Asia & the Pacific | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com Trip Ideas, Itineraries, Maps & Area Experts Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:01:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9 https://deathstar-650a.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cropped-moon_logo_M-32x32.jpg Asia & the Pacific | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com 32 32 125073523 Moving to Australia Checklist https://moon.com/2017/10/moving-to-australia-checklist/ https://moon.com/2017/10/moving-to-australia-checklist/#respond Fri, 27 Oct 2017 17:04:23 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=59577 To help you set out on your own adventure, we've put together a moving to Australia checklist spanning six months before the move to the week after you've arrived in your new home.

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When we finally got the call that our visa to Australia had come through, we cracked open a bottle of bubbly. After months of filling out forms, answering awkward questions, numerous health checks, and copying and scanning countless documents, we felt we had conquered the mountain and had reached the summit. We were finally legal and allowed to move on to the next step of our adventure: moving overseas.

To help you set out on your own adventure, we’ve put together a moving to Australia checklist spanning six months before the move to the week after you’ve arrived in your new home.

Boxes filled with household items for a move.

Start packing for your move to Australia at least four weeks in advance. Photo © Kurhan/123rf.

Six Months Before the Move

  • Check out schools in Australia.
  • Review your relocation package, if you have one, and determine what expenses will be paid by your company.
  • Start a log of moving expense receipts; some may be tax deductible.
  • Get written estimates from moving companies, including their written commitment of pickup and delivery dates. Get references. Check the limits of insurance they offer, and if it covers replacement costs.
  • Purchase additional insurance if necessary.
  • Arrange for a storage facility if you plan to store any of your belongings. Again, check on insurance.
  • Check that your pets’ vaccinations are up to date.
  • Arrange an export service for pets and automobiles, if needed.
  • Get your medical and dental records prepared for transfer.
  • Put your house on the market for sale or rent.

Two Months Before the Move

  • Secure temporary or permanent accommodations in Australia.
  • Enroll your children at your chosen school.
  • Contact your bank to arrange transfer of your accounts; order checks with your new address; clean out your safety deposit box.
  • Submit change-of-address forms to the post office; mail postcards to friends and creditors.
  • Give your day care center proper notice of withdrawal.
  • Contact schools and arrange for transfer of student records.
  • Contact your doctors to double-check that medical records are ready to go.
  • Change your insurance policies on property, cars, and health.
  • Organize all important documents in a fire-safe box. Include school records, home purchase and sale papers, wills, marriage and divorce papers, pet documents, financial records, stock certificates, Social Security cards, birth certificates, and passports.
  • Give notice of resignation to any clubs, organizations, or volunteer activities you belong to.
  • Cancel newspaper subscriptions, and change your address for any magazine subscriptions you intend to keep.
  • Arrange for hotels, rental cars, or temporary housing as needed.

Four Weeks Before the Move

  • Take a ruthless walk-through to determine what you really want to take with you.
  • Tag the rest of it and hold a garage sale, or call a charity to pick it up.
  • Clean out club, gym, and school lockers; pick up all dry cleaning.
  • Arrange for disconnection or changeover of utilities.
  • Have measurements taken of the rooms in your new residence and use floor plans to determine where everything will go.
  • Begin packing less-used items. Number and label each box, and keep an inventory.
  • Retrieve and return all borrowed items from neighbors and friends; return library books.
  • Clean out the cupboards and plan remaining meals so you can pack what you don’t need, and don’t buy any more perishables than you have to.

One Week Before the Move

  • Make an inventory list of all items going with you personally. Keep valuable and irreplaceable items such as jewelry and heirlooms with you, not movers.
  • Confirm arrangements and dates with moving and storage companies.
  • Confirm arrangements with auto and pet transportation companies.
  • Confirm hotel, rental car, or temporary housing accommodations.
  • Disassemble furniture or other items.
  • Sell your car.
  • Be sure to check yards and sheds for all items to pack.
  • Inform friends and relatives of your forwarding address.
  • Take pictures of furniture or get fabric samples for anything you will want to reference for color or decorating before your goods are delivered to your new home.
  • Set aside a box of cleaning supplies and the vacuum cleaner.
  • Have cards and gifts ready for the kids to give to their friends, complete with the new address and social media contacts.

One or Two Days Before the Move

  • Clean and defrost refrigerator and freezer.
  • Withdraw cash needed for the move, and convert currency.
  • Reconcile and close bank accounts, unless you will be using another branch of the same bank.
  • Conclude financial matters relating to the sale or rent of your home.
  • The movers or you should complete packing of all household goods for the move.

Moving Day

  • Confirm delivery address, directions, and delivery date with the movers.
  • Carefully supervise the move. Make sure boxes are clearly marked and your instructions are understood.
  • Clean the home and check the entire grounds before leaving.
  • Check the thermostat and make sure the temperature is set appropriately. Make sure all windows and doors are closed and locked, and all appliances are turned off. Leave your forwarding address, garage door openers, and any keys, if agreed to, for the new owners or renters.
  • If your home is going to be vacant when you leave, make sure a relative, neighbor, or real estate agent has the keys and can contact you. Also, notify your insurance agent and police department that the home will be empty.
  • Meet up with friends, relax, and look forward to your adventure. It’s really happening.

Arrival Day

  • Get a new SIM card at the airport or get a new cell phone, and let friends and family and your moving company know your new number.
  • Check to make sure all utilities are on and working properly.
  • Let family members or friends know you have arrived safely. Check in with your employer and real estate agent to confirm itineraries.
  • Check in with the moving company to confirm the exact date of arrival of your container.
  • For any airfreighted boxes, supervise the moving crew on the location of the furniture and boxes. Begin unpacking necessary basics first—kitchen utensils, bath toiletries, and so on.
  • Go over the bill of lading from the moving company very carefully before signing; check for damaged items first, as it is usually binding once signed.
  • Try to stay up until bedtime. It will help you cope with adjusting to the new time zone. Explore at least the block around your new place and point out exciting finds to the kids. You have arrived in Australia!

One Week after Arrival

  • Get a tax number in Australia and register with your local embassy.
  • Look into buying a car.
  • Organize school uniforms for the children.
  • If you have a pet in quarantine, go and visit so they know they’re not alone.
  • Meet the neighbors.
  • Check out some local sports clubs and log on to an expat forum or join the Australian American Association in your city. It’s time to make new friends.

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Living Abroad Australia.

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What You Need to Know About Teaching English in Japan https://moon.com/2017/09/what-you-need-to-know-about-teaching-english-japan/ https://moon.com/2017/09/what-you-need-to-know-about-teaching-english-japan/#respond Fri, 15 Sep 2017 13:28:35 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=59615 If you’re interested in teaching English in Japan, there's a lot you need to know. Read on for information on how to qualify, the types of positions available, where to apply, and how to make the most of your experience abroad.

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If you’re interested in teaching English in Japan, bring along your diploma, MA or Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), transcripts, awards, birth certificate, letters of recommendation, résumé, and passport photos—you will need these materials to apply for teaching and other jobs. You might also pick up a good book on how to teach English, along with a grammar reference book.

gingko trees lining a street near the University of Tokyo

If you have a PhD or at least an MA in an academic field, you can apply to two-year or four-year public or private universities for a teaching position. Photo © coward_lion/iStock.

English teaching jobs in Japan have become more competitive, with longer hours, more duties, and less pay. At a minimum, you should have a college degree; prior teaching experience is a plus. Private English conversation schools are everywhere in Japan. You can teach English privately, and even offer lessons by Skype by registering on sites such as Café Talk. Be sure to obtain a proper work visa, or you risk fines and even deportation. It’s best to avoid teaching in the large chain English language schools, as they often overwork and underpay teachers. Some of the largest chain schools (such as Nova) have gone bankrupt, leaving teachers with unpaid wages.

Many elementary schools have begun offering English as part of global studies for kids; if you’re interested in teaching this age group, bring picture books and teaching materials developed for children. Both the Japanese government and commercial organizations recruit native English speakers from around the world to teach as ALTs—assistant language teachers to the main teacher, who is Japanese—in elementary, junior, and senior high schools.

Interac is a private company that recruits and places thousands of ALTs each year in the Japanese school system. A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement and a driver’s license for Japan is a plus. It recruits overseas in the spring and fall, to start teaching at the beginning of the Japanese school year in April or late August (end of summer vacation). If you are accepted, they guide you through the process of obtaining an “Instructor” visa. The contract is for a year, with the possibility of extension. As an ALT, you teach 20-25 classes a week, 8am-5pm, Monday through Friday, plus a few school events on some weekends. The average pay is ¥240,000 ($2,400) per month (less 10 percent national income taxes). The company provides a small furnished apartment that costs you $500-800 a month.

The Japanese government has a program called JET, or Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, that places young college graduates from around the world in foreign language education positions in local government offices and elementary through senior high schools. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes that “it is desirable that applicants are adaptable and develop a positive interest in Japan and its culture.” Three types of positions are available: ALT (assistant language teacher) in classrooms; CIR (Coordinators for International Relations), who assist local governments in international exchange activities (Japanese ability required); and SEA (Sports Exchange Advisors), sports professionals who help with sports training and sports-related projects. First-year salary is listed as approximately ¥3,360,000 yen ($33,600). In 30 years, more than 62,000 people from 65 countries have participated in the JET program. Placement and specific work activities of participants are decided by each prefecture’s governor or city/town mayor. The website for JET Program USA is jetprogramusa.org.

If you have a PhD or at least an MA in an academic field, you can apply to two-year or four-year public or private universities for a teaching position. I taught at Obihiro Chikusan Daigaku (Obihiro University of Agriculture & Veterinary Medicine) for several years. My assignment was teaching “English conversation” to first-year students—five sections of 50 students to a class, with immovable desks and chairs bolted to the floor. I had to be inventive to create opportunities for each student to speak during the 90-minute periods. Most wanted to put their heads down on the desk and sleep! Some universities offer courses in English in subjects ranging from history to sociology to the environment. International Christian University, Sophia University, and Temple University in Tokyo and Akita International University in northwest Honshu offer content courses taught in English. International University of Japan in Niigata is the only university to offer all courses in English, including graduate programs in international relations and international management.

Japanese students raising their hands

Remember that the Japanese school year starts in April and time your move accordingly. Photo © Milatas/iStock.

Teaching in Rural Japan

Kristy Lawton moved to a small town in northern Honshu and taught English for six months before returning to the United States for graduate school in biology.

What influenced you to move to Japan?
My interest in Japan developed over many years. I knew people from Japan and had Japanese friends since high school. I like to travel and wanted to learn more about Japanese culture. I wanted a break before grad school and liked the idea of living somewhere different.

How did you find a job and get a visa?
I searched online for ESL jobs. I graduated in the summer, which was out of season for job hunting. The Japanese school year starts in April, so there were fewer jobs. The English school where I ended up teaching got me a one-year work visa, renewable up to three years. The visa process takes several months, so you have to apply well in advance.

How did your work in Japan differ from working in the United States?
I found a big cultural difference in the relationship between employers and employees. The level of formality was different. The teachers worked very hard for little pay and were expected to sacrifice for the employer’s business, a private language school.

Were there any frustrations?
Not being able to read, especially in grocery stores and restaurants. Small-town restaurants have no plastic food displays, and there were no McDonald’s or Starbucks. The TV had only two channels—the cooking channel was interesting, but I couldn’t understand much. I had no Internet for the first three months, so I couldn’t communicate with friends back home.

What were the biggest rewards?
Ten days in Tokyo with two different friends’ families were wonderful. I experienced growing pains and learned about the adult working world. I got to see such a different culture—it expanded my mind. I did pick up a little Japanese in six months. Now I miss the food!

Was it easy to make friends?
I was teaching small children and adults (whom I wasn’t supposed to see outside class), so it wasn’t easy. I made a few good Japanese friends—a coworker, and someone who’d visited my hometown in the United States years before.

Any advice for people from the United States who are moving to Japan?
Know what questions to ask before you go! What exactly will I be doing, what ages, and how many in a class? Will I be teaching with someone? If you’re going to Japan for the first time and don’t know Japanese, do not go to a small town. It’s much easier if you know Japanese before you go. Be aware when looking online for English teaching jobs—some are almost scams. Don’t teach for huge chains—they are teaching mills.

Get expert tips and find out what you need to know before moving abroad to teach English in Japan.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Living Abroad Japan.

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Where to Live in Australia https://moon.com/2017/09/where-to-live-in-australia/ https://moon.com/2017/09/where-to-live-in-australia/#respond Wed, 13 Sep 2017 15:05:14 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=59583 When tourists visit Australia, they head for Sydney or the Great Barrier Reef, maybe to the Outback. But choosing where to live in Australia is far different from where to visit. The most popular expat destinations in Australia are all among these six.

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When tourists visit Australia, they tend to head for Sydney or the Great Barrier Reef, maybe to the Outback for a taste of Australian country culture and the opal mines, Uluru (Ayers Rock), or even Kakadu. But visiting a country for leisure and moving to a country to lead your life are completely different. You can explore the continent as much as your free time allows once you’re living here, but first you need to figure out where to live in Australia.

There are six regions where expats and immigrants typically live: the main cities of Sydney and Melbourne, the political capital of Canberra, the leisure capital of Brisbane and the nearby Gold Coast, the southwestern cities of Adelaide and Perth, and Hobart, capital of Tasmania, which offers some of the best landscapes and outdoor pursuits and is the most atmospheric major city. Many expats choose to live in one of these six locations because of the employment opportunities as well as the amenities the cities offer. Also, more than 85 percent of Australians live within 50 kilometers of the coast, which is where all the major cities lie. There are expats who choose to make a living in the Outback, but the most popular expat destinations in Australia are all among these six.

view of the rooftops and apartment buildings in suburban Sydney

Sydney is popular with immigrants because it has the biggest economy, the most jobs, and the diversity of needs that often require foreign talent. Photo © vale_t/iStock.

Sydney

The vast majority of immigrants, especially from the United States, end up in Sydney, which has the biggest economy, the most jobs, and the diversity of needs that often require foreign talent. Sydney is the most international city in Australia and takes distinct pride in its diversity as well as in the energy and pace that ethnic diversity brings to city life. Many newcomers come to work in the finance industry and its many related businesses, such as law firms, many of which are based here.

Sydney is the New York of Australia in many respects. It is the financial capital, the population center, the oldest city, and like New York has a famous harbor and architectural landmarks like the Harbour Bridge and the famed opera house. It is the most cosmopolitan of Australian cities and sees itself as a “world city,” a status confirmed by the incredible economic and prestige-gaining success of the 2000 Olympic Games.

Sydney has its critics, especially in other Australian cities, though rarely for its splendid weather and never for its spectacular setting. Residents in other cities feel that their own regions are more typical or authentically Australian, and like New Yorkers, Sydneysiders are thought by people from other parts of Australia to be brash and domineering. It is the most Americanized of Australian cities, and perhaps the most Americanized city outside North America.

Earlier criticisms of Sydney living, which focused on its wretched traffic and the high cost of living, are typical of any bustling major city, but Sydney has gone to considerable lengths to improve its automobile traffic with extensive expressway building. Its public transportation system is also extensive, and many Sydneysiders live without cars, even though Australia has high per-capita car ownership.

Besides its idyllic setting and great weather, the fast-growing and dynamic economy and proximity to the U.S. West Coast are a recipe for strong immigrant interest. It’s overwhelmingly the top choice among immigrants, and roughly one-third of Sydney’s inhabitants were born overseas, far more than in other Australian cities. In fact, more overseas immigrants live in Sydney than the population of cities such as Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra, and Hobart. No matter how popular Sydney is for tourists, for immigrants it is even more so.

view of the Melbourne skyline over suburban houses

Melbourne is widely considered to be the cultural capital of the country. Photo © Zarnell/iStock.

Melbourne

Second only to Sydney is the large metropolis of Melbourne, famously home to a vast population of southern Europeans. It attracts flocks of students and academics who attend some of the country’s most revered learning and research institutions, such as the University of Melbourne and Monash University.

While Melbourne might not quite rival Sydney for the pace of life or financial importance, it is widely considered to be the cultural capital of the country, and academics that can manage a posting to Melbourne University will be happy with the experience. The unique Australian sports culture has also found a home in Melbourne, which is the heartland of Australia’s own Australian Rules football, played in front of huge crowds at venues around the city. There is also the popular Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Formula 1 Grand Prix car race, horse racing, tennis, and more. The city is filled with galleries, museums, music-filled nightclubs, extensive Victorian parks, and well-protected Victorian architecture, especially in the
inner-city suburbs.

Interestingly, for all the attention that Sydney receives, Melbourne has been growing faster than Sydney in population and income since 2000, and Melbourne’s population is nearing that of its larger rival. While Sydney wows visitors with its stunning locale and setting, Melbourne is generally acknowledged to be a better place to live; people are generous, easygoing, and comfortable, drawing newcomers in more slowly but with a tighter grip.

modern apartment buildings along the river in Brisbane

Apartment buildings line the waterfront in Brisbane. Photo © ymgerman/iStock.

Brisbane and the Queensland Coast

Tourism professionals and retirees tend to focus their immigration search on the tiny strip of land comprising Brisbane and the Gold Coast of Queensland. Tropical weather and massive government investment have produced a swath of resorts, golf courses, and condo complexes that complement the extensive collection of white-sand tropical beaches. The city is also famed as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. It is absolutely the number-one destination for retirement relocations and by those seeking a warmer climate or a more laid-back culture.

The region comprises three areas. The attractive city of Brisbane itself has urban dwellers occupying towers along the Brisbane River. To the south is the Gold Coast, the more established beach center but far more commercial, with glistening beachside condo towers that would not be out of place in Florida or Hawaii. The weather is good year-round, and it has better affordability than established markets in the United States, making it a compelling alternative to similar locations in the Northern Hemisphere. To the north is the comparable but lesser known Sunshine Coast, which tends to attract price-takers plus those who want a quieter beachside lifestyle than the bustling Gold Coast provides.

bridge over a canal in Canberra

The Kingston Foreshore suburb along the canal to the lake in Canberra. Photo © Daniiielc/iStock.

Canberra

Next to Melbourne, the national capital, Canberra, is home base for many newcomers—typically expats more than permanent immigrants—serving in diplomatic posts, attending or teaching at the Australian National University, or working for nongovernmental organizations or lobbying firms based in the capital. Canberra has a population of only 386,000 and is by far the newest of the major Australian urban centers, dating to 1913 with most of its development since World War II.

An old Australian political cartoon features a stern judge pronouncing, “I sentence you to live in Canberra.” But times have changed. Its central planning, lakeside setting, and extensive preservation of bushland and greenbelts have made it one of the greenest and most pastoral of cities. It is the largest Australian city in the bush, rather than on the coast, which gives it distinctive scenery and weather. It also has the best traffic-congestion conditions of any city in Australia.

rooftops and view of the water in Hobart

Hobart is popular with visitors, but less popular with the permanent population. Photo © Redzaal/iStock.

Hobart

Tasmania is a bit like a forgotten cousin when it comes to Australia. Some think it is another country altogether; others just forget to mention that it is indeed an Australian state, and one of its prettiest. A mere one-hour flight or 14-hour overnight ferry ride from Melbourne, Tasmania is a wild isle full of stunning scenery and smaller towns and villages. The capital, Hobart, is the smallest Australian capital city, with a tiny population of just over 200,000. Atmospheric, bustling, and full of restaurants and arts venues, Hobart is popular with visitors, although it must be said, less popular with the permanent population. The island as a whole suffers from an exodus of young and middle-age career-minded residents, who leave to seek employment elsewhere in Australia due to the lack of local opportunities, only to return later to settle or retire.

For expats, unless you will be building your career around outdoor pursuits, relocation is likely to come through industry-specific jobs or academic and scientific work, as Hobart is the outpost for Antarctic research. It is a small island population-wise, and a fair percentage of the residents are either related to one another or at least know each other’s business. If you are accepted into the group, though, and you are not a dedicated city dweller, Hobart and its surroundings can offer some of the best Australian living.

aerial view of suburban Perth

More than 70 percent of the population of Western Australia lives in the Perth metropolitan area. Photo © opium_rabbit/iStock.

Southwestern Australia

Unlike the other prime living locations, which focus on small and distinct sections of the country, southwestern Australia refers to an enormous section of the country about the size of Texas. In a practical sense, it’s divided between the metropolitan areas of Adelaide and environs in South Australia and Perth, the capital of Western Australia.

As beautiful as the southwest is, and popular with tourists, relocations typically tend to these two cities because of industry-specific job hires or transfers; Adelaide is a major center for the auto industry and the primary center for Australia’s famed wine industry. Perth is home to the mining industry and is a major center for oil and gas exploration.

Adelaide is situated in the south-central region of the country, about 1,000 kilometers northwest of Melbourne, and it is the gateway to the famed Barossa Valley, Australia’s primary wine center. The parklike city has long ago outgrown its original greenbelts, which once served as the city border and now are an inner-city ring, but it remains one of the prettiest urban designs in the country.

Perth, which is popular with UK expats as well as the mining industry, is in the big leagues when it comes to iron, bauxite, and other primary mineral recovery companies. Oil and gas exploration continues to take place offshore, and overall Perth has ridden a resources boom that has made it Australia’s third largest and fastest-growing city, where execs can commute from beachside suburbs to jobs in buildings along the majestic Swan River without the commuting hassle that haunts those who choose Sydney and Melbourne.

Both Adelaide and Perth are highly urbanized cities. More than 70 percent of the population of Western Australia lives in the Perth metropolitan area, and the same ratio holds for Adelaide and the state of South Australia. By contrast, 60 percent of the population of New South Wales lives in Sydney.

Plan your move abroad with this essential information on the most popular destinations in Australia for expats to live.


Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Living Abroad Australia.

The post Where to Live in Australia appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

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Comparing the Cost of Living in Australia vs US https://moon.com/2017/09/comparing-cost-living-australia-vs-us/ https://moon.com/2017/09/comparing-cost-living-australia-vs-us/#respond Thu, 07 Sep 2017 21:42:06 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=59593 Every few years, Mercer Consulting releases a study showing the comparative cost of living in various cities around the world. Here's how Australia's major expat destinations ranked, along with sample prices of everyday items.

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Living in Australia is not cheap, even if the high standard of living makes it very livable; the quality of life here comes at a price. The 2016 Mercer Worldwide Cost of Living Survey rated Sydney and Melbourne as Australia’s most expensive cities, with Sydney 42nd and Melbourne 71st on the worldwide list, a dramatic drop in ranking due to the depreciation of the Australian dollar against the U.S. dollar.

Hands sorting through Australian currency

Living in Australia is not cheap, even if the high standard of living makes it very livable. Photo © David May/Dreamstime.com.

How much does it cost to live in Australia?

Minimum Standard of Living

In Australia, rent is quoted by the week, and the budgeting described here follows this pattern. Outside Sydney and Melbourne, life can be relatively affordable, but a good basic standard is to use $600 per week as a starting point for a minimal lifestyle for an individual, and add one-third for Sydney and Melbourne or about 10 percent for the other major cities. This would cover a modest shared flat in an accessible, relatively safe outlying suburb, basic utilities, a public transit card for commuting, and food and low-cost entertainment. This includes an allowance for a broadband Internet connection that will cost about $30 per month, but this will enable you to connect to Skype, often the expat’s best friend for international communication.

Average Standard of Living

The average weekly expenditure in Australia is around $2,200 per household. This estimate includes home loans or rent at an average $600 a week, followed by food and eating out at $400, and insurance and other financial services at $200. Utility bills have risen steadily since 2006. (For a small 85 square meter apartment the monthly utilities of water, electricity, and gas cost around $220 per month. For a telephone, TV, and Internet package allow around $70 per month.) These numbers mean it costs an average household around $100,000 per year to live in Australia.

Luxury Standard of Living

Where luxury standards are involved, the sky is the limit; you could easily spend the annual budget of a small country on a nice house by the beach. More realistically, $1,500 to $2,000 per week can get a very nice house or apartment within easy reach of the city or the beaches in any of the country’s major cities, including Sydney. Typical water, electricity, and gas bills for a house with four bedrooms would cost around $400-500 per month. TV, telephone, and Internet packages with extra TV channels included are available from around $100 per month. Add $500 per week on food and drink, plus around $400 on eating out; if you have kids going to private school, two cars, and hobbies such as tennis or golf, costs would be about $200,000 per year, or nearly $4,000 per week, not including vacations.

Cost of Living Rankings

Every few years, Mercer Consulting releases a study showing the comparative cost of living in various cities around the world. The factors that determine a city’s ranking are the relative strength of its currency against the U.S. dollar in the 12 months between ranking, and price movements over the 12 months as compared to those in New York City as the base. Ranks can also change based on the movement of other cities in the ranking list. The ranking of the previous year is given in brackets.

City Ranking as of 2016

  • Sydney 42 (21)
  • Melbourne 71 (47)
  • Perth 69 (48)
  • Canberra 98 (65)
  • Brisbane 96 (66)
  • Adelaide 102 (71)

Sample Prices for Everyday Items

  • 2 liters of orange juice: $4.80
  • 1 liter of full-fat milk: $1.46
  • 1 kilogram of carrots: $2.50
  • 1 kilogram of potatoes: $1.95
  • 500 grams of lean ground beef: $5
  • 1 loaf of white sandwich bread: $2.99
  • 8 rolls of 2-ply toilet paper: $6.60
  • 24 cans (375 ml) of Coca-Cola: $17
  • 6 free-range eggs: $3
  • 500 grams of aged cheddar cheese: $7.48
  • 1 725-gram box of Kellogg’s Cornflakes: $4
  • 1 Mars bar: $2.20
  • 1 can of dog food: $2.26
  • 200 milliliter bottle of Head & Shoulders shampoo: $7.04
  • 500 grams of butter: $2.60

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Living Abroad Australia.

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Japanese Family Roles: Gender and Work https://moon.com/2017/08/japanese-family-roles-gender-and-work/ https://moon.com/2017/08/japanese-family-roles-gender-and-work/#respond Sun, 20 Aug 2017 22:52:21 +0000 http://publishing.wpengine.com/?p=1939 Author Ruthy Kanagy discusses the traditional Japanese family roles of men and women in modern Japan, as well as the careers that some Japanese women choose to pursue.

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A pair of wooden dolls dressed as emperor and empress of the Heian period.

Hina dolls displayed for Girl’s Day (March 3). Photo © conifer, licensed Creative Commons Atribution.

There seems to be a general perception by many Americans that Japanese women have lower status than men, that they don’t have equal rights. As evidence, we point to the fact that a majority of Japanese women quit their jobs upon marriage and stay home to raise children, while men are out in the world. If women had equal rights, our thinking goes, they would want full-time careers, no? Each of us brings our own cultural values and perceptions when we encounter another culture. The word “housewife” in English has a connotation of low status, as in “just a housewife.” By contrast, the Japanese term shufu is composed of two characters that mean “master” and “woman.” In other words, shufu is the female master of the home.

Japanese wives keep track of finances, make economic decisions, and give their husbands an allowance. They budget carefully and keep meticulous records of where the money goes and make decisions about the children’s education. They shop frugally and buy fresh produce daily and take pride in cooking nutritious meals. Many women take classes in flower arranging, kimono wearing, tea ceremony, and cooking in order to prepare for their career in household management. In large urban areas the husband often has a long commute, gets home late, and rarely sees the children except on Sundays. Some women say it’s easier when their husband’s not home—he’s just one more child to take care of. Husbands who retire are sometimes called (tongue in cheek) sodai gomi, or oversized trash. After working 60 or more hours a week for 40 years, the husband rattles around the house and gets in the way.

Would Japanese women rather switch their job for long hours of work at a company for 30 or more years? The answer is as varied as the individual.Japanese wives keep track of finances, make economic decisions, and give their husbands an allowance. They budget carefully and keep meticulous records of where the money goes and make decisions about the children’s education. They shop frugally and buy fresh produce daily and take pride in cooking nutritious meals. Many women take classes in flower arranging, kimono wearing, tea ceremony, and cooking in order to prepare for their career in household management. In large urban areas the husband has a long commute, gets home late, and rarely sees the children except on Sundays. Some women say it’s easier when their husband’s not home—he’s just one more child to take care of. Husbands who retire are sometimes referred to (tongue in cheek) as sodai gomi, or oversized trash. After working 60 hours a week for 30 years, the husband rattles around the house and gets in the way.

Would Japanese homemakers rather switch their situation for long hours of work at a company for 30 or more years? The answer is as varied as the individual. It is true that companies often hire young women fresh out of school to be “flowers of the office,” serving tea and filing papers. At least they can go home at five, while women who choose the managerial track are pressured to work overtime with the majority of male employees. On the other hand, women who work as teachers, nurses, and in other service roles often continue their careers after marriage. And it’s not unknown for men who are self-employed or writers to stay home while their wives work outside the home. Women are politicians and business owners and entrepreneurs. In Japan I have yet to meet a woman who wanted to swap places with a man.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Living Abroad Japan.

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Moving to Japan with Children https://moon.com/2017/08/moving-to-japan-with-children/ https://moon.com/2017/08/moving-to-japan-with-children/#comments Sun, 20 Aug 2017 22:26:24 +0000 http://publishing.wpengine.com/?p=1945 Children face their own challenges when moving to a new country. If you're moving to Japan with children, these two personal accounts—one from a child's view, another from a single parent's—can help you prepare.

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Neat rows of desks with green plastic chairs in a bright and airy classroom.

Takanawadai Elementary School in Tokyo. Photo © scarletgreen, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

If you are taking your family with you to Japan on a student or work visa, each member will need to obtain a dependent visa at a Japanese consulate office outside Japan in order to enter the country. A spouse or child of someone residing in Japan with the visa status of professor, researcher, or cultural activities is eligible for dependent resident status. Normally the period of stay for dependents is three months, six months, one year, or three years. If your dependent plans to stay in Japan for more than 90 days, he or she must also apply for a resident card.

Making the Adjustment

Children face their own challenges when moving to a new country. Make sure to provide plenty of support—familiar books, toys, music, photographs of extended family and close friends, and some favorite foods. Allow them time to get adjusted to their new surroundings, and try not to push them to play with children they don’t know. If your children are old enough, help them write a postcard or email to a friend back home. Above all, as a parent, give them your time and emotional support, even though you may be busy with the many tasks of setting up house in a new culture. When your children are ready, plan ways to learn Japanese together, go shopping, or take outings. But I recommend starting slowly—riding a subway may be a big enough activity by itself. Don’t fill up the schedule too much. For helpful information on moving to Japan with children, visit www.tokyowithkids.com.

How does a young child experience a move to a new country? I can share my personal experience of moving from Japan, where I was born, to North America for the first time at age four. My missionary parents took a one-year break from Hokkaido and moved back to Indiana. I found myself in a strange place filled with new tastes, a new language, and relatives I’d only seen in pictures. I was too young to go to school, so I stayed home, where I remember sorting and playing with buttons from my grandmother’s sewing basket. After a year, we went back to our home in eastern Hokkaido.

I don’t think the transition was very difficult at that age, but moving to the United States again in the sixth grade was definitely harder. I attended a local Japanese elementary school and had never experienced school in English. I knew how to speak and read English, but my vocabulary was somewhat limited. I remember getting laughed at by classmates for not knowing slang or the latest popular American tunes or TV shows. A preteen or adolescent needs someone who understands what they’re going through (which is true when moving within the same country, as well).

Your child will face some challenges living in Japan or going to a Japanese school, but rest assured it will be an enriching experience, an opportunity of a lifetime. To ease the transition to a new school, enlist the help of the homeroom teacher and find a buddy who can help your child learn the ropes and ease the transition. Keep in close touch with the school and teachers, and also try to get to know some parents. For preschoolers, there are many good Japanese hoikuen (government-supported day cares) and yochien (kindergartens for ages 3-5).

Moving to Japan as a Single Parent

There are some challenges to being a single parent in an unfamiliar culture. Rhae Washington, a single mom who moved to Japan with her two-year-old, said:

I loved the education my son got in his hoikuen—they were so loving and yet taught him a lot about discipline. I loved the beach and swimming and the flowers and the temples…the aesthetic qualities of Kamakura [south of Tokyo] were extraordinary. Going to visit Daibutsu [Great Buddha] was one of our favorite things to do; we called him “our friend.” I enjoyed the food very much, and learning the language, and being exposed to cultural opportunities.

On the other hand, I was also very isolated—I had only a few friends, and they weren’t really friends I could count on for help or support. I made one Japanese friend by responding to an ad she’d posted seeking foreigner friends. She had a child my son’s age, and she would come over for dinner and drinks a few times a month. We had a good time together, and so did the kids; we still keep in touch. She is a very nontraditional Japanese woman, though, as she’s traveled extensively. Many Japanese women that I met were too shy to really engage with me, either because they were self-conscious about their English or because they found me strange—usually both, it seemed to me. I did interact socially with a couple of my students’ parents, but that was not in an intimate, friendly way, but more in a very polite, business kind of way. I was very self-conscious, going to their houses, and thus didn’t really enjoy myself.

In retrospect, I don’t think Japan is the best place for a single parent. There just really aren’t enough resources in the smaller towns. Perhaps in Tokyo one would be OK, especially with good Japanese. My advice would be to learn the language as much as possible—hiragana, katakana, and a lot of vocabulary. Try to build a support system (of foreigners, if necessary) before moving, through the websites designed for foreigners, such as www.japan-guide.com, or by contacting friends of friends—most people, Japanese and foreigners alike, will be happy to help. I would also warn anyone moving there that they will almost necessarily feel isolated, at least at the beginning. They will have to ask for help a lot—which is why it’s so important to have friends to count on. But the kids will benefit! And it’s one of the safest countries in the world, which is a wonderful feeling when you have kids, and also as a woman. It was the first time in my life I didn’t feel the need to watch my back. My son did pick up the language easily, especially in his Japanese school, and we still use it sometimes.

Despite some challenges and the need for patience during the initial adjustment period, I strongly believe that the benefits of growing up in two cultures far outweigh the challenges. Because our brain capacity increases through mapping multiple sets of vocabularies and grammars, learning two or more languages in early childhood has been shown to stimulate and develop brain cells. In an increasingly interdependent world, knowing more than one language and culture gives children—and adults—a broader worldview and empathy for people from other places. Home is no longer limited to one country as we extend the concept of “one nation, indivisible” to “one earth, indivisible.” There are practical advantages as well— being bilingual and bicultural will be an advantage when your child establishes a career. You as a parent can give your family that priceless opportunity when you move to Japan.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Living Abroad Japan.

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How to Move Your Pets to Japan https://moon.com/2017/08/how-to-move-pets-to-japan/ https://moon.com/2017/08/how-to-move-pets-to-japan/#respond Sun, 20 Aug 2017 16:23:25 +0000 http://publishing.wpengine.com/?p=1947 When moving to Japan, you may want to bring your favorite cat, dog, or other pet with you. Here's what you need to know before you decide to bring Fido or Fluffy along.

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A leashed shiba inu wears a costume including a red headband while sitting next to a carboard mini-shrine float.

Bringing a pet to Japan involves fulfilling many requirements, but the companionship may be worth it. Photo © showbizsuperstar, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

You may want to bring your pet to Japan. It can be done, but there are many requirements involved. Keep in mind that most apartments in Japan do not allow pets. A few do, but you will have to hunt for them, and an additional deposit may be required. In my case, I decided not to bring my dog to Japan and left her with several trustworthy friends at home; I didn’t want to subject her to the trauma of air travel, possible quarantine period, and adjustment to an unfamiliar place. Moreover, there was no grass or dirt near my Tokyo apartment, only concrete and asphalt—not much space to run around, and not much fun. If you do decide to bring your pet—you may have compelling reasons—be prepared to follow the requirements of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishers.

Dogs and cats must undergo quarantine inspection. If they meet import requirements upon arrival, the quarantine period ends within 12 hours. If they don’t meet the requirements, they’ll be subject to quarantine, which can last up to 180 days and during which you’re responsible for the feeding, caring, and other associated costs of your pet while it’s housed in a kennel at a detention facility of Animal Quarantine Service. Depending on the results of the inspection, your dog or cat may be prohibited from entering Japan.

Assistance dogs, such as guide dogs, service dogs, and hearing dogs, must meet the same requirements. If you plan to come to Japan with your assistance dog, prepare in advance: Contact the Animal Quarantine Service of the expected airport or seaport of entry no less than 40 days in advance, and undertake the necessary actions.

Import procedures vary depending on the export region of the dog or cat. Designated regions are Hawaii, Guam, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, and the Fiji Islands, which are rabies-free, and generally require microchip implantation and government-issued certificates. Dogs and cats from nondesignated regions must meet further import requirements involving rabies vaccinations and a rabies antibody test. See requirements for both designated and non-designated regions at www.maff.go.jp/aqs/English.

Note that dogs can only be imported through New Chitose, Narita International, Haneda, Chubu Centrair International, Kansai International, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Kagoshima, or Naha Airports.
Once in the country, you are required to register your dog (91 days old or older) at the local municipal office and receive a dog license. In addition, the dog must have a rabies vaccination once a year April- June and receive a Completion of Rabies Vaccination Tag. The license and tag must be attached to the dog’s collar at all times.

Dogs must be leashed or caged when outdoors, except in designated dog parks. Some restaurants and hotels accept pets. For further information, contact your local municipal office.


Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Living Abroad Japan.

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Living in Tokyo: Tokyo Districts and Neighborhoods https://moon.com/2017/08/living-in-tokyo-tokyo-districts-neighborhoods/ https://moon.com/2017/08/living-in-tokyo-tokyo-districts-neighborhoods/#respond Sat, 19 Aug 2017 19:42:18 +0000 http://publishing.wpengine.com/?p=1953 Not sure where to live in Tokyo? Ruthy Kanagy goes over Tokyo districts to help you find an area that fits your budget and your lifestyle.

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View of a quiet street with several pedestrians and a business in the foreground.

Itabashi-ku, Tokyo. Photo © Takayuki Miki, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

If you’ve already firmed up a job or study program in Tokyo it will simplify your housing search. Ask yourself the following key questions: How far am I willing to commute? (The average Tokyoite commutes an hour each way to work or school, and two hours is not unusual.) What’s my budget? What kind of neighborhood do I want to live in? How close do I need to be to the train station, parks, rivers, airport, and schools? Housing decisions often come down to a question of convenience versus affordability.

Japanese listings always specify how many minutes it takes to walk to the nearest train station and how many minutes it takes by train to central Tokyo. When calculating your commute, note how many times you will need to transfer to another line. A 90-minute commute on a single train is less tiring than three 25-minute rides with two transfers, especially if one involves a 15-minute hike underground—and you must repeat it all on the way home. Note if there are elevators, escalators, or only stairs in the closest station. Unfortunately, Tokyo transit has many barriers for people in wheelchairs and those who can’t walk the many steps. If you have the luxury of flextime and can avoid rush hour, that makes a longer commute much more tolerable.

Rental housing and real estate are listed in the weekly Metropolis, Japan Home Search, the Japan Times, Apamanshop, Fontana, and Enplus.

Tokyo Wards, Neighborhoods, and Suburbs

Chiyoda-ku and Minato-ku

Minato city is home to around 18,500 foreign residents (“registered foreigners,” if you will).Of the four wards, or cities, located within the JR Yamanote loop, Chiyoda- and Minato-ku are considered prime real estate because of their proximity to the political, economic, and financial districts, as well as embassies. Sony, Toshiba, Google, Apple, and Goldman Sachs are all located here. Minato city is home to around 18,500 foreign residents (“registered foreigners,” if you will). Roppongi, Azabu, and Hiro seem to be popular with Westerners with means. If your company is transferring you to Tokyo with all expenses paid, or if cost is not an issue, there is an attractive and convenient array of housing close to American-style supermarkets, private international schools, and fancy nightclubs where you can meet many other expatriates. However, the downside of living among concentrations of foreigners is the lack of urgency to learn Japanese, as well as fewer opportunities to interact with Japanese neighbors.

Thirty stories high, Park Cube Atagoyama Tower has 30-square-meter (320-square-foot) studios for ¥150,000/$1,500 a month with a two-month deposit and parking for ¥45,000 ($450) a month. It guarantees a spectacular sky view even from the bathroom! A slightly larger 43-square-meter (462- square-foot) 1LDK in Azabu rents for ¥158,000/$1,580, requiring a two-month deposit, one-month key money, and one-month renewal fee. It’s a nine-minute walk to the subway and a pet is negotiable. A brand-new 2LDK, two-story, 70-square-meter/752-square-foot apartment in Takanawa is available for ¥190,000/$1,900 a month with a two-month deposit, one-month key money, and one-month renewal fee. The apartment is in a wooden structure and is a nine-minute walk from the Takanawadai station.

A fancier 970-square-foot, two-bedroom furnished apartment in Roppongi Hills Residence rents for ¥1,220,000/$12,200 per month. Western-style apartments and houses in this area can cost as much as ¥3 million/$30,000 per month for 2,000 to 3,000 square feet of living space (parking included). When you pay that kind of rent, you’re paying for a fashionable address in central Tokyo where you can walk to an international school or a job in the financial district and shop for American food at the supermarket. The U.S. Embassy, Tokyo American Club, Nishimachi International School, Sacred Heart International School, the British School, and Meidiya (American-style) supermarket are all located in this district.

Shibuya-Ku, Setagaya-ku, and Southwest Suburbs

Shibuya station is a mad scramble of people with boutiques, cinemas, and cafés.Shibuya station is a major hub on the southwest side of the Yamanote loop and is a transfer point to subways and private train lines heading toward suburban districts to the west. Shibuya station is a mad scramble of people with boutiques, cinemas, cafés, and hundreds of people crowded around looking for their friends by the statue of a dog named Hachiko, a popular meeting spot. The sidewalks are so crowded that sometimes you can’t walk in the direction you want to go.

Harajuku is one stop north of Shibuya on the Yamanote line, and another great place for people watching. On Sundays, you can mingle with the crowds of young Japanese girls (and boys) dressed in Gothic or Little Bo Peep costumes, and watch impromptu band performances. Right across the bridge are Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine grounds.

Heading southwest from Shibuya, the Toyoko line takes you to suburban and western Meguro, which was built with lots of space and greenery. This area is popular with well-to-do Japanese and Westerners. Tokyo Kyosai Hospital is in Meguro city. You could rent a studio in a 10-story, reinforced concrete building in Daikanyama with 30 square meters (330 square feet) for ¥158,000/$1,580 a month. It comes with concierge service, a café, and a fitness club and is just a two-minute walk from the train station. In the same building are 1LDK apartments with 55 square meters (600 square feet) of space, for ¥275,000/$2,750 a month. A 2LDK with 90 square meters (980 square feet) rents for ¥500,000/$5,000 a month. The studio, one-, and two-bedroom units all require a two-month deposit, one-month key money, and one-month renewal fee.

Five stops southwest of Daikanyama station on the Toyoko line is Jiyugaoka in Setagaya, a trendy area for foodies, shoppers, and artists. A compact 31.7-square-meter (341-square-foot) one-room apartment constructed in 2014 can be yours for ¥115,000/$1,150 a month with a two-year lease. A one-month deposit, one-month key money, and one month’s rent plus 8 percent tax for the agent is required to move in. Sangenjaya on the Denentoshi line and Shimokitazawa at the intersection of the Odakyu line and Inokashira line in Setagaya city are also attractive areas for fashionable living and exploring.

Shinjuku-, Nakano-, and Suginami-ku

Shinjuku city has the largest population of foreign residents in the metropolis.Nakano-ku and Suginami-ku, located west of Shinjuku on the Chuo line, are convenient areas to live in if you work or go to school in Shinjuku or anywhere in central Tokyo. JR lines, private train lines, and the Shinjuku, Oedo, Marunouichi subway lines cover the area. Shinjuku city has the largest population of foreign residents in the metropolis. Thirty-thousand Korean and other nationalities live here. Excellent Korean and Vietnamese restaurants and shops are clustered around Shin-Okubo station on the Yamanote line. Waseda University on the east side of Yamanote attracts many foreign students. The Metropolitan Tokyo government buildings, hotels, and high-rise office buildings dominate the west Shinjuku skyline. Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens in east Shinjuku provide a quiet retreat from the crowds and noise.

Shinjuku-ku offers attractive manshon (condominiums) for sale. For example, you could purchase a 2LDK condo on the 4th floor in Shinjuku with 55 square meters (590 square feet) of floor space for ¥39.8 million/$398,000 plus a ¥12,700/$127 monthly maintenance fee and a ¥7,300/$73 monthly repair fund. It’s a four-minute walk to the subway. As for rentals, small, 44-square-meter (470-square-foot) one-bedrooms are listed for ¥172,000/$1,720 and up. An 830-square-foot, three-bedroom furnished apartment in the Shinjuku area is available for ¥360,000/$3,600 per month. Proximity to the popular Chuo line and Yamanote loop requires a larger housing budget, but cheaper rentals can be found in older buildings. My brother lives in Suginami-ku on the Chuo line with quick access to Shinjuku. His tiny apartment in a 35-year-old two-story wood and stucco building is ¥100,000 ($1,000) per month for 355 square feet. The Tokyo Korean School is near Shinjuku’s transportation hub, where you can shop at numerous department stores and two Kinokuniya bookstores carrying English- and other foreign-language books and magazines.

Arakawa-, Kita-, Itabashi-, and Nerima-ku

The houses are three stories tall, with one room on each floor, and barely wider than the minivan parked on the ground floor.If you’re looking for more affordable housing, check out the eastern, northern, and northwestern areas of Tokyo. Cheap apartments are usually older and smaller, but if you’re close to a river with jogging and cycling paths, or neighborhood parks with cherry trees, you might not mind the limited space. In exchange, you have the convenience of walking to all the essential shops, and with no skyscrapers, you get a better view of the sky. Aoba International School in located in Nerima city.

I lived in Itabashi city in northern Tokyo for three years and I was puzzled when people said, “Itabashi-ku is rural Tokyo.” The 13-story manshon sprouting along truck-choked National Route 17 didn’t strike me as country living. After looking at apartments with an agent I found a two-room unit on a quiet side street a five-minute walk from the subway. Central Tokyo was less than 30 minutes away on the Mita line. Two six-mat (9-by-12-foot) rooms with a small kitchen, bath, and storage were ¥83,000/$830 a month. There were also move-in fees. You can rent a 2LDK from ¥115,000/$1,150 and up, including a compact three-story house with space for one car for ¥200,000/$2,000 a month. After paying a deposit equivalent to one month and a ¥400,000/$4,000 landlord’s fee you can enjoy 75 square meters (807 square feet) of living space.

If you want to buy a property in Itabashi, a 1LDK manshon in Shimura 3-chome starts at around ¥21 million/$210,000 with 35 square meters (377 square feet). Fifteen minutes on foot from Ikebukuro, a 51-square-meter (550-square-foot) 3LDK lists for ¥46.6 million/$460,500. It’s close to the Yamanote loop line with a 24-hour supermarket nearby. Single-family homes are increasingly scarce, as most of them have been torn down and replaced with up to four skinny houses on a postage-stamp-size plot. The houses are three stories tall, with one room on each floor, and barely wider than the minivan parked on the ground floor. If you stretch, you can touch your neighbor’s wall.

Student Housing Near Universities

If you’re planning to study at one of Tokyo’s many universities, you may be interested to know how Japanese university students can afford to rent a place. Waseda University manages several apartment buildings for students with one-room units (7-8 tatami mat size) starting at ¥62,000 ($620) a month plus ¥12,000/$120 monthly maintenance fee. Moving in requires a deposit of ¥100,000 ($1,000) and key money of ¥160,000 ($1,600)—rather high. There are still a few older, very small apartments and boardinghouses near universities with one room, a toilet, and no bath, for around ¥50,000 ($500) a month. The shared kitchen is down the hall. Where do you take a bath, you ask? At the sento, or public bath, down the street. To find it, look for someone carrying a basin and towel in the evening, and follow him or her (men and women bathe separately). You can bathe for ¥400 ($4) or so, and even do your laundry at the same time in the coin laundry adjacent to the bath.

You can find such minimalist rooms in rental magazines such as Chintai or Isize (published in Japanese) at bookstores and train station kiosks. Another option is to stroll around different neighborhoods looking at vacancies posted on realtors’ office windows. Recently “share houses” have sprung up, where you rent a room in a house or building and share the kitchen, living spaces, and bathrooms with other renters. To search for this type of housing, try Iemoto Share House, Social Apartments, and The Japan Times.

Saitama- and Chiba-ken

If you want to buy a single-family home with room for a vegetable garden, you may want to choose one in Saitama-ken (north) or Chiba-ken (east).Another option for cheaper housing is to do what so many Tokyo commuters do—live in Saitama-ken (Saitama prefecture) north of Tokyo, Chiba-ken to the east, or Kanagawa-ken (near Yokohama) in the south. You will have to endure a longer commute to work or school in Tokyo, or get a job locally. In Funabashi city, just 40 minutes from Tokyo station on the Tozai subway line, a 1K apartment with 21 square meters (226 square feet) of floor space is a bargain at ¥33,000 ($330) per month with ¥3,000 ($30) monthly maintenance fee. It’s a six-minute walk from the station with no deposit and no key money required to move in. Add a yearly insurance fee of ¥18,000 ($180). A 2DK unit in a 20-year-old reinforced concrete manshon is available for ¥82,000/$820 a month. The security deposit (equal to two months’ rent) is refundable with no landlord’s fee. One benefit of living outside Tokyo is that you are closer to the sea and mountains—or at least you can get there faster than the 13 million people living in the Tokyo metro area.

If you want to buy a single-family home with room for a vegetable garden, you may want to choose one in Saitama-ken (north) or Chiba-ken (east). If your work or school is in central Tokyo, you’ll have to resign yourself to a one- to two-hour commute each way. This is a choice that many Japanese families have made. My friends have a house near Chiba city, not too far from Narita airport. The father rises at 4:30am, eats breakfast, and leaves the house at 5:15am After a brisk walk to the train station, he takes the 5:35 to Tokyo. An hour and 15 minutes later, he transfers to another train and then walks to his office, arriving at 7am. The process is repeated in the evening. It’s no wonder that many children with salaryman (white-collar) dads hardly see them except on Sundays. Dream of building your own house? Contact Asentia Home for expert assistance in English from start to finish.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Living Abroad Japan.

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Working in Japan for Expats https://moon.com/2017/08/working-in-japan-for-expats/ https://moon.com/2017/08/working-in-japan-for-expats/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 13:41:23 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=6741 A look at recent changes in Japanese work culture, the traditions that persist, and what it's like working in Japan as a foreigner.

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Blurred by motion, a group of businessmen in suits move through an underground walkway.

Businessmen head to work in Tokyo. Photo © Banalities, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The employment situation in Japan has changed markedly from the post-World War II era of rapid economic expansion. With continued deflation and sluggish economic growth, what were once considered the hallmarks of large companies in Japan—guaranteed lifetime employment and advancement by seniority—have virtually disappeared. Today a third of workers are employed under “temporary” status, or haken, without a long-term contract. Graduates from top universities have difficulty landing jobs with prestigious firms, many of which have reduced campus recruiting. Female graduates have difficulty accessing corporate jobs, based on the assumption that they will get married within a couple of years and “retire.” The government is trying to encourage a more active role for women in the workforce to boost economic growth, but a lack of openings in childcare facilities prevents many women with children from going back to work full-time.

Among youth, the goal of pursuing a lifelong career with the same company has changed.Recent census data show that of Japan’s population of 127 million almost 27 percent is over the age of 65. By 2030, one in three people will be 65 or older. Among youth, the goal of pursuing a lifelong career with the same company has changed. Some choose to become freeters (part-time workers) pursuing their own interests instead of a career—a life far removed from that of the overworked salarymen (whitecollar workers) in neckties and suits on crowded commuter trains. Compared to their peers from the past who went straight from university to a company job, the earning power of young people has diminished. Some pursue nontraditional paths, going overseas to work, travel, or earn an advanced degree.

Where do foreign residents fit into the employment picture? In the 1990s, up to 230,000 Brazilians of Japanese origin (whose grandparents had immigrated to Brazil in search of a new life) came to Japan to work. Along with immigrants from the Middle East and Asia, they worked in the manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and fishing industries—jobs that many young Japanese don’t want. Today, with a low birthrate and shrinking population, there is a severe labor shortage in many sectors. To meet the shortage of caregivers in nursing homes and home care, young women from Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries are recruited and trained in basic Japanese so they can take care of Japanese elders. Most foreign workers have temporary visas of five years or less, as the government is reluctant to grant permanent residence or citizenship to foreigners. Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and other countries are rarely granted asylum (less than 1 percent) and are kept in limbo, banned from working legally or attending school.

Most foreign workers have temporary visas of five years or less, as the government is reluctant to grant permanent residence or citizenship to foreigners.The employment picture is quite different for those from English-speaking countries. Many come to Japan thinking they can easily earn a living teaching English in schools or language institutes, or as a private instructor, after obtaining a work visa. Yes, teaching is an option—provided you come with solid training, an appropriate degree, and, preferably, an introduction. Others come with a background in IT to work in business, or bring entrepreneurial skills and start their own companies. With Tokyo preparing to host the 2020 Olympics, there is a demand for interpreters and guides in many foreign languages. While job hunting, keep in mind that connections (abbreviated as ko-neh in Japanese) are extremely important. Getting an introduction from someone in a position of authority carries weight.

Exchanging Meishi (Business Cards)

If someone offers you their business card, receive it with both hands with a slight bow, look at it, and say their name before putting it away. When you offer someone your card, turn it so it faces the receiver. Japanese take meishi seriously, because it reveals information about your affiliation and rank, which are cues to the appropriate level of speech. Having someone’s card is a sign that a relationship has been established. It’s also used as a personal reference—showing someone’s card is proof that they know you and recommend you, so you don’t want to give yours out to everyone on the street.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Living Abroad Japan.

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Cultural Values of Japan https://moon.com/2017/08/cultural-values-of-japan/ https://moon.com/2017/08/cultural-values-of-japan/#comments Thu, 17 Aug 2017 16:18:41 +0000 http://publishing.wpengine.com/?p=1935 Learn about the core values of Japanese culture-thinking of others, doing your best, not giving up, respecting your elders, knowing your role, and working in a group-and how to engage them in your daily social interactions when abroad.

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Two young men dressed in urban fashion cross at the famous busy Shibuya intersection.

Two young men at the iconic Shibuya Crossing. Photo © Yoshikazu Takada, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Japanese values are thoroughly rooted in all aspects of life, and will always impact family, work, and social interactions. Family ties are strong in Japan and bind not only the living extended family but also generations of ancestors. You may notice that Japanese are not physically demonstrative in public and you won’t see any kissing and hugging on the streets. You do see friends and parents and children holding hands. One of the ways families express warmth and affection is to snuggle around the kotatsu (heated table covered with a comforter) in the winter, eating mikan (mandarin oranges) and watching TV. Another way is to scrub each other’s backs in the family bath. Parents and children sleep together on the family futon, often until the children are age 10 or so.

If you get lost in the city, there is no need to panic; people are genuinely helpful. Don’t be surprised if they even lead you to your final destination.You will find that most people are very honest. If you forget something on the subway, you will most likely find it at the lost-and-found office. Once I left a silver tray, which was a gift for someone, on the train. I called the railway station and recovered it the same day. Another time I forgot my camera and got it back again. I feel safe riding the subway at midnight. If you get lost in the city, there is no need to panic; people are genuinely helpful. Don’t be surprised if they even lead you to your final destination. And there’s always a kouban, or police box, nearby with detailed maps to help you find your way.

Shared Cultural Values of Japan

Every culture transmits values to its youth, first in the context of family, and then through the educational process. In Japan, some of the core values are thinking of others, doing your best, not giving up, respecting your elders, knowing your role, and working in a group. These concepts are taught explicitly and implicitly from nursery school into the working world. From a very young age, Japanese children are taught omoiyari (to notice and think of others). Students must pass difficult entrance examinations to move to the next level of education, and in the process, they learn that ganbaru (effort) and gaman (enduring) are more crucial in reaching their goals than innate ability.

In every social situation, identity and status are largely determined by age, gender, sibling rank, and your year of entry to the group—which are also cues for the appropriate thing to say (or not) to each other. Having clear social roles provides a sense of security and comfort, but it can also feel binding. For those coming from a Western culture with a strong sense of independence, work situations where interactions are based on age or seniority, rather than talent or ability, may feel confining and frustrating. Greater awareness of cultural differences and values is helpful in understanding such situations.

Japanese values are reflected in the phrases used in daily interactions, which smooth relationships and acknowledge the presence of others. Wherever you go in Japan, everyone knows the precise words to say before and after meals, when you leave home, when you arrive at school or work, when you part with someone and meet them again. When you enter a store, restaurant, bank, or post office, the entire staff welcomes you with “Irasshai-mase” and showers you with “Arigatoo gozaimasu” when you leave. Soon you absorb the rhythm of these expressions so thoroughly that you miss them when you leave Japan.

The most versatile phrase to learn before you go to Japan is “Onegai shimasu,” which means, roughly, “I wish for” or “I sincerely request.” It’s the perfect thing to say when you introduce yourself, when you buy something, when you ask a favor, when you order in a restaurant, and when you ask someone to dance.

Island Mentality

Being surrounded by a vast sea, Japanese children are naturally curious about what’s on the other side and express it in a song called Umi: “The ocean is so wide and big, I wish I could go see other countries.”Before going to Japan, you may expect that everyone will look the same, dress the same, live the same, and talk the same. To a certain extent, this is true. Japanese people may appear to be more or less uniform in dress or behavior. This reflects an underlying value of not calling attention to oneself in public, especially among the older generation. However, Japan is neither monocultural nor monolingual. In addition to Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan, a flow of people and ideas has entered the country from China, Korea, Portugal, Spain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, England, North America, Brazil, and elsewhere for at least 2,000 years. Buddhism and Christianity, the writing system, medicine, models of government, business, and education, as well as sports and cuisine have derived—in part—from the outside and become a part of Japanese culture. In turn, Japan has exerted an influence on many other cultures.

The fact that Japan is an island nation with no land bridge to other countries seems to have an effect on the Japanese psyche and identity. When I lived in Japan, people would say almost apologetically, “We’re just a small island nation.” Overlooked is the fact that plenty of other smaller island nations, like England, New Zealand, and Madagascar, don’t apologize for their size. On the flip side, a long history of being isolated and battered by typhoons and earthquakes has fostered a sense of shima-guni konjo, or the island fighting spirit.

Being surrounded by a vast sea, Japanese children are naturally curious about what’s on the other side and express it in a song called Umi: “The ocean is so wide and big, I wish I could go see other countries.” Maybe it’s this longing to see what’s on the other side that fuels the stream of millions of travelers who take to the air at New Year’s, Golden Week (Apr. 29-May 5), and Obon (typically mid-Aug.), landing in Hong Kong, Hawaii, New York, and Paris. Needless to say, these holiday periods are good times not to plan your trip to Japan!


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Living Abroad Japan.

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