Frequently Asked Questions about Japan

Do I need a car in Japan?

In the more rural areas of Japan, public transport can be a bit slow or infrequent, so it is recommended to have a car. In the big cities a car is not necessary and could even be more of a liability. Petrol is very expensive in Japan and there are many pricey toll roads, which means that using public transport is usually preferable. Add to this the cost of car maintenance (roadworthiness tests, licence fees etc.) and it becomes very expensive, despite the fact that the car might have had a cheap purchasing price when compared to international standards.

Is it worth learning Japanese?

Definitely, especially for the mutual respect this creates between expats and locals. There are many language schools in Japan with varying approaches, as well as some very useful phrasebooks and textbooks. There is a standardised testing system (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), which most students aspire to and which is a very good indication of one's level. In Tokyo, it is very easy to get by without ever speaking Japanese, but as soon as one travels a bit further afield, you will need at least a few basic phrases.

How does one get around Japan?

Trains, ranging from the Shinkansen (bullet train) to the underground, seem to be the most popular and quickest means of transport in Japan, although the bus system is also very reliable, comfortable and often cheaper. There are some great deals on airfares during holiday periods, although trains are usually cheaper. Foreign visitors (although not residents) qualify for the JR pass, which allows unlimited travel on the Japanese Railway system for a fixed period and is well worth the investment.

Do expats pay taxes in Japan?

Anyone earning an income is required to pay tax in Japan. In fact, there are two types of tax which need to be paid - income tax, which is a percentage on one's wages and the annual resident tax, which is determined by where one lives.

Is it safe to go to Japan after the earthquake?

After the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, known in Japan as the Great East Earthquake, the northeast coast of Japan was in considerable turmoil as there was much loss of life and destruction of property. There are still areas around the Fukishima nuclear power plant that are unsafe to be in, but on the whole, Japan is functioning normally once more. The nation is still coming to terms with the devastating effects of the earthquake. As Japan is still a seismically active area, one should make note of earthquake emergency procedures in their locality.

How do I keep in touch while I am living in Japan?

Japan is a technologically advanced country and expats really have no difficulty keeping touch with people from home. There are hundreds of Internet providers so new arrivals will be sure to find a package to suit them.