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My Tips for Living in Japan
Volume 1 (2016年2月25日)
Even before you pack up your belongings and say sayounara to your family and friends, there’s a couple of things you may want to do to lessen the overall struggle that is known as emigration.
1. Know the rules! I’m talking visa rules, school rules, apartment rules… this list can go on and on. But familiarize yourself with what has to be done and the time restrictions you have. Don’t expect to just hop on a plane and hope to stay in Japan forever and forever, because it doesn’t work like that. First, this organization is critical to your stay Japan. You don’t have to love them, but you should familiarize yourself with them: The Japanese Immigration Bureau.
If you want to be a student, give Japan Guide a look-see.
KCP International Japanese Language School. My alma-mater! Can I even call it that? Anyway, KCP International Language School is the ultimate place to study Japanese language and learn the culture. It’s a bit pricey, but it is worth the money. The teachers are incredible and create lasting lessons. Plus, you get access to a bunch of entertaining extra-curricular activities and events. The reason why I’m listing them now in “knowing the rules” is because the English-speaking staff at the Japanese school are masters of the student visa process. Should you not know what comes next, give them an email. You are guaranteed a swift, informative response.
If you want to work full-time in Japan: here’s a good guide for you.
If you want to get an apartment in Japan:
Kimi Information Center
I worked with Kimi Information Center to get myself a stellar apartment at a decent price. The staff is attentive. Plus, they know what has to be done and get it done. When it comes time to sign the contract, everything is reviewed to reduce the questions sure to rise later.
Now that the link round up is over…
2. So whether your traveling within the limit of 90 days on a tourist visa or are seriously considering a student visa or working visa (or working holiday visa if you’re not from the USA), you need to know what to bring and what can be left behind. Unless you’re totally emigrating, like I did.
DO BRING (SLIGHTLY SARCASTIC LIST AHEAD)
1. Clothes, decent clothes. Not your threadbare, paint- or grease-smattered sweatpants and hole-riddled hoodie. Believe or not, the Japanese society as a whole is very judgmental when it comes to appearances. If you don’t look the part, don’t expect respect. Better yet, consider buying a new wardrobe when you arrive. In that new wardrobe, be sure to include a nicely tailored suit and white button down shirt for interviews if you intend to get a job. Wait to buy your “work” shoes in Japan, especially if you’re a gent.
2. Deodorant if you sweat a lot and/or concerned about body odor. Chances are, if you find antiperspirant, it won’t be that great. So bring some stuff from home if you truly need it. Honestly though, the Japanese don’t care about their stink (especially in the summer) so neither should you.
3. Peanut butter. Don’t buy Japanese peanut paste or Skippy unless you want to be sorely disappointed. Actually, nut butters in general are not so commonplace. The Japanese don’t understand the deliciousness of a PB and J.
4. Shampoo and conditioner. This is 100x more important if your hair is color treated. Japanese shampoo is a whole other beast. If you have fine hair, choosing a shampoo formula that won’t destroy your delicate tresses may be a mite difficult.
5. Make up…depending on your skin tone. I shouldn’t even have to go into detail about this one.
6. 3-prong adapters for your 3-prong electronics (i.e. laptop). Neither the hotels, my dorm, or my current apartment have had 3 prong electronic outlets. Get your adapters before it’s too late.
7. Your countries’ bank debit card. Japanese ATMs, especially the ones at 7-11, have made remarkable progress with the drudgery that is withdrawing money internationally.
1. Ugly clothes. See above commentary.
2. Your English manga. No Japanese anime-fan wants to see that shit. Or your dubbed Dragonball Z.
3. Your gerbil. For fear of rabies, the government will detain your beloved rodent for 3 months as part of a special quarantine. Sadly, because a rodent’s lifespan is so short and the trials of quarantine so difficult, you may get a carcass at the end of those 3 months and not your toothy companion.
Japan doesn’t have rabies. Let’s keep it that way.
4. Fruit is not allowed in your carry on or luggage. Japan doesn’t want your GMO-tainted, steroidal pears and pesticide-painted apples. They get enough of that from China.
5. Xanax. Funny story, but back when I first came to Japan as a Japanese Language school student, I had an incident where I spilled coffee on my new laptop, causing it to go comatose for a time. My family decided to send me another computer and Xanax to soothe my nerves. Unfortunately, Xanax is an illegal drug in Japan. My new laptop was held up in customs for a few months while the government disposed of my contraband. Le sigh.
6. Cereal. Contrary to what you might have read over the internet or heard from friends, Japan is not devoid of cereal. In fact, I quite like their available offerings. Corn flakes, chocolate flakes, bran, brown rice flakes, granola, and oats are at your neighborhood grocery store awaiting purchase. 7-11 and Family Mart also provide a decent selection, but I like Aeon and Summit for their cereals more.
3. Part time work:
Rules. Read them and weep.
In Japan, if you’re a student and not authorized to work, don’t expect to work more than you study. You have to be able to balance both–and have the proof. You also have to jump through a couple of hoops in order to even get permission to work.
You won’t be allowed to work more than a total of 28 hours a week, 8 hours per day. Naturally, if you really are studying as hard as what is required of a student, you won’t be putting in 8 hours a day or even 28 hours a week. Don’t think you can be a barker or a host/hostess either. Such jobs are illegal for foreigners. Immediate deportation, my friend. Even working in a love hotel as a receptionist can be grounds for expulsion. So be careful when signing up for lucrative work.
Full time work is a little more straightforward, which is why it’s up there in the rules
section and not here. Still, expect to run into some walls if you don’t carry a Bachelor’s degree. If you’re an American, you don’t have too many options other than Work Visa or Student Visa status. If you’re not from America, you can certainly get a working holiday visa and do freelance work or one-day part-time gigs as you travel the country.
5. Brush up on your Japanese. Seriously.
Even if you’re going to a Japanese Language School. A large number of Japanese know a handful of English at best (the pre-programmed stuff like, “Hi, how are you?” or “I’m sorry, I don’t understand/speak English”). Most of them know the word “fuck,” but it doesn’t hold the same connotation in Japan as it does in the USA or the UK.
And with that, you have my first issue of tips for living in Japan. This was more of a
“before” you get here kind of article to get a emigrating hopeful’s feet wet.Though based largely on personal experiences, a lot of the links were from friends of mine currently living in Japan or generated from internet searches prompted by their advice.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more.