Japan is an archipelago of over 6,000 islands, four of which – Hokkaido, Honshu (inhabited by 80% of the population), Kyushu and Shikoku – make up 95% of the total land area.
With almost three quarters of this land being forested and mountainous it is unsuitable for industry, agriculture or residential use. Consequently many towns and cities are located in coastal areas and are densely populated.
Japan has a traditional, hierarchical, society. Customs and etiquette plays a very important part of Japanese life, both social and business. With a very low crime rate Japan is one the top 5 safest places to live in the world.
Rental prices in Tokyo and Japan’s other main cities are some of the most expensive in the world. Properties can range from US$3,000 – 30,000 per month. Yokohama to the south of Tokyo is significantly cheaper. Some contracts run for two years making them unsuitable for some expatriates. Also deposits and upfront costs can be extremely high so it is important to find a good real estate company and be willing to look at several properties.
The language barrier prevents most expat children attending Japanese schools. However there are a large selection of international schools in Tokyo including Canadian, French, German, Indian, Korean, UK, US.
If you live in Japan for more than 12 months you will be entitled to the public health care system, which is of a very high standard. Unfortunately this does not extend to foreign residents who have been living in Japan for less than one year. In which case private medical insurance is very important and may be provided by your employer.
Major congestion especially in Greater Tokyo can mean public transport is a better alternative. There are several train operators so it is important to become familiar with the operator servicing your neighbourhood and places you wish to visit. Fortunately there are over 100 tourist offices, which provide free information, maps and brochures. Taxis are another option but can be expensive.
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