We know it can be hectic and confusing when moving to a new country for the first time. Here’s what we think you should know upon arriving in Japan in order to plan and be ready to start your new life!

I’ve landed! What’s next?

Foreigners staying in Japan on a long-term visa are required to register for a Residence Card at the airport. This card is a prerequisite to many activities in Japan, such as purchasing a mobile phone, opening a bank account, or obtaining a driver’s license. New arrivals with medium to long-term residence status will immediately be issued a residence card at ports of entry such as Narita, Haneda, Chubu, or Kansai airports.

Within 14 days of settling down, head to a nearby municipal office with passport, Residence Card, and new residence address in hand. The new address will be entered into a database as well as printed on the back of the residence card. It is very important to note that temporary addresses not registered in your name, for example a hostel or AirBnB address cannot be used to register. Go! Go! Nihon recommends all students to sort out their accommodation before coming to Japan, and that’s why we’re here!

Foreign residents of Japan above the age of 16 are legally required to carry their residence card at all times. When leaving the country to travel outside of Japan, remember to bring the card along with your passport. Before you leave, make sure to get your re-entry permit though!

It is a requirement to join the national health insurance plan, or “Kokumin Kenkou Hoken.” The premium is based on income, so as a student with little or no income in Japan, the premium will be quite affordable. To enroll, visit the local ward office and fill out an application. You will then receive an insurance card that you must present on doctor visits. If you need further help with the enrollment procedure, your school or the ward office’s staff (often someone will be available that can speak some English) are good resources.

The National Health Insurance covers 70% of medical bills, while you pay the remainder. Some schools (ask Go! Go! Nihon for details) offer an affordable add-on insurance that will cover 100% of medical expenses if an accident happens in Japan. Make sure to enroll, as accidents happen and it’s better to be safe and insured for peace of mind (and bank account!).

Getting around

The PASMO/Suica card is a payment system using a rechargeable IC card, and can be used over most of Japan. PASMO is issued by Tokyo Metro, which runs the private subways in Tokyo. Suica is issued by JR, which runs the Japan Railway train lines throughout Japan. A single PASMO/Suica (referred to as Suica from here on out) card is interchangeable between the two companies, and so allows travel on rail and bus in the metropolitan area. It can also be used as electronic money when making purchases at participating stores.

For people that take the train/bus to and from 2 locations almost every day, it might be worth looking into purchasing a commuter pass, as it allows the pass holder to have unlimited travel between two stations for a discounted monthly fee. Commuter passes can be purchased at designated commuter pass automatic ticketing machines and can be placed directly onto your PASMO/Suica card.

Withdrawal at ATM

Settling in

Opening a bank account in Japan can be a little tricky, as only a few offer services in English. You’ll also need your Residence Card. Confused? Don’t worry, we’re here to help! For more info, check out our handy article on opening a bank account in Japan.

When it comes to decorating, ¥100 shops can save you a lot as a student on a tight budget. With a huge variety of products at affordable prices (and as the name implies, usually around ¥100), they are a great stop for home items, stationary, accessories, or just about anything under the sun. Shops such as Daiso or Can Do are widely found over all of Japan.

In terms of furniture, IKEA or Nitori are good places to start. Almost everybody is familiar with IKEA, and when it comes to Japan, almost everybody here is familiar with Nitori—the Japanese IKEA. Nitori has good quality products at considerably cheaper prices. On top of that, some stores lend light trucks free of charge to customers who have purchased furniture, mattresses, or carpets.

It may seem a bit intimidating to come over to Japan and start so many things anew, but that’s why Go! Go! Nihon is here, feel free to contact us —and we’re not the only ones. Japanese people are very kind and understanding, and as long as you make the effort to jump in, you’ll find no shortage of helping hands around.