Country Facts – Japan
This information is provided to offer guidance to those seeking to live and work overseas. For more information we recommend that you speak with your national government Foreign Office (or equivalent).
Living and working in Japan
An island nation situated in Eastern Asia, Japan is located in the Pacific Ocean and its closest neighbours include South Korea, North Korea, China, Taiwan and Russia.
Known as the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan is actually an archipelago that consists of more than 6,800 separate islands – the largest being Honshu, Hokkaido and Kyushu. And while Japan may be a relatively small country, coming 62nd in terms of land area, it’s the world’s tenth most highly populated nation, with more than 127.5 million people.
Local laws and customs
Crime levels are generally low in Japan and most people who live there feel safe at night time and while riding on public transport.
However, it’s always important to take sensible precautions wherever you are in order to protect yourself, and this is particularly true in busy parts of big cities, such as Roppongi – the entertainment district of Tokyo.
Punishment for crimes can be very strict in Japan, with longer prison sentences than many visitors may be used to. A variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications are also banned, so be sure to check before you travel to ensure you are not caught bringing in an illegal substance. Meanwhile, the punishment for carrying, using or dealing drugs can be severe.
Japan’s healthcare service deals with routine care, prenatal care and infectious diseases. Patients are responsible for covering around 30 per cent of the costs incurred in their treatment, while the government pays the remaining costs.
A universal insurance scheme has been put into place to help cover costs of medical services and the fees are set by the government.
Those who do not have insurance from their employers can also get coverage through a national health insurance system. Meanwhile, all hospitals and clinics must be run on a not-for-profit basis and they are operated by physicians, not corporations.
Whether you’re going to live in Japan or are simply planning on visiting, it’s generally best to find international health insurance before you go to help ensure you are covered for any eventuality.
Schooling for kids
Education is extremely important in Japan, and is compulsory at both the elementary and lower secondary levels, and while the majority of pupils go to public schools for the early part of their education, private schooling is very common for higher levels.
The Japanese school year begins in April and classes are usually held Monday to Friday, and sometimes on Saturdays. Throughout the year, there are a number of short holidays, particularly in spring and winter, and there is also a summer break that lasts about six weeks.
Japan’s culture is an eclectic mix that combines long-held beliefs and the importance of honour with a unique influence from modern western cultures.
In working environments, people are hardworking and always polite. Communication, however, can be difficult for those not used to the culture to understand, as it’s all about subtlety and there is often an underlying truth to every word that is spoken.
Out of the office, however, you’ll find that your colleagues loosen up considerably. Socialising is an extremely important part of Japanese culture, and you’ll probably find yourself eating out on a regular basis.
Be sure to have an open mind when it comes to foods that are different from anything you have eaten before. And remember the etiquette when it comes to using chopsticks: hold them at the end, lay them down in front of you when not in use (never stick them directly into your rice – this is a funeral tradition) and don’t spear your food with them.
The official language of Japan is Japanese, and it is spoken by most of the country’s population. The spoken language features a complex honorific system – a way of speaking that shows respect in regards to social distance, different ranks or social intimacy.
For more information on moving abroad visit www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo.
Of course, if you’re planning on travelling to Japan please ensure you have adequate expat travel insurance.