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Moving to Japan? Here are the top things you need to know

Japan can be a cultural overload; vibrant cities, old traditions, and plenty of new things to try, but what do you really need to know if you’re going to be spending time there? We’re discussing some of the top things to remember if you’re making the move abroad. 

Japan is a cash society

You might be used to putting everything on the plastic, but Japan is still very much a cash society. You may often hear that credit cards aren’t accepted and if you see a sign saying ‘crejitto ca-do tsukaemasen’, you'll know you need to get some cash. Banks can often close early, but most convenience stores will have a cash machine. You might also find that rent needs to be paid in cash in person, or by a bank transfer. 

Visas are efficient

If you’re applying for a visa to work, study, or even have a working holiday, you’ll need a residency card, also known as a Zairyu Card. If you’re moving to a major city like Tokyo, provided you’ve completed the steps you need to beforehand, you’ll be issued with a card at the airport right away. Other smaller airports may post it to you promptly. You’ll have a photo taken, and they’ll also keep a record of your fingerprints before you get your card. It’s a legal requirement to carry the card with you at all times, and you’ll need it to get a phone contract, start a gym membership, register for health insurance, and much more. You also need to keep it on you if you’re leaving the country, as it’ll be used for re-entry. 

Renting property has different rules  

Often you can find that you’ll need to pay an average of three months' rent before you can move into a property, sometimes even six. However, this deposit doesn’t actually cover six months of rent like you may expect. A few of the months that you pay is often called ‘key money’, which is an old tradition which is slowly dying out. It’s considered a gift to the landlord for allowing you to move in—you won’t get this back when you leave. This tradition is becoming less prominent given that the variety of housing is increasing, but if you use a real estate agent, they’ll also expect a fee which can often be around a month’s rent too. If you’re planning on renting, be prepared to have a large amount of cash to do it. 

There's plenty for the kids to do

If you’re moving to Japan with kids, it may be a culture shock, but there are loads of things you can do to keep the little ones entertained. There are outdoor activities such as camping, rafting, hiking, biking, fishing, and skiing, as well as art shows, exciting places to visit like the Imperial Palace, and fire building parks. 

Downtime is beautiful

If you’re looking for some downtime when you've moved, there's plenty of places to explore with great countryside. You may even want to visit an onsen town. There are a number of onsen, or hot spring towns in Japan which are popular places to relax. You can head out to the country to enjoy them and take a break away from the cities, and there are plenty of choices. You might want to visit outdoor, indoor, public, private, or gendered onsens. You’ll often find you’re able to relax in the hot water with beautiful scenery around you, and the water temperature of an official onsen is 25°C. 

The Yen is a safe-haven currency

The Japanese Yen is known as a safe-haven currency, which means when geopolitical tensions rise and market risks increase, many investors buy the Yen. This means the exchange rate can fluctuate depending on what’s happening around the world, not just on Japanese developments. You can read more about the Japanese Yen and what affects it in our guide to understanding exchange rates, here

To find out more about moving abroad, take a look at our country guides, here

If you’re considering moving to Japan and would like to discuss sending your money abroad, speak to our experienced Dealing team to help you make smarter currency decisions. Contact +44 (0)20 7989 0000.