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Sorry if this should be in off topic, not sure...

 

I am thinking about moving to Japan permanently. My Japanese is not great, but in time I'd want to aim for citizenship.

 

Has anyone here done this? It's obviously quite a big step, lots to sort out like finding somewhere to live and moving stuff over. Wife to bring too. Very different work culture. I've visited enough times to know I'd like to be there more than here in the UK.

 

There are a few jobs going in my sector (embedded/product engineering), or maybe I'd look at switching to something else. My friend runs a hotel, and a few years ago asked if I would like to join him. At the time I declined, but maybe now... Hotels have been hit hard by COVID though, so who knows what the future holds.

 

It's hard to even know what a reasonable salary to ask for is. In the Tokyo area I think maybe 10 million yen for a senior engineer? If they are getting someone from outside the country they must really need the skills.

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railsquid
1 hour ago, mojo said:

I am thinking about moving to Japan permanently. My Japanese is not great, but in time I'd want to aim for citizenship.

 

Acquiring citizenship, while not impossible, is not like in classic emigration destinations such as Australia, the US etc, moreover as Japan doesn't allow dual citizenship it's a one-way thing.

 

1 hour ago, mojo said:

Has anyone here done this? It's obviously quite a big step, lots to sort out like finding somewhere to live and moving stuff over.

 

Certainly non-trivial, especially if you don't speak Japanese and are not familiar with living here. Job and visa are critical to the whole process.

 

1 hour ago, mojo said:

Wife to bring too.

 

 

What does she think about it?

 

1 hour ago, mojo said:

Very different work culture. I've visited enough times to know I'd like to be there more than here in the UK.

 

Have you sampled the work culture? Also living here is very different to travelling. Just saying, like.

 

1 hour ago, mojo said:

There are a few jobs going in my sector (embedded/product engineering), or maybe I'd look at switching to something else. My friend runs a hotel, and a few years ago asked if I would like to join him. At the time I declined, but maybe now... Hotels have been hit hard by COVID though, so who knows what the future holds.

 

 

Not sure what your wife's nationality is, but unless she happens to be Japanese, your options will be more limited and dependent on factors such as qualifications, experience in the sector etc.. I'm not familiar with the specific sector you mention; are employers actively seeking to hire people from outside Japan? What's the industry structure like (e.g. lots of foreign companies, startups etc., or are we looking at the kind of more traditional entity who thinks 8am on a Monday morning is an excellent time for the assembled workforce to listen to the words of wisdom of the boss-sama)?.

 

1 hour ago, mojo said:

It's hard to even know what a reasonable salary to ask for is. In the Tokyo area I think maybe 10 million yen for a senior engineer? If they are getting someone from outside the country they must really need the skills.

 

10 million is quite a decent salary, IIRC about twice the average, or 4 times the baseline salary of an English teacher. Won't really be enough for a swanky expat lifestyle with a huge apartment, international school for the kids, membership in the American Club etc. though ;).

 

 

 

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Tony Galiani

I often wish I had relocated to one a few countries - my travel experiences and knowledge of living outside of my home country developed late in life.  Still might relocate to Canada (as my wife wants to return to her home town) though not sure that counts as a foreign country .... (ducking for cover) if you are from the US.

 

Anyway, my question would be have you tried living in another country?  I know we all react to things differently so some places might suit and others might not.  I spent time working in South America and, despite wanting to like it, could not wait to get home by the end of my stint.

 

There are plenty of people who do successfully move to Japan - if watching the NHK On Demand programs is any indication.

 

There are tons of youtube videos about this - both the upside and the downside.  Paolo from Tokyo moved to the Japan from the US and seems to have made a success of it.  I would suggest taking a look at his videos as you will see lots of pros and cons.

When I used to oversee major projects, I would often spend a lot of time looking for the potential pitfalls so I would know what I needed to do to make it succeed.  With that in mind, here is one of his videos which outline some of the challenges.

I am not posting the video to discourage you - just to make you aware of potential issues.  To me that is an important step in any decision process.

 

Ciao,

Tony Galiani

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I think one of the best things you can do is talk with some foreigners that have lived in japan for longer periods. The usual 2-3 year English teaching stints tend to just be starting long term and a bit of a bubble compared to other jobs from what I’ve gathered from friends that have done either a shorter teaching gig vs being there a decade in a longer term profession. As squid noted work culture can be very different and more of an unknown for you until you experience it.

 

jeff

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Need a sponsor for a work visa. Sign contract and get COE etc.

 

Or if under the ages of 30. You can get a working holiday visa for 12 months. You get to travel and holiday. You need some form of job lined up first and agreed upon. Less permanent option if you wanna go for a trial. EG try working at friends hotel etc.

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railsquid
7 hours ago, cteno4 said:

 As squid noted work culture can be very different and more of an unknown for you until you experience it.

 

Japan is a great place to live as long as you can minimize your exposure to the "traditional" work culture.

 

Having said that, this whole Covid-19 thing has forced some unexpected change, such as a wider acceptance of remote working, abandonment of the hanko tradition etc., No doubt there'll be some bounce-back of the old ways, but that and other factors such as demographics are forcing it away from the "armies of white-shirted salarymen packing the trains to commute to their job-for-life smoke-filled office featuring a rigid aged-based hierarchy and Creap at the coffee machine hot water pot" model.

 

Full disclosure: I turned up in Japan at the height of the 2008 financial crisis to see if I could find work and through a freaky coincidence walked into a job about a week later. Though it did help that I a) had N1 Japanese, b) previous experience of living in Japan, c) previous experience of living in a foreign country (actually I left the UK on a ferry in 1991 on a "gap year" and omitted to ever return apart from visits).

Edited by railsquid
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17 hours ago, railsquid said:

 

Acquiring citizenship, while not impossible, is not like in classic emigration destinations such as Australia, the US etc, moreover as Japan doesn't allow dual citizenship it's a one-way thing.

 

Certainly non-trivial, especially if you don't speak Japanese and are not familiar with living here. Job and visa are critical to the whole process.

 

What does she think about it?

 

Not sure what your wife's nationality is, but unless she happens to be Japanese, your options will be more limited and dependent on factors such as qualifications, experience in the sector etc.. I'm not familiar with the specific sector you mention; are employers actively seeking to hire people from outside Japan? What's the industry structure like (e.g. lots of foreign companies, startups etc., or are we looking at the kind of more traditional entity who thinks 8am on a Monday morning is an excellent time for the assembled workforce to listen to the words of wisdom of the boss-sama)?.

 

10 million is quite a decent salary, IIRC about twice the average, or 4 times the baseline salary of an English teacher. Won't really be enough for a swanky expat lifestyle with a huge apartment, international school for the kids, membership in the American Club etc. though ;).

 

The plan would be to move there permanently, no going back. About my wife, I'm having trouble finding information on it but surely there must be a spouse visa arrangement for skilled workers. They can't expect people to not bring their families, surely? From what little experience I do have of the Japanese visa system it seems to be better for families than the British one, which is an absolute nightmare.

 

My wife has lived in Japan before, although she doesn't work now so a work visa is out of the question. The embedded software sector has shortages all over, in every country. It's a rather specialist skill, bridges software development and electronics. You tend to get people who can do one or the other but not both, and embedded software is it's own thing anyway, very different to other types of software. Japan seems to be no exception, I see jobs advertised on Glassdoor and the like for people with English skills.

 

For Japanese embedded engineers I think English is a barrier, most of the popular platforms are Western and most of the documentation is in English. I get the impression that some companies want to bring in foreign staff to help create the right culture for developing good software. The traditional ways with strong hierarchy don't work that well. A lot of them seem to be startups, which is the kind of place I prefer to work anyway.

 

For salary we don't really need a swanky lifestyle, just enough to be comfortable, buy a few luxuries and ideally run a car. In Tokyo that means you need parking too. I'm thinking around 200k/month will go on housing, depending on where the company is located. For the longer term we need to save a bit too, looking towards retirement.

 

So that leaves the hotel management option. A lot less money of course but it might work out quite well. It will be more physical which is good for your health. I have some money to invest in the business and it could turn into a nice way to keep earning into retirement. The plan was to expand with a second hotel. I am good friends with the current owner who asked me to join in a few years back, he is very laid back and employs a lot of foreigners so I don't think there will be any cultural issues at all. Main problem is that I don't know what kind of visa I could get for that, looking at the list I don't think any of them really apply. He needs my skills, particularly English ability since the majority of guests are foreigners.

 

15 hours ago, Tony Galiani said:

Anyway, my question would be have you tried living in another country?  I know we all react to things differently so some places might suit and others might not.  I spent time working in South America and, despite wanting to like it, could not wait to get home by the end of my stint.

 

I lived in Ireland for a while. At first it was a bit of a shock, it's very expensive. But after a while you get to learn how to save money and start to explore, and it's really nice. The people are wonderful too. I should have moved to Japan back them but I was worried I couldn't make it work, so ended up in Ireland instead. Obviously Ireland has the advantage of no language barrier, at least after a week or two when my ears adjusted to the accent!

 

I have spent enough time in Japan to know that I would like to live there. The question is what the work situation will be.

 

12 hours ago, katoftw said:

Or if under the ages of 30. You can get a working holiday visa for 12 months. You get to travel and holiday. You need some form of job lined up first and agreed upon. Less permanent option if you wanna go for a trial. EG try working at friends hotel etc.

 

Unfortunately I'm too old for that now! Otherwise it would be a great option.

 

9 hours ago, railsquid said:

Japan is a great place to live as long as you can minimize your exposure to the "traditional" work culture.

 

Having said that, this whole Covid-19 thing has forced some unexpected change, such as a wider acceptance of remote working, abandonment of the hanko tradition etc., No doubt there'll be some bounce-back of the old ways, but that and other factors such as demographics are forcing it away from the "armies of white-shirted salarymen packing the trains to commute to their job-for-life smoke-filled office featuring a rigid aged-based hierarchy and Creap at the coffee machine hot water pot" model.

 

Full disclosure: I turned up in Japan at the height of the 2008 financial crisis to see if I could find work and through a freaky coincidence walked into a job about a week later. Though it did help that I a) had N1 Japanese, b) previous experience of living in Japan, c) previous experience of living in a foreign country (actually I left the UK on a ferry in 1991 on a "gap year" and omitted to ever return apart from visits).

 

I really wish my Japanese was better. I'm sure it will improve a lot when I am living there. It does even when I just visit for weeks at a time. My understanding is that for citizenship you need the reading level of a 7 year old, which I think I can manage. I can read hiragana and katakana, but few kanji.

 

I think the culture is changing, at least at startups. As well as COVID there is recognition that Japanese software lags behind a bit and it's in large part due to not adopting better development culture.

 

Thanks so much for your comments everyone!

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disturbman

Regarding moving to a different country. I'll add my own perspective. I emigrated about 14 years ago, and despite my knowledge of the local language and the relative cultural similarities – I moved from France to Germany – there are still things that I have not adapted to, and will probably never adapt to. Subtle cultural differences, mind sets or expectations I will never be able to fully integrate – Berliners are so unbelievably passive-agressive.

 

The most difficult part about emigrating was how to deal with the administrative system. I came to understand that I had a "natural" knowledge of how to navigate the French bureaucracy and administrative culture. This is something you lose when you emigrate to another country. Dealing with a foreign administration often requires research, help from natives, and a good handle of the local language.

I am and will forever be a foreigner – my partner is not German and my work is conducted in English and French– and somehow at risk, at least in a more fragile position/status than a German. I'll not stay here my whole life. I would rather move to a country where I can have a larger support network of friends and/or family.

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23 hours ago, disturbman said:

The most difficult part about emigrating was how to deal with the administrative system. I came to understand that I had a "natural" knowledge of how to navigate the French bureaucracy and administrative culture. This is something you lose when you emigrate to another country. Dealing with a foreign administration often requires research, help from natives, and a good handle of the local language.

 

That is something that worries me a lot about Japan.

 

I was worried about it with Ireland too, but it turned out to be fine. People were so helpful I could hardly believe it. One time I was getting my car re-registered as Irish and the guy made a mistake, charging me some extra tax. I emailed the tax office to claim it back and a day later someone from there called me, explained exactly what form I needed to fill in, mailed the form too me and gave me his name and phone number so I could send it to him directly. The Garda (police officer) handling visa stuff was incredible nice and helpful too, even offered to re-do my wife's photo when the first one was unflattering.

 

My experience of that kind of thing in Japan is a bit limited. On the one hand I've found most people to be really helpful, e.g. I was mailing something one time and the guy at the post office took the time to help me understand the options and offer some packing tips. One time I left some shopping on the train and the JR staff were very kind in helping me locate it (the lost-and-found office is at Mitaka on one of the platforms). Government bureaucracy can be a lot different though.

 

Again, if I was going to work with my friend on his hotel I'd be a lot less worried because he would help sort all that stuff out.

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Mojo,

 

have you had conversations about these issues with your friend who has the hotel? If he has a lot of foreign workers he probably has a lot of experience with the bureaucracy around work visas and maybe even citizenship or at least exposure to it. Also maybe he could arrange for you to talk to a few of his foreign workers to hear about their experiences on culture, rules and bureaucracy issues. May be a bit different if you go into software position but at least some of the basic stuff may be the same. Do you know anyone in your industry in japan or maybe reach out thru an international association or business for ex pat workers in your industry in japan? 
 

jeff

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2 hours ago, cteno4 said:

have you had conversations about these issues with your friend who has the hotel? If he has a lot of foreign workers he probably has a lot of experience with the bureaucracy around work visas and maybe even citizenship or at least exposure to it. Also maybe he could arrange for you to talk to a few of his foreign workers to hear about their experiences on culture, rules and bureaucracy issues. May be a bit different if you go into software position but at least some of the basic stuff may be the same. Do you know anyone in your industry in japan or maybe reach out thru an international association or business for ex pat workers in your industry in japan? 
 

jeff

 

Hi Jeff.

 

I have spoken to him, but all the ones he employs are on working holiday visas, just temporary staff. Sadly I'm too old for that.

 

I don't know anyone either, I don't think many people have made the move that way. Most of the accounts of doing it that I read are people going to teach English who stayed on and eventually got other jobs.

 

Of course my wife moved there for work, but only as a chef. Her employer helped with most of the bureaucracy, although she knows all about paying tax and stuff like that.

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Let me check, I know two folks that may have some insights. One is a couple from us that were there for 14 years (returned a few years ago due to aging parents) and the other is a friends brother that has been there I think for like 30 years (he started with english teaching, married a Japanese woman and now does translation work for a big company I think, and I don’t think he has gone for citizenship).

 

jeff

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I would contact my country’s embassy in Tokyo. Embassies usually have staff meant to help their citizens with this type of question.

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railsquid
On 2/13/2021 at 7:30 PM, mojo said:

 

The plan would be to move there permanently, no going back. About my wife, I'm having trouble finding information on it but surely there must be a spouse visa arrangement for skilled workers. They can't expect people to not bring their families, surely? From what little experience I do have of the Japanese visa system it seems to be better for families than the British one, which is an absolute nightmare.

 

There is certainly some sort of dependent residency permit, I'm not sure about the details (not an immigration laywer, you might want to think about talking to one of those at some point btw) but certainly doable if one spouse has a job, albeit AFAIK with restrictions for the dependent spouse (e.g. maximum number of hours which can be worked).

 

In general I've found the immigration system quite straightforward to deal with; the process for converting to a spouse visa I went through was:

 - download about 6 pages of form from the internet

 - fill them in, attach a testimony from the wife + some basic documentary evidence (couple of photos)

 - trundle along to the immigration office with all the required documentation (and pretty much every other item of documentation you have, from general experience with bureaucracy they have a tendency to suddenly ask for something unexpected like attendance record from the second year of primary school or somthing, and it's always such a delight to seee the crestfallen look on their faces when I dig it out), take number, wait an hour or 3 to be called

 - immigration officer looks at the proffered papers with pursed lips, checks things off in the "for official use only" sections, hands me a sheet listing the other things I need to submit and an envelope to put them in and sends me away with the advice to send in the missing documents ASAP so it doesn't delay the process (at this point no money has been handed over)

 - I send in the missing documents ASAP (had to pay the postage myself, the skinflints)

 - time passes

 - a few weeks later a postcard arrives (oh, you have to fill in the address yourself, be sure to get it right) inviting you back to "hear the results of your application", and also telling you to bring along 4,000 yen in revenue stamps, which is a dead giveaway they're not going to bundle you on the next plane back to gaikoku.

 

I should however point out that the residency permit for spouses of Japanese nationals is about the easiest route there is. However as long as you have the right angle of attack and the right paperwork (and no black marks on your record, particularly in Japan) it's generally pretty straightforward. My only complaint is that they do like to put the immigration offices in slightly out-of-the way locations; the main one is next to a garbage incineration plant (albeit a very modern one), the one I use in west Tokyo is down a potholed road around the back of an MOT testing centre.

 

In your case, the "find job in sector you have qualifications/skills/experience" in seems the most plausible route, and get the company to sponsor you. Note this assumes you have a university degree of some sort; without one AFAIK it gets trickier with needing to prove relevant experience. There is also some sort of points-based system which was introduced fairly recently, though it puts a lot of emphasis on academic qualifications and Japanese ability: http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_3/en/index.html

 

I have no idea what angle of approach would work for the hotel thing, unless you happen to have qualifications and experience in the sector; either the employer would have to come up with some plausible cover story about why you would be a good fit; or you have a lot of spare cash around you could try for some sort of investor visa, either way an immigration lawyer would be better qualified to advise there than random strangers off the internet.

 

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railsquid
2 hours ago, Madsing said:

I would contact my country’s embassy in Tokyo. Embassies usually have staff meant to help their citizens with this type of question.

 

I would bet actual money that contacting the UK embassy with those kinds of questions would merely result in a generic response telling you to go and look at some links which were last valid when the Heisei Emperor was on the throne.

Edited by railsquid
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12 hours ago, cteno4 said:

Let me check, I know two folks that may have some insights. One is a couple from us that were there for 14 years (returned a few years ago due to aging parents) and the other is a friends brother that has been there I think for like 30 years (he started with english teaching, married a Japanese woman and now does translation work for a big company I think, and I don’t think he has gone for citizenship).

 

Thanks, that is really appreciated! Being able to talk to someone who has done it would definitely help.

 

12 hours ago, Madsing said:

I would contact my country’s embassy in Tokyo. Embassies usually have staff meant to help their citizens with this type of question.

 

That's a good idea, but sadly I think railsquid is probably right... I visited on in China once to get documentation needed for marriage, and was not impressed. I'll try anyway though.

 

10 hours ago, railsquid said:

I should however point out that the residency permit for spouses of Japanese nationals is about the easiest route there is. However as long as you have the right angle of attack and the right paperwork (and no black marks on your record, particularly in Japan) it's generally pretty straightforward. My only complaint is that they do like to put the immigration offices in slightly out-of-the way locations; the main one is next to a garbage incineration plant (albeit a very modern one), the one I use in west Tokyo is down a potholed road around the back of an MOT testing centre.

 

In your case, the "find job in sector you have qualifications/skills/experience" in seems the most plausible route, and get the company to sponsor you. Note this assumes you have a university degree of some sort; without one AFAIK it gets trickier with needing to prove relevant experience. There is also some sort of points-based system which was introduced fairly recently, though it puts a lot of emphasis on academic qualifications and Japanese ability: http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_3/en/index.html

 

I have no idea what angle of approach would work for the hotel thing, unless you happen to have qualifications and experience in the sector; either the employer would have to come up with some plausible cover story about why you would be a good fit; or you have a lot of spare cash around you could try for some sort of investor visa, either way an immigration lawyer would be better qualified to advise there than random strangers off the internet.

 

Indeed, I was pleasantly surprised how easy it is to get a spouse visa. I know someone who married a Korean woman, the visa was pretty much automatic. Contrast to the UK were spouse visas are basically impossible to get unless you have a lot of money and time to invest, and even then...

 

I do have a degree so that's no issue. Japanese level... Well I have a school level qualification (grade A!) and did study a bit beyond that, but didn't take any more exams. So level N4 for sure, maybe N3 with a bit of work. I'd need to check but British qualifications are probably recognized in Japan. In any case for the jobs I have been looking at Japanese ability is not even listed as a requirement.

 

The hotel side... Well I do have some money I could invest, I guess it depends how much we are talking. He does actually have a good reason for wanting me specifically. These days most of the booking is done online, as is most of the promotion. His limited English skills and technical know-how are holding the hotel back. He paid to have a website made which I translated to English for him, but if I had the time I could have made the whole thing for him, and run social media accounts and the like. He also had an idea for a second hotel which my skills would have been essential for, but I can't go into detail publicly because it's his idea.

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