How to Move to Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan (Image: dantada/Morguefile)

Many people find the Japanese culture, which is rich in history and traditions, very appealing. The beauty of the scenery, coupled with the friendly and warm hospitality of the people, continues to entice people to move to Japan. Tokyo is one of the major industrialized cities in Japan, and many people come to this modernized city to study or to work.

Things You'll Need

  • Passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Immigration papers
  • Visa
  • Student credentials
  • University credentials
  • Money

Learn about Tokyo. Familiarize yourself with basic information about the city and its culture. Read books and magazines about the place and its people and learn about Japanese customs and traditions.

Learn to speak the language. It is always a good idea to learn Japanese if you plan to move to Japan. English is not a predominant language and many locals only speak Japanese, so learning how to speak it is important. Start with the basic phrases that would help you during your first few weeks or months of adjustments there. Buy instructional CDs and books to learn about the language and keep practicing so you can improve on it.

Apply for the JET Programme (Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme). This program promotes mutual international exchange between Japan and other nations. Various contracting organizations in Japan utilize the services from the JET Programme. Positions available include assistant language teacher (ALT), coordinator for international relations (CIR) and sports exchange adviser (SEA) (see Resources below).

Get an education. If you plan to work in Japan as a teacher, you need college or university credentials to teach English at prestigious schools. Other positions that require a college diploma are engineering, medicine and other professional jobs, and these may even require postgraduate degrees. Consider taking courses in tourism or hotel and management, or even major in Japanese language. Degrees in computer graphics and animation can also help you find a job in Tokyo, while Japanese college preparatory courses can help you find education opportunities (see Resources below).

Find a reliable recruitment agency if you are looking for an employment in Tokyo (see Resources below). Some agencies recruit by specialty, such as arts and media, education, information technology, engineering and science, while others recruit by location. Ingenium Group, Inc. is a Tokyo-based executive firm specializing in finding employees at executive or senior management levels who can work for industries based in Tokyo.

Visit Japan as a tourist first if you are still undecided. Stay there for a couple of weeks or even a month. Experience the Japanese culture by visiting the cities and countryside. Learn as much as you can about the country during your stay and then determine if this is a place that you would see yourself living in for a long time. If you cannot get over the culture shock such as eating Japanese food, then maybe moving to Japan is not for you. Be prepared for the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. It is comparable to New York and other big metropolitan cities in the world, so there is plenty of traffic congestion and the streets are often crowded.

Apply for a Visa. You can apply for a tourist, work, study or cultural visa. You will need to present your passport size photos, visa application form for Japan, passport, birth certificate, student and professional credentials (see Resources below). U.S. Citizens can visit Japan without a visa for as long as 90 days. To apply for a work visa, you need paperwork from the company that is hiring you. They will file a petition that the Japanese embassy nearest you will process. It usually takes 2 to 7 days to issue your visa once approved. If you do not have all the necessary paperwork, it may take up to 3 months to get a visa to allow time for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to conduct its investigation.

Save and bring money. You will need money for your daily expenses until you settle down or until your first paycheck arrives if you are working there for the first time. Tokyo is one of the most expensive places in the world to live. Even a tiny apartment can cost a lot, though the Tokyo suburbs are less expensive. Utilities and phone charges are expensive as well. Some companies offer their employees subsidized transportation expenses to lessen expenses. If you are unable to find a permanent place right away, you can also choose to stay at a guesthouse, which are known as "gaijin houses" that house foreigners. You can usually stay a maximum of 1 to 3 months.

Get to know others and be friendly. Overall, Japanese people are not hard to please, but many people will be insulted if you decline their invitations often. The best way to get used to the place is by having a local take you to different places. Partake in eating the dishes and drinks they serve you. Smile a lot or when appropriate and say thank you or acknowledge their gestures by bowing or giving firm handshakes.

Take things one day at a time. Getting used to another culture different from your own does not happen overnight. Be patient and persevere. Learn to adjust each day. Before you know it, you will easily blend in and find that you have made the right choice by moving to a country that will welcome you with its warm hospitality.

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