Relocating to Japan

Things to know before relocating to Tokyo

Relocating to Tokyo for work or a change of life can require quite a bit of preparation. We at PLAZA HOMES recognize the complexity of moving to Japan from overseas. Transitioning to a new life is never easy, but it’s our intent that this Tokyo relocation guide is able to provide you with the information you need to make a smooth transition into Japanese life.

Safety in Tokyo

Tokyo often tops the charts as one of the safest cities in the world. In fact, the Economist’s Intelligence Unit officially named it 2019’s safest city in the world, with the most common crime being petty theft. Young women are rarely afraid to walk down city streets at night, and belongings left on trains and in cafes often find their way back to their owners.

Weather in Tokyo

Weather, on the other hand, is not always so rosy. Summer is the roughest season in Tokyo, with average temperatures continuing to slowly rise with each passing year. There are often strings of days in which high humidity and heat create a perfect storm for heat exhaustion and sunstrokes across the Greater Tokyo Area, so be careful when engaging in outdoor physical activities.

In addition, rising temperatures mean that for most of the summer, typhoons can whip up a world of damage. While Tokyo is generally safe, it’s important that you heed any bad weather warnings, regardless of how it may look outside.

Winter, on the other hand, is far milder. There is usually less than a week of snow per year. There are many sunny days, but it can get cold and wet, so warm and waterproof jackets are vital.

Spring and autumn are delightful. The famous cherry blossoms bloom for just one week in spring and are heralded by a buzz of excitement that ripples throughout the city when buds appear. Fall foliage is also gorgeous, especially in the more mountainous regions to the north and west of Tokyo.

Expat Neighborhoods in Tokyo

Tokyo’s massive size means each of the city’s neighborhoods has a unique feel. Expats often live in more concentrated areas, which is why we provide a Tokyo neighborhood guide for international residents to help navigate areas you may not have seen or read about before.

International Schools in Tokyo

If you’re moving your family to Tokyo, one of the biggest concerns you likely will have is continuing your child’s education. Fortunately, Japan’s capital is by far one of the most accessible cities in Japan for English-language schools. Finding a school that fits your philosophy, location, and budget will take time and enrollment periods are short and fill up fast. It’s important to make find a school a high priority and have something lined up before you make your move.

If you're not moving to Tokyo and looking to see what international schools are available throughout Japan, please take a look at All Japan Relocation's list of International Schools in Japan.

Moving to Tokyo, Japan

If you decide to move your belongings to Japan, there are several international shipping options available. Keep in mind that furniture made for the houses or apartments in your home country may be larger than the spaces typically provided in Japanese homes. We also recommend against bringing appliances from your home country, since voltages are often different between other countries and Japan.

If moving all your furniture feels like a hassle, monthly furnished apartments are a great way to make the move without worrying about the added cost of filling your home. There are also many upscale long-term furnished rentals available if you don’t plan to settle in Tokyo for more than a couple years.

Bringing Pets to Japan

It’s important to note that for those with beloved family pets, you will need to carefully read through the Japanese Animal Quarantine Service (AQS) website so that you’re able to comply with all rules for bringing pets to Japan. The earlier you can start the research process, the less stressful it will be for you and your pet.

Arriving in Japan

Once you arrive in Japan, the first thing you need to do is set up a bank account. If you are employed by a Japanese company, make sure to confirm that there are no restrictions about which banks they will deposit your monthly wages into as sometimes businesses do their entire payroll exclusively with one bank. You cannot open a bank account without a visa or a phone number. This is particularly frustrating since often you cannot sign up for a Japanese phone plan without having a Japanese bank account.

You must also register with the city or municipality in which you are residing. For many Tokyo residents, that means the ward office, or “kuyakusho.” The ward office deals with your health insurance (unless it’s a private third party), your social security number (called “My Number” in Japan), and many other official records. It’s good to identify where your ward office is located before moving to your new residence.

Staying Healthy in Japan

While Japan’s healthcare system is not fully taxpayer funded, it’s still quite affordable and international residents are generally happy with the services provided.

All Japanese residents are required to have insurance, and for those who don’t receive it through their employer, there is the National Health Insurance program. Most English-speaking doctors take Japanese National Health Insurance, but not many take other third-party plans. If you have insurance through an overseas company or diplomatic presence, it’s best to ask for a list of participating providers.

Additionally, it’s important to know all the rules and regulations for bringing both prescription and over-the-counter medicine into Japan as even an accidental oversight can lead to charges and fines, or even deportation.

Driving in Japan

If you want to drive in Japan, you will either need a special International Driver’s License (IDL) or a Japanese driver’s license. It’s almost impossible to receive an IDL once you have arrived in Tokyo and it’s only valid for one year at which time you will need to obtain a Japanese driver’s license.

Relocating to Tokyo, Japan Can Be Stress-free with Planning

It’s easy to lose focus when planning a major move. That’s why we created this master list of guides to help make life as easy as possible for you and yours during your transition. Our comprehensive guide to Living in Tokyo includes even more tips to help you move through your new city as painlessly as possible. We welcome you to Tokyo!