Make sure you have what you need with you before you depart to Japan for your studies at Language Schools, Colleges or Universities. Here we will try to be as thorough as we can about what you definitely need, what you should probably bring, and some items which you don’t need tp bring as you might be better off buying it in Japan.
Some of these items are counterintuitive and relate uniquely to Japan and Japanese school customs, so read on to make sure you are ready to go!
For daily essential living expenses like food and toiletries that does not include rent, tuition, utilities, and health insurance, you will need approximately ￥50,000 a month to live in Japan. As you will see, the living expenses in Japan are not too much if you know where to look and are keen to save money by cooking at home. In addition to this, you will want to prepare a little extra for the essentials that you are going to buy after you arrive in Japan, as well as for those impromptu nights out with your peers. Based on these projections, it is recommended that you plan 3 months on this budget, which is the period that you will likely not have any income and within which you can find a part-time job.
It is important to have some cash with you for when you first land Japan. Japan is very much a cash-based society compared to many other countries in the world, so to save you some hassle, it is recommended to consider bringing about a week’s worth of cash with you, or perhaps about ￥30,000 to start. Relatedly, you will want to research with the bank in your country what the best method of withdrawing cash is in Japan. One likely friend will be Seven-eleven convenience stores, which are located nearly everywhere in Japan are all equipped with ATM machines that accept most cards from around the globe with reasonable fees. Also, considering the fact that you will need cash with you on a regular basis, you will likely need an option of withdrawing cash that is accessible.
With the support of your student agency or your school, you will be able to open a bank account in Japan, which will become important to you if you begin working in Japan to supplement your expenses of living abroad.
As discussed previously, if you are looking to save money, the best way to do that in most cases is to cook food at home. That being said, Japan is possibly one of the most convenient countries in the world to live for those who live or dine alone, as many of its citizens do, and accordingly have many options available in supermarkets and convenience stores everywhere for ready-made meals at very reasonable prices. For example, at most supermarkets, you can pick up single-serving meals including mini sushi or sashimi platters, donburi (oyakodon, katsudon, curry don), pasta bowls, bento, soba, fried chicken, etc. for less than ￥600, and in most cases even more selection on single-serving meals at convenience stores for less than ￥500. Though the quality of supermarkets will likely be better than convenience stores, the food anywhere in Japan is usually very fresh.
Similarly, the produce and available foods at supermarkets are in many cases packaged for the convenience of a single person or even single portion. Of course the more you are used to cooking at home with local ingredients on a regular basis, the more you will be able to buy in larger portions and save more on costs.
Immediately after arriving in Japan you will be required to apply for and opt into Japan’s National Health Insurance, which covers 70% of all medical bills. The National Health Insurance is mandatory for all people residing in Japan, including those with Student, Work and Working-Holiday Visas, and basically anyone who is not in Japan as a Visitor. The registration process entails going in person to the City Ward Office closest to your Place of Residence and filling out forms, which are usually written in Japanese. Registering your Place of Residence is also something required of you and can be done at the same time as Applying for National Health Insurance, so long as you go to the City Ward Main Office and not the localized offices in smaller districts, where the services provided are more limited.
Materials needed for your study in Japan, including pens, notebooks, can be purchased at 100-yen stores like Daiso or Muji for very reasonable prices. Indeed, Japan is globally known for its stationery, so aside from some essentials, anything that you don’t bring with you can be purchased in Japan conveniently, with plenty of options available. In fact, most of the world’s famous and widely-used brands of stationery and related products are from Japan. That being said, bringing some materials with you to start you off is of course recommended and will save you needing to make immediate purchases for basic equipment.
It is recommended to bring a laptop if you have one. Note that you can find high-quality electronics in Japan, but if you buy an item with a keyboard, it will likely be different in design and tailored to typing Japanese. For everything else in way of electronics, including extra USB cords and adapters, power banks or mobile batteries, hard-drives, you can find high quality and affordable options in Japan in the event you need these during your stay.
Because you will be studying away from home, you may just want to bring some items that help alleviate homesickness, including your favourite cup, blanket, gifted items, or photos.
An important final note: Japan as is the case with many places in Asia has a particular culture of giving souvenirs. As such, we recommend if you have the space in your luggage to bring some small gifts from your hometown or country which can be given to friends, teachers, host family members, or others that you meet to whom you would like to express appreciation for their help, hospitality, or kindness.