Moving to Japan
An Expat Guide on How to Move to Japan

Sights set on the Land of the Rising Sun? Then get ready to say ‘konichiwa’ to your next adventure. At Sirelo we know moving to Japan can be quite a process, so we have created this concise and comprehensive guide for everything you will need to know about how to move to Japan. We will cover moving costs, visa requirements, living costs and more – read along!

Enter your location and receive quotes for your move!

Moving to Japan: How Much Does It Cost?

Let’s cut right to it, show me the money! Moving to Japan is going to cost a pretty penny, but how pretty are we talking? On average, moving to Japan from the US costs around $6000 for a three-bedroom apartment.

Don’t be fooled, however. Average truly means average, and there are many factors that can cause your moving costs to jump up or down (mostly up). Two factors have the most influence: Distance and Volume. Pretty logical right?

Sirelo Tip! Not sure how much volume your move will need? By using our moving space calculator, you will be able to quickly get to an estimate!

Moving to Japan from the East Coast

To give you an idea of what to expect, below you can find the average cost of moving different household sizes to Tokyo via sea-freight from the eastern seaboard.

Property SizeTimeAverage Costs
1-bedroom8 – 11 weeks$3,400 – $4,800
2-bedrooms5 – 8 weeks$4,700 – $6,300
3-bedrooms5 – 8 weeks$8,200 – $11,000
4-bedrooms5 – 8 weeks$8,700 – $11,800

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that the rates shown above are just estimates and thus will vary depending on your actual point of departure.

Moving to Japan from the West Coast

Likewise, below you can find the average cost of moving different household sizes to Tokyo via sea-freight from the West Coast.

Property SizeTimeAverage Costs
1-bedroom7 – 9 weeks$3,000 – $4,200
2-bedrooms4 – 6 weeks$3,900 – $5,400
3-bedrooms4 – 6 weeks$6,800 – $9,200
4-bedrooms4 – 6 weeks$7,300 – $10,000

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that the rates shown above are just estimates and thus will vary depending on your actual point of departure.

Compare Quotes for Moving to Japan from the US

By now we are sure that you have caught that the costs of moving to Japan are somewhat variable. Your moving costs will be as personal to you as your reasons for moving to Japan, so you will never truly know what to expect until you receive a quote from an international mover.

Because moving to Japan will not be the cheapest part of the adventure, we suggest you shop around! Comparing moving quotes will help you get to the right price and service for you, and by completing the form below you will receive up to five free no-strings-attached quotes!

Looking for a professional international mover? Look no further!
Choose the size of your move below to receive up to 5 free moving quotes!

How to Move to Japan: Checklist

For an extra hand remembering everything that goes into a move, we have compiled the most important points below. In case you’re interested in a full list of things to do before moving to Japan, we go into a bit more detail in our moving abroad checklist.

  • Gather important documents: Visas, birth certificates, medical records, etc.
  • Choose an international mover: We recommend checking out our Top 8 International Moving Companies.
  • Pet documents: In case your furry friend is coming along, make sure that you have all the necessary documents to meet the Japanese pet entry requirements.
  • Notify others about your move: Keep in mind that there might be government and tax organizations you might need to notify before moving to Japan.
  • Pack: Tedious but necessary. Go through your belongings and determine what to move and what to toss (Need downsizing help? We have a guide for that too 😉).
Unsure How to Pack Your Fragile Items Like a Pro?
If you want to make sure your breakables arrive safely to your new home, packing them correctly is a must. To give you a hand, we’ve compiled a list with our expert tips on how to pack fragile items like a pro – be sure to check them out!
Click Here for Expert Tips

Requirements for Moving to Japan

A guide on how to move to Japan would be incomplete if we skipped the few hoops you will need to jump through. Depending on your reason for moving to Japan, you will have to apply for either a work visa or a permanent residency. Otherwise, that 90-day tourist visa will run out quick!

Work-Related Visa

When it comes to work-related permits, Japan offers a wide variety of visas for expats to choose from. The type of job you either have or will have in Japan determines the visa category you will apply for.

Your application fee will depend on your application type, your nationality, and whether you want a single or multiple-entry. In general, single-entry visas are around ¥3,000 ($30) and multiple-entry visas are around ¥6,000 ($60).

Work-related visas can be organized into two main categories:

  • Highly skilled professional –grants you a period of stay of 5 years
  • Other types of professionals (e.g.: professors, artists, business managers, journalists, etc.) –granting a period of stay of either 3-4 months or 1-5 years.

Permanent Residency

Planning on making the Land of the Rising Sun your forever home? Then you will need to apply for permanent residency. To obtain permanent residency you will first need to start by getting a long-term residency visa, for which you will need to:

  1. Obtain a Certificate of Eligibility –this will allow you to obtain an entry-visa that expires two months after receiving the certificate.
  2. Request a residence card upon your arrival at the airport.
  3. Register with your residence card in the local city hall within two weeks of your arrival.

After obtaining your long-term residency visa, you will be eligible to apply for a full permanent residency. To do such, you will have to provide the following documents:

  • Original passport and a copy
  • Satisfy the requirements of your current visa (e.g.: still be employed if you’re under a work-related visa)
  • Proof of no criminal record while living in Japan
  • Certificate of residence
  • Proof of sufficient financial means
  • Residence card
  • Proof of income
  • Proof of your contribution to taxes and social security

Moving to Japan: Tokyo Skyline

Japanese Healthcare

People living in Japan have among the longest average life expectancy. Why? Among other reasons, medical treatment is provided through universal healthcare coverage.

This means that, generally speaking, Japan provides free (or almost free) healthcare services for Japanese citizens and residence. Under this system, the patient accepts responsibility for 30% of the medical costs (sometimes less in low-income cases) and the government pays the rest.

If you feel more comfortable having an American insurance policy, we recommend taking out an international health insurance after moving to Japan from the US. You’ll be double covered!

Arranging Finances & Taxes

To open a bank account in Japan, you must first obtain a Japanese residency, as you won’t be able to make any financial arrangements without it.

Once you have your residency arranged, simply select the bank that best meets your needs. You will need to provide them with the following documents to open your account:

  • Passport
  • Japanese visa
  • Residence card
  • Japanese address and phone number
  • Personal stamp (often used in Japan in place of a handwritten signature)

Sirelo Tip! Take some time to understand the tax system before moving to Japan. While income tax might be familiar, other taxes apply to vehicles and certain consumer products.

And don’t forget, Uncle Sam still gets his cut! Because the US applies global taxation, your income and assets will still be subject to US tax law. Learn more about what implications this may have for you.

Working in Japan

With a lot of work in Japan for foreigners, you should not have too much trouble finding a job in Japan. But moving to Japan without speaking Japanese at all could be tough, however. Often companies require foreign workers to score at least a level 2 on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

However, those language lessons will prove to be a good investment, as the average salary in Japan comes in at 4.9 million yen per year (around $43,000). In Tokyo, this is hiked up to 6.2 million yen ($54,000)!

Keep in mind also that Japan is known for a pretty intense working culture, with minimal work-life balance. But if you are willing to sweat it out with the best of them, you will earn the rewards.

Even though you can find open positions in every industry, there are a few areas where expats have the most success finding a job in Japan:

  • Teacher (particularly of English)
  • IT professional
  • Translator/interpreter
  • Sales staff
  • Banker
  • Service staff
  • Engineer

Moving to Japan

Costs of Living in Japan

Japan is an incredibly attractive country, enjoying not only beautiful landscapes and rich culture, but also of a strong economy with high standards of living. All this greatness does come at a cost, unfortunately. Japan is quite a pricey place to live in (the 8th most pricey, to be exact).

This leads to the average cost of living in Japan for a family of four in Tokyo to come in at around ¥417,000 ($3,864). Bear in mind, Tokyo is the most expensive city, but also the easiest place to land when moving to Japan. Below we dive into some more details.

Housing

Like anywhere else, housing is likely to be your biggest monthly expense when living in Japan. However, like nowhere else, in Japan properties do not have standardized classes (e.g.: one-bedroom apartment). Instead, you will encounter a combination of numbers and letters indicating included room types.

The letters indicate the type of room, and the numbers indicate the amount of that type available in the property. In property listings, you might see:

  • L (living room)
  • K (kitchen)
  • D (dining room)
  • S (storage)
  • R (studio)

The average rent in Japan will vary per city and property size, but the national average falls between ¥50,000 to ¥70,000 ($465–650).

Below is a summary of rental prices for different property sizes across different municipalities in Tokyo, Japan’s most expensive city.

Municipality1K1DK2DK1DLK
Adachi¥70,500¥77,100¥91,500¥106,500
Minato¥117,500¥177,200¥150,000¥293,400
Katsushika¥69,200¥87,900¥85,100¥95,700
Toshima¥87,800¥110,400¥125,800¥158,600

Please keep in mind that the prices reflected above are just estimates. The rent can vary depending on location, characteristics of the property and your city of choice.

Sirelo Tip! Watch out for this hidden fee, translated in English to ‘Key money.’ What is this? It is like a signing fee when agreeing to a lease, a deposit which you will not get back. While typically non-negotiable, ‘key money’ fees tend to be transparently communicated and do not break the bank. 🔑

Moving to Japan: Rainbow Bridge

Food and Groceries

A perk of moving to Japan is enjoying the exquisite cuisine. However, no matter how much we all enjoy dining out, eventually we will need to cook for ourselves. That means groceries, another budget item!

Common grocery items and their respective prices are summarized in the table below.

Grocery ItemAverage Price
1 carton of 12 large eggs¥235.66
1 lb. of chicken fillet¥364.22
1 lb. of round beef¥1,052.22
1 gallon of milk¥743.40
1 lb. of potatoes¥178.25
1 lb. of bananas¥132.95
1 lb. of white rice¥245.60
Bottle of wine¥1,300
Imported beer¥360.05

Sirelo Tip! Japan is almost entirely without dairy products, so cheese-lovers can have a tough time. Don’t sweat! In major cities you will find many specialty stores selling western food productsat a steep mark up. That half pound of guilty-pleasure cheddar is going to set you back $15 – $25!

Moving to Japan

What Is It Like to Live in Japan?

Some of us might have the typical image of Japan in mind, with bustling streets, neon lights, Buddhist temples, and, of course, Mt. Fuji. While moving to Japan will show that each aspect of this image is true, there is actually far greater diversity than meet the eye.

Where will you find such diversity? It all depends on which city or region you choose. Below we list a few notable options:

  • Tokyo: Extremely populous (30+ million!) urban jungle, filled with business and culture.
  • Kyoto: Cultural capital of endless Buddhist temples.
  • Hokkaido: The ‘deep north’ known for wilderness and recreation.
  • Okinawa: A large, culturally distinct island with the smallest population.
  • Hiroshima: Typical mid-sized Japanese city in the southern region.

This list is far from incomplete, however. With 47 prefectures and many more cities approaching one million residents, you will have some exploring to do!

Living in Japan as a Foreigner

We all know moving abroad is going to entail some experience of playing ‘the foreigner,’ but in Japan this experience may be stronger than elsewhere. Why? While being unmatched in its politeness and hospitality, Japanese culture has a current of xenophobia running through it.

Besides having a language barrier, some Japanese have a trust barrier up against non-Japanese. The reason is simple: for centuries no non-Japanese people were allowed in!

You will rarely notice it to your face when living in Japan as a foreigner, but you might hear the word ‘gaijin’ tossed around, a not-so-nice word for people from abroad. While times are changing, we think it is important that you are aware. 😉

Americans Moving to Japan

All this outsider talk might have you feeling homesick already. But don’t worry! Plenty of other Americans are moving to Japan or have already moved. In fact, Americans are one of the largest expat demographics in Japan.

Why is this? Well, the US maintains a large military presence in Japan, especially around Okinawa and Yokohama. Others have come for business opportunities, settling in big cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.

To connect, get online! Many expat groups and meetups enable you to quickly build a social support network after moving to Japan from the US.

Pros and Cons of Living in Japan

Japan is often referred to as a land of contradictions. Traditional, yet modern. Kind, yet stern. Keeping with the theme, we have listed some pros of moving to Japan, contrasted by their cons:

Pros:

  • Fascinating and unique culture
  • Among the safest countries on the planet
  • High-tech public transportation and infrastructure
  • Beautiful natural and man-made scenery

Cons:

  • Limited long-term career options without professional-level Japanese
  • Being labelled a ‘gaijin’ (or foreigner)
  • Geographically isolated
  • Poor work-life balance

Busy Japanese train at rush hour with many people standing in a small space looking at their phones

Things to Do

While living in Japan, it is unlikely you will find yourself without anything to do. Whether it is admiring beautiful cherry blossoms in the Spring, going out to karaoke bars, or attending incredible festivals, Japanese residents always have more than a few ways to keep busy.

What does it cost to have a good time in Japan? Below we list common expenses for entertainment and leisure activities.

PlanAverage Cost
Three-day pass to Fuji’s Rock Festival¥49,000
Two movie tickets¥3,584
Two theater tickets¥16,766
Monthly gym membership¥8,011
Three-course dinner for two¥5,877
One-day pass to Universal Studios Japan¥7,400 – ¥8,900
A cappuccino in a local coffee shop¥500

Did You Know…?

  • Japan is made up of 6,852 islands.
  • Japan sells square watermelons, which are grown by Japanese farmers for easier stack and store.
  • Around 24 billion pairs of chopsticks are used in Japan every year.
  • The fortune cookie dates back to the 19th century and was first made in Kyoto.
  • There are more pets than children in Japan. In fact, Japanese birthrates are so low that it is the oldest country in the world (with an average age of 48.4 years)!

A Warm SayonaraFrom Sirelo!

We hope that by now you feel ready to start your new life in Japan! Now that you have made it this far, you should be a master of moving costs and on top of all the things to do before moving to Japan. If you feel like you still need some extra help, we recommend that you check out the articles below. Best of luck during your move! 🍀