Frequently Asked Questions about Japan

From its ancient history and traditions to its fast-paced, vibrant cities of today, Japan is a fascinating destination for expats. New arrivals are sure to have many questions about their new home so here are answers to some of the most 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, they will need at least a few basic phrases.

How does one get around Japan?

Trains, ranging from the Shinkansen (bullet train) to the underground, are 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. The JR pass, which allows unlimited travel on the Japanese railway system for a fixed period, is a good investment for expats.

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.

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 in touch with people from home. There are hundreds of internet providers so new arrivals will be sure to find a package to suit them.

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