What to know before your move from Canada to Japan

7 Things to know and do before moving from Canada to Japan

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Considering a move from Canada to the enchanting “Land of the Rising Sun”, Japan, is an enticing endeavor that offers a world of adventure and cultural richness. Japan, nestled among the fascinating array of Asian countries, beckons with its unique blend of modernity and tradition.

Read on to explore some important things to know before embarking on this life-changing journey. Covering everything from the interesting Japanese culture and the charm of hot springs, to the practicalities of visas and the cost of living. 

Moving to Japan: Everything to know and do

What to know before your move from Canada to Japan

1. First steps before moving to Japan

Visa requirements

Moving from one country to another is a major life decision. Needless to say, there are many things you need to prepare for when moving from Canada to Japan. However, the first step you should take is to secure the necessary documents for your relocation.

It’s very likely that you already have your passport, a visa, and a recent photograph. If you are missing any of these, it shouldn’t be too much trouble to secure them. It’s also essential to inform the Canada Revenue Agency. The fourth document you need, which might require some effort to acquire, is the Certificate of Eligibility (COE). This document will verify that you are capable of sustaining yourself once you are in Japan. You can obtain a COE through family members already living in Japan or through a Japanese employer if you are going to work in Japan.

Japan Work Visa

Working visas are classified as long-term stay visas that cover work requiring advanced specialist skills or abilities. However, they do not cover simple work duties. Jobs such as bartenders, factory workers, and salespersons, for example, are not eligible for a working visa.

Requirements:

  1. Valid passport
  2. Application Form
  3. One passport size photo
  4. Certificate of Eligibility (issued by the Immigration Bureau in Japan and must be applied for by your employer in Japan.

(Embassy of Japan in Canada)

Japan Non-Working Visa

A non-working visa in Japan permits individuals to work only when authorized by the immigration department. This type of visa is categorized as a short-term stay visa and comes with certain limitations. Those who work part-time on a non-working visa are restricted to a specific number of hours per week.

Japan General Visa

General visas usually are categorized for a period from 3 months to 3 years stay, allowing you to participate in many activities or change occupations. This visa is mainly for College student, Trainee or Dependent (Family Stays) purpose. 

Visa Fees

  • Total visa fees for Single Entry: $29 CAD
  • Total visa fees for Double or Multiple Entries: $57 CAD
  • Total visa fees for Transit: $7 CAD
  • Total visa fees for Extension of Re-entry Permit: $29 CAD

(Embassy of Japan in Canada)

Finding a job 

When moving from Canada to Japan, finding a job can be rewarding but also challenging. It’s necessary to understand the visa requirements and enhance your Japanese language skills. Japan boasts a diverse job market, with one of the most in-demand careers being information technology (IT), particularly in positions like software engineering. However, teaching English, especially in public schools through programs like the JET Program, remains a popular choice for expatriates.

You can start by researching the job market, exploring online job boards, and visiting company websites. Tailor your resume and cover letters to the Japanese style, and be prepared for formal interviews. Once you secure a job offer, ensure that you meet all the requirements for the work visa application process.

Getting there 

When moving from Canada to Japan, the most common and efficient mode of transportation is by plane, due to the long distance and the fact that Japan is an island nation. As you plan your move, it’s important to decide what to bring with you and what to leave behind. For larger items, you might want to consider shipping them to Japan separately. Typically, the shortest non-stop flight duration between major Canadian cities like Toronto or Vancouver and Tokyo, Japan, is around 10 to 13 hours.

What should I look for in an International Moving Company?

When starting a new life in a foreign country, especially with your family, you’ll likely need to move a significant amount of belongings. To ensure a smoother transition, it’s crucial to be meticulous in selecting an international moving company.

Here are key factors to consider: First, ensure they provide damage insurance, as the long-distance move from Canada to Japan carries a risk of damage. Next, prioritize extensive experience, as movers with years of practice are better equipped to handle the complexities of international relocations. Lastly, consider the mode of transportation, typically by air but sea transport can also be a feasible option.

Car shipping to Japan?

Shipping a car to Japan is a choice some Canadian immigrants consider, but many opt to sell their cars before the move due to its convenience. Transporting a car can be a demanding, stressful, and costly process.

However, if you must ship your car to Japan, follow these steps: First, obtain multiple quotes from reputable car shipping companies with insurance, positive reviews, and a customer-centric approach. Then, select the departure and destination ports. Prepare the car by cleaning it and ensuring the tank is no more than ⅛ full to avoid potential fees upon arrival.

Must dos before your arrival 

  • Ensure you have the necessary visa to live and work in Japan.
  • Verify your travel documents, including your passport, visa, and other essential paperwork.
  • Secure your accommodation in Japan, whether temporary or permanent.
  • Decide what to bring and what to leave, considering shipping larger items if necessary.
  • Familiarize yourself with Japanese customs and basic language for communication.
  • Notify Canadian authorities, like the Canada Revenue Agency and your healthcare provider, to ensure tax and healthcare compliance.

2. Upon your arrival in Japan

Must dos right upon your arrival

  • Arrange health insurance and understand Japan’s healthcare system.
  • Notify your Canadian bank and explore international services while opening a bank account in Japan.
  • Ensure you have an international driving license or obtain a Japanese driver’s license.
  • Set up a local mobile phone plan and internet services for communication.
  • If your accommodation doesn’t include utilities like water, gas, and electricity, arrange these services with local providers.
  • Familiarize yourself with nearby services such as grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and public transportation. Maintain a list of emergency contacts, including the Canadian embassy or consulates in Japan.

Healthcare

You will be pleased to know that Japan has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Like in Canada, their healthcare system is free for Japanese citizens as well as non-Japanese citizens staying in Japan for more than a year. 

They call their public healthcare system the Social Health Insurance (SHI). All full-time employees in medium and large companies are automatically covered by the SHI. Everyone else, including non-Japanese citizens, is covered by the National Health Insurance (NHI), so this is what you should apply for.

There shouldn’t be any problem with your application as the NHI will definitely cover your healthcare. However, during the time that your papers are still processing, you will not have any coverage unless you have an international health card, so you should look into getting temporary insurance.

Setting up your cell phone 

If you need cell service, the major providers that you can subscribe to are NTT DoCoMo, Softbank, and KDDI’s AU. Each company has its advantages and special offers, but they all provide exemplary service. Your choice of provider would mostly depend on your personal needs and preferences.

Getting a driver’s license 

Public transportation is the norm in Japan, as many citizens choose not to drive or even get a car. But it is always better to have a driver’s license in case of emergencies.

Before you leave Canada, you should go to the Canadian Automobile Association and apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP). This permit is valid in Japan while your Japanese license is being processed.

The Japanese government requires at least 3 months of stay in your home country after the issuance of your license. In other words, you have to make sure that there is at least a 3-month period between the renewal of your license and your date of departure from Canada. You also need a formal Japanese translation of your Canadian license. You can get this from your local Japanese embassy or online through the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF).

Setting up a bank account 

Most Japanese banks provide a wide variety of services for non-Japanese local clients. All you need to open a basic deposit account is a residence permit. During your first year of residency in Japan, you are exempt from the residence tax. The financial system in Japan is quite similar to that of Canada, so you shouldn’t have problems adjusting.

3. Best places to live in Japan

Best places to live in Japan

Moving from Canada to Japan offers a unique experience with its rich culture, diverse cuisine, and impressive architecture:

Cities

Characteristics 

Osaka

Renowned for its delicious cuisine, Osaka is Japan’s second most populous city, right after Tokyo.

Tokyo

One of the world’s largest metropolis, offering stunning cityscapes, trendy fashion, and friendly locals.

Kawasaki

One of Japan’s safest cities, renowned for its hot springs, making it an enjoyable place to live.

Kobe

Celebrated for its exquisite beef, Kobe also boasts beautiful gardens, museums, and historic sites.

Setting up home services 

When setting up home services in Japan, utilities are typically prearranged, and your responsibility mainly involves handling monthly bills. If, however, utilities are not pre-installed, you’ll need to contact local companies for electricity, gas, and water connection.

In Japan, there are three common methods for obtaining internet service at home: fiber optic, cable television line (CATV), and ADSL. Fiber optic is the preferred choice for heavy internet users, although its availability may vary by location. Major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, Osaka, and Yokohama generally offer Fiber optic connections. Key fiber optic service providers in Japan include NTT East, NTT West, and Softbank.

Should you rent or buy?

Finding a house or apartment in Japan isn’t very difficult. However, one of the most significant challenges lies in securing a guarantor. A guarantor is required to co-sign for you in case you are unable to make payments for any reason. Unless you have a Japanese relative willing to act as your guarantor, your only option is to engage a guarantor company.

When searching for a residence, your choices will include various types of one-bedroom apartments, a mansion, an ‘apato’ (a small two-storey apartment), or a standard standalone house.

4. Cost of living in Japan

Category

Monthly cost

1 bed apt rent outside city center

$530.17

Groceries

Numbeo’s grocery list ($62.35 multiplied by 4)

$249.4

Utilities

Electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage

$221.53

Internet with 60 Mbps

$43.77

Transit pass

$62.36

Entertainment 

Meal, taxi, movie

$66.95

Gym membership 

$72.48

Total

$1,246.66

Numbeo (Oct 2023)

Buying Groceries in Japan

When it comes to buying groceries in Japan, there are numerous supermarkets available. It’s essential to note that Japanese supermarkets primarily stock groceries, so you won’t find items like shampoos, razors, or basic clothing; they focus exclusively on food products.

What to Expect from your New Life in Japan?

Living in Japan is significantly different from life in Canada. One notable challenge is the language barrier, which can occasionally be frustrating and stressful. If you haven’t yet learned Japanese, it’s advisable to start learning as quickly as possible. When going out, it’s wise to have a language translator app on hand, especially because many Japanese people are not very fluent in English. Life in Japan, especially in major cities, is fast-paced. Embrace each day as an adventure, and in time, you’ll feel completely at home in your new country.

5. The weather in Japan

Japan experiences varied weather throughout the year, with each season having unique traits. While some similarities can be observed between Japan and Canada, especially in their northern regions, where both experience cold weather and snowfall, there are unique qualities that set Japan’s climate apart.

During Japan’s winter months (December to February), temperatures drop, typically ranging between 0 °C and 10 °C, with heavy snowfall common in the northern parts of the country. In contrast, summer (June to August) in Japan is known for its warm and humid weather, with temperatures frequently exceeding 30 °C in many regions, often with frequent rainfall.

Moreover, Japan’s spring is a uniquely beautiful and culturally significant season due to the breathtaking phenomenon of cherry blossoms (sakura) in full bloom. Similarly, autumn, known as “aki” in Japanese, is celebrated for its stunning foliage.

6. What to do as a local in Japan

Japan offers a multitude of activities for locals to enjoy. Food lovers can savor regional cuisines and street food in Fukuoka, while outdoor enthusiasts can explore scenic landscapes or unwind in local hot springs (onsen). For culture enthusiasts, immersing themselves in local customs through temple and shrine visits, traditional rituals, and festival attendance is a rich experience. 

Adventurous spirits can attend sumo matches in Tokyo or engage in seasonal activities like cherry blossom viewing (hanami) and snow sports. Connecting with fellow locals, volunteering, and participating in local events are ideal for locals and newcomers alike. “The Land of the Rising Sun” has something uniquely special to offer.

7. Fun facts about Japan

  • known for its unusual vending machines that offer a wide range of items, from hot meals and drinks to underwear.
  • They have over 300 different options of Kit Kat flavors, from banana to matcha green tea.
  • Japanese toilets are often equipped with advanced features like heated seats, bidets, and even music to provide a comfortable experience.
  • There are “cat islands” in Japan, like Aoshima Island, with more cats than humans.
  • Japanese bullet trains are incredibly punctual, with delays of even a few minutes.
  • Bowing is a common form of greeting and respect in Japan.
  • Tipping is not a common practice in Japan, and can even be considered rude in some situations.

Conclusion

The journey from Canada to Japan promises a world of adventure. While adapting to a new culture, remember that understanding healthcare, social norms, and daily life is essential. 

Do not forget that researching in advance the best international movers in Canada is a big step to ease your transition. Embrace the change with enthusiasm, and this move to Japan can be an exciting and unforgettable chapter in your life.

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Ann Nacario

The author

Meet Ann – our head writer with a knack for making moving and city living a breeze. From the many details of moving to picking the perfect moving company, she’s your guide. Ann has a friendly yet detailed approach to ensure your move goes off without a hitch. When she’s not writing about relocation, it will always be on her mind, but you’ll catch her spending time with her three furry friends.

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