After many years of trying and failing to make the move to Japan, we finally managed it in October 2022!!
Moving in itself is hard, but moving to a country where you’re not so familiar with the language is even trickier and far more difficult to navigate.
However, if I had known these three things before we left, it would have made my life a million times easier. But hey, hindsight is 2020..22? ANYWAY… At least I can give you all the information I’ve learned and if you ever move out to Japan hopefully it can come in handy!
I’ve also made a video for those of you who would rather listen to something. This was my first time making a video like this so I did find it rather weird having to talk to a camera. Think of it as a podcast rather than a video and it’ll be fine!
If you’re coming to Japan, this post may be helpful to you!
A Little(ish) Backstory.
Jonny and I have been wanting to make the move to Japan since we were both in university. We graduated in 2019, so it’s been a little while!
We first tried to do it in March 2020, however, that’s when the whole world went upside down and everyone’s lives had to be put on hold. No one knew how long this thing would last, so we tried to be patient, however, we had to start living our lives at some point.
Trying to get our money back for this flight was DIFFICULT, to say the least. It took about 6 months of persistent calling and pestering from Jonny and his mum until we had anything back.
The second time we tried to go was in January 2021 when the borders opened for such a small window. I did have to apply for my visa again as I was coming on a ‘Child of a National’ visa, which only allows you to get into Japan 3 months after you receive the visa, unlike the Working Holiday which allows you a whole year to come into Japan.
Unfortunately, we missed that window in January and made the decision to wait until after a family wedding later in the year. We would be going to Japan on a visa that gave us a year and didn’t want to come back before that year ended if we could help it.
The next plane ticket was booked with a less-budget airline than our original (March 2020) flight and the customer service was night and day! It was so easy to get through to customer service, they were happy to talk to you and made things so pain-free!
I would definitely choose to go with a better airline if we can afford it. Although I’m sure you’ll agree with me that cheap flights are hard to say no to!
The third time we tried and succeeded in coming to Japan was in October 2022. Instead of the original plan of coming to Japan with a Child of a National Visa, I had to come in on a Working Holiday Visa.
Unfortunately, there was a little miscommunication which meant when I went to apply for my visa in London for the bijillionth (shut up, it’s a real word…) time, I was unable to as I did not have all the correct paperwork.
At this point, we had been in the process of going to Japan for at least 3 years and I was so frustrated. My gut knew the information given to me was incorrect, I even called twice to check but they told me it was all ok.
I had gone up and down to the Japanese Embassy in London so much that I felt like I should have been enrolled into some reward points card. This setback made me feel like the Universe didn’t want me to go.
To top it all off, the embassy had changed its system to make an online booking before going to the embassy. The appointments were taken up so quickly. If it hadn’t been for Jonny trying to stay up till after midnight, (when new appointments were released) I’m not sure I would have been able to get an appointment to make my visa.
We were able to get an appointment, it just meant I would no longer be going to Japan on a ‘Child of a National’ visa as the paperwork I needed, (Certificate of Eligibility), could only have been processed in Japan, and could take up to 90 days.
90 days that I did not have, we had already booked our flights and I was not pushing that back again if I could help it!
So we ended up coming to Japan in October 2022, both on Working Holiday Visa which allows us a year in the country. We are thrilled that we finally made it, and we are so happy to be in a place that we’ve wanted to be in for such a long time!
Anyway…. I’m waffling on. Let’s get into the 3 most important things you need to know if you decide to move to Japan!
1. Residence Card
When you fill in your Visa application form, the picture you attach to it will be the one on the card that you will be carrying around. So, make sure it’s a good one!
Once you land in Japan, as long as you land in the international airports (Narita, Haneda), you will receive it there. You’ll get it at immigration before you pick up your suitcases – For me, I had to have another picture taken and if I remember correctly, had to sign something.
The residence cards are called: 在留カード / Zairyu Card
Zairyu cards are very important, you must carry it with you everywhere you go. It doesn’t matter if you are just going to your local konbini, it’s a legal requirement that you carry this card wherever you go as a form of identification.
It’s known that Japanese police may stop foreigners to have a look at their cards. If you cannot present it to them, they could fine you or even worse, sentence you to a year in prison. So make sure you have it on you at all times!
Once you land and get your card, on the back of it will be a blank space for where your resident address will go.
You are required to go to your local ward office: Kuyakusho 区役所 within 14 days of being in the country to register your address. This is mandatory and you’ll need your passport to complete it.
For us, the process of registering our address took around 2 hours. There was a lot of back and forth, photocopying and faxing, but in the end, we got it done and had our address printed on the back of the card. Sorted!
Whilst you’re at the Kuyakusho registering your address, they’ll ask you about insurance: 保険 (hoken)
If you are living and working in Japan, or coming to Japan on a holiday that’s longer than 90 days, insurance is required – Unless you’ve acquired it privately before you leave. It’s essential that you get it as there have been cases where hospitals have denied patients who cannot prove they’ve got any.
Japan’s insurance is worked out based on your income. If you’re a student or unemployed, you’ll pay less than those who are in employment. The amount you pay towards it also depends very much on which ward or city you live in as it varies from each of them.
If you need to visit the doctors or the hospital, having health insurance means that out of the whole bill, you will only need to pay 30%, and the leftover 70% is taken care of by the government.
I’ve yet to go to the doctor or the hospital, but I have been told that consultation for someone only costs 600 yen, which I don’t think is too bad.
Get insurance ASAP
I knew we had to get insurance when we came over here, but what I didn’t know was that they would backdate it from the date you are in Japan from.
What I mean by this is: We had a few weeks of travellers insurance from England to cover our backs as we were unsure how long things would take to apply for in Japan. I didn’t think we would have to pay for the Japanese insurance until our traveller’s insurance had finished, but that’s not the case. You have to pay insurance from the date you arrive in the country.
I.e. If you land on the 10th, but don’t apply for insurance until the 22nd, they will make you pay for the 12 days.
Before applying for Japanese Health insurance, we had a look online and there were a few companies offering insurance for Japan. However, I’m unsure how these work and I think what we did was the best and easiest option.
Whatever you do, please make sure to get insurance. Your health is so important, and you don’t want to be in an unfortunate position where you need medical attention and are left with a massive bill!
Everyone who has a residence card and lives in Japan has to register for a pension, including students, people on Working Holiday Visa and those who are unemployed. Whether you pay towards a pension depends on how much you earn whilst you are living in Japan.
Pension in Japanese is called: 国民年金 (こくみんねんきん) Kokumin nenkin
To apply you will need your resident card and passport, a ‘My Number’ card if you have one and a student card if you are a student.
You might be thinking “But do I really have to apply for the pension even if I don’t currently have a job?”
Annoyingly, yes you do. However, you can fill out an Exemption of contributions, 支払い免除 (しはらめんじょ), Shiharai menjo
This is another bit of paperwork that has to be filled out at the same time as the Kokumin nenkin. While it doesn’t guarantee that you will be exempt from paying the whole thing, it allows the ward office to take your salary into consideration before (hopefully!) giving you a reduced rate.
After signing up for a pension, you will receive a yellow card in the post, which will have your pension number on it. Keep this close as you will need it every time you go to the ward office for anything pension related.
Moving to Japan might not seem like the easiest thing in the world to do, but now you know these 3 important things, it should be pretty straightforward! Well, besides learning 2000 kanji I suppose 😉 がんばれ! (Good luck!)
- It’s better to come with more rather than less – you may not need it but I liked to take all the paperwork that I have just in case they ask for it. This means I don’t have to come back another day.
- Please also do your own research! Although this information is as accurate as I believe it is, please don’t take it as gospel. Although unlikely, things may change after this post goes up, so just double-check with your local ward office or Japanese embassy as well.