I just picked up a Living in Fukuoka guide book from the foreign registration office. It’s pretty sweet and talks about how certain things are different in Japan, where to take some Japanese language courses, how to sort your trash, what to do in case of an emergency, how to get a Japanese drivers license, and a ton of other things. I’ll definitely post some info from the guide book so others can get answers to their questions. Until then you can do some research on the Fukuoka Website.
It can be a cumbersome task for foreign students to find apartments in Japan, because of some major differences in the language limitation and renting systems. Also there is a factor as to how the Japanese view a foreigner, because they usually base their relationships upon trust.
If you are coming to study at a university, then you may ask the university officials to arrange a living space for you in the student dormitory. The rent is comparatively cheaper and you have the ease to get along with other students from various nationalities.
It also gives you an easy way to interact among the Japanese students and communities. However, an early enrollment into the student dormitory can be convenient.
There are many housing companies that offer furnished apartments based on rental system to foreign students. However, as a matter of fact, these apartments are highly expensive and will cost you too much if you plan to stay for long. Contrarily, the apartments from the residential housing schemes are also far too expensive to live for a longer period. There is a lot of cash-in-front required to arrange a private housing in Japan.
While you are looking into getting an inexpensive place to live, do not go for cheap places either. These will save you money, but will bring in many other issues that might be costly to you. For example, you will have to spend extra money to get warm water during the winters. You might also have to share toilet and kitchen with other tenants as there are only one each located outside the building.
In addition to monthly rent, you should also expect to pay off monthly maintenance charges, environment cleaning fee, utility fee etc. These costs are clearly mentioned on the fliers so you should look into then with detail before deciding.
There are several things you should take notice of; some of these are described below.
- Key Money: Reikin is an amount of money which is usually given to the landlord (ooyasan) as a gift. The amount may vary but usually it is equal to a month’s rent. Shikikin is another amount which prevents you from disappearing from the house without prior notice, whereas Tesuuryou is an amount payable to the housing agent, if you hire any.
- Maximum Length of Stay: Usually, all rental housing schemes ask you to mention a minimum period of your stay. If you breach the contract afterwards, it might result in a penalty. If you plan to reside for less than a year, then inform the ooyasan early.
- Room furniture: Generally, apartments do not contain any furniture, but you will be given some equipment, such as gas stove, common washing machine, an air conditioner and maybe an internet connection.
- Miscellaneous items: There are several other matters, such as fire insurance, gas usage, neighbors, room size and type. These directly link to the housing agent and the homeowner.
The last thing to keep in mind as a foreigner is that people mostly do not prefer to rent out to foreign students. You might come across some fliers that clear mention their reservations about foreign students. Just hire a housing agent and ask for moderately priced rental location with basic utilities.
This post is a contribution made by Eric, a Travel Volunteer Team Member.
In an effort to show the world that Japan remains a safe destination and promote international tourism back to Japan, we are sponsoring two “Travel Volunteers” to visit Japan’s 47 prefectures during a 100+1 journey.
The idea for this project came from one of our employees at The Real Japan: three months after the events, we were brainstorming on ways to restore confidence and bring back tourism to Japan. We had all seen the coverage about Japan from international media and felt an important part of information was missing… Although the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear issue are terrible disasters which claimed many lives, Japan as a country was NOT entirely destroyed or irradiated. All other places outside the evacuation zone remained totally safe. But the media never mentioned it.
An idea arose and immediately caught everyone’s enthusiasm: ”How about creating a contest to win a journey through all 47 prefectures of Japan in 100+1 days and report on a Blog and social media? All travel and accommodation expenses, including international airfares would be covered by the project. Impossible? Crazy? The seed for the “Travel Volunteer” project was planted…
We also involved Japanese tourism businesses from all over the country to sponsor a part of the journey and many contributed in the form of complimentary room-nights at hotels and Ryokans, with local guides offering their services to escort the Travel Volunteer for free in their city. We would like to thank them for their support.
On July 6th , after one month of excitement and intense work, the Travel Volunteer website was launched. It took off immediately, with over 200 applications in less than two days. Two weeks later, the Facebook page of our project was shared more than 10,000 times!
On July 31st, the application closing date, we had received 1897 applications from 85 different countries in the world… Every applicant was requested to pay a USD 5.00 fee to enter the contest, thus ensuring they were serious and committed. The funds were raised to support “On The Road”, a grass-root NPO, actively involved in the reconstruction efforts in the devastated Tohoku region.
On August 15th, we had read all 1897 applications and pre-selected 5 candidates based on their answers to three simple questions:
- What is your personal reason to apply for Travel Volunteer?
- If you are selected, what would be your dream while in Japan?
- Why should we choose you?
The “lucky five” were 3 single applicants – 2 female & 1 male) from Canada, Malaysia & Ukraine, plus two couples from the UK and the USA.
On September 13th, they were invited to join the final selection process (return flight paid) at Kaikaro, a prestigious Geisha Tea House in Kanazawa, in presence local personalities and Japanese TV’s covering the event. The selection process was broadcast live on U-Stream (watch it here) and on local & regional TV’s.
This non-profit project also aimed at raising funds for a grass-root NPO called “On The Road”, actively involved in the reconstruction efforts in Tohoku region, through a USD 5.00 application fee. As a result, USD 10,000 have been raised and symbolically handed over to the President of “On The Road” by the 5 pre-selected candidates, at the end of the ceremony.
On September 15th, our finally selected Travel Volunteers – Katie & Jamie from the UK – departed Kanazawa at 08.50 am to their first destination, Toyama. They are now on their way through Japan and will keep blogging everyday about their journey in Japan, until Christmas Eve on December 24th, when they will be in Tohoku, distributing gifts to children displaced by the tsunami.
You’ve decided to let go and move overseas. It’s time to sell as much as you can, if not everything! I sold stuff at a flea market, in the newspaper, using Craigslist, and on eBay, and I had a garage sale. I donated some household items and clothing, and the rest of my stuff I just gave away for free. These methods helped me get rid of everything I owned in the U.S.
But what about staying in contact with your home country? You know… a phone number, voice mail, and a mailing address? Sure you can use your parents address or another family members address and this would be the most affordable way, but sometimes it feels good not to have to rely on anybody to get things done. Here are some steps on how to make it happen on your own terms.
- Get a new address first using a 3rd party service. You could use the service Mailboxes Etc, but it’s not convenient. I recommend an online service such as Earth Class Mail. They’ll email you, scan your mail, even forward things to you. It’s important to do this first because once you decide where you’ll be getting your mail you need to get a notarized copy of USPS Form 1583 to authorize the service to receive mail on your behalf. Get this done at a notary or your local bank. But watch those fee totals! You’ll be paying a monthly fee + scanning fees + mail forwarding fees. Last year I spent a more than $1200 USD on this service. This year I’m estimated to spend about $800.
- Keep one credit card with a small limit. This is my recommendation so you can shop online more securely. You don’t want to become a victim of fraud where somebody drains your Bank Debit Card and you have to fight with your bank (while in Japan) about how to get your money back. You can check your credit score free at Credit Karma and they also can recommend credit cards based on your score.
- Get a bank account you want to keep for a long time or forever that offers nice online banking and minimal fees. You’ll need this to pay bills that may come up, etc. I have a checking account but I also bank with Capital One for savings (high yield money market account) and the cheapest withdrawals. I also just got a Charles Schwab savings account. They told me they don’t charge a conversion fee and reimburse ATM fees worldwide. I also signed up with mint.com to track all of my bank accounts from one login.
- Get a PayPal account and tie it to your bank account and any credit card you need to. Sometimes it’s a convenient solution to paying people or to buy products, but you should consider getting it even though you might not use it. I can access Paypal on my iPhone!
- I run my business online (from my ‘virtual office’ aka laptop) so I also have a fax number. I got a free fax number from j2.com so I can receive faxes. I also then use a send-only service like Green Fax to send outgoing faxes using my email.
- More than 90 days before moving, renew your driving license for the longest time possible. This way you can use it to get an International Driving License, and when you return home it might still be valid. Why 90 days? Well sometimes if you have the proper visa it can be transferred to a Japanese license. Please don’t ask me about this, I have no idea how to do this or the rules because I use the subway. On a side note – make sure your passport is current!
- Secure your internet connection. When you do online banking, work, and even Facebook it’s a good idea to use a VPN. I use The VPN Company’s service on my laptop and my iPhone. The VPN Company works great in Japan and gives me a dynamic IP address. I pay for the premium membership for unlimited speed and server locations. Before using a VPN I’ve gotten locked out of my PayPal account a handful of times and my regular bank account. And wow, it is a pain to get the accounts verified and re-verified when you need your money asap. I’ve even had to verify orders I make in America or the UK over the phone because my IP was coming from Japan or wait for mail to be delivered and scanned. The benefit of using a VPN service (especially on public connections) is you’ll be able to encrypt your internet connection at home, at an internet cafe, wifi hotspot, and even on your smart phone. We’re talking serious business here… 2048 bit VPN encryption for my laptop and 128 bit for my iPhone at the same time (it’s basically 2 accounts for the price of one)! TunnelBear let’s me choose the server I connect to each time (USA, UK… for now) I’ve also been able to use geographically restricted sites like Hulu and U.S. network TV and even listen to Pandora online.
- Secure your laptop. Most likely you’ll have everything on your laptop (banking, contact info, important documents, photos, etc) and it’s stuff you can’t afford to lose. It’s a good idea to sign up for LogMeIn (even the free account) in case you lose your laptop or it gets stolen. I used to use 2GB of free online storage with DropBox and treat it as “My Documents” but then I switched to SugarSync that offers 5GB of free storage and multiple folder backup, then I back everything up using BackBlaze in case my hard drive crashes.
- Get a phone number. One that you can receive calls to and originates from your home country. I recommend doing this through Skype. It’s a solid VOIP company and I haven’t had any problems over the last 3+ years. For $60 a year you’ll have a number your friends and family can call to talk to you, leave voice mails, and you can use it to call phones for an unlimited amount of to the US and Canada. If you’re from another country then visit their site for more details on what they offer. I can use Skype on my iPhone! So that’s an added bonus.
And there you have – those are my tips for moving overseas and living in Japan or a another country abroad while still having a presence in the United States. It’s all about living a location independent lifestyle! If I think of anything else I’ll update this blog entry. If you have any useful tips please post them in the comments section.
I started my blog when I first moved to Japan for a number of reasons. I wanted to document my experiences first hand so I could look back on my life, I wanted to share some experiences with some friends and family (especially my brother), and I wanted to prevent boredom or feeling isolated. Things started off pretty good, but even though I’m usually a positive person, I hit a few rough patches and some negativity spilled into my life. I decided to do a recap of what has happened. I’ve broken it down into 6 sections.
In America we usually do a mutual exchange of gifts, etc. I give her something, she gives me something, I take her on a date, ah… love is in the air. But Valentine’s Day In Japan is something that’s quite different for me. This is my first time celebrating Valentine’s here and there are two parts to this holiday. On Valentines Day a girl will give the guy some chocolate. It’s either purchased or hand made. The 2nd part is White Day where a guy gives the girl a gift, that’s approximately 3 times the value as he received (so I’ve heard from wikipedia). I wasn’t able to get pictures of the store displays, but they look exactly the same as the displays in America except there are tons of chicks and almost no guys wandering in that area.
Because it was too much chocolate to handle, my fiancee gave me a gift on the 13th, and then one on the 14th. On the 13th she hand made a chocolate parfait! It was amazing! It looked and tasted like it was expensive and hand crafted by a chef. It contained chocolate, ice cream, more chocolate, cake, chocolate covered crispy things, and strawberry Pocky. Oh, and hand whipped whip cream! Here are a few pictures (sorry for the blurriness, I’m not used to my friends camera yet). It was delicious.
On Valentine’s Day she gave me a wonderfully wrapped gift. It looked expensive and the presentation was great, so at first I thought she bought it at some expensive shop. She told me that she hand made the chocolate using ‘an idea’ but no recipe and a few ingredients she thought would work. And she wrapped it herself.
Here’s my blurry picture of the chocolates when I opened the cute basket they were in.
And finally here are the chocolates she made. They were powered with cocoa and had a very rich taste. It wasn’t a dark chocolate taste, and wasn’t a milk chocolate taste, it felt like a truffle when I ate it, but it was nothing I’ve tasted before.
When I opened the gift I felt overwhelmed and a little teary eyed when I ate the first piece because I know she spent all of that time and effort to prepare everything and that’s very special to me. Even when it’s not a holiday she often does special things like this to show me how she feels about me, and she is the first person in my life to ever do this. She’s so great. This was the best Valentine’s Day ever.
If you haven’t experienced something like this, you can always take these first steps to dating a Japanese girl.
You’ve probably heard that things in Japan are small. Cars, clothes, roads, houses, and apartments. I wouldn’t call Japanese apartments small, but I would say they’re cozy. Do you really need a huge place to live anyway? As long as it has what you need and you spend your free time out on the town or cuddling with a hot chick (or whoever) to watch a movie. Now there’s a lot to renting an apartment but I’ll talk more about that sometime For now I’ll give you a few pros and cons of Japanese apartments as well as some youtube vids so you can tour a few places. Here are some things I’ve discovered in the last two weeks.
- Sliding doors are cool
- You usually get a balcony
- Washing machines fit nicely in the bathroom area
- Shower room is huge
- You don’t need a car where I live, so you save money on the car, gas, parking, and you get free exercise.
- If your apartment is capable, you can get hooked up with fiber optic internet.
- Mirrors in the bathroom area have an anti fog button. That is totally kick ass.
- The “tankless water heater” is great for showers. You turn it on when you need it and you never run out of hot water.
- If you’re getting no help from your job or friends in Japan you’ll need about $5,000 USD to rent an apartment. You’ll be paying the landlord some stupid fees you won’t get back + first months rent + some other things to furnish your apartment. If you factor the landlord fees into your average monthly rent then it becomes affordable I guess. If your monthly rent is $800 USD you can expect to have a down payment around $4,000 for rent + fees. Then you’ll need to furnish your place and it can cost $1,000+. That part is lame when you compare it to the US.
- You can easily hear your neighbors
- Small closets + small rooms = not enough place for your clothes
- Small bathroom area + washing machine = not enough space for bathroom stuff.
- No hot water unless you turn on the hot water heater and then waste water waiting for it to become warm. This means washing your face in cold water because you’ll get lazy.
- If you have a car, parking space can be expensive depending on where you live. I’ve seen it range from 0 to 20,000 yen per month.
- If you mark the wall or dent a door you’re going to lose your ass when you move out. You’ll be charged 500-1,000 Yen per pin tack hole you put in the wall.
- They don’t come with a refrigerator, washing machine, oven range, or light fixtures (that’s something new to me)
Does this exist in other countries? I’m talking about Love Hotels. There are different themed rooms to choose from, they make money (nearly 3 trillion yen in annual sales), but the downside is they’ve been associated with with gangs and red-light districts. Booooo
I read about Love Hotel investing today on Yahoo, Japan’s secretive love hotels are opening up to European investors as one player in the sector prepares for a debut on London’s stock market this month.
Japan Leisure Hotels, which owns five love hotels worth some 21 million pounds ($43.68 million USD) in Japan, hopes to lure investors to its IPO with an 8 percent dividend and promises of fast growth — shedding light on a sector that is often associated with sleaze and organized crime.
Japan’s 25,000 or so love hotels have long provided discreet hideaways for couples, some featuring Karaoke machines or vibrating beds. Guernsey-based Japan Leisure Hotels rents out rooms for short stays lasting only a few hours, but the company’s director believes this system doesn’t just appeal to thrill-seekers…
Nova English teacher = you’re screwed and that sucks. Over 4,000 teachers are out of a job! Over 400,000 students haven’t gotten a refund! Nova is bankrupt! This is all total shiznit! It looks like things have come to an end for Nova English teachers that are here on a work visa in hopes of some income and a cultural experience. You’re probably left with very few options such as… finding another job teaching english, or working at some short term job, or working at a bar/club frequented by English speaking Gaijin. (Here’s another job search related link) If you can’t find a job then you can always head back to your home country. For some of you it may not be possible due financial difficulty (aka not being paid by the man) which basically means you’re screwed. If I were in a situation of not being able to find a job replacement I’d either save the money I had to buy a ticket with (while spending the rest partying it up) or in the case I had $0 I’d have my friends/family wire me some money or buy an e-ticket for me to get the hell out of dodge! If you plan on getting a plane ticket you should act soon because after December 20th the rates go up due to the holiday season. If you wait longer than that you’ll just be super screwed. By the way I can’t imagine having a family and working for Nova and not getting paid. Nova carries a debt worth 40 billion Yen. They might have to refund students before paying out salaries and who knows when that could happen. It could be six months or longer.
I read in many places about emergency loans this, emergency loans that, hoping to get an emergency loan from the Embassy blah blah blah. Good luck with that! I can’t find any information on the web regarding this type of loan. The U.S. Embassy website (tokyo.usembassy.gov) mentions nothing about a loan or emergency funds for people employed by Nova. They do say this:
If you require financial assistance, you could request that your family wire funds through the U.S. Department of State here or purchase an e-ticket on your behalf.