Expats moving to Japan with an open mind will find themselves immersed in the wonderful idiosyncrasies of Japanese culture, coupled with abundant opportunities for adventure and degrees of acculturation.
Working in Japan can be especially lucrative for expats. Many will find that despite the country’s reputation as one of the most expensive destinations in the world, competitive markets have made for beneficial deals and negotiable costs of living as of late.
Japan is an island nation that prides itself on its innovation, strong economy and rich heritage. Expats often comment on the friction between the country’s strong traditionalist roots and its worship of modern technology and forward-thinking ideals. Expats will be exposed to strange contradictory sights side-by-side, like a temple next to a pachinko (slot machine) alongside a gambling parlour and an anime figurine shop. The contrasts serve to highlight the precarious balance found in Japan between upholding tradition while embracing modernity.
Like most major global cities, life in Tokyo is fast-paced and full of interesting and unusual experiences. In the countryside and smaller cities, expats will be more likely to taste the traditional Japan of old, commonly associated with tea ceremonies, tatami mats and rice paddies. While Kyoto feels more tranquil and laidback, Osaka boasts a bustling nightlife and is a popular destination for live international performers.
Great pride is taken in Japanese regional variations and specialities, making for a strangely differentiated experience at times. The country has an extremely well-developed infrastructure, with very efficient public transport systems, postal services, communications technology and road networks.
Expats moving to Japan will be relieved to learn that it's extremely safe with very little crime. New arrivals will find themselves immersed in a country that celebrates all things cultural, palatable, technological and fashionable, making Japan a rich and rewarding destination of choice.
Population: About 127 million
Capital city: Tokyo (also largest city)
Neighbouring countries: Japan is an island nation in East Asia with its closest neighbours being North Korea, South Korea, Russia and China.
Geography: Japan's terrain is mostly rugged with over 70 percent of the country being mountainous. The country's highest mountain is Mount Fuji which reaches an elevation of 3,776m (12,388 feet). Japan is also located in a volcanic zone. Low-level earthquakes and tremors are common. More severe earthquakes do occur occasionally.
Political system: Japan is a constitutional monarchy. The Emperor is a ceremonial figurehead whose power is very limited. Power is held mainly by the Prime Minister and other elected members of the Diet, while sovereignty is vested in the Japanese people.
Major religions: The country enjoys full religious freedom. Most people subscribe to Buddhism with elements of Shinto.
Main languages: Japanese is spoken by 99 percent of the population. Japanese and English are taught at most public and private schools throughout the country.
Money: The Japanese Yen (JPY) is the official currency used in Japan. The banking system is sophisticated and ATMs are readily available throughout the country.
Time: GMT +9
Electricity: 100 V, 60 Hz in the west (Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Hiroshima), and 100 V, 50Hz in the east (Tokyo, Sapporo, Yokohoma). Flat two- and three-pin plugs are used.
Internet domain: .jp
International dialling code: +81
Emergency numbers: The emergency contact numbers in Japan are 110 (police), 119 (ambulance/fire), and 118 (coast guard). Operators are proficient in English. In Tokyo, they also speak other foreign languages.
Driving: Cars drive on the left. Japan has an extensive and sophisticated public transport system. It's unlikely that expats living in the major cities will need a car.
"Japan is different from Western countries and this sometimes takes a toll in stress levels as people acclimatise. " To learn more about Jonathan's thoughts on Japan, read his interview.
"Learn the basics of the language as quickly as possible. A lot of volunteer groups offer free Japanese lessons for foreigners in Japan since there is a (necessary and proper) emphasis on assimilation." Get more tips for living in Japan from Chris in his interview.
Are you an expat living in Japan?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Japan. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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