Expat Japan

One of the many fascinating countries in Asia is Japan. Japan is a powerhouse when it comes to economy and offers expats a truly exotic destination. For those seeking true culture shock, there aren’t many places that deliver culture shock better than Japan. Japan compared to the west is extremely different and those that thrive on differences and culture will love Japan.

Japan is extremely challenging for many expats. While it may seem fun and adventurous, it can be frustrating, confusing and too much of a challenge for many expats that plan on staying for a while. However, for the right person, Japan can be part of a wonderful life plan and enrich and inspire the soul and body.


Japan has a variety of different climates, depending on which region you are located at. Japan is about the size of California and has a few regions with drastic changes in climate. For the most part, Japan has a seasonal climate that ranges from hot to cold. While the southern areas of the country such as Okinawa are usually warmer during the winter than the rest of the country, the north part of the country with its mountains and high altitudes can be very cold.

Usually the best time of year to visit Japan is during the spring time. March and April are very comfortable. It is not too hot or too cold and the air is dryer. The summer months brings the rain season and sometimes torrential downpours. The fall time is very nice as well with moderate temperatures and less humidity. Finally the winter time can be cool in many areas and very cold in the higher altitudes and northern areas of Japan.


The government of Japan is stated as a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government. Japan is an Asian and world economic powerhouse. In addition, the government of Japan is very stable and secure. The Japanese are extremely efficient and you will find that most services, infrastructure and day to day life is organized and structured.

You can find out more information about visiting Japan or staying for a long period of time at the Consultate General of Japan in New York.

Additionally, you can find information and services for United States citizens the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Tax System

The tax system in Japan is relatively high compared to some of its neighbors. Japan has a very high corporate tax rate that extends to 30%. For individuals, taxes can be as high as 37%. Besides income tax, there are other taxes in the form of a value added tax (VAT), a tax for inhabitants and a tax on interest.

More information regarding the Japanese tax system can be found in Japan Income Taxes and Tax Laws and Taxation in Japan.

It is also beneficial to take a look at the requirements for expats living in Japan and filing in the states at the IRS web site.

Medical Care

Japan has excellent health care facilities. Japan’s health care system is designed to make it easy for everyone to afford healthcare. There is a national health care system in place. However, for most expats that are working for a corporation, you might be given special medical insurance to see clinics and doctors that cater to foreigners.

Japanese health care insurance cost differently depending on your income. When you see a doctor or are admitted to a hospital, you are required to pay 30% of the bill and the insurance covers 70%. Japan’s health care is very affordable compared to the United States.

Real Estate

Real Estate in Japan can be brutally high, especially in major cities such as Tokyo. In fact, Tokyo is usually at the top of the list for most expensive real estate in the world. Expect extremely high prices when looking to invest in real estate. If you are an expat and looking for a place to live, remember that apartments in Tokyo or other big cities are extremely small. Don’t expect to live in anything spacious in the big cities.

Foreign investment is allowed in Japan and for the most part, the only thing stopping anyone from buying property in Japan is a large wallet or a mortgage. For expats looking to teach and live in the big city, it can definitely be tight. You can usually find a better quality of life outside the major cities and in the more rural areas.


Shopping in Japan is pure heaven. No matter what you are looking for, you can usually find it in Japan. For gadget geeks, you can find some of the coolest consumer electronics in the world and many gadgets that are on sale in Japan will never make it to the states or Europe, making them even cooler.

There are also plenty of malls, entertainment options and bars and clubs. Nightlife can be found in any city and most towns. The Japanese know how to wind down after a hard day’s work, so expect to enjoy your time with friends or coworkers in the evening.

Regarding bars and clubs, there are many hot nightlife spots. Whether it is Karaoke or enjoying live music, there really is something for everybody. Many major cities are full of neon colors and lots of energy. Many people that come to Japan fall in love with the nightlife.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Japan is usually much more expensive than that of most states in the US. Japan’s cost of living is comparable to major cities such as New York and San Francisco. While you can find bargains if you shop hard, wages are generally good and the quality of life is high for most expats that either work for a corporation or teach English. Many times English teachers will also be offered with their jobs accommodations and even sometimes food credits (especially if you are located in the small villages in rural areas). While Japan is extremely expensive, it is very much doable for most expats.

The cost of food is relatively affordable, that is if you stick to traditional types of Japanese food. Japanese style foods include seasoned vegetables, noodles which are called ramen and soybean products. Western style foods can be very expensive; however it depends on which type. If you work or live near the city, many restaurants have inexpensive lunch specials that are very affordable no matter what your budget.

Web Sites for Expats Living in Japan

Japan Guide

Comprehensive, up to date information on traveling and living in Japan, first-hand from Japan.

Japan Country Guide

Country guide to Japan from ExpatForum.com.

Blogs from Expats in Japan


Megaijin (“Me, Foreigner”) is written by Ricky Tom, an English teacher from Honolulu who lives in Yokohama.

Extradition from Japan

The Extradition treaty between Japan and the United States of America was signed on March 3, 1978

This treaty was entered into force on March 26, 1980

Map of Japan