Living in Japan

(266 Posts)
mirai Fri 20-May-11 10:42:24

Hi all, not quite sure this has sunk in yet so excuse the exclamation marks! My DP has been offered a job in Japan and we are taking it! We will be going end July-mid August which isn't really very long at all. We'll be gone for at least a year but hopefully longer. I know there's so much we have to do, and organise, any tips or advice would be brilliant. Oh and one more thing we don't get to find out exactly where in Japan for another couple of weeks. I guess that just adds to the lunacy excitement.

I am a (quiet but prolific) regular but I have namechanged for good now as, well, it's a new chapter, innit! grin

mirai Fri 20-May-11 16:14:43

Bumpy, I'm sure there must be some Japan mnetters out there!

Rang the embassy earlier to start the visa process for me, it's a good thing I don't mind paperwork as I think there'll be a lof of it in the new few months!

mirai Fri 20-May-11 16:15:03

*next few months....

RuthChan Fri 20-May-11 18:09:31

Hi Mirai
I'm an ex-Japan MNer.
I lived there for 9 years up until 2008, when we moved here to Belgium.
My DH is Japanese though so we are still tied to the country and will go back this summer for a month.
Advice? Tips? I have no idea where to start!!!
Do you have any questions?
It would be really helpful to know where you might be going too. Does your husband's company have offices in a lot of different places?

RuthChan Fri 20-May-11 18:10:24

By the way, do you have children?
If so, how old are they? That will have a big influence on your life there!

exexpat Fri 20-May-11 18:22:39

I was in Japan for over ten years (Tokyo, but know some other bits of Japan quite well too), left a few years ago but was last back there a few weeks ago and am still fairly plugged in.

It's hard to give any tips without knowing where you're going, whether you have DCs, what age etc, but the standard advice for any western women going to live in Japan is to stock up on bras (hard to find bigger sizes and anything unpadded), shoes (unless you are size 5 or less), clothes if you are more than size 10, favourite skincare and over-the-counter medicines, and contraception unless you are happy with Japanese-brand condoms (they still don't really 'do' the pill over there, nor things like mirena).

Feel free to ask anything on here or via PM.

mirai Mon 23-May-11 08:30:59

Morning, thank you for your replies, it has been a hectic weekend! I'll come back on later to update - ironically I feel like I get more free time at work than I do at home right now! smile

mirai Mon 23-May-11 11:31:29

Right then, we have no children (yet!), and in terms of location it literally could be anywhere from Okinawa up to Hokkaido... We have talked and really we would be quite up for anything/anywhere, but I wouldn't be too happy with anywhere near/in the nuclear exclusion zone (and yes, that could happen).

Ideally it would be somewhere where I could find (some form of) work but we will just have to see how and if that can be achieved once we find out where he's going. I'm going to apply for a Working Holiday Visa which will afford me entry and the right to work (with some conditions) for a year. After that then I will need to get an employer to sponsor me for a proper job... or DP will have to pop the question! grin

We did a huuuge to-do list yesterday which we based on the many 'emigration check-lists' you find on the net, so that has helped focus my mind a little.

That said I am still not sure it's sunk in yet!!

RuthChan Mon 23-May-11 19:33:57

Thanks for the extra info.
Having no children will make your life easier actually.
You won't have to worry about schools etc and you will be freer to explore and enjoy the country once you're there.

I would really recommend taking some Japanese lessons, starting as soon as possible.
I couldn't speak a word before I went. It wasn't actually a problem, and daily life is perfectly possible without it. However, once I learned to speak life really opened up and I was able to meet and communicate with all sorts of different people. Having even just a little of the language makes a huge difference. Most Japanese people speak very little English and really appreciate foreigners who make an effort.

It's good that you're going to get a working holiday visa.
That will give you more limited employment options than a full working visa, but as you said, it will give you prolonged access to the country and should help you to find work without much difficulty. There are many jobs for English teachers and most require a degree, but not a TEFL qualification. Don't worry if you're not experienced yet. If you are interested in other areas of work, you may find your choices limited unless your Japanese is quite fluent.

The area to which you are sent will have a huge effect on the experience you have. Being sent to Tokyo will bring you into contact with lots of foreigners and lots of very cosmopolitan people in a very bright and energetic city. Being in smaller cities will be slightly less so. Being in the countryside will possibly mean that there are no other foreigners and that you are in a much quieter and more traditional community. There are great opportunities to enjoy wherever you are, but the experience will vary enormously.

Do you have any specific questions?

koeda Sat 28-May-11 21:17:18

I've lived in Japan twice - once on the JET programme teaching English. It sounds like that's what your other half is about to do? If so do feel free to ask any specific JET related questions, even though you're not on the programme.

All the advice so far is really good - especially the Japanese lessons. The other tip I would have is start looking round for a few gifts ('omiyage') that are inexpensive, small, light and ideally typically British as they really come in handy during those first few weeks for employers/colleagues, neighbours, anyone who helps you set up home etc. And don't forget to wrap them! Very important in Japan!

TanteRose Mon 30-May-11 03:47:46

sorry, missed this over the weekend.

I am in Japan, south of Tokyo...been here 20 years now.
Lots of good tips so far, you'll be fine!

I worked on and for the JET programme, if that is what your DH will be doing, so feel free to ask me stuff.

There are a few of us out here, keep in touch, and let us know where you will be living smile

mirai Wed 01-Jun-11 23:06:19

Hello again, rushed off my feet here! Thanks for your replies. Koeda and TanteRose, yes you have hit the nail on the head! (was it that obvious?! smile ) We are both so excited, we are still waiting to find out where we'll be placed though.

I started learning Japanese at the start of this year and DP started last year, thank goodness. He has been absorbing it like a sponge, whereas it takes me a little longer to get to grips with it. But I know my hiragana now and hopefully will do my katakana before we go. I've been downloading some apps for my ipod today, I do struggle but at least I'm trying... We started thinking about omiyage this weekend in fact, DP's face as the realisation dawned that it was all going to take up some significant luggage space was a bit of a treat grin We're going to look into shipping some items over once we know a little bit more about what kind of things we'll need (as in ski boots or bikinis!!)

Personally my main concern is what I'll be doing for a job. We have discussed that there may be a chance DP will have to support me, for a year or maybe more, but of course I will be trying my hardest to find a job. I'm also aware that once my WH visa runs out after a year I need either an employer-sponsored visa or a husband to stay on in Japan, but I won't worry about that just yet wink

We are trying to decide on the best length of time for me to follow him over, he is thinking a month later whereas I'm not sure I'd be happy being apart for that length of time. It's meant to be our big adventure so I want to settle in together! I'm thinking two weeks, but.... we'll see!

mirai Wed 01-Jun-11 23:08:50

The 'needing a husband' was meant to come across as a little more-tongue-in-cheek than it did, it sounds a bit matter of fact!! Oops smile

magicmummy1 Wed 01-Jun-11 23:26:27

I'd definitely think about doing a CELTA TEFL qualification if I were you, especially if you're planning to stay out there for a few years. Lots of teaching jobs don't require this, but it will give you the edge over people who don't have it. And there are one or two employers who wouldn't take you seriously without it. It's unlikely you'll find any other type of work initially, assuming that you don't really speak the language.

Agree that you should invest some time in learning Japanese - it will make a huge difference to your overall experience. Also second the suggestions re omiyage and stuff to take with you.

It's a wonderful country with wonderful people. DH and I spent many happy years there and we still miss it dreadfully. Go in with an open mind and make the very most of it - and please try not to hang around too much with expats who spend all their time moaning that japan is too japanese! Let us know when you know where you're
going, and do pop back with any questions you might have.

mirai Wed 01-Jun-11 23:44:37

We did consider the CELTA for me - DP already has it and I would have liked to have taken it before we left. Unfortunately by the time we knew we were definitely going, the local CELTA courses were booked up sad I've been looking into doing it in Japan, this could be an option, I think in Tokyo and a couple of the other big cities there are centres where I can take the course - but again we are waiting on placement info - if we end up in Hokkaido or Okinawa then it might not be possible! However in the meantime I have DP's course notes and textbooks to look through and learn smile

I'm happy that (so far) no one has mentioned anything and I've gone "oh crap!!", it's all stuff that has been thought about... touch wood!!! grin

magicmummy1 Wed 01-Jun-11 23:54:45

You could always do an intensive course somewhere in Europe - usually takes about a month.

You'll have a fab time in Japan. The people are amazing. I'm very jealous....

JET rocks. You will have a great time. Get ready for the rural life though! Very few people are placed in cities. Do tell us where they send you smile

I would definitely bother with learning a little bit of the language before you go. I met some people who never learnt more than a few phrases. Madness.

Ime, in Okinawa at least you wouldn't need a qualification to get work. Maybe in Tokyo or Osaka (although I have taught in both without) but as I said, think rural! One of my friends travelled to some of her schools by fishing boat and water buffalo!

mirai Thu 02-Jun-11 00:08:49

We are totally prepared for rural, it's all about the inaka! Of course I will let you know where we're going...

I know what you mean about not bothering to learn the language, it's like people who go away then only want to eat British food, why?? Travelling to school by fishing boat and WATER BUFFALO?? envy Where was that?

She was on Ishigaki-jima, and covered some teeny tiny islands. Okinawa is lush! I learnt to scuba dive.

[natsukashii emoticon]

Sorry to crash, but what is JET?

is it the same as this?

(there's a reason I'm asking, I'm not just a random mad person.. mostly wink

tribpot Sun 05-Jun-11 00:58:48

It's this.

Ok, sorry... there's a bit JET thing near us that has links with Japan and wondered if it was the same thing.

Pennybubbly Mon 06-Jun-11 02:34:45

Hi Mirai,

I've been in Japan for 16 years now.
The first 5.5 were in Osaka - I originally came to see my brother for a few months who was on the JET scheme at the time, then met my DH (Japanese) and one year turned into another....
We've been in Tokyo for the past 10.5 years and I worked for a chain of English Language schools as Director of Recruitment for a number of years, so please ask / PM me if you need any advice.

Good luck!

mirai Mon 13-Jun-11 13:18:01

Hi all, just to say I haven't forgotten the thread... We are still waiting to find out where will be, which is why I haven't really updated! For now we have a huuge to-do list of things like sorting out tax, pensions, student loans, it all seems like rather a mountain to scale right now, and less than 7 weeks til DP flies out!

Penny - thanks for your offer, I am sure I will be in contact in due course (most likely while I am trying to find a teaching job myself once out there!) We did wonder if I might be able to squeeze in my Celta in July but it seems they are fully booked across the UK, oh well...

Back to waiting for the postman then! smile

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