One of the most daunting things when moving to another country is setting up all the things you already had well established in your home country. That means bank account, housing, internet, furniture, mobile phone number, data, and basically…everything you need to create your new life. It sounds super stressful but let us give you an overview of what your first 2 weeks in Japan might look like.
If you’re planning on applying for the JET Programme, then congratulations because they are a huge help when setting up your new life. However, the extent of this help really depends on your school supervisor or JTE but most of them are more than willing to help you, sometimes you just have to ask! We can’t say for sure what it is like in the Inaka but we can tell you what it’s like for a Tokyo private school JET. The great thing about being a Private School Jet is the Shigaku Zaidan (Metropolitan Foundation for Private Schools). They hook you up with so many helpful companies before you even depart your home country.
So from the beginning. One of the first things they did was hook us up with GTN (Global Trust Networks) which is an English-speaking real estate company dedicated to helping foreigners. After answering some questions, you are assigned your real estate agent. That’s it! We had ours about a month before we were arriving in Japan. Obviously, you don’t need an apartment that early but it’s good to start looking at your area. The downside of GTN is they always try to push you into committing to an apartment BEFORE arriving in Japan. But you don’t have to! Some of us got apartments before leaving Australia and it worked out really well for us but others it doesn’t. If committing to a place before seeing it makes you super anxious, then just wait. You will have plenty of time once you arrive in Japan. But remember, there are a few things you can do to safely get an apartment before you arrive in Japan. My first tip would be asking for the exact address (they might not give it to you straight away!), type it into google and have a bit of a poke around on street view to make sure it’s a nice building and area. Secondly, you can actually ask your agent to go to the house and take a short video of the place for you! That way you know for sure what the apartment looks like without any sneaky wide-angle lenses.
I highly recommend getting your sim card sent to the Keio Plaza where you will be staying for JET orientation. There are several phone companies that are stationed at the Plaza for JETs, but make sure you order one before leaving for Japan so you can pick it up as soon as you arrive at the hotel! Most of our cohort did this and its super easy, you have internet straight away to roam the streets without fear of getting lost cause Google Maps is life but more importantly…you will have a Japanese number! You will need your Japanese number for almost everything so its handy to have. You cannot open a bank account (or anything else) properly without one!
After orientation finishes, one of your first duties will be to get a Hanko (signature stamp). This is a super simple process, just decide on the Katakana, hiragana, kanji (whatever you want!) for your name, and google a hanko place. I did this by myself and it was super easy and pretty cheap! You need your hanko for most of the other set-up procedures so do this straight away!
The next step is getting your address on the back of your residence card. This is super important and just requires you to go to your city hall. I did this by myself because my supervisor was away so don’t worry, it’s a pretty simple process and they do have forms in English if you can’t read all that Kanji they throw at you.
NOW you can open a bank account! This is a little harder. A lot of Japanese bank companies don’t have high levels of English and as you can imagine, there is a lot of conversation involved in opening a bank account. But that’s okay because your supervisor will go with you to do this! I haven’t heard of a JET having to open a bank account by themselves unless they have super Japanese skills so just ask your supervisor or JTE to go with you. Don’t worry about having to choose one of the many banks. Your school will most likely already know which banks they are going to join you with. However, if you do happen to get a choice, it might be a good idea to choose one of the big banks because you can find them everywhere! These are banks like the Mitsubishi UFJ bank (MUFG), Mizuho and Sumimoto Mitsui (I would refer to our good friend Google). It takes a bit of time to set up but most likely your JTE will be doing most of the talking. Some banks require you to put a little money in the account when you open, or some don’t. Just take a little money with you to cover yourself. And don’t forget your residence card and Hanko!
This has been pretty info heavy and if you’ve made it this far with your head exploding, well done! Hopefully this has eased some worry about all the things you don’t really know how to do until you have to do them. This is obviously just an overview of what your first 2 weeks in Japan might look like. As application time starts to roll around, we will post more in=depth articles about apartments etc.