Moving to Japan from the UK: A How-To Guide

Last updated: May 6, 2020

So you’re moving to Japan, are you excited? Nervous? Both!? In order to calm those nerves, we’ve created this page to cover everything that you may be unsure about. Whether you want to find out what costs are, or need want more information on international removals or what you should prepare before your move, read on to discover more.

Cost of Moving to Japan

How much does it cost to move to Japan?

Size of HouseholdShipping TimeCost
1 bed flat9-11 weeks£3,000-£4,100
3 bed house6-8 weeks£7,000-£9,400
5 bed house6-8 weeks£10,600-£14,200

Above you can find the cost of moving to Tokyo from London by sea. A removal company will use a shipping container to move your belongings to Japan. You can also choose to transport your belongings by air, which will be quicker but much more expensive. For more advice on how much your cost will be, take a look at our international moving costs page.

There are many factors that influence the cost of relocating to Japan, which is why these can only be estimates. If you would like a more precise estimate of your move, you can fill out our quick online form for up to five free removal quotes.

Visas for Japan

If you’re a UK citizen you can enter Japan for up to 90 days without a visa. However, if you’re planning on moving to Japan for a longer period of time, then you will have to apply for a work or long-term visa. Here are the documents that you will need:

  1. Passport (valid for the entire duration of your stay)
  2. One visa application form
  3. One photograph
  4. Certificate of Eligibility (one original and one copy)

For more information, visit the UK Embassy of Japan’s website. Also, it is good to note that once you have your visa, you will need to get a resident record within the first 14 days of your arrival.

Moving to Japan Checklist

We created a detailed moving abroad page, dedicated to people preparing to move to another country. Along with this page, here are some of the extra things that you need to prepare specifically when emigrating to Japan.

Banking in Japan

As mentioned before, you will need to have the resident record in order to open a bank account. It is also a wise idea to set up your bills in advance at the bank; it will be a lot of paperwork but will be worth it to avoid having to do it every month if your Japanese language skills are not so great.

Here are the main Japanese Banks that you may like to bank with:

Working in Japan

The working environment in Japan is a lot more different than what you may be used to. Firstly, there is the language barrier as we have previously talked about. Then there is a high sense of hierarchy within a business, so you definitely should know where you stand before high-fiving your new boss or colleagues! Here are the terms that are given to people at different levels within the workplace:

  • Seishain: regular employee
  • Keiyakushain: contractor
  • Hakkenshain: Temporary staff

And here is the hierarchy within a team:

  • Senpai: Senior
  • Kohai: Junior

If you’re interested in finding work in Japan, then there are many online portals you can use in order to find work in Japan:

For more advice on finding jobs in Japan, read this article from an insider expert on finding work in Japan.

Moving to Japan is an adventure

Healthcare in Japan

Japan has the world’s longest life expectancy. Why is this? Well, you could argue that it’s because of their remarkable healthcare system. Their healthcare is public and universal and is mandatory for everyone who lives in Japan. You will need to get health insurance if you’re planning on staying in Japan for more than three months. There are two types of health insurance:

  1. Social Health Insurance (SHI): For people with a full-time job and paid through your salary
  2. National Health Insurance (NHI): For students, freelancers and jobs that don’t do SHI.

For more information, this page is the perfect guide to getting health insurance in Japan.

Japanese Culture

When you’re moving to Japan from the UK you definitely have to be prepared for a big culture shock! This section is for those who have no idea what to expect before moving to Japan.

Transport in Japan

One thing that you can expect when moving to Japan, is the punctual transport system. Trains are the best way to travel in Japan due to their reliability and excellent service. There is a nationwide railway network, so getting around the country is relatively easy. The Japan Rail Pass is the most cost-effective way to use the trains; you buy a pass for either one, two or three weeks. For more information on this, take a look at this guide on the Japan Rail Pass.

There are also other types of transport tickets, for example, City Passes allow unlimited travel on subways, trams, trains and buses on one day. Take a look at this guide for train tickets for more help. Japan isn’t the only Asian country with amazing public transport. Read our blog on the top four Asian countries with the best public transport to see what other countries there are.

Moving to Japan

Eating in Japan

If you’re expecting to find knives and forks in restaurants, think again. You may need to practice with chopsticks for a while before emigrating to Japan as these are the only utensils that you will use out there! Whether you’re eating Sushi or Soba noodles, chopsticks are your friends, apart from when you’re eating ramen (that’s when you’ll drink straight from the bowl)!

Also, don’t expect to have your typical glass of merlot or pinot grigio with your dinner. Japanese sake, or rice wine, is the typical drink served either hot or cold with most Japanese dishes. If you’re looking for more information on Japanese food and beverages, read the top 10 foods to try in Japan or read this article for advice on the eating and drinking etiquette.

Languages of Japan

Planning on living or working in Japan for a long period of time? Then you are best to prepare your language skills months, or even a year or two, in advance. The Japanese language is extremely complex and most people who are moving to Japan take Japanese lessons in order to make the transition easier. There are several dialects with the ‘Tokyo dialect’ being considered the standard Japanese.

A great way to learn Japanese for free is to use the app Duolingo. However, lessons with a native will help you practice and build up your Japanese to a more advanced level. Here are some great websites where you can find a Japanese tutor:

Living in Japan

Perhaps one of the main factors that drew you to Japan was what living in Japan is like. If you want to discover what the best places to live in Japan are or what the living costs are like, read on.

Living costs in japan

If you’re planning on living in Tokyo, expect living costs to be quite high. Obviously, you’ll be wanting a roof over your head when living in Japan, so you may want to have an idea on what the housing in Japan is like. Tokyo being the most popular moving destination is the most expensive place to live as house prices and rents are extremely high. The average monthly rent for a studio in the centre is around £1550. In comparison, Osaka, the second biggest metropolitan city, has much lower living expenses than Tokyo. You can expect the rent for a studio apartment in the centre to be around £550.

Gaijin houses may be something that you are interested in if you’re planning on moving to Japan solo. They are guest houses that provide furnished accommodation to foreigners. Many have shared facilities, but it can eliminate the stress of finding a guarantor. Read up on how to find an apartment in Japan or take a look below for a few sites that you can use:

Best places to live in Japan

If you are unsure where you are moving to in Japan, then this section shows some of the top places in Japan for expats:

Tokyo:

Tokyo has such a unique atmosphere unlike most places in the world. It is a great place for most Westerners to move to and the different neighbourhoods within Tokyo can offer you unique ways of living. Whether you’re looking for a high-class lifestyle or want to experience the cherry blossoms in the spring, Tokyo has it all. Read this article for the top 10 residential areas within Tokyo, designed for foreigners moving to Japan.

Okinawa:

If you’re looking for a more laidback way of life, surrounded by crystal blue waters and amazing scenery, then Okinawa Island may be the perfect place for you. Okinawa is a Japanese district made up of more than 150 islands between Taiwan and Japan’s mainland.

Moving to Japan for the nature

Kyoto:

You would not be going wrong if you decided to emigrate to Kyoto as you would be moving to one of the most cultural destinations in Japan. Kyoto is known for its historic temples and beautiful gardens. Despite a more slow-paced life here, Tokyo is only two and a half hours away by train and Osaka only thirty minutes. For more information on Kyoto, take a look at this guide to living in the city.

Fukuoka:

If you’re looking for lower living costs, more personal space and a place perfect for starting your business, then Fukuoka is for you! It has a bustling start-up scene, which makes it perfect if you’re planning on moving to Japan to start a business. Moreover, Fukuoka is the youngest city in Japan and was also ranked as the first most liveable city in Japan in a survey taken by 1,000 business people.

Osaka:

You’ll find yourself in a bustling city if you’re thinking of moving to Osaka. Known not only being the country’s most economic centres, but Osaka is also known for being culture rich: for food, art and entertainment (and cosplay!). If you’re planning on moving to Japan, then Osaka will make the perfect exciting expat life you may be after.

Of course, these are only a few of the best places for expats to live and there are so many other places in Japan that are great places to live in. If you would like a better overview and analysis of the best places to live in Japan, the Nomad List gives a good breakdown of the best and worst aspects of different cities within Japan.

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