Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?
While you’re waiting for a document from your company so you can apply for your work visa, you might not have much going on. First things first: focus on getting the visa done.
This is a step your company will handle, then they will send the document (company information and a letter stating that they are employing you) needed for your visa application. When you get the COE (Certificate of Eligibility) at home, you can then apply for the visa by going in person or sending a certified mail/FedEx/ whatever, to the consulate.
I recommend checking your consulate’s website (US links) and confirming all the details by calling them first. Because you are lending them your passport for around a week, if you don’t go in person, be sure to send it by some type of insured mail. The website for your consulate will give you the requirements for what they require. Be sure to get it right the first time so getting your visa isn’t delayed.
You will need the COE from your company, your passport, a visa application with photo attached, maybe a release that they are not responsible if your passport is lost in the mail, and a return prepaid FedEx/Certified mail envelope if you mail in the application.
In addition, they might request a copy of the COE (and it doesn’t hurt to scan it for yourself), a fee (as of now there is no fee for US applicants), an extra passport photo, flight information, copy of your passport photo page, copy of your diploma and transcripts, etc. It doesn’t hurt to have these with you if you go in person, and be sure you include everything they require when you send the application by mail.
When you get the passport back, it will have a sticker on one page which is your work visa. It will have dates of entry allowed, plus the amount of time it’s good for. You’ll usually get a visa good for exactly one year, which can be renewed from Japan as needed.
Nice work. Now what?
There isn’t really something everyone Must Do at this point, other than getting yourself to Japan. There are a few things I would recommend working on until your departure: Finances, Downsizing, and Japanese.
This article talks a bit about your financial situation being a part of your decision to work in Japan. Your company probably probably suggested bringing some money to get set up in Japan until your first paycheck. If they tell you something like $2000 US dollars, laugh in their faces. That might cover getting your apartment contract taken care of.
About moving in Japan: there are a lot of moving costs we don’t have in America that you need to be prepared for. Your housing expenses are not paid by your company (in almost all cases in Japan). You need to save money to cover rent, utilities, food, and all other costs (don’t forget any bills back home) for your first two months there in addition to saving for moving costs BEFORE coming to Japan.
Can you live on $1000 a month now? Haha, right. You’re going to need to buy things for your apartment (even if it is furnished you need bedding, kitchen, and cleaning stuff), probably some work clothes, and extra for doing fun new things. You Don’t want to have to live off credit cards or be broke until your first paycheck.
I think this section needs a whole post of its own. Edit: Here it is!
You know the shows about tiny houses that are popular now? That might give you an idea of what your life is going to be like very soon.
In addition to a smaller place than you are probably used to, you will bring everything you need in two big suitcases and a carry on at most. Unless you plan to pay extra to ship things over later or bring extra luggage, it’s not much space. Some people will have No Problem with this because they don’t have much stuff. Others might not have a place to keep everything they don’t want to bring. It could be a long emotional process going through everything and deciding what is coming with you and how to store what isn’t coming.
You really only need enough work clothes to get you through a week, a couple weekend outfits, and a handful of personal items you use all the time and can’t live without. You can buy almost everything you need there. IF you are tall, have big feet, are not at all Japanese-person-size, etc. finding clothes that fit you might be tough. In that case, bringing a suit and other clothing that fits you is important.
The random things that you won’t be able to find in Japan and you are used to now is a list you can work on later. You can order things online or have friends and family send them over. I had a random craving for black licorice (can’t find at all) and wanted coconut oil (now everywhere in Japan). All the things you love now (Mexican food, kombucha, ceasar salad) might be really missed, but they will also be replaced by things you will miss when you aren’t in Japan (real ramen, hot springs, instant pour over coffee).
Much more on this another time, but getting used to Japanese as soon as possible will only help make your transition more comfortable. Use any free time to watch Japanese Movies or TV shows (subtitled, not dubbed) online, join conversation clubs if you can, and anything else that makes learning fun for you.
Next Article: What to Expect After You are Hired