Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?

Have You Ever Paid Bills at Convenience Stores?


Having a fist full of cash is fun.

Sorry for the super long.

You can ask your company for help setting up and paying any of these bills but they might only give you simple instructions. Most companies don’t have a local coordinator who will be available to take everyone around to set things up the first week, but you can always take a picture of a bill and ask them what it says, for example. Don’t be afraid to ask your company for help when you don’t know how to do things. After you learn how to do it the first time you’ll be fine.

Bills in Japan

At Home

Rent: Usually set up to be deducted automatically from your bank account.

Gas: Propane or Natural Gas. You might pay a deposit or start up fee to get it turned on; monthly bills can be paid by bank account auto-payments, at convenience stores, or ATMs in the post office.

Electricity: Once turned on you also get bills in the mail that will be paid by bank account auto payments, at convenience stores, or ATMs in the post office.

Water: Same as electricity.

Internet: Internet costs can be included as a fee with your rent payment (Leopalace usually has this cheaper option), part of your phone bill if you can use the same company (sometimes cheaper if this is an option), or with a separate company. Look into the prices for your options. It can take a little while for the internet to get set up at first. (Up to a month is common. Depending on what your apartment is set up for and the service you choose, hardware might need to be installed first.)

Phone: It is somewhat of an ordeal getting a phone in Japan, so enlist a coordinator from your company or friend to help as needed if your Japanese is not excellent. Because phone plans are a two year minimum and most ALTs have a one year contract, companies will usually force you to buy the phone outright instead of paying for it over two years. Another lovely up-front cost to save up for. 

Your phone bill is usually an automatic deduction from your credit card or bank account. If you want to pay it manually for some reason, it should be an option to do that. Smartphones are an option, but you can also do a prepaid or old flip phone if you want to save money. Smartphones are super nice because they have GPS to help you with the confusing addresses in Japan, translator and train schedule apps, and you can use Facetime/Hangouts/Skype/Whatsapp/ other apps to talk with friends and family back home. A lot of people in Japan use a free messaging app called Line. If you have smartphone no longer under contract, you can use it to get online with wi-fi to make free calls home with the apps, but use an old style phone for your calls & SMS needs in Japan. *Wi-fi is not so commonly found in Japan – Starbucks and Internet cafes are usually an option in average size cities.

NHK: This is the fee for TV service with Japan National Broadcasting. I don’t know anyone who pays it on purpose. Someone might come to your door asking for the fee. I’ve heard if you say, “What?” and pretend you don’t understand Japanese, they will probably leave you alone. If you don’t have a TV, they aren’t allowed to charge you.

The option to pay utilities from your bank account takes up to a couple months to start. First you would need to fill out a form and submit it to your bank to set this up. It might not be an option depending on your bank and utility companies. I recommend it if possible because it’s one more thing you won’t have to think about doing once it’s set up.

At School

School lunch, or kyushoku, if you are lucky enough to work in only one school, is usually paid in cash at the beginning of each month to the office staff/jimuin in the school. It should be 5000 yen or less for a month, and is the same price every month, regardless of the number of holidays and working days. Some days at the beginning and end of each term might not have school lunch available, and the school staff will probably order bento for any staff who wants one, for an additional fee (around 500 yen) on those days. (Students bring lunch from home on these days and you are welcome to do so.) If you work in several schools, you might instead pay the school lunch fee based on the number of times you had lunch at that school. In that case, you would probably pay on the last day you work in that school each month.

You might be encouraged to pay a small monthly fee to cover the costs of coffee and tea in the teachers’ room. If you are not asked to do so, it’s a nice gesture to bring in a container of coffee or tea if you are drinking it on a regular basis. In my previous school, everyone drank green tea during lunch and there was always a pot of coffee in the morning for those who wanted some. Some schools might not even offer to share their tea and coffee with you, but having your own mug or water bottle for in the teachers’ room is a good idea.

Enkai is a company meeting, outside of the school, usually at least a few times a year. These are held around the beginning of the school year and at the end of the three terms and are organized in turn by school staff (first year teachers organize one, second year teachers organize another, etc.). They will have a set fee – all the enkai I attended were 5000 yen, paid in advance. Staff will meet at a location nearby and eat, have some fun activities, and drink. It’s a nice way to get to know other school staff who are usually too busy to chat during school. This is strongly recommended as a part of Japanese culture. Set aside a budget to attend enkai in addition to potential other work related outings you might be invited to (English teachers going out together, your dispatch company socializing, and meeting other ALTs in your city.)

Note: Drinking and driving has severe penalties in Japan, so there will be several teachers who are designated drivers at enkai. Most staff will take a train, get a ride home from family, etc. when possible. Enkai are only for school staff and spouses are not invited. Casual clothing is not okay for enkai. Wear the same thing you wore to school that day – if there was a ceremony that day, everyone might be in a suit, as most staff goes directly after school.

In Your City

City taxes: These are super low your first year in Japan. When you register with your address on your Residence card, the city you live in will send you a bill for taxes, which can be paid at one time, or in payments, at the convenience store. You bring the bill to the convenience store, they scan it, you pay in cash, then they stamp it and give you a receipt. Super easy.

Health Insurance: You are required to have health insurance, and most ALTs and teachers at Eikaiwa will have National Health Insurance, or Kokumin Kenkou Hoken. Some companies will reimburse your costs for this, which will also be higher after living in Japan for a year. Insurance means 70% of all your costs are covered for regular medical and dental visits. You will also get the bill in the mail. You need to sign up for health insurance at your local city hall, as well as stop the insurance and inform city hall when you move to another city or leave Japan. Expect Much Lower costs for health insurance than in the USA. My insurance bill in a small town was around $12 a month and the cost for a medical visit and prescription was around $25. Oh, and a crown at the dentist was around $30!!


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This entry was posted on December 28, 2015 by in Living in Japan, Teaching English and tagged , , , .

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