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6 Tips for Living in Japan

With its distinguished culture, history and innovation in technology, expats have been flocking to Japan to discover what makes this country so special. But despite their hospitality and welcoming nature, moving to Japan can be challenging even for those with experience living abroad. Below are 6 of my top tips to help you prepare for living in Japan.

Familiarize Yourself with Japanese Etiquette

Japan is known for its unique culture, but little things that might be common in your home country could be considered rude or offensive in Japan. Tipping, for example, is seen as condescending and shouldn’t be done under any circumstance. On the other hand, slurping while eating noodles is not only acceptable, but is considered a compliment to the chef. Here is a quick guide with some helpful “Dos and Don’ts” you should read before arriving in Japan. Dos and Donts: Japanese Culture Tips.

Visit an Izakaya (Japanese-Style Bar)

There’s no better place to explore the local cuisine than an Izakaya, where the food is just as important as the beverages served. Izakayas vary in style and size, some only big enough to hold a few patrons. Typical menu items include small portions of a vast array of grilled meat or vegetables, perfect for picky eaters or adventurous people looking to find something new. Izakayas are a great place to meet locals or practice your Japanese. Even if you don’t prefer alcohol, they’re worth going for the food alone.

Understand the Railway System

Most destinations in Japan can be reached by train. But with so many railway lines, taking the right one can be tricky, especially in densely populated areas like Tokyo. To make things even more complicated, many of the maps in train stations are only in Japanese, and the ticket machines can be a little confusing for first-time users. Plan your route before heading to the station, and give yourself plenty of time to find the correct platform. And don’t be afraid to ask an attendant if you get lost. If you accidently put the wrong amount on your ticket, there are Price-Adjustment machines located throughout every station, so there’s no need to panic if you’re not sure of the amount.

Legal Documentation

For those working in Japan, your documentation is very important. Even things like an address change must be documented, which means taking a trip to the local city hall to fill out paperwork. Some employers, like teaching agencies, will assist you in finding an apartment and making sure your documentation is correct and up-to-date. If your employer cannot assist you, make sure to research what is required for your specific Visa or living situation. For those interested in living abroad as an English teacher, here is a quick guide to help get you started: 7 Crucial Tips for Teaching English Abroad For Expats.

Japanese Language

Unless you’re in a tourist area, finding English speakers can be difficult, which makes even simple tasks like ordering food a challenge. Having a way to translate, even if you’re just using Google Translator, can be a big help in your daily life. If you plan to live in Japan for a while, learning the language is a huge advantage. Many people take lessons at local community centers or with private tutors. If you don’t have the extra cash to pay for lessons, language exchanges are a great way to meet new people and help each other enhance your language skills.

Find Your Japanese Niche

Another aspect of what makes Japan so much fun is all the niches that are so unique to this country. Take a ride on a Cat Café Train, explore the seven-story buildings dedicated to Manga (Japanese Comics), or take a dip in a hot spring. Whether you’re a foodie, a record collector, a gamer, or want to explore new niches, there is something for everyone. Meet new people who share the same interests and discover the Japan that you want to find!

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