Moving to Japan
Your Full Guide on How to Move to Japan

Are you ready to say kon’nichiwa to amazing food, beautiful landscapes and a brand new culture? If the answer is yes, then you’ve come to the right place! Moving to Japan will most likely be an incredible adventure, but it’s unfortunately one that requires much research. Because we know this, we have created the following guide to help you out throughout every step of the process!

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But before you start, why not accompany your reading with some relaxing Japanese LoFi beats?

Listen to our Spotify playlist
and get ready to move!

Listen to our Spotify playlist
and get ready to move!

Moving to Japan: How Much Does It Cost?

The best place to start planning your move to Japan is by figuring out much it will cost. Multiple factors can make the costs of your move to Japan higher or lower, but generally the most important ones are the size and distance of your move.

Moving to Japan from the East Coast

To give you an idea of what you can expect, below you can find the average cost of moving different household sizes to Tokyo, Japan via sea-freight from the East Coast of the United States.

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

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 average cost of moving different household sizes to Tokyo, Japan via sea-freight from the West Coast of the United States.

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

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

Remember that, at the end of the day, you will only know how much your move will cost by requesting quotes. By filling out the form below, you will be able to receive up to 5 free moving quotes, which will ultimately help you save money on your move to Japan!

Moving to Japan?
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How to Move to Japan: Checklist

Just in case you might need an extra hand remembering all the things that must get done before your move, we have compiled a small list of important points to keep in mind below. In case you’re interested in a full moving abroad page instead, check out the following page.

  • Gather important documents: Ensure that all the paperwork (visas, birth certificates, medical records, etc.) you might need is in check.
  • 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 pet entry requirements in Japan.
  • Notify others about your move: Keep in mind that there might be governmental and tax organizations you might need to notify about your move to Japan.
  • Pack: Tedious but necessary, it’s important that you go through your belongings and determine what items you’d like to move with you and pack them all up.

Moving to Japan, depiction of Mount Fuji

Moving to Japan Requirements: Visas and Residencies

Before packing up your things and buying a ticket to Japan, there’s a few application procedures you must first go through. Depending on your reason for moving to Japan, you will have to apply for either a work visa, a student visa or a permanent residency.

Work-related Visas

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 are expected to have in Japan will determine the visa category you must apply to. The cost for a work visa in Japan will depend on the type of visa you are applying for, 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

This visa applies for foreign workers that have advanced and specialized skills. For more information on how these skills are determined, check out this page. The period of stay for this type of visa is 5 years, and the general requirements for such include:

Other Types of Work Visas

This visa applies for foreign workers which don’t qualify for the highly skilled professional visa. Under this visa, the period of stay is either 5 years, 3 years, 1 year, 4 months or 3 months. The general requirements listed above are also applicable for this visa type. Examples of careers that fall under this category include:

  • Professors
  • Artists
  • Business managers
  • Journalists
  • Researcher
  • Medical services

Study-related Visas

If you’re planning to attend a Japanese school, you’ll need to apply for a student visa. The general requirements of such include:

  • Valid passport, properly signed by bearer
  • Visa application form to enter Japan
  • One photo attached to application form
  • Original Certificate of Eligibility and one copy

In case you don’t have a Certificate of Eligibility, you will have to provide the following extra documents:

  • A copy of acceptance letter from the receiving educational institution
  • Documents certifying that the you will be able to cover all expenses incurred during your stay in Japan
  • One clear photocopy of all the documents you submit

Moving to Japan: Tokyo Skyline

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 long-term residency visa, for which you will need:

  1. Obtain a Certificate of Eligibility –this will allow you to obtain an entry-visa that expires after two months after receiving the certificate.
  2. Request a residence card upon your arrival at the airport. To do this you will need to fill out a form containing:
    • Passport number
    • Contact information
    • Origin of departure and final destination
    • Length of stay
    • Address where you will be staying in Japan
    • Purpose of stay
    • Declared goods
  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

Taxes in Japan

When it comes to everyone’s favorite topic, taxes, in Japan there are six main types of taxes you will encounter:

  • Income tax: Paid annually by individuals on the national, prefectural and municipal levels. The amount you will be requested to pay is calculated based on your individual net income.
  • Enterprise tax: Prefectural taxes paid annually by self-employed individuals.
  • Property tax: Municipal tax paid by property-owners.
  • Consumption tax: Paid by consumers when they purchase goods or services –usually around 10%.
  • Vehicle-related tax: Prefectural tax paid annually by individuals who own any type of transportation vehicle.
  • Liquor, tobacco and gasoline taxes: taxes paid at either the national or prefectural level when purchasing alcohol, tobacco or gasoline.

We recommend that you check out the Japanese Government’s website for further information about personal taxes (e.g.: income taxes), corporate taxes and much more. Do keep in mind that as a US citizen, your income is still subject to U.S. income tax regardless of where you reside. So it’s important that you carefully check what the tax implications are when moving abroad.

Moving to Japan

Financial Arrangements in Japan

To open a bank account in Japan you must first obtain a Japanese residency, as you won’t be able to open an account without it. If you have such, then you simply can select the bank that best adjusts to your needs and 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)

Costs of Living in Japan

Japan is an incredibly attractive country to many of us, as it not only enjoys of beautiful landscapes and an incredibly reach culture, but also of a strong and progressive economy that allows its residents to live high-quality lives. All this greatness does come at a cost, unfortunately, which is the fact that Japan is quite a pricey place to live in.

Throughout the years the country has made its way up the rankings of the most expensive countries to live in, currently ranking as number four. To give you an idea of what you can expect, we’ve broken down the most common living costs below.

Housing in Japan

As it would be in any country, accommodation will probably account for the largest part of your monthly expenses. In Japan, property sizes aren’t indicated in the standard manner we are used to (e.g.: one-bedroom apartment, two-bedroom apartment, etc). Rather, you will typically encounter a combination of numbers and letters to indicate how many rooms there are in total.

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

  • L, which stands for living room
  • K, which stands for kitchen
  • D, which stands for dining room
  • S, which stands for storage
  • R, which stands for 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). As an illustration, below you can find a small summary of rent prices for different property sizes across different municipalities in Tokyo, which is the most expensive city to live in Japan.

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.

Moving to Japan: Rainbow Bridge

Food and Groceries

One of the perks of moving to Japan is being able to enjoy of their exquisite cuisine. However, no matter how much we all enjoy dining out, at one point or another we all need to cook for ourselves, which of course requires groceries. 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

Leisure

While living in Japan, it’s very unlikely you will find yourself without anything to do. Whether it’s by admiring beautiful cherry blossoms in the Spring, going out to karaoke bars, or attending incredible festivals, residents of Japan always find a way to keep themselves busy.  A rough estimate of what you can expect to pay for several entertainment activities in Japan are summarized below.

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

Working in Japan

Japan is a country with wide range of job opportunities for expats. As long as you have some basic level of Japanese (often companies require foreign workers to score at least a level 2 in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test) and a good amount of work experience on your back, you can confidently apply for a position in Japan.

Keep in mind though that, as we mentioned before, to legally work in Japan you must apply for a work-related visa –so you must first have a job offer before fully moving to Japan. On average, Japanese households have an income of approximately ¥5.17M a year, which roughly translates to $48,000 a year.

Even though you can find open positions in every industry in Japan, there are a few career paths where expats will find the greatest amount of opportunities:

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

Moving to Japan

Healthcare in Japan

Medical treatment through universal health care is applicable in Japan. This means that, generally speaking, Japan provides free healthcare services for Japanese citizens, expatriates, and foreigners. Under this health care system, the patient accepts responsibility for 30% of the medical costs, and the government pays the remaining 70%.

If you feel more comfortable having an American insurance, we recommend taking out an international health insurance instead.

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, Japan.
  • There are more pets than children in Japan.

We hope that after reading this article you feel ready to start your new life in 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! ☘