Prepare yourself, the move is coming
Yes, I love preparation. Some people get really annoyed by me always talking about preparation, myself included. But so many mistakes can be avoided and who needs stress anyway?
You are planning to move to Japan soon for language school, internship or job? The last couple of weeks can fly by in an instant and suddenly you only have a few days left. But uhoh, maybe you forgot something?
What could you have possibly forgotten? You packed most things, you got your Lonely Planet Japan, you already researched hip and underground areas in Tokyo no one else has ever heard of and you already signed in to some cool meet-up groups for your first night out.
But here are some points that might be worth considering.
1) Inform your bank
You think your bank doesn’t care where you spend your time but chances are, they might. If they observe any usual withdrawals from your account, they might temporarily close your account and try to contact you. It doesn’t happen often, but it might. And imagine you standing in front of an ATM in Japan and suddenly you cannot access your account. For these incidents, you should also note down your bank’s emergency number. Or if you lose your card or it gets stolen. Maybe your bank has an emergency number for foreign calls.
But there is also no need to instantly freak out when you are not able to withdraw money from an ATM. Japanese banks and ATMs are pretty infamous among expats. Why? Because they seem to be constructed in a way to make your life harder. Lots of ATMs cannot be used to withdraw money from with an international credit card. Even sometimes when they have little stickers on them that indicate you can use your credit card. Sometimes, they just don’t work for your card. Over the years I found the Japan Post Bank ATMs to be pretty useful. I never had a problem there, so when in doubt use one of them. If it doesn’t work there, better make a call to your bank.
2) Inform your family and friends about your new address
Some people are always concerned about our wellbeing and leaving them back home and going to another county sounds very frightening to some of them. Give them your address. That is safer for them as well as for you. And maybe it is just because they want to send you a surprise package. And it might sound very rational right now, but inform them that you might not be able to contact them once you have arrived. There might be a one or two days between your departure and the first chance to contact them (even in the age of internet. You never know).
I am sure they are prepared
3) Take a few souvenirs from your home country with you
Depending on your situation (and the remaining space in your suitcase) you might consider taking a few souvenirs from your home country with you. Are you staying at your Japanese friends place at some point or are they helping you finding an accommodation? Do you meet your Japanese partner’s parents? Whatever it is, Japanese people like to express their gratitude by giving presents in certain situations (visiting someone at home, expressing thanks after your friend helped you) and if you find yourself in such a situation, why not thank them with something from back home?! Are you starting an internship in Japan or found a job? Open your colleagues’ hearts with a little something from home.
4) Check where your accommodation is and how to get there. Seriously.
Ridiculous but wait till you leave the airport and actually have no idea where to go.
Before I arrived, I just had a brief look on google maps and it really didn’t look difficult, so I didn’t write it down. After all, I have been to Japan and I am sure there is Wifi somewhere…
When I arrived I was super exhausted and it took me over three hours to arrive at my place which should have only taken 1.5 hours. Google Maps or www.hyperdia.com can help you with finding the right connections. But as I didn’t have WiFi upon arrival I couldn’t really check those. And what was even nastier, sometimes there was a Wifi connection but I could only access it with a certain app. But I couldn’t download the app, because – guess what – no internet. Next time…
(The app is actually called “Japan Connected-free WiFi”, so could be useful to install it)
And also check how to get from the station to your apartment or just don’t bother and take a taxi. Taking a taxi in Japan is not very cheap but for short distances it has actually gotten cheaper recently. Note, that the feature of downloading Google’s offline maps is not supported in Japan.
We might all want to take our favorite food from home with us, but customs might not be too happy about dairy and meat
5) Do I pack or do I not?
There is always a debate going on online when people ask what they should take with them because it might not be available in Japan. Some people have very long lists ranging from toothpaste to socks and others share the opinion that you shouldn’t worry because you will get everything in Japan.
I am sure you will get everything in Japan, but you must be prepared to spend more money on certain items or just look for them longer/ travel longer to get them.
Many complain about Japanese deodorants and I must say I am also not a big fan of them. Partly because they are quite expensive and partly because I feel they are not as effective. Many times I heard the reason behind the unpopularity of deodorants lie in the fact that Japanese people don’t sweat or smell as much and thus, don’t really need to use them. Take the commuter train during rush hour in the lovely Tokyo summer and you will soon find out that this is a lie. Anyway, doesn’t change the fact that they are expensive and (mostly) useless. Stock up but be warned, it is not allowed to send deodorants to Japan from your home country. Sometimes parcels slip through but often they are checked and returned.
You probably won’t find every food here as well but to be honest, I stopped bothering after a few weeks. And you can actually find quite a lot here. There are some supermarkets with a huge stock of foreign products like Nissin World Delicatessen, National Azabu, Kaldi or Costco. Join expat groups on Facebook and ask and I am sure tons of people can help you.
If you have a different body size than the average Japanese person (taller/fuller body or longer feet), you might encounter various problems in finding clothing and shoes. Therefore I’d say, depending on how long you stay, take a lot of clothing with you that fits you. Most notably, pants and shoes. I have really big feet as a girl, even compared to women in my home country and it is always a pain finding shoes here. Sneakers are no problems but everything on the more elegant side is a nightmare (I started being really jealous of all those Japanese women with their pretty shoes).
Do you have more tips?
Tell us in the comments.
And if you are looking for a place, feel free to contact us via our websites TokyoRoomFinder and JapanRoomFinder. We are happy to assist you in finding a place in a shared house, shared apartment or your own private apartment.