4 Things No One Tells You about Moving to Japan

Image 3I remember reading a quote somewhere—probably a Facebook meme—by Harun Yahya that said, “I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question.” If you’ve decided to spread your wings and fly to Japan for a business trip, or even for a long term relocation, you’ve likely been wondering on what to expect when you arrive.

While there is some great information out there on Japanese customs and etiquette, there are always tidbits of information that seem to elude foreigners until they figure it out for themselves. In an effort to save you the time and frustration of walking around with trash in your pockets (see below), I thought I’d give you a nice itemized list of things you may not have known about your soon-to-be-home.

Image 8Clothing: If you’re on the taller side of the spectrum, have bigger feet, or are a particularly busty woman, you may have trouble finding clothing that fits properly. Sure you can find stores that cater to the average western sizes, or buy your things online, but that may cost you both time and extra money due to the cost of importing these goods. A safer bet is to bring as much clothing as you think you’ll need from your native country. However, if you are petite in stature then you might as well save yourself the extra airline fees and only bring the clothing you can’t live without and nourish your wardrobe at your destination.

Technology: Remember all those great movies from the 80’s that were set in fantastical far-off years in the future? Depending on your circumstances, that’s what japan can seem like sometimes. While researching for your trip, you may come across online videos of cool and interesting technology, like that which allows people to pay for vending machine goods with their cell phones. While Japan is full of great gadgets that make life easier, what you won’t see or hear about is the fact that most offices still use fax machines as a means of communicating. There’s nothing wrong with what using what others might consider outdated technology, but I just want you to be aware that Japan may not be as tech-based as you might have thought.

Image 6Shoes: Speaking of clothing, you may want to revise your footwear options. If you normally wear laced shoes, you’ll soon find them gathering dust in favor of shoes that slip on. Why? Because, while it’s a commonly known fact that shoes are removed when entering some establishments, very few people outside of Japan stop to ponder how annoying it is to constantly deal with laces and knots. It’s just something to remember if you’re easily irked by little things like that and are purchasing a few pairs prior to your trip due to the possible availability of your particular size.

For the sake of being embarrassingly honest I’ll share a little story for any women who might be reading this:

Most people who are aware of the shoe-removal custom know to wear a matching intact (non-holey) pair of socks. You’re probably thing to yourself “Duh!” What other women may not consider is their leg shaving habits. Again, I’m being brutally honest here: about 60% of the time I tend to only shave the parts of my legs that show. Imagine my surprise and embarrassment when after a lunch outing I found myself invited into my Japanese friend’s home while wearing a skirt with tall boots. Basically the only areas of my legs that were fit for public viewing fell between just above the knee to mid-calf. Knowing that my friend kept a traditional household, I had to politely decline the invitation for fear that the sight of my lower legs would cause her to asphyxiate due to laughter. It’s just something to consider.

Trash: If you’re known to carry around snacks you may wonder within your first few days in Japan where you’re expected to dispose of your candy wrappers. There aren’t any trash receptacles on the street. Instead of holding onto it until you get home, you can toss it at a Konbini (convenience store); there you’ll find bins for people to just walk in and use, including recycling bins.

Ready to take flight? Let Language Trainers be the wind beneath your wings. Contact us for information on language lessons in your area, or take our Language Level Test if you already know a bit of Japanese. You’ll be glad you did.