent residency.

Budget Your Move

Since the cost of living and purchasing a home are high in Japan, it is essential to budget your move. In addition to the costs of renting or owning a home, you need to pay utilities and probably other recurring expenses. 

For example, the costs to eat out and use Japanese transportation can quickly add up. 

There is also the cost to plan your move to Japan. You need to budget for flight costs, visa and permit fees, shipping of your household goods, daily living costs, and additional charges if you have a family or pet to take with you. 

You may also need to pay for temporary living accommodation when you first arrive.  

You also cannot open a Japanese bank account until you arrive in the country. Therefore, you need to have other ways to access your money until you get banking sorted out. It should only take a few days for you to get a debit card so you can make ATM withdrawals. 

To open a Japanese bank account, you will need your valid visa, passport, residence card, and Japanese phone number and address.

Understanding Japanese Culture

Understanding how to live in Japan as an American requires effort. Western culture is different from Japanese culture. In Japan, it is polite to bow rather than shake hands. The deeper you bow, the more respect you show. Take your shoes off before entering someone’s home. 

Usually, there is a shelf next to the door to put your shoes on. In America, it is common to drink and eat while walking, but it is considered rude in Japan. 

Even if you purchase food from a vending machine, you should sit down to eat it. If you are accepting a business card from someone, always take it with both your hands and slightly bow. 

When you give your business card to someone, do the same thing because it shows respect. When answering calls in Japan, especially business calls, you respond by saying “yes” and then saying your name or your company’s name. In America, it is usually rude to have no eye contact when talking. 

However, Japan recognizes prolonged eye contact as uncomfortable. So it is normal for people to look away during a conversation. It is also common for the Japanese to shove you around a bit on the bullet train or subway since it is so crowded. 

If you go out for a work dinner, it is common to split the bill equally. It doesn’t matter how much you ordered, the price will be evenly split.

Making Friends and Meeting Expats

It is stressful to think about making friends when moving to another state, let alone a new country. Japan has a strong expat community, so it is simple to make friends that are similar to you. It can be intimidating to put yourself out there, but it is a good thing to meet new people and make friends when moving to Japan from the US.

Some good ways to meet expats and make friends is to participate in a Meetup group or other social networking group. These groups are usually based on activity, so you will likely meet somewhere with shared interests to go out with. 

You can also take up a hobby to meet more people, like martial arts, Yosakoi dance, hiking, photography, baseball, football, or Ikebana (arranging flowers). Tokyo particularly is a strong community with plenty of expats.

Also, consider volunteering to make new friends. You can use social media to find a volunteer group, including English speakers. Volunteering helps you meet like-minded people while doing something good for society. Some great volunteer opportunities in Japan include working with children, disaster relief, community building, farming, and caring for animals.

Understand Your Relocation Requirements

Before committing to moving to Japan, it is essential to understand your company’s relocation requirements. It would help if you understand your company’s relocation package and what it includes. 

Typically, a company provides a an employee relocation to help make the move less stressful for them. Relocation packages usually include relocation reimbursement, a flexible start date, free visits, temporary housing, familial support, real estate cost assistance, and pay adjustments.

Your company may also have specific career requirements you must follow when moving to Japan, so discussing these things with your employer before moving from the USA to Japan is essential.

What to Know About Relocating Your Household Goods and Pets

Moving your household goods is usually simple when leaving America and moving to Japan. You should have an itemized list of your belongings in English and Japanese to ensure there are no issues once you arrive. 

Your belongings can be brought into Japan duty-free if you can prove ownership for a minimum of six months before your move. Moving your pet to Japan is also an easy process. 

Unfortunately, Japan mandates a quarantine of your dog or cat for seven days once they enter the country. If you have an animal other than a dog or cat, the quarantine can be longer if you cannot provide all the necessary documentation regarding their health. 

Final Thoughts

Moving to Japan from the US can be time-consuming and stressful, but once you are settled, Japan is a great place to live. ARC Relocation can help you with your international relocation.

We specialize in assisting companies of all sizes relocate employees anywhere in the world. For assistance with your international move, contact us today!