Moving to Japan: A Detailed Relocation Guide for Future Expats

Having more than a dozen UNESCO World Heritage Sites is indeed one of the reasons why Japan is considered among the best places for expats to move to. But also, this country is famous for its unique gardens, artwork, and poetry, not to mention its abundant natural wonders, including lavender fields, crystal-clear beaches, contemporary museums, mountaintop temples, and cherry blossoms in the spring.

If you are one of those who intend to start a new life by moving to the land of the rising sun, IMovingTo will do its best to guide you and simplify all the difficulties associated with the relocation process. 

What Should You Know About Japanese Culture Before Moving?

  • Over 80% of Japan is mountainous, and nearly 70% of it is covered in forests. Some rural destinations you can visit, such as the Blue Pond of Biei, the creaking Bamboo Forest of Sagano, and the baby-blue flower fields of Hitachi, seem like images from a fairytale. Here you can see frosty mountains north, dunes west, and Okinawa’s stunning beaches to the south.


  • In Japan, tattoos are associated with criminality, as members of the Yakuza, Japan’s organized crime organization, get full-body tattoos. Historically, the Japanese used to tattoo their criminals.


  • The world is your bed in Japan. You can sleep wherever you want without anyone noticing. People in Japan are allowed to fall asleep whenever they want because they work very hard. 


  • When it comes to unspoken rules, it’s advisable to avoid being noisy in public, particularly on trains. Avoid making phone calls and having loud discussions unless you want to disturb the traditional peace of the Japanese.

Cost of Living in Japan

Japan is widely known for its high living expenses, particularly in Tokyo, which consistently ranks in the world’s top 10 most expensive cities. The state of your finances in Japan varies depending on whether you plan to fully immerse yourself in Japanese culture or spend more time attempting to acquire imported products.


If you concentrate on Japanese foods like seasonal vegetables and seafood, local supermarkets are reasonably priced. Before the store closes each evening, pre-cooked foods are available at reduced costs.

Being an island nation, everything that needs to be imported is usually more expensive. You can obtain a general sense of some basic pricing in Japan from the list below.

  • Three-course meal for a couple at a mid-range restaurant: $41.53
  • Monthly transportation pass: $83.06
  • Rent 1 bedroom apartment in the city center: $715.24
  • Rent 1 bedroom apartment outside the city center: $474.71

How to Set Up Your Finances in Japan

In Japan, setting up your finances is generally simple, and expats have multiple options as it has one of the best banking systems in the world.

Keep in mind that you can’t open a Japanese bank account before your arrival. Besides, you might need to wait a few days before receiving a cash card that can be used to withdraw money from ATMs. Therefore, you should have a plan regarding how you’ll manage your money while you wait.

For example, Wise is a quick, inexpensive, and safe method of transferring funds abroad. This payment provider can help you reduce the cost of international transfers when sending money to or from Japan.

If you are regarded as a tax resident in Japan, you should pay municipal taxes of about 10% on top of personal income tax, which ranges from 5% to 45%, depending on your income. The flat rate for non-resident taxes is 20.42% of income. To ensure that you are fully informed of your obligations in Japan, it is advisable to obtain personal tax assistance. 

Visa, Passport & Other Requirements

Japan is an exception where obtaining a visa is the same whether you are from the European Union, Australia, America, or the United Kingdom.


You simply need to apply for the appropriate visa at the closest Japanese Embassy or Consulate General in your home country, depending on your reason for staying in Japan. You should bring the following documents:


  • Your passport
  • Your visa application form
  • A photograph
  • A certificate verifying the completion of registration to the ERFS system


ERFS stands for Entrants, Returning Follow-up System. It is an official letter from a Japanese person, usually an employer, guaranteeing to look after your financial requirements while in Japan. Before starting the procedure, it is essential to confirm the details with the embassy or on the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. 

Healthcare System in Japan: How to Get an Insurance

Japan places a strong emphasis on preventative care. Every person over the age of 20 should have access to either public or private health insurance. You need to obtain health insurance if you intend to live and work in Japan, as some hospitals and clinics have been known to turn away patients who cannot present documentation of insurance.

If you don’t have a job when you arrive in Japan, you should sign up for Japanese National Health Insurance. If you plan to stay in Japan for more than 90 days, you require health insurance unless you have private insurance through another country.

Regarding employment, the Employee Health Insurance Plan is intended for those working full-time in Japan. This program requires 10% of your monthly earnings. As an advantage, your employer provides you with private medical insurance, which saves you the inconvenience of having to apply for National Health Insurance. 

Relocating Your Household Belongings & Pets

Hiring international moving companies is the best option if you’re thinking about how to relocate your belongings to Japan. 

As long as you are prepared, moving to Japan is a simple process, and household items can be transported into the country without difficulty. An itemized list in both English and Japanese is a smart idea. You are allowed to import goods duty-free if you can demonstrate ownership for at least 6 months before your relocation.

Pet owners might be upset that Japan requires a quarantine, but moving there with animals is also simple. The quarantine period only lasts 7 days for dogs and cats. If the owners are unable to provide the required documentation, such as titer test results or a microchip number, the quarantine may remain longer.

It is recommended for foreigners moving to Japan to get vaccinated against the mosquito-borne disease known as Japanese encephalitis. Although the condition is mainly present in rural areas, foreign nationals should get vaccinated before traveling to Japan and other Asian nations.

Language Barrier & Japanese Etiquette

If you don’t speak Japanese, it might be challenging to adjust and navigate if you don’t speak Japanese. If you want to learn the Japanese language as quickly and effectively as possible, start learning the fundamentals before you relocate and enroll in a Japanese language course once you’ve arrived in Tokyo.

Don’t assume that what constitutes politeness, in the USA or Europe will have the same meaning in Japan. This applies to everything from what constitutes appropriate clothing for the workplace to how you should behave as a guest in someone’s house. Many locals admire foreigners who take the time to understand and adapt to their etiquette norms and make sure you don’t unintentionally come across as impolite.

The vast majority of foreigners in Japan simply aren’t familiar with all of their traditions, but the Japanese are incredibly understanding and accept this fact. So, the golden rule is to be respectful simply. You’ll do well if you pay attention to your environment and always behave respectfully.

Getting Accommodation in Japan

Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and Japan as a whole is a costly place to live. Usually, not including utilities, rent in the country ranges from 470 to 650 USD per month.

Similar to renting, buying a property is expensive, with national average housing prices ranging around 337,000 USD. Expats who are married to Japanese residents but do not have Japanese citizenship should be aware that buying a home will be challenging.

Generally, finding a Japanese apartment won’t be too complicated if you’re financially stable and speak a little Japanese. Working directly with the landlord is even an option and is commonly practiced.

As they understand communities, rent costs, and what to anticipate from the apartment itself, hiring real estate agents may be the best option for you. Furthermore, hiring an English-speaking agent can be simpler if you don’t speak Japanese.

Best Places to Move in Japan


Tokyo is considered Japan’s cultural, political, and financial powerhouse. Business centers, sky bridges, and expansive shopping malls coexist with quiet residential neighborhoods, Japanese gardens, and the occasional Geisha in the park. 

The majority of foreigners employed by international corporations reside in central Tokyo, mostly in the districts of Minato-ku and Shibuya-ku.


Kyoto is famous for its traditional wooden houses, gardens, palaces, and Buddhist temples. It is an excellent city for those who prefer to live near Japanese temples and gardens while remaining close to Japan’s typical major urban life. Kyoto is home to over 60,000 expats who work in the hospitality industry.


The second largest city in Japan, Yokohama, is a thriving port and trade city. It is famous for its “Chinatown,” a district with more than 500 Chinese-owned stores, restaurants, and other enterprises. 


Some foreigners relocate to Yokohama while working in Tokyo since it is a more affordable place to rent an apartment.


With approximately 15,000 foreign residents, Sapporo ranks as the fourth most populated city. Both locally and internationally, it is a favored skiing location. Sapporo is home to many expats due to its milder and cooler climate, incredibly effective transportation system, and lower cost of living

Information technology and tourism are two industries providing job opportunities in Sapporo for expats.

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