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Moving to Japan, but where?

cocoichi

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Hi guys, hisashiburi!

I have spent some time on this forum somewhere in 2017 or 2018 I believe, but then stopped coming here as our plans to move to Japan were put on hold.

As a student and afterwards, I have spent a total of 2 years in Japan, with longer periods in Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa. This isn't very important, it's just to show you that I know my way around in Japan, should that help you answer my question. At that time I also met my wife, and I always figured I would stay in Japan and build a life there. Somehow that never happened, probably because I got a job soon after graduating, and it is often just easier to stay where you are than leave everything behind for an adventure. My wife has lived here for seven years, we got two kids, bought a house, and we both have decent jobs. So since everything is going well, I kind of stopped thinking about moving to Japan completely seeing to real reason for it. However, I recently noticed - maybe because of Covid19 - that my wife is feeling more and more homesick, and she told me that she does want to move back to Japan, letting the children also experience her country and culture more intensively. To me that is only fair since she is an equal partner in this relationship.

My main problem though, is that I obviously became a different person from my carefree student days. I cannot imagine myself living with kids in a densely populated area such as Tokyo or Osaka. Hardcore countryside would not be for me either, but I guess something in between would be nice: a bigger city (not necessarily Tokyo, even something as Okayama would do) at comfortable commuting distance, but far away enough to feel you are in a proper residential area with some peace and quiet, near either the ocean, mountains, forests or other forms of nature.

I know this is still rather vague, and one of your questions will probably be "but how about employment?". Well, I think we will be fairly flexible in that area. My wife is Japanese, has more than 10 years experience in office management/ administration, speaks fluent English, and has been working "abroad" 7 years. So I imagine Japanese companies would be interested in her in any prefecture. As for myself, we expect by selling the house we will have enough savings to me not working for 6 months to 1 year, and letting me study fulltime Japanese at a Japanese language school, while I aim to be at JLPT level 3 before we even move. After that period of study I should be at least JLPT level 2, but hopefully level 1, with some decent fluency in speaking and listening.

I know, it is vague, but what it all comes down to: by personal experience - or hearing from friends - which locations would match my preferences in your opinion?
 

Majestic

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Where is your wife from? If she's from the Kantō area, I would say its best if you are situated somewhere around Tokyo.
If she is from the Kansai area, she might be more comfortable there. Its a bit out of my area of expertise, however property prices should be cheaper in the Kansai, so your money might go a bit farther there. However, since the dialect and the vibe is different in the Kansai, your wife might find it difficult to adjust if she is not originally from there. You, as a foreigner, are immune to these regional difference since every place will be new to you, and every neighborhood will treat you the same: as a foreigner. For your wife though, the regional difference can produce real stress. So, the world may be your oyster, but for your wife, some oysters may not sit very well with her.

Anyway, for me I would want
1. Proximity to an international airport. Preferably less than two hours away. One hour or less would be fabulous.
2. Proximity to an international grocery store. Not that I need western groceries, but its nice to have a selection of wines and other things once in a while.
3. Ability to be anonymous. If you are the only foreigner around, you will constantly stand out. At the conbini, at the doctor, at the post office, at your kid's school. It was OK for a while when I was in my 20s, but it quickly became old. Now, in Tokyo, I really like being one of many tens of thousands of foreigners.
4. Two bathrooms. For a happy marriage, you ought to have two bathrooms in the house. In most Tokyo apartments, the default is one bathroom, no matter the number of bedrooms (excluding apartments made specifically for the wealthy, or expats on big salaries).
5. With kids you'll probably want to consider having a car, which means you should consider getting a place with a parking space. Not all apartments come with parking garages. Most employees in the cities do not commute by car. Companies don't provide parking spaces for employees, and many companies have rules against commuting by car (due to various insurance restrictions).
6. Conversely, if you abandon the idea of getting a car, you will want to be someplace with excellent train/subway access.

If you are game to buy a house in a suburb of Tokyo and try your hand at renovating it, I highly, highly recommend watching Jaya Thursfield's youtube channel, "Tokyo Llama", wherein he buys a substantial Japanese farmhouse and renovates it to suit him and his wife and his two kids.
 

Davey

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Welcome back @cocoichi !

I agree with majestic with most points.

I have been living in Kobe for over 10 years and although it's a city it's really easy to go to the country side, beach other cities etc. As there is a foreign community here, which isn't too large it's easy to not stand out as well. The area also has a Dutch community that has various events all year round if you feel like it.

Anyway welkom terug!
 

Uncle Frank

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When I was thinking about living in Japan , I wondered about life in Sasebo on Kyushu. With the big American Navy base there , I thought maybe it would be a good place for an American to settle. I was only there for a few days in 1971 , so no clue what is like now.
 

cocoichi

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Thanks for your comments, guys. @Davey Goed om je weer eens te spreken :)

You make good points. An international airport is definitely something I should consider, making travel to family ad friends, or even potential business trips, a lot easier. I am not too worried about groceries, and there's always a kaldi or similar to be found in the larger shopping malls. I get what you are saying about being the foreigner around, although that does not bother me either. My wife comes from Osaka area, but even there it only takes a few stops past Yodoyabashi northbound to be the only gaijin in town. Being anonymous is not a concern to me, but thanks for sharing your thoughts in that regard anyway. I did start checking Tokyo LLama's channel a few days ago! Very interesting to see indeed, but I would have to invest more time to see if an akiya is really an option for us, given the regulation involved and the amount of work to be done. But yes, that type of house would be nice to live in.

@Davey I am considering Kobe area. In Kansai Kyoto and Kobe are my favourite cities, but for the reasons you mention Kobe ranks a little higher on my list. Although, living in Kyoto are would certainly be an option.

@Uncle Frank never been there. Nagasaki, Kumamoto and Fukuoka yes, but I don't know anything about Sasebo. I'll have a look anyway :)
 

Davey

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I really don't like Kyoto to be honest as it's too crowded and packed with tourists. An alternative to Kyoto would be takatsuki as it's a city but not too big between Osaka and Kyoto. My sister in law and some of my friends live there.
 

mdchachi

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I don't know why we're having this conversation. Realistically the choices will be narrowed down by where your wife wants to live. That being said, I vote for Kobe even though I've never been there except on shinkansen.

😄
 

cocoichi

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@mdchachi She said my opinion would be taken into account when moving, so maybe I am just naive? :D Ideally I would like to live in Okinawa, but I know she would never agree to that. @Davey I would not like to live IN Kyoto (although that city is surprisingly easy to travel in by bicycle), but in one of the surrounding towns. Takatsuki could be an option to me, same with Hirakata or something similar. I'll discuss it and see what options I have :)
 

hellohello2

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In terms of jobs requiring international expertise and pays well, only Tokyo have those kind of jobs.
I am not sure what your background is, but if you are expecting to capitalize on international experience and a relatively high paying job, then Tokyo is almost the only choice (pay is around 2x-3x of other regions, because frankly other regions of Japan is very domestic focused and rarely willing to pay for top expertise). If both of you are working, then it should be possible to buy a house for around 60M-100M JPY near Tokyo even near the Yamanote line(this is gonna be 100M), or you can buy a larger house a bit further away from Tokyo, such as on the Chuo line or the Odakyu line.
Your monthly payment is probably gonna be lower buying a 3LDK/4LDK than renting.
 

cocoichi

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In terms of jobs requiring international expertise and pays well, only Tokyo have those kind of jobs.
I am not sure what your background is, but if you are expecting to capitalize on international experience and a relatively high paying job, then Tokyo is almost the only choice (pay is around 2x-3x of other regions, because frankly other regions of Japan is very domestic focused and rarely willing to pay for top expertise). If both of you are working, then it should be possible to buy a house for around 60M-100M JPY near Tokyo even near the Yamanote line(this is gonna be 100M), or you can buy a larger house a bit further away from Tokyo, such as on the Chuo line or the Odakyu line.
Your monthly payment is probably gonna be lower buying a 3LDK/4LDK than renting.

Thanks for your reply hellohello2! May I ask what your source is, or otherwise what you see as a high paying job?

My background is in business and marketing, with about 8 years experience since I have graduated. I am not an expert on the corporate world in Japan, but I do know it will be hard to enter a company at the same level I am currently at (both in responsibilities or salary), so I do not expect it anyway. I am not money driven - if I was, I should stay where I am - and I expect the first year or maybe even two to be very tight just living on savings or whatever my wife earns. I do intend to use my international background and work experience to my advantage though, but more in a sense that I think it could be an asset to Japanese companies looking for foreign markets. I have seen typical "overseas sales" job vacancies on sites like daijob and career cross, so I assume those will be also available by the time I am ready. Not only Tokyo, also around Kansai and further west.

By the way, buying a house for 60-100 million yen would not be for us. Even if I could afford the monthly payments, it would make me feel very uncomfortable and very dependent on whatever job I'll land.
 

Petaris

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You may not be money driven but you should keep in mind that Japan is not a cheap country to live in. Also there will be plenty of expenses related to your kids as they grow up and travel to visit family (yours) needs to be planned for as well. You are married, have kids, a house, and a career so I won't go into details as I would with someone straight out of college but I would say to take stock of all of the current things that you need/use/do on a daily, monthly, yearly basis and evaluate their need and equivalence in Japan. For example, and I know nothing about the Netherlands so this is just a general point, say you come from a country that has social health care like Canada or England, in Japan you will need to pay for health care. Its things like these that can be easy to forget about and need to be accounted for when determining what your income requirements are. Also, living cheap is an option but is more difficult with a spouse, and much more difficult with kids (are you aware of how much a traditional backpack costs if the school requires it?).

I'm not at all trying to discourage you, I'm pointing these things out just in case you hadn't considered them. The more planning you do and things you account for will help the move be successful. Also, don't forget that you will probably need a sponsor(?) if you and your wife are planning to move at the same time as she will not likely be able to sponsor you.
 

cocoichi

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You may not be money driven but you should keep in mind that Japan is not a cheap country to live in. Also there will be plenty of expenses related to your kids as they grow up and travel to visit family (yours) needs to be planned for as well. You are married, have kids, a house, and a career so I won't go into details as I would with someone straight out of college but I would say to take stock of all of the current things that you need/use/do on a daily, monthly, yearly basis and evaluate their need and equivalence in Japan. For example, and I know nothing about the Netherlands so this is just a general point, say you come from a country that has social health care like Canada or England, in Japan you will need to pay for health care. Its things like these that can be easy to forget about and need to be accounted for when determining what your income requirements are. Also, living cheap is an option but is more difficult with a spouse, and much more difficult with kids (are you aware of how much a traditional backpack costs if the school requires it?).

I'm not at all trying to discourage you, I'm pointing these things out just in case you hadn't considered them. The more planning you do and things you account for will help the move be successful. Also, don't forget that you will probably need a sponsor(?) if you and your wife are planning to move at the same time as she will not likely be able to sponsor you.

It is true that those things should not be overlooked. It is exactly why plans to Japan in the past didn't materialize: we have a good thing going here, so why go through the hassle of shaking those things up. Me not having money as a first priority was mostly meant that I do not want to live in/near Tokyo just because the salary is higher. Sure, the same type of job would pay less in -let's say- Osaka or Hiroshima, but I imagine this is reflected in living cost in those areas?

I pay( in Euro) around 20.000yen per month for health insurance (me+my wife, kids are free of charge until 18 yo), and that does not include dental work, and the first 850 euro per year (around 100.000yen) is at my own expense. So I figure that can hardly be worse in Japan?

Those backpacks? No clue, sounds like a national racketeering scheme to be honest. I imagine somewhere between 300.000 - 1.000.000 yen?

I know you are not discouraging me, all help is appreciated really. When the time comes we feel ready to move, I think my wife will ask her (Japanese multinational) employer if she can be transfered to one of the Japanese offices. If that doesn't work out, she can maybe apply to linkedin ads from here, and if that also doesn't work out, she and the kids will just move already and do the job hunting process from there. She speaks fluent English, has 7 years of international work experience, and like 15 years in total, so I am not too worried about her finding a job fairly quickly.
 

cocoichi

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sorry I've added too many 0s obivously! I meant 30.000 - 100.000 (in the hundreds of Euro/Dollars)
 

Petaris

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They vary in price, but the real leather traditional backpacks were around $300 USD last I looked. Looking at Amazon JP it looks like you can get fake leather for cheaper then that and some much more expensive like this one:

Selection_272.png
 

cocoichi

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They vary in price, but the real leather traditional backpacks were around $300 USD last I looked. Looking at Amazon JP it looks like you can get fake leather for cheaper then that and some much more expensive like this one:

View attachment 32524
She is currently bringing a Paw Patrol backpack to school, so she'll definitely be disappointed :)
 

Petaris

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She is currently bringing a Paw Patrol backpack to school, so she'll definitely be disappointed :)

It just depends on the school. Some have very specific requirements, traditional backpack + school uniform, others are far more relaxed. My niece's school had the uniform requirement but not the backpack requirement.
 

Glenski

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Your wife will find a job anywhere. You should probably think about where you want to raise kids, and that initially means what type of school. Second, does she want to be around her old friends and family? Third, climate. I'd suggest Sapporo in Hokkaido for its size, ease of getting around, closeness to nature, and friendly people (in addition to meeting your other requirements), but you may not want to contend with winter.

Welcome pre-back!
 

cocoichi

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Your wife will find a job anywhere. You should probably think about where you want to raise kids, and that initially means what type of school. Second, does she want to be around her old friends and family? Third, climate. I'd suggest Sapporo in Hokkaido for its size, ease of getting around, closeness to nature, and friendly people (in addition to meeting your other requirements), but you may not want to contend with winter.

Welcome pre-back!

Honestly, Hokkaido would be an option to me, although that winter does seem pretty rough. Even for European standards (except maybe if you're from Scandinavia of the Alps). We had a good time in Hokkaido a couple of years ago, and the nature is beautiful. I have always wanted to visit Rebun and Reshiri, but never got the chance really. Unfortunately, to my wife Hokkaido is not an option. I just checked, basically anything in Tohoku/Hokkaido does not really sit well wit her. I guess she isn't that flexible after all. I think the universal phrase "women.." applies here ;) I am getting the feeling that her being flexible means flexible in a 50 km radius from Osaka.

What do you mean by what type of school though?
 

Glenski

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By type of school, I meant private, public, or international. Hokkaido has only 1 international school.
 

cocoichi

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By type of school, I meant private, public, or international. Hokkaido has only 1 international school.

Is there a difference in quality between private and public elementary/(junior)high school education?

From what I know (visited international schools for work in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and HK), they cost a fortune. I imagine this is no different in Japan? That would not be realistic unless a company would pay a large amount of the fees.
 

musicisgood

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I mentioned Yamaguchi well because I live here it is known to be the cheapest place in Japan to live there are a few schools that are top notch that the students can enter Tokyo University Housing is cheap not real cheap but affordable there are many Industries here that cater to the international business environment is knowing that the wages are not very high but as a foreigner if you get along well with the boss it's been my experience that you can actually make some pretty decent money your kids will fit in the schools there's no real Prejudice toward guy jeans here in Yamaguchi whether you have a child that is a girl or a boy
 

hellohello2

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"I do intend to use my international background and work experience to my advantage "

If you want to use your international background, then basically Tokyo is the only place where such kind of jobs are available. Even with the companies that have HQ in other cities, the departments that deals with anything international will generally have its office in Tokyo.
You may not be money driven, but jobs outside of Tokyo will be very hard to come by as other prefectures simply do not have jobs that require international experience, so you may have very tough time landing a job as well (except for the very low paying jobs such as convenience store part-timer, or English teacher, etc., which are not exactly a good income to raise a family).

If you can land a job using international experience, getting 10,000,000 - 15,000,000 annual salary is very much possible(especially if you can get JLPT N1 level Japanese). I actually tried looking for jobs in other prefectures before, and the salary cut would be around 80%, jobs that require high skills / international experience simply doesn't exist much outside of Tokyo.
You'll also have much less cultural shock working in a position that can leverage your international skills, than a position that is very domestic. I worked in a very domestic Japanese company before, and even though it was less hours (and of course wayyy less pay), the environment was suffocating and bullying can be rampant.
 

cocoichi

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"I do intend to use my international background and work experience to my advantage "

If you want to use your international background, then basically Tokyo is the only place where such kind of jobs are available. Even with the companies that have HQ in other cities, the departments that deals with anything international will generally have its office in Tokyo.
You may not be money driven, but jobs outside of Tokyo will be very hard to come by as other prefectures simply do not have jobs that require international experience, so you may have very tough time landing a job as well (except for the very low paying jobs such as convenience store part-timer, or English teacher, etc., which are not exactly a good income to raise a family).

If you can land a job using international experience, getting 10,000,000 - 15,000,000 annual salary is very much possible(especially if you can get JLPT N1 level Japanese). I actually tried looking for jobs in other prefectures before, and the salary cut would be around 80%, jobs that require high skills / international experience simply doesn't exist much outside of Tokyo.
You'll also have much less cultural shock working in a position that can leverage your international skills, than a position that is very domestic. I worked in a very domestic Japanese company before, and even though it was less hours (and of course wayyy less pay), the environment was suffocating and bullying can be rampant.

Not saying that you are wrong, but I would definitely be interested in hearing about other people's experience in this regard. Always thought that Nagoya, Kansai, Fukuoka, etc had a decent amount of internationalization going on, including decent pay.
 
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