Wondering about the things to know before moving to Japan? Here’s your checklist!
Japan is one of the most beautiful and vibrant countries on our planet, bustling with life and filled with a culture that is very unlike any other.
What you need to know before moving to Japan?
Things you need to know before moving to Japan are your residence card is the most important thing that will be a part of you. Crime is relatively low so you don’t have to worry about dacoits, rape or anything related. Natural disasters are real so beware. Restaurant and personal etiquettes are different and equally important. Traveling around is quite easy and building a social circle is important.
Whether you love the culture, or the language, or are a die-hard Otaku, there are several wonderful reasons to want to live your life there.
If you’re planning to move to Japan permanently then this list of things to know before moving to Japan will be helpful for you!
Moving to Japan is a dream for many, and despite all the things you would have to keep in mind, it is simple enough to learn and navigate your way through Japan’s society like a boss.
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Here are some things to know before moving to Japan you might want to remember if you plan to make your way there.
Things to Know Before Moving to Japan
Disaster Strikes Often, Naturally!
Being a part of the mighty Pacific “Ring of Fire”, Japan is no stranger to natural disasters. This is one of the most essential things to know before moving to Japan.
The nation sees thousands of earthquakes each year, with the minor and unnoticeable ones measured between 3.0 and 3.9 numberings up to 5000, and around 160 major earthquakes with a magnitude of over 5.
But having found themselves situated in the epicenter of the part of the world that sees over 90% of its earthquakes, the Japanese have learned to adapt to these quakes over time.
Buildings in Japan are built to withstand these tremors, and everyone there takes evacuation drills and safety drills seriously. It can be tough if you’re planning to move to Japan with no money.
Keep in mind that it is one of the important things to know before moving to Japan.
Your Residence Card will Become a Part of You
Upon completion of all paperwork and formalities that come with the immigration process, you will be issued a shiny new Residence card. Things to organize before you move to Japan- all your documents.
This is the most important thing to know out of all as the resident card becomes a very important asset.
This card serves as your Official ID document while in Japan. Everything from getting a phone card or signing up for a club or gym, to simply entering and leaving the country, will require you to furnish this card to the proper authorities.
It is required by law, to be on your person at all times, so pick a dedicated pocket/spot, and make sure you have this at all times! This is one of the most essential things to know before moving to Japan.
Crime is Relatively Nonexistent
No place on earth can ever be totally crime-free, that is just the price of human consciousness, but Japan ranks as one of the safest countries to live in! Things to know before moving to Japan- you’re safe and sound!
Often found in the top 10 lists of safest countries, its population prides itself on being honest and hardworking. It is not uncommon to see people leaving their wallets to rest on their lap, while they take a nap on the subway.
In fact, Tokyo and Osaka are often in the first two spots when it comes to the world’s safest cities to live in, as far as crime is concerned.
Organized crime on the other hand very much exists, but their existence is both known to and monitored by, the authorities, and are unlikely to impact you in any way. If you’re planning to move to Japan, just do it at least for safety.
Etiquette is Everything!
Japan prides itself on being a respectful nation, and its people will appreciate any foreigner who takes the effort to learn their ways. things to know before moving to Japan- respect and etiquette are everything!
Remember that Japan is not a very touch-friendly nation, and its culture frowns upon contact that it deems unnecessary.
A simple bow and a smile should replace any handshakes and hugs that you might want to offer someone when you meet them. Honorifics are also an integral part of conversation and are a whole topic by themselves.
Suffixing a “san” to someone’s name is a gender-neutral replacement for the Mr/Mrs prefix and is a safe bet when you are not sure what else to use. How to move to Japan as a student? You should have etiquette and knowledge.
There is also a great deal of importance levied on hierarchy, with the senior members of any group (The ‘Senpai’) being shown respect by their juniors (The ‘Kouhai’) in exchange for their guidance and experience.
This extends to nearly every situation you can think of! It is common courtesy for the senior-most people in an elevator to exist first, and everyone exits in this order.
Now, this won’t apply to random elevator rides in public, but this is the norm in any formal setting like an office. Respect is the foremost things to know before moving to Japan.
Another such example is when social groups that are drinking will have the younger members wait on their seniors to take the first sip, before joining in themselves.
That being said, the people are also understanding of outsiders to their culture, and many will go out of their way to help you learn if you ask.
Ultimately what matters is that you try to be respectful of others, that will take you a long way all by itself. And do not be worried about making a mistake, it will eventually become second nature to you akin to learning to swim. If you’re planning to move to Japan, keep this in mind.
Restaurant Etiquette is Vastly Different
One of the most well-known facts about Japan’s many restaurants is that tipping is not a thing there. This is not the same as saying “Tipping is optional”, Tips are considered a disrespectful thing to offer someone who prides themselves on their level of service.
A polite thank you is all that is needed. And this does not apply only to restaurants. Be it repair services, movers or taxi drivers, nobody in Japan would appreciate being given a tip. In some cases, people are even likely to lose their jobs if they accept a tip.
Do not be surprised by the amount of slurping that you will hear in restaurants, especially ramen places. Unlike anywhere else in the world, Slurping is considered not only polite, but a compliment to the chef.
DON’T TIP– this is the most important thing to know before moving to Japan.
English Speakers in Japan
A lot of us have heard from friends and family who visited Japan in the past, that language is a huge barrier in Japan. Stories of struggling to find vegetarian food, for example, or how it took several hours to find a simple pharmacy.
But times have changed since then, and Japan has allowed much of western culture into its folds. Despite what you might think, a lot of Japanese people have a great desire to learn and speak English themselves, rather than looking down on it.
With the boom of the internet making English media available to youth growing up, has had the same impact on them, as with many of us anime fans who have a very basic understanding of the language due to watching so much of its content.
In 90% of modern japan, every sign will have an English version next to it. Similarly, every announcement will be repeated right after in English. This is one of the things to know before moving to Japan.
Getting Around can be Very Easy
Japan has one of the most well-designed and accessible public transit systems, and it should be one of the first things you do with your resident card if you are moving there.
You will need to get yourself a ‘Suica’ card, which is a rechargeable fare card that you can use to pay for the metro. This is one of the important things to know before moving to Japan.
There are also maps everywhere which will show you where you are and will have information on how to get to anywhere and which stations to switch trains at.
Given how many stations there are, you will almost always be within walking distance of one, even when getting close to the outskirts of a major city. Keep in mind that it is one of the important things to know before moving to Japan.
It is not uncommon to use a bicycle for quick trips either. There are facilities where you can lock your bicycle at a metro station, where you can pick it up when you return at the end of the day.
You can also consider getting the iconic “Mamachari” which literally translates to “Mom Chariot”, which is a bicycle that has a basket for carrying things, and comes with a tiny motor to make getting around easy even for longer distances.
Over time, this has given people a great amount of respect and value for space, which is why they do not feel like they own the space they are standing on.
Therefore, there’s no need to get upset by someone moving through that space, as long as they are just passing through and not trying to cause any trouble. This is one of the things to know before moving to Japan.
Tattoos Aren’t Allowed in Public Places
The Japanese don’t really appreciate tattoos, especially in public places, and consider it to be an association with the mafia (yakuza). If you’re visiting public spaces like Ryokans or Onsens, it’s advisable to cover up the small tattoos with plaster or bandage.
If you have big tattoos on your body, do check the rules of the place before visiting to avoid the last-minute hassle. However, they are trying to be more open about tattoos with the advent of westernization. It’s one of the important things to know before moving to Japan.
The Japanese Love Cats
Although, the relationship between the cat and a Japanese person is pretty much one-sided. They’re still treated to be one of the royalties in the country. There are a lot of cats in Japan, so many that it’s outnumbered by the ratio of 6:1 compared to humans.
You’ll find hundreds of cats around the country prowling in the streets, living in abundant houses, as pets, and other places. It’s usual to find cats as pets in a Japanese household as we know that they prefer pets to parenthood.
In fact, in a train station of Wakayama, a cat was appointed as a stationmaster, a few years old. This is one of the few important things to know before moving to Japan.
Moving to Japan Checklist: FAQ
How do I prepare to move to Japan?
In order to move to Japan, you first need to get a working visa. This is because the residence visa does not allow you to work in Japan.
A working visa is also known as an “Employment Visa” or “Working Permit” commonly. You can apply for it when you’re on a short-term or long-term stay with a valid residence visa. Be sure to apply for it before you arrive in Japan.
What should I know before moving to Japan?
Before moving to Japan you should know about the culture of Japan which is quite different from your country or even from Asia. Japanese people have a very distinct tradition and you should know about it and respect it.
Another thing to know is that Japanese people are quiet and hold their opinion to themselves. They would not like to argue over things, so you should be respectful of their views and opinions. Finally, Japan is a safe country but you need to be careful about personal safety, like locking your doors, don’t walk alone at night, etc.
Is moving to Japan difficult?
Moving to Japan might seem daunting but it’s easy if you’re prepared. Make sure you’ve arranged the right kind of visa for living/working before moving to the country.
Is moving to Japan expensive?
Living in Japan is three times more expensive than living in the US as the main cities are extremely costly related to goods and accommodation.
Keep in mind- Things to Know Before Moving to Japan!
These are just a few things to know before moving to Japan, and the rules can definitely look very intimidating to someone looking at them for the first time.
But do remember, that the Japanese are very humble and respectful folk who will welcome you with a smile, even if they cannot exchange a word with you. Don’t try moving to Japan with no money as the country is pretty expensive.
Do not be afraid, just keep these things to know before moving to Japan in your mind and you’re set. Happy travels!
Hiya! I’m the main author of Japan Truly. I love everything Japan and love testing out Japanese products, be it skincare and makeup or gadgets! You’ll find reviews of some of the best selling Japanese products (tried and tested) right here!