Home >The English Garden Experience >Tips for Living in Japan

Tips for living in Japan

Looking for some advice before you set out? We have some great tips and suggestions from some of the former and current teachers here at English Garden.

General Advice

Don’t be too hasty. Japan is a very unique country. Things that may upset or anger you may be the status quo. Give yourself plenty of time to adjust before judging or criticizing. You will experience culture shock at some point of your stay in Japan. Keep an open mind and you will soon enjoy everything Japan has to offer.

              "Everyone’s experience in Japan is unique. Be open and flexible to everything that comes your way. Don’t take everyone’s advice too seriously, try to enjoy your time."
              "Be on time! Or rather, be early!Fashionably late isn’t so fashionable here. Aim to arrive 10-15 minutes ahead of schedule."
              "Most people can speak some English, but be ready for a game a charades if you are still learning Japanese. Be friendly and have fun! If you keep a positive attitude, people will always be willing to help you."
              "Keep a blog, chronicling your experiences in Japan.It’s a great way for friends and family to understand what you are going through. Plus it gives you a golden opportunityto reflect on your experiences in Japan."

Top of a page

Sending Money Home

At the end of your stay, or for a variety of reasons, you may wish to send some money home. There are many different ways to accomplish this task. Some of the easiest ways are money orders and wire transfers.The cheapest and slowest way is by money order. You must take cash with you to the post office to make one, and there are limits on how much you can send.Wire transfers are probably the fastest, and the most expensive. You will often be charged by the bank that sends the money, and by the bank that receives it. It saves time, but look into the charges before choosing this method.

Teacher tip
              "Consider opening an account with an International bank that has offices in your country as well as Japan. You won’t have to bring as much cash with you on your flight. Most international banks have great online banking, letting you quickly receiveor send e-mail transfers. There are some downsides, you won’t be able to access your money everywhere, and you will have to open a local account to receive your pay."

Top of a page

Getting a phone

Everyone in Japan has a cell phone. As ubiquitous as they are in your country, they are much more prevalent here. While you can choose to get a landline, almost all teachers have a cell phone. AU, Docomo and Soft Bank are by far the largest national providers. Soft Bank seems to be the friendliest to foreigners who aren’t staying long enough to sign a long term contract. If you are staying longer, bring someone with you who can speak Japanese if you can’t to make sure you get the best possible contract and phone for you.

If you choose to get a landline instead, or alongside a cell phone, you have 2 options, renting and buying a landline. Renting a landline typically costs 2,500 yen to 3,500 yen per month while buying a landline can cost from 40,000 yen to 70,000 yen. There is a resale market for landlines. You can often find “used” landlines at 1/2 their original cost. Should you relocate, a purchased landline can easily be moved with you.

Teacher tips
              "Get your ARC (Alien Registration Card) as quickly as possible. It’s really easy, andyou’ll need it to get a cell phone."
              "Phones from home pale in comparison to those here. You can have all kinds of options here. Make sure you pick one that has an English mode otherwise you’ll be lost every time you try and use it."

Top of a page

The Internet

Dial-up is dying in Japan like most other countries, and cable has been very slow in taking over. This leaves you with a couple of options, DSL and cell phone companies. DSL is available through many companies, and is widely available throughout Japan. Some companies are even starting to hire English speaking staff to help you get set up. The big cell phone companies also offer USB modems to connect you to the internet through their wireless network. It’s very portable and easy to set up, but for the price, its slower than DSL.

Teacher tips
              "There is a lot of competition for internet access in Japan. Ask someone who speaks Japanese to help you choose the best one for you."
              "DSL runs over your phone lines, so you will need a landline. Rented landlines can’t always be used with DSL, so check with your service provider before you rent or buy a landline."

Top of a page

Studying Japanese

One great way to spend your free time is to study Japanese. The number of schools available is astonishing. If you are hoping to save some money, local community centers often offer courses from little to nothing. You’ll be taught by a volunteer teacher, so the quality will vary.If you are looking for something more intense, there are schools to suit your needs, long term and short term.
              "Read everything you can - on the subways, while watching TV. You’ll slowly find you can read more and more as you progress.”
              "If you choose to take more intensive courses, look into grants from the government. Very few foreigners take the time to become fluent in Japanese, so money is available to those who try."

Top of a page

Staying fit

If you like to go to the gym, there are plenty of options here in Japan. Fitness and health clubs can be found everywhere, and most offer all of the same services as they do back home. Memberships start from 6,000 yen, but you will also have to pay a yearly fee as well. You can also check out the community gyms, while they may not be as modern, they are cheaper.

Tennis is a very popular sport, but you will have a hard time finding open courts without joining a club. And forget about finding free courts that are common in other countries.
If winter sports are your thing, Japan has a huge selection of mountains to escape to for a little skiing or snowboarding. In general, a day at the slopes with a lift pass and rental equipment costs around the same as at most large western ski resorts. Look for packages that include lift passes, rentals and either accommodation or transportation.

Teacher tips
              “The restaurants on the mountains are really overpriced, just like at home. Pack a lunch, and bring it with you. Most lodges will let you use their tables to eat your lunch. Or find a safe, quiet spot on the mountain and have a picnic.
              "Your options for staying fit are only limited by you. If your Japanese is up for it, try martial arts or dancing! There are also some great hiking trails all across the country to explore!"

Top of a page

Shopping for clothes

If you have big feet, bring lots of extra socks and shoes. Otherwise you will have a lot of trouble finding shoes in your size. The same applies to people who wear larger sized clothing. Even western retailers that have set up shop here rarely carry larger sizes. In general, bring lots of clothes if you are worried about finding clothes to fit you here.

It gets very humid in the summers. If you hail from a northern city, you’re in for a shock.Before you leave, try to find clothes that breathe and are wrinkle resistant.While winters may not get as cold as you are used to, most Japanese houses and apartments are not equip with central air.So, make sure you bring some winter clothes as well, as you will need them in the winter.

Fashion is very important in Japanese culture. Work fashion is dominated by suits and other similarly dressy pressed clothes. Dressing to stand out at work is frowned upon. Therefore, most employers have a strict dress code. Most people where dark suits with shirts and ties that feature no loud colors or patterns.
Teacher tips
              “Stock up on deodorant before you come. Don’t expect to find anything here that matches deodorant from home.”
              “Over the counter medications are not as potent as they are at home. Bring enough Tylenol or Advil to last for your intended stay.”