Other Frequently Asked Questions
You made it! You applied for your visa, booked your flights, set foot in Japan, and even managed to get yourself registered at the local town office.
Well, you have a ton of options. There's so much to see and do in Japan, and even though a year seems like a long time, it will fly by. Our company, Social Bus, offer a full support service to Working Holiday staff joining us for part-time, seasonal or voluntary opportunities, so if that's you, then you don't need to worry as we can help every step of the way.
However, if you are going it alone, or based somewhere else before coming to Hokkaido, here are some answers that might help make your settling-in a little bit easier.
Please take a look, and get in touch if you have any other thoughts that I haven't covered.
How do I open a bank account in Japan?
A walk down any local highstreet will show you there are a ton of banks to choose from in Japan. I recommend Shinsei Bank for foreigners, purely because they offer English support and great internet banking services. You'll need to take your passport and residence card with you, along with some cash for the initial deposit.
When I first arrived in Japan, I did not go down this route. I took my non-Japanese speaking self off to my local Hokkaido Bank and we struggled through. I also had to get a hanko (identity stamp) made to open an account with them. The staff were amazing, and I have no complaints at all, but it wasn't the easiest process in the world!
A bank account with Japan Post is also a good option if you are planning on internationally transferring a lot. However, take someone who speaks Japanese with you!
Can I use my credit card from back home in Japan?
Yes, but not everywhere. In terms of ATMs, not all Japanese branches will work with international cards. 7-11 convenience stores always do though and they have 24-7 banking options.
Again, most larger department stores will now accept your credit card, but smaller stores and restaurants still prefer cash. Japan is still a very cash-based society!
How much are living costs?
This honestly depends on where you are! Living in Hokkaido is a lot cheaper than other areas in Japan. Living in Tokyo is a lot more expensive.
However, if you're careful and working seasonally or part-time, it is definitely possible to do your Working Holiday on a budget.
Roughly speaking, you'll have the following outgoings to consider each month.
- Accommodation. Depending on where you're staying (see my next question), you are probably going to want to budget 50,000-70,000JPY a month for accommodation. This would be looking at an option like a share house or guest house. If you are working in a resort for a season, or with a company like ourselves, accommodation is often included in the package though! This might mean your salary is a little lower, but overall you make a big saving!
- Food. Again, this is going to depend on you, your cooking habits and whether you want to eat out alot. If would budget 40,000-55,000JPY a month for food. This is going to cover some cheaper days of supermaket and convenience store food, but also give you enough to eat out with friends. Living in a guest house can save you money as people are often cooking together.
- Other Expenses. Travel, health insurance, heading to the cinema etc - everything also adds up. I would set aside 40,000JPY a month for everything else. You can save money on public transport by buying a second hand bike, and save money on outings and hobbies by taking part in free-options; but you do want to give yourself enough money to enjoy life in Japan.
What are my accommodation options?
For Working Holiday visa holders, there are some affordable and less affordable accommodation options.
- Homestays. Homestays are difficult to organise privately, but if you are looking at doing a short-term course at a Japanese language school, they can normally arrange this option for you. It is a good way to become immersed in Japanese culture, and food is often included in the fee. If you are looking for a Japanese short-term course with accommodation options in Hokkaido, get in touch and we can introduce you!
- Apartments. I don't recommend apartments for those on Working Holidays. A regular Japanese lease is 24 months minimum, which means that you are ruled out of most rentals just by the length of time of your visa. Apartments are also unfurnished with expensive deposits. It is possible to lease short-term apartment rentals, but these are often 50-70% more expensive, so it's often not affordable.
- Share houses. Now we're talking! Share houses are great options for those moving around a bit over the course of the year, and they are becoming increasingly popular in Japan. Smaller share houses tend to have 6 - 10 bedrooms, and larger ones up to 60. You have a private bedroom, but normally share bathroom, kitchen and living facilities. These are affordable, don't have crazy deposits and mean you can live in an international community with local Japanese and foreigners mixing together easily. Again, if you would like recommendations in Hokkaido, let me know!
- Guest houses. Typically known as hostels in any other part of the world, you can normally find a bed in a dorm for between 2500-3500JPY per night. A cheap and convenient option for short term whilst you get yourself set up with something more permanent. Most guest houses, like ours, also have staff accommodation options, where you share a room, but it doesn't cost you anything. This is a great choice if you are on a budget!
Can I bring medicine to Japan?
Yes, but be careful. Japan is very strict about bringing medicine into the country, and typically over-the-counter medicine here is not as strong as we are used to overseas. Bringing some lemsip or simple cold medicine is going to be fine, but make sure you have the required paperwork for any prescription medicines. Typically, if you need over a one month supply of medicine that is injected or containing particular ingredients, you need to apply for special certificate called a yakkan shomei to bring your medicine into Japan. If you have any doubts, check with your Japanese consulate before you come!
I heard the garbage rules are strict in Japan?! Is this true?
Yes! In Japan, garbage must be sorted into the appropriate group for the day, and this varies from area to area. Normally, the minimum is according to whether it is burnable or unburnable. Garbage may be called moeru/moenai gomi or moyaseru/moyasenai gomi, depending on the area you live in (gomi = garbage).
In Sapporo we have specific yellow bags that have to be used for combustible waste, and these garbage days are Monday and Thursday. There's then a day for plastics, another for pet bottles and cans, another for garden waste, another for paper.... You get my drift. Make sure you read up on the pamphlets they give you. When I moved into my apartment the garbage guidance book was 30 pages long!
How can I get a mobile phone/cellphone in Japan?
This is another common question, as standard Japanese contracts are 2 years long so not suitable.
The easiest way is to bring an unlocked phone to Japan, and then just buy a Japanese SIM card. This means you can keep your current device and just arrange a monthly contract. IIJmio, LINE mobile and Rakuten mobile are all taked about pretty positively, but only the first company has English guidance.
Are there any websites you recommend?
Yes! There are English resources about, and we also have some local recommendations for people coming to Hokkaido.
- Social Bus. If you'd like to work with us, get in touch at www.social-bus.jp
- Social Hostel 365. You can also find our flagship guesthouse here at www.socialhostel365.com/en/
- GaijinPot. If you are job searching throughout Japan then check out www.gaijinpot.com
For Japanese language schools.
- Hokkaido Japanese Language School. This is one of our favourite local Japanese schools and you can study there for as little as one week. They also have a sister-school in Kyoto. www.hokkaido-jals.com
- Shinsei Bank. www.shinseibank.com/english/
For Japanese SIM cards.
- IIJmio. www.iijmio.jp/hdd/visitors/
For Japan news.
- The Japan Times. www.japantimes.co.jp
- Japan Post English site. www.post.japanpost.jp/index_en.html