How To Live In Japan For Long Term?

Japan is a nation of diverse contrasts, from the cosmopolitan appeal of Tokyo to the beautiful countryside surrounding the ancient capital Kyoto. Moreover, it has a global reputation as a safe country. Moving to Japan promises you a lot of advantages as well as extraordinary experiences. This location guide is going to shed light on how to live in Japan and what need to prepare.

All matters about how to live in Japan

How hard is it to move to Japan

Before April 2019, visas limited and the national sense to prioritize local workers over foreign ones have prevented foreign workers from obtaining documents to stay in the country long term. The country also imposes complex tax structures, like a steep inheritance tax that applies to even short-term foreign residents, that force some to question whether they should reside in Japan for longer than a decade. As of 2016, less than 2% of Japan’s population was made up of foreign nationals.

However, the challenges of an aging population and shrinking domestic workforce impose great burden on Japanese companies. Opening up to immigrants is considered as the only realistic solution to Japan’s demographic woes. As a result, the government needs to take steps towards truly assimilating newcomers by making Japan a more welcoming place. Recently, immigration policies and foreign labor controls have been considerably modified to make it easier than ever to live in Japan.

how to live in japan

Moving to Tokyo is quite easy if you are high-skilled person.

If you’re “highly skilled”, the move should be fairly easy. The new policies are more open, in many ways, than those of the US or Canada, Japan has no caps on the number of permanent residents, doesn’t require permanent residence to apply for citizenship, and has promised to accelerate applications for highly qualified applicants to within a year.


How to live in Japan for a year

For those who come from countries with Visa Exemption Agreements (meaning that your country has an agreement with Japan and you need no visa to enter the country) or have got your visitor visa approved, you are only eligible to stay in Japan upon 180 days (from the time you enter Japan to one year later).

If you want to reside there you’ve gotta take another approach. You’ll have to get a proper visa. There are many kinds of visas and we’ll pay more attention to working visa, general visa, specified visa.

Working Visa

It means exactly what it says, you will be working for a company as an employee of some sort. The company agrees to sponsor you in order for you to work for them and provide you with the Certificate of Eligibility so that you can obtain a working visa. You can choose to work in nearly every sector:

  • Professor/ researcher
  • Artist (composers, songwriters, artists, sculptors, craftspeople, photographers, etc.)
  • Religious activities (monks, bishops, missionaries, etc.)
  • Journalist
  • Investor/business manager
  • Legal/accounting services
  • Medical services
  • Instructor/ teachers
  • Engineer
  • Specialist in humanities/literature Services
  • Entertainer (musicians, actors, singers, dancers, sportspeople, models, etc.)
  • Skilled labor (chefs specializing in the food of a foreign country, animal trainers, pilots, sports trainers, sommeliers, etc.)

General Visa

General visa which is pretty much easier to obtain, includes:

  • Cultural activities: exchange programs, unpaid internships, sushi making/ Japanese flower arrangement/ karate courses, etc.
  • College/ Precollege student: Get accepted to take a course or do research at Japanese schools/ universities, etc
  • Training: trainees in a company, a local government, etc
  • Family stays: the spouse and children, etc. of a foreign national on a long-term stay


  • For student visas, please keep in mind that you are not allowed to take any kind of job and make income. You must spend at least 20 hours at school every week. Moreover, some schools will ask for Japanese Proficiency as a part of the registration process.
  • For a cultural visa, you must find a teacher/ a master/ an organization in Japan that is willing to sponsor you and then apprentice you. In most cases, you will be charged an amount of money for the program.

Specified Visa

  • Spouse Visa:   Spouse/ biological child of a Japanese national/ a permanent resident

It does happen in the real world that some people come to Japan and try to get married with Japanese to solve their visa issues. In this case, remember to document everything (letters, photos, chats, etc) and make sure you know your partner well, as when you go to get interviewed by the immigration office, they will check whether you’re telling the truth or not.

  • Long-term resident: persons with Japanese ancestry, Indochinese refugee settlers, etc.
  • Working Holiday Visa

A working holiday visa allows you to take part in any kind of legal paying activity. In case you don’t want to work, that’s fine. You can spend all your time travelling around the country. Working holiday visas last for 6 months or one year and are only issued once. You will have to apply and get it approved before landing in Japan.

Working holiday visa is amazing but it only issued for citizens of these following countries:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Canada
  • The Republic of Korea
  • France
  • Germany
  • The United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Denmark
  • Residents of Taiwan
  • Hong Kong

For more information about How to move to Japan with no money, check this link:

Moving to Japan requirements

Needed documents

First, there are 4 types of document that you need to prepare before proceeding the visa application:

1. Passport: at least 6 months valid passport 

In the US, a routine passport application may take more than 4-6 weeks to process. If you need a passport more quickly, you can apply for expedited service for an additional fee.

2. Visa application form: 

The form is the same form no matter which visa you are applying for. It is pretty straightforward to fill out, but make sure you have the information of your employer or sponsor ready in order to complete it. It must be printed, completed, and signed.

A completed visa application form, available here:

3. Photos: One photo (45mm x 45mm) 

It could be your ID or passport photo which is clear, with a white background. Attached it to your application form (there’s a designated spot on the form for this).

4. Certificate of Eligibility: Both original and copy

In order to qualify for an extended stay (6 months to 5 years) or residency in Japan, you will need a Certificate of Eligibility. A COE is a document that proves to the Japanese government that the person landing in Japan meets all the requirements for the activities they will be engaging in during their stay, such as being a student or having the qualifications to work.

Generally, the COE will be sent to you by your Japanese company through email or mailing address. Additional documents may be requested depending on the employer, including photo of your passport, valid ID photo, signed work contract, stamped envelope, address of your nearest Japanese Embassy, etc.

Visit the Immigration Bureau of Japan’s website on applying for a Certificate of Eligibility to get application forms and view a list of supporting documents:

Visa application

Once you finish gathering all required documents, apply for a visa at the Japanese Embassy: Take all the required documents to your nearest Japanese Embassy or Consulate-General and follow the instructor. The procedure will vary depending on what you are planning to do during your stay in Japan and an interview may be required if necessary.

After getting visa approved, you will be able to enter Japan within 3 months

Once you are in Japan, you will need to obtain a resident card. If you arrive at Narita Airport near Tokyo, Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Chubu Airport serving Nagoya, and at Kansai Airport, near Osaka, followed by Shin-Chitose Airport near Sapporo, Hiroshima Airport and Fukuoka Airport, you can get your resident card at the same time that you get your passport stamped. Otherwise, the Regional Immigration Office in the area where you plan to live will mail the resident card to you at your place of residence in Japan within a few days of your arrival.

What to prepare before you move to Japan 

Before you pack your bags and buy your plane ticket there are some things you need to know.

1. Find a job

Getting a job in Japan is not easy, due to Japanese hierarchy struggling to hire foreign workers, visa application and language barrier. However, it also depends highly on what skill set you have, the job market for that skill and how you polish yourself. Japanese companies are searching for talent workers. Consider looking for a job before landing, that will make your life in Japan much easier. Some of the highest paying jobs with a great amount of opportunities are: English teacher, IT, engineer, sales staff, service staff, banker and translator.

how to live in japan

The most common and easiest ways to get pay in Japan is working as an English teacher

2. Find a place to live

If you’re financially secure and have basic Japanese speaking skills (or a translator), finding a place to live won’t be too difficult. You can either work directly with the landlord or go through a real estate agent. Be prepared that accommodation in Japan is always expensive and narrow-spaced. The national average rent is 50 to 70,000 JPY (470–650 USD) per month, not including utilities. Moreover, it’s about 10% more costly in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. There are various types of houses in Japan, ranging from high-rise, modern apartment buildings to detached, Japanese-style houses that are equipped with traditional woven tatami mat flooring.

3. Cost of living

Japan is high on the lists of most expensive countries in the world. In Japan’s economic centers, a person’s monthly cost comes into $1200–$1,800. Obviously it would be cheaper if you choose to stay in rural areas or small cities. Also expect that there are a lot of extra costs arising when living there.

3-course meal for two, mid range restaurant¥4,000
Monthly public transportation pass¥10,000
New Toyota Corolla¥2,050,101
1-bedroom apartment in city center (monthly)¥81,609

Cost of living examples

4. Healthcare

Japan offers one of the best healthcare systems and health insurance in the world. Good news is expats can easily take part in Japan’s healthcare system, which will cover about 70% of most medical services. Once you have your residency card, there are two main health insurance schemes in Japan that you can sign up for: Japanese National Health Insurance, which is available to unemployed people, part-time workers, and students; and the standard Japanese Health Insurance, which is available to full-time employees. Ask your employer in Japan about how to enroll for Employees Health Insurance.

5. Bank and taxes

Dealing with finances in Japan is not as difficult as you think, as this country has one of the world’s best banking systems and translators are available at most banks. For opening a bank account, you just need to follow instructors and fill out Japanese application forms to open a standard account. If you want to move money into your Japanese account, make sure to check on the real exchange rate beforehand. If you find your bank isn’t offering you a good rate, you can use TransferWise to ensure you get the mid-market rate, and be charged smaller fees in the process.

Tax system in Japan is fairly standard in comparison to other leading world economies. Those who have just moved to Japan less than one year will not need to to pay income or residential tax. Otherwise, taxes in Japan are levied in three categories: income, property, and consumption.

6. Learn some Japanese

Japanese barely speaks English so, if you’re moving to Japan, try to take up some daily words. That makes your life easier and may help you survive in emergency cases. Before moving to Japan, consider signing up for a course, taking private lessons, or using language learning software like Rosetta Stone or Duolingo.

how to live in japan

If that’s too much for you, at least try to remember the characters for kanji number


1. Can I live in Japan as a foreigner?

Yes, no matter which nationality you are, you’ve gotta obtain a proper visa to move to Japan and live there for the long term.

2. How can I permanently live in Japan?

Foreign residents who have shown good conduct and have sufficient assets or ability to make an independent living, can be granted permanent residence if they reside in Japan for a certain number of consecutive years.

3. Is it expensive to live in Japan?

Japan is consistently ranked as having one of the highest average costs of living in the world. Daily expenses can easily add up to 280,000–300,000 JPY (2,500–2,700 USD) per month. Expats moving here can expect a comfortable lifestyle, but they will not save a lot of money.

4. Can a US citizen live in Japan?

Immigrating to Japan from the US is possible if you have an appropriate visa. Please note that US citizens cannot obtain the Working holiday visa.


And there you have it, some of the things to keep in mind about How to live in Japan. Is there anything else you want to ask? Let us know in the comments!

About Yuu Sato

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.