Moving to Japan from the USA is a daunting feat. Not only is this small island many miles away, but the country is also known for being quite different from what you’re familiar with.
Does that mean you shouldn’t make the plunge? On the contrary: Japan has been a popular destination for Americans for decades and for good reason.
Japan is a beautiful destination with a rich and complex history, with an estimated 80,000 Americans currently calling the country home. From iconic videogames to delicious food, the impact of Japanese culture is felt the world over.
Moving to Japan from the USA successfully will take a little more research and planning than what you’re used to, but it’s far from impossible.
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How Much Does it Cost to Move from the USA to Japan?
*Pricing above does not include gas, tolls, lodging, and other related moving expenses.
How to Move to Japan
A major reason so many Americans are daunted by moving to Japan is the actual moving process itself. Unlike other countries – such as Canada or Mexico – Japan isn’t exactly forthcoming to a casual move.
There are several barriers in place to transition to Japan beyond your visa. Your employment (or lack thereof), education, and language ability are major factors to determine whether you can stay in the long-term.
You’ll need the basics below to start your move to Japan:
- Clear, high-resolution photo
- Certificate of eligibility (or COE)
- Appropriate visa application form
We’ll break down the most common visas below, as well as touch on the less common ones. No matter which one you choose, you’ll have to contact the Japanese Embassy and register.
What Visas are Available for Americans Moving to the Country?
While there are around thirty Japanese visas available, only a few might apply to your situation. There’s still enough flexibility that you’ll likely find one or two that suits your unique needs, qualification, and lifestyle.
General Visa is Best for Short-Term Stays
The general visa is designed for…well, general purposes! Expect to use this visa for:
- Cultural activities
- Personal enrichment
- Visiting family
- Specific training in a field
The Work Visa is Good for Both Short-Term and Long-Term Stays
The work visa is perhaps the most flexible choice, as Japan still has a very traditional work culture that places monumental value on the company you’re part of.
Not to be confused with the working holiday visa (which is usually for seasonal or very short-term positions), obtaining a work visa means you’ll be able to stay in Japan for an extended period of time. This time span can range from a few months to five years. Don’t think you can cheat the system, either: Japan is not shy about evicting visitors who don’t have the right visa.
The Tourist Visa is a Common Starting Point for Many Future Residents
The tourist visa is the easiest to obtain, but also one of the most limited. These straightforward visas allow you to remain in the country for three months (or ninety days) to enjoy leisure or visit family.
Now, if you’re thinking of applying for a job, it’s more than possible to seek out employment on a tourist visa. Just make sure you switch over to a work visa once you’re accepted or you won’t be able to legally work.
The Student Visa is a Reliable Beginning for a Long-Term Stay
The student visa is tied to the community college or university you’ve applied to. It’s quite strict and requires you to put in a certain amount of credits per semester to stay in the country.
You can obtain a part-time job with this visa to supplement your income and later transition to a work visa once you graduate. What’s extra nice about the student visa is the inherent help that comes with your school: your faculty has a vested interest in helping you transition smoothly into the country:
- Renting an apartment (which can be difficult to do solo)
- Submitting your taxes, registering a phone number, and setting up a bank account
- Learning the language
- Networking for jobs
- Making friends, acquaintances, and business peers
The Entertainer Visa is Helpful and Flexible
The entertainer visa is designed for actors, comedians, musicians, choreographers, and photographers. Basically, if you work in a commercial art field and need to stay in Japan for a work-related reason, this visa is for you.
The most basic requirement for the entertainer visa is to have at least two years of experience outside of the country.
Is that all you should expect? While the above visas are the most frequently applied for, there is still a slew of other options. Less common visas that might interest you include:
- Journalist visa
- Artist visa
- Researcher visa
- Dependents visa
- Investor/business management visa
What are Options for Americans to Live There Long-Term?
If your head is reeling from all this information, don’t worry. Moving to Japan from the USA is not an idle whim and one you should be comfortable considering deeply.
There are a few more options for Americans to live in Japan for the long term, but these options are contingent on already existing factors.
Marrying a Native Japanese Citizen
If you marry a native Japanese citizen, you have an easy pathway to the country. If you don’t? Just strike this option off the list.
How to Move Your Things From the USA to Japan
How do you move your things from the USA to Japan with such an incredible distance? You’ll have to spend a little more than the average intrastate move, but you still have options to save money.
International Moving Companies are Your Best Bet
If you’re a new mover and don’t want to spend too much time fussing over different options, choose an international moving company. These businesses are designed to help you with every last step of the process in one convenient package.
An international moving company does many of the same things as an interstate moving company…just in another country! You’ll still enjoy services such as:
- Loading and unloading
International Container Companies are an Affordable Choice
If you’re a more experienced mover and just want to ship your household goods to Japan, try an international container company. They’re a straightforward option that allows you to pack, ship, and unload smoothly.
Sea Freight is Commonly Used by Many
Think air shipping is too expensive? Sea freight is slower, but also much more affordable.
You can even use sea freight to ship heavy belongings like a car or a boat. Just keep in mind you’ll have to pay a larger fee for the effort.
Become Familiar With Shipping Companies
Don’t limit your options! Shipping companies come in many flavors: some are designed for smaller moves, while others focus on car shipping.
Why do People Want to Live in Japan?
The United States and Japan have a close history that dates back decades, regularly participating in cross-cultural exchange.
Japan Has a Competitive, Yet Thriving Job Market
The above statement may come off as contradictory. How can Japan be both highly competitive, yet have so much demand?
Put simply, Japan is up against a rapidly aging population and an economy that’s struggling to keep up. By the time 2040 arrives, nearly one out of four Japanese people will be elderly. This means there’s an exorbitantly high demand for healthcare, engineering, and teaching jobs.
It doesn’t end there. There is also a high demand for translation, interpreting, and programming. If you have a Bachelor’s degree, your chances of acceptance are higher.
Stay at Ease with a Lower Crime Rate
Japan is famous for its low crime rate. Gun crime, theft, and homicide are extremely low in any given year.
You’ll Have Plenty of Amazing Cultures to Enjoy
It’s well-known that Japan is filled to the brim with incredible art forms. Whether you love Nintendo or watch anime on the weekends, you’re already a few steps ahead.
Japan is home to modern art forms such as cutting-edge videogames, catchy music, and splashy fashion. It’s also famed for its traditional art forms such as kabuki, noh theater, and tea ceremonies. Visit ancient Shinto shrines or stay at a traditional onsen to unwind after a long workweek.
Surprisingly Low Cost-Of-Living
Japan is often misunderstood as an expensive country. This misconception comes from the fact many foreigners’ understanding of Japan begins and ends with Tokyo.
Japan actually has a pretty low cost of living compared to the United States. The most obvious aspect is their healthcare system: Japan guarantees affordable healthcare no matter your status. Whether you’re a part-time worker, a student, or a full-time employee, you’ll be consistently covered under one of the world’s most advanced medical systems.
Japan also has a lower-than-average rent than the United States. While some cities in America are consistently capping monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment at $1,600 to $1,800, comparatively similar cities in Japan range from $500 to $700.
Japanese Food is Delicious and (Mostly) Healthy
Is your mouth watering at the thought of savory udon noodle bowls and fresh sushi? Japanese food isn’t just visually stunning: it’s delectable and pretty healthy. …Mostly!
Stick to highly traditional Japanese meals to get the biggest benefit, which is usually rich in whole grains, vegetables, and seafood. Keep in mind Japan is also very fond of fried foods and processed snacks, which easily tack on carbs without you realizing it.
What are Some of the Best Places to Move to in Japan?
It’s understandable to gravitate to cultural hubs like Tokyo or Kyoto. If you want to save a little more money while still experiencing the best Japan has to offer, consider the following.
Osaka is a Great Choice for American City-Slickers
Is Tokyo or Kyoto a little too expensive? Try Osaka. This city is still fairly large at nearly three million inhabitants, meaning you’ll be able to enjoy the whirlwind of big city life with a smaller price tag.
This major city is well-known for its iconic food – particularly okonomiyaki – and has a noticeably more outgoing culture than the rest of Japan.
Nagoya is a Sleeper Hit to Keep an Eye Out For
Are you a voracious foodie that wants to visit fish markets and food stands on the regular? Do you want to step off the beaten path on your Japanese journey? Put Nagoya on your to-move list.
This large city is home to fascinating museums, modern breweries, and a slew of temples. While not as big as Tokyo, it’s still big enough to keep you happily busy.
Nara is a Smaller City-Town With a Peaceful Vibe
Not interested in a hustling, bustling city? Nara should be your next stop: this beautiful location is a smaller city-town with a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere.
Nara is quite well-known for its deer park, giving you the ability to feed treats to tame deer that roam free. The small population means you won’t have to pay as much in rent, either: score!
Moving to Japan: FAQs
Feeling a little more confident? We’re going to answer some quick frequently asked questions to make sure you have all your bases covered.
Can a US Citizen Move to Japan?
Yes! You just need to have your passport, Certification of Eligibility, and an appropriate visa.
Can a US Citizen Live Permanently in Japan?
You can live in Japan permanently: you just need to find a visa that’s compatible with a long-term stay. These usually take the form of work visas or applying for permanent residency.
Is it hard for an American to Live in Japan?
Some Americans find Japan’s more introverted and traditional culture hard to adapt to their first time visiting, while others find the country’s cultural norms refreshing.
The biggest difficulties for Americans usually lie in the English-to-Japanese language barrier – especially kanji – and the work culture.
How Much Money Should I Save Before Moving to Japan?
The more money you save, the better. Your biggest financial barriers will be hiring an international moving company and putting a down deposit for an apartment.
Aim for a bare minimum of $2,500 and an ideal $5,000.
What is the Difference Between a Tourist and a Resident in Japan?
A tourist is a visitor coming to Japan for cultural enrichment or visiting family members: the tourist visa only lasts for ninety days.
A resident is someone who lives in Japan permanently and has been given residency status by the government.
What is the Best Way to Get a Job in Japan?
Network, network, network. Ask your school for recommendations or reach out to a friend. Consider visiting with a tourist visa and applying for jobs, then come back with a work visa.
Is it Okay to Live in Japan With a Tourist Visa?
Absolutely not. The Japanese government is very thorough and will instantly deport you if they find you overstaying your welcome. Japanese police often check the residence cards of anyone they believe to be a foreigner.
How Does One Plan to Move to Japan from the US?
Get your passport, Certification of Eligibility, and apply for the appropriate visa. Then it’s a matter of choosing a moving service and saving up for the switch.
What is the Cost of Living in Japan?
Expect to spend between $2,000 to $2,700 a month living in Japan. If you live in a smaller city-town or town, these costs will lower exponentially.
What are the Benefits of Moving to Japan?
Japan is filled with day-to-day benefits, including:
- Delicious and varied food
- Fascinating art and culture
- The accessible and affordable healthcare system
- Low crime rate
- Gorgeous environment
- Fast and reliable public transportation
Moving to Japan from the USA won’t be an easy feat. You’ll also be very glad you did.
Japan is a fascinating and dynamic country with amazing food, rich culture, and a lot of day-to-day benefits. Your first step is to get your documents in order: your passport, Certificate of Eligibility, and appropriate visa.
The second step is to save up money for moving services and the down deposit on your apartment. Unless you’re moving in with a spouse or family, you’ll need a job or college to greet you when you arrive.
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