What to Prepare When Moving to Japan As A Student

Moving to Japan to study abroad is an exciting and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse yourself in a unique culture, learn the Japanese language and gain valuable life experiences that will benefit you academically and let you develop as a person. 

However, it is important to be well-prepared and organized in order to make the move to Japan as smooth as possible. From obtaining the necessary student visa and finding a proper place to live to pack the things you need to bring to Japan, there are many things to consider and plan before embarking on this journey.

Preparing for your move to Japan? You’ve come to the right place. In this article, we highlight the key steps and things to keep in mind when preparing to move to Japan as an international student.

If you want to read more guides on coming to Japan as a student, follow our sister blog at Coto School Finder!

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Essential Preparations for Your Study Abroad in Japan

 Image by cytis from Pixabay 

Let us assume that you have already chosen a school and course in Japan, applied, and been accepted for admission. The next step then is to make preparations for your move to Japan starting with the most important and essential preparations. 

Student Visa in Japan

Understanding the visa process and obtaining the necessary documentation is an important step. Depending on the length and nature of your program, you may need to apply for a student visa, which allows you to stay in Japan for the duration of your studies. Part of this process includes applying for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) which grants you permission to enter the country. The Japanese school or university that has granted you admission will apply for the COE on your behalf, so just follow their instructions on what documents and information you need to provide them with. 

After obtaining the COE for you, the school or university (check out our article on how to apply to a university in Japan) will send it to you via international mail. The original physical copy of the COE is required to apply for a student visa so do not lose it.

To apply for the student visa, you will need to provide certain documentation including the COE, a valid passport, proof of financial stability, and more which you can check on the Immigration Services of Agency Japan website. You can apply for a visa by visiting the Japanese embassy in your home country. Start the visa application process immediately upon receiving your COE as it can take several weeks or even months to complete. If you do not already hold a passport, do it well in advance. 

If you have any questions about getting a student visa, don’t worry! Coto School Finder is here to help you with any questions about the student visa application process for Japan, clarify the timeline and make sure all your documents are in order. 

Research What You Need to Do Upon Arriving to Japan

Getting a student visa, packing your bags and entering Japan are not the only things you need to be concerned with when moving to Japan. There are also other residential procedures you need to take care of when arriving in Japan so look them up beforehand. This way you will not be blindsided by the various things you need to do and can plan and schedule a time to do them. 

If you are living in the student dormitory, you will be guided through the residential procedures and sometimes even support on how to open a bank account as part of orientation before school starts. 

Besides that, be sure to visit your local ward and municipality office to register your permanent address, and sign up for the National Health Insurance and Pension Scheme. All of these are necessary.

Booking Flight and Finding Accommodation in Japan

Reserving your flight to Japan is best saved for after you have completed the student visa procedure. Do confirm peak seasons which may make it difficult to get a flight last minute. Aside from that, you also need to find a place to stay in Japan.

Some people choose to stay in a hotel or Airbnb in Japan first before finding permanent lodging, but the decision is yours. Japanese language schools and universities usually provide accommodation facilities or at the very least support in finding accommodation so inquire with them for assistance.  

If you apply to a Japanese language school through Coto School Finder, our team will consult with you about the options available and the schools that offer different accommodation support.

Additionally, if you are not moving into a school dormitory, but into a private rental property, then you will also need to set up utilities yourself. In Japan, tenants are responsible for signing up for utilities, namely water, gas, and electricity.

Study Japanese Before You Move to Japan

Your preparation to move to Japan should start as soon as possible. Although it is not mandatory, we recommend you start studying Japanese as it will help you transition to Japanese society more easily. The Japanese language is known to be one of the hardest to learn, and if you are living outside Japan, your options might be limited.

One way to tackle is this by taking online lessons with a Japanese language teacher or doing self-studies using apps like Anki or Duolingo to get started!

Check out: Share Houses vs Homestays in Japan: Which One Should I Choose?

Packing for Study Abroad, What to Bring When Moving to Japan

One of the most important and difficult parts of preparing to come to Japan is deciding what to bring and what to stay behind. 

Essential Documents When Moving to Japan

Make sure to bring these documents with you as you will need them to enter Japan, stay in Japan for the duration of your stay, and for school admission. 

  • Valid Passport 
  • Visa Documents
  • Certificate of Eligibility 
  • School Admission Letter
  • CV or Resume
  • Academic Transcripts and Certificates 

Finances

Naturally, you will need money when living in Japan. In the case of the Japanese yen, we recommend monitoring the exchange rate to get the most out of your money and the best value. 

In major cities in Japan, payment by credit card has become widespread but in smaller cities not so much. Depending on where you stay, you may need to bring more cash. 

  • Credit Card (if you have one)
  • Cash (Japanese Yen)
  • Sufficient Initial Funds (1~3 weeks worth for buying daily necessities, food, etc. before you open a Japanese bank account and can receive money transfer)

Keep in mind cash is still king in Japan. More and more stores are accepting electronic payments and credit cards, but to be safe, we recommend pulling out some cash before or during your arrival. 

Personal Belongings to Bring to Japan

This is the hardest part of packing, chances are you will find it difficult to leave behind things. The best way to go about this is to ask yourself “Can I get this in Japan?” If the answer is yes, then leave it behind. If the answer is no, then ask yourself “Do I really need it? How often will I use it?” Hopefully, this will help narrow down what you bring. 

  • Power Adaptors (Japan mostly uses 2 prong power plugs so if your country uses something different, definitely bring 1~3 if you are bringing non-Japanese electronic devices)
  • Medication (if any; check the import regulations here)
  • Make-up and Toiletries (minimal amount, enough until you can buy some more)
  • Clothes (minimal amount unless you are a rare size; clothing that suits the season when you are moving) 
  • Shoes (comfortable shoes, expect lots of walking when living in Japan)  
  • Things Cannot or are Hard to Get in Japan (certain cooking spices and food products, right-fitting undergarments for women, large-sized clothes and shoes, strong deodorant, etc.) 
  • Personal Items (minimal amount; photographs or other personals to make the transition easier) 

We recommend using the airport-to-home luggage delivery service to reduce your burden of lugging everything back to your place. It is also cheaper than hiring a taxi to take you and all your luggage. Depending on the language school of your choice, they might offer airport pickup. 

Another important thing is the issue of bringing medications to Japan. Over-the-counter medications are prohibited in Japan since they contain narcotic or stimulant ingredients, so what is standard in other countries (such as Tylenol) is illegal in Japan. If you are caught bringing one, the items will be seized and not sent to you. Depending on the type of medicine, you may face more serious consequences including deportation.

Things That Can Be Easily Found In Japan to Save on Luggage Space

 

There is nothing stopping you from bringing as much as you can from home but it will certainly make the moving process a lot easier if you travel lighter. Not to mention, Japanese apartments are usually small which means limited storage space so you might need to dispose of some things if you have no room for them! Plus, it also means you can go shopping and get Japanese products! 

Also, it is much easier these days to get non-Japanese items in Japan whether in stores, online, or by international delivery. Here are some examples of things that you should consider leaving behind as you can easily get them in Japan.

1. Electronic Devices

Japan has always been famous for its innovative and high-quality electronic devices so just get them in Japan. Buying electronics in Japan also guarantees its use, with no issues with the wrong plug type or different voltage. For your information, Japan uses 2 prong plugs and the standard voltage is 100 V/60 Hz. Beware that if the voltage is not compatible, you may kill your device. 

We recommend bringing a travel adaptor or two if you are bringing devices from your home country so that you can immediately use or charge your devices upon arriving in Japan. 

2. Clothing and Footwear

Pack only the minimal amount of clothing and shoes that fit the seasons in Japan. You can buy everything else in Japan and for cheap too and with high quality at certain brand outlets like Uniqlo. Winter clothing in particular can be very bulky and will take up space better used for other things. 

If you are of a particularly large size clothing and/or footwear, do try to bring as much as you can as it can be difficult to find fitting clothing and shoes in Japan. Not impossible but it might take some time unless you are already familiar with the brands. 

3. Foreign Cuisine

In earlier days, it may have been impossible or extremely difficult to find ingredients for making foreign cuisine. But these days, especially in major cities, foreign cuisine restaurants and even cooking supplies can be found. There are supermarkets and even foreign cooking supply specialty stores like Kaldi’s where you can find all manner of items. In particular, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Western, Italian spices and ingredients are easily sourced. 

Certain rare items may still be difficult to procure so look them up beforehand and bring them if necessary.

Conclusion

We hope that this article is helpful for your preparations for moving to Japan as a student, or ryuugakusei. To make your move to Japan a smooth one, it is important to be well-prepared and organized. Student visa preparations, residential procedures, and packing what you need are the most basic steps. If ever you are in need of assistance or advice, do not be afraid to reach out to your Japanese language school or university’s student support for help. 

After you have moved to Japan, settled your residential procedures and into your new home, all that is left to do is to adjust to student life and the culture shocks. Make the most of your once-in-a-lifetime study abroad in Japan opportunity and experience Japan’s unique culture and sceneries.  

Lastly, did you know that Coto Academy offers a free study abroad service called Coto School Finder? Here, we partner with almost 20 Japanese language schools across the country. Our goal is to match you with the right program that fits your needs and future plans — including going to higher education in Japan. If you are interested in our free study abroad support, contact us today!

What to prepare before moving to Japan?

  1. Student Visa
  2. Finding accommodation and booking flight
  3. Enough money for the first 1~3 weeks (before setting up Japanese bank account to receive money)
  4. Research residential procedures when arriving in Japan and read up on Japanese cultures and customs 
  5. Packing your essentials and belongings

What to bring when moving to Japan?

  1. Essential Documents (passport, visa documents, academic certificates, school admission letter, resume, etc.)
  2. Finances (credit card, Japanese yen, sufficient initial funds, etc.)
  3. Belongings

How difficult is it to move to Japan?

Japan is one of the easiest countries to move to. It is not particularly difficult if you are well-prepared and organized. Not only are there many reading sources available online to educate yourself on what to do and what to expect, there are also many official channels for accurate information. From the airport to your accommodation too, you can easily seek delivery services to safely have your luggage delivered. 

If you find the moving process too difficult to handle yourself, you can always seek out the services of moving companies that specialize in international migration. It will cost you but it may be worth it to have a hassle-free and less stressful transition. 

What to do after arriving in Japan?

There are several residential procedures you need to take care of, including:

  • Resident Card (receive at immigration if arriving at major airports) 
  • Registering Residency (local municipality office with jurisdiction of your address)
  • Health Insurance and Pension (local municipality office)
  • My Number (local municipality office) 

For the most updated information on border measures in Japan, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan website or contact us.


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