Jun 23, 2016

Tips For Living In Japan (Part 2)

In this part, Part 2, of our 'living in Japan’ odyssey, we’ll perhaps be looking at tips for the more fun aspects of expat life in the country. In Part 1, we covered Money & Housing, Visas, City Office, Health & Insurance.  Like Part 1, there’s a lot of content here focused on the cost of living in Japan. Maybe even more so, in fact. Hopefully you’ll find some tips here that’ll make for a smoother ride (but no less fun) as you negotiate and explore Japanese food, drink, society, culture, and more. Whilst we’re not a ‘travel site’ per say, we do also have some tips on how to get about in Japan. After all, you’re not going to stay in one place, are you?! Some of the content below comes from living in Japan blogs posted by City-Cost users.  

Travel & Transportation

Japan’s transport system is nothing short of, well, the way transport systems really should be. Here, though, things can get a little expensive and really add to your cost of living. Still, you pay for what you get, and the shinkansen is emphatically worth it. Flights used to be very expensive, but recent years have seen budget airlines enter the Japanese market, and add competition (previously non-existent) to the major carriers. Those on budget, should check out the buses first of all.

CostsHow Much Does it Cost .. to Travel From Tokyo to Osaka?Part of a series of posts about how to get from A to B in Japan.
CostsWhat's The Cost of a Day's Train Travel in Tokyo? (JR)Costs for using Tokyo’s JR train network.
TipsMake A Cheap Getaway On The Seishun 18 TicketTravel anywhere for 2,370 yen!
Cheap travelGetting Around: The Clever WayAdvice about transportation passes available in and around Tokyo.
Driver licenseGot An Overseas Driver’s License? Get A Japanese One!Converting an overseas license into a Japanese one.
DrivingJapan’s Expressway Driving ExperienceRules and etiquette.


For the expat living in Japan, there are myriad options for studying Japanese (and, unfortunately, plenty of excuses not to)! Those on a budget would do well to look out for nihongo kyoushitsu, where local volunteers teach classes for free. If you’re moving to Japan to study, there are plenty of full-time schools (often with ties to local universities) that can get you fluent in a year or so. They don’t come cheap, however. If motivation is a factor, why not try the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), held twice a year, and probably the most recognised Japanese-language certificate in the world. If you want to study more sociably, language exchange services can set you up with local. 

ClassesStudy Japanese For Free! Language Exchange vs Nihongo KyoushitsuComparing the two free options for studying in Japan.
ClassesStudy Japanese in Japan: How much money do you need for class?A breakdown of the kind of costs you might expect to pay for tuition.
TestsOpen Doors In Japan With The Japanese Language Proficiency TestIntroducing the popular test, held twice a year.

Food & Drink

A highlight for many living in Japan; food here comes in all shapes, sizes, budgets, and settings. A definite negative would be for vegetarians, who might find specialist restaurants hard to find, as well as facing the challenge of understanding what ingredients are being used. Larger cities will have stores that import some of your favorite foods from back home.

Cooking at homeHow Much Does It Cost To Cook Dinner In Japan?

Examples of costs for cooking at home.

Food from homeA Taste Of Home: Import Food Shops in JapanWhere to get your imported food.
Fast food restaurantsTasty, Cheap, and Wholesome Fast FoodJapanese style fast food joints.
DrinkHow Much Does it Cost .. to Buy Beer in Japan?Bars, supermarkets, vending machines … 
SushiHow Much Does Sushi in Japan Cost?Where to get sushi depending on budget.

Society & Culture

Despite the complexity of Japanese culture and language, and the overwhelming bureaucracy, for most expats, the country is safe, friendly, fascinating, and a great place to live. Japanese people are, for the most part, forgiving of any faux pas or misses on the part of their overseas guests. Some of our misunderstanding of Japanese culture and society can be something to laugh about. Others times though, it can lead to frustration and loneliness. However, the expat in Japan almost certainly isn’t alone in these feelings.

Reasons to move to JapanWhy did you move to Japan?The reflections of an expat in Japan.
Japanese cultureMoving To Japan? ...Cultural taboos to look out for.
Easy mistakes
Awkward Gaijin MomentsThose moments when you really feel like a foreigner.
Expat tipsRepresenting Yourself and Your CountryTips on how to carry yourself.
Local perspectivesTop 3 Things Japanese People Like and Dislike in JapanStreet interview with Japanese people.


Shopping in Japan takes on Olympic proportions. Perhaps we could call it the nation’s favorite pastime. Such is the conspicuous consumerism here, for the expat it can be difficult to tell who’s rich and who’s just, normal. Almost everyone is rocking a bit of something designer.  

It’s also in terms of shopping that the cost of living in Japan doesn’t seem as prohibitive as one might have thought (although perhaps herein lies the danger). For sundry items and everyday goods, there are a wealth of resources including the world-renowned 100 yen stores. We list some shopping options below that will you'll surely need to make use of during your life in Japan.

Cheap100 Yen Stores: Quality Goods on the CheapAn intro to Japan's 100 yes stores.
CoolShopping For Zakka in Japan: It’s a State of Mind!Zaka, i.e. 'stuff! 
BooksBargains Galore at Japan's Second-hand StoresOptions for English-langauge books.
MallsDiscount Shopping With A View! Japan's Most Popular Outlet MallsGreat for getting discounts on brand items.

Keeping fit

Life in Japan can, at times, be stressful for expats. It’s important then, to get out and take some exercise. Employees at large firms might find they are actively encouraged to do this. Company organised jogging sessions often lead up to a similarly organised marathons, and with a mandatory health check looming on the horizon, there’s a certain amount of pressure to keep staff breathing, at the very least!  

Japan, urban and rural, offers an overwhelming number of options for the expat to get the body moving.  Here are a sample of some of the more 'active' blog posts from users.

SurfingAn Introduction To Surfing In Japan
Japan is a great surfing resource.
CyclingCycling Recommendation in Tokyo: Along the Tama River (多摩川)
Japan blogger's cycling experience.
GymsGyms and Fitness Centers in Japan. Let's workout!Introducing some of Japan's fitness facilities.


Living in Tokyo

Often the first box checked on where people want to be based in Japan. With good reason. Start planning a life in Japan’s capital with these posts … 

Average Annual Incomes for Tokyo’s 23 Wards

How to Find an Affordable Home in Tokyo

Working Out in Tokyo

Living in Kyoto

Regularly voted one of the world’s best tourist destinations, Kyoto is also high on the list of places where expats in Japan want to live. Some content to give you an idea about living in Kyoto.

Support For Living In ‘The World’s Best City’ - Kyoto

The 10 Best Places To Live in Kyoto ... and the Rents

A Night Out For Newbies And Introverts On Kyoto’s Kiyamachi

Living in Hokkaido

Head up north into the great outdoors of Japan and still have access to one of Japan’s most loved cities, Sapporo.

Snow Survival in Sapporo

12 essential experiences from a season in Niseko

How Much Does it Cost … to Travel From Tokyo to Sapporo?

Click to see Tips For Living In Japan (Part 1)



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