5 Delicious Types of Japanese Mushrooms

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Before I came to Japan, I hated mushrooms. Big, weird-tasting white things that look like the last place they’re meant to be is on your plate. However, while I’m still not a fan of the mushrooms back in the UK, there are plenty of Japanese mushrooms I’ve grown to like.

When you first come to Japan, most people have no idea what anything is or how to use it. That’s why I decided to make a little guide to some of Japan’s most popular fungi.

1. Shiitake

In hot-pots, fried, in soups – this large mushroom with a solid texture is the boss when it comes to Japanese mushrooms. Don’t be afraid to serve this bad boy in thick slices to really get the taste. As with most mushrooms, it’s considered incredibly healthy, too.

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2. Shimeji

Versatile, cheap, and found in pretty much every supersmarket across the country, Shimeji mushrooms should definitely be in your food. Shove some of these soft little fellas into a frying pan with some veggies and soy sauce for a quick and healthy meal.

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3. Eryngii

Eryngii mushrooms go by many names and aren’t only limited to Asia. This fun guy has only recently been introduced to Japan but is growing ever more popular. Large with a good texture, the Eryngii (King Trumpet) mushroom contains vitamin D, niacin, and riboflavin.

…Fun guy, get it?

 

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4. Enokitake

The poor man’s shrooms. Why? you can usually buy them for around the same price as a bag of moyashi (30 – 50 yen). Thin, white, and a great little budget mushroom to add to pretty much anything when you don’t have a decent variety of ingredients. They don’t have much of a taste but are an essential ingredient of hot-pots.

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5. Matsutake

The truffle of Asian mushrooms. Fetching between $1000 – $2000 per pound, few of us have eaten this luxury old mucker. Just like with truffles, hunting for these scrubby-looking nuggets of gold isn’t to be taken lightly. It has a distinct spicy-aromatic odor and grows on the roots of trees. If you do get your hands on a matsutake, don’t wash them (only wipe them down) and prepare them in a way that preserves the aroma (e.g. steaming/wrapping them in tinfoil). 

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Matsutake mushrooms on white background

The Lies (and Truths) About Manners in Japan

Japan is full of kind, helpful, and loving people – but if you dare to eat while walking or you forget to really slurp your noodles, then you shall be hated by the entire nation and will be forbidden from ever entering the country again.

Or at least, this is what most of the internet would have you believe. In reality, the old woman who pointed you to your hotel won’t suddenly look at you with the scorn of god if you don’t reply in keigo-level politeness. Here are a few things to be mindful of – but that you don’t need to worry about too much.

Tabearuki (walking while eating)

Walking and eating is generally considered to be bad manners. Recently, it has even been in the news as busy streets like Kamakura had forbidden the act. Obviously, walking down an incredibly busy street with all your hands full of food isn’t a good idea, anyway. Neither is dropping crumbs all over shop displays. In reality, however, it’s not uncommon to see people eating and walking, and if you don’t cause a mess or get in other people’s way, you should be fine eating and walking with your chocolate bar or whatever.

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Slurping Noodles

Slurping or not slurping your noodles – do whichever comes most naturally. You don’t have to force yourself to do one or the other. Neither is it a complement to the chef – but excessively loud slurping will even annoy the typical Japanese person.

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Incorrect use of Chopsticks

While there are social etiquettes on how to use chopsticks, as a foreigner, incorrectly using them won’t give anyone a heart attack. Sure, stabbing the top of a bowl of rice with chopsticks so they stand vertically may resemble a funeral-related tradition, but why would you stab your food?

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Trains and Phones

Talking on the phone will on the train is bad manners and will get you some strange looks. Generally, it’s good to be fairly quiet on the train. Eating and making calls is generally a bad idea, but if it’s an extremely important call – you can try to quietly take it.

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Not offending people in Japan isn’t as hard as many say it is. As a foreigner, most of your ‘mistakes’ will be forgiven. And when it really comes down to it, most people in Japan are just getting on with their own busy life and don’t really care that much about what you’re doing. As long as you are respectful and typically good-mannered, there isn’t much you need to worry about – so relax and enjoy your holiday.

However…

Unfortunately, it’s not the people who worry about manners to the point of researching it before they go who are typically the ones who need to worry about their manners. If you do any of the following, you should maybe try be a little bit more careful when you’re in Japan.

  • Talk to the person standing next to you like they’re on the other side of a football pitch.
  • Litter, make a mess, or don’t tidy up after yourself.
  • Cause a ruckus, make a scene, shout, drink too much.
  • Smoke in non-smoking areas.
  • Ride bicycles in areas where riding bicycles isn’t allowed.
  • Not following rules such as correct rubbish disposal.
  • Playing music in public or using earphones that excessively ‘leak’ sound.

The list goes on. It’s not really anything to do with Japan, but it’s just common sense when out in public (no matter where you are). So, be mindful and respectful around others and you should be fine in Japan.

…That is, unless you forget to take your shoes off.

Buying a car and vehicle insurance in Japan

I recently bought a car and insurance in Japan. At first, it can seem quite daunting and quite confusing, but with the right information – it should go quite smoothly. Here are a few things I learnt that may be useful to you.

 

What’s different about buying a car in Japan?

  • Many people buy from and sell directly to used-car dealers. It’s very rare to see a car for sale on the roadside (there isn’t even a place to park on the roadside).
  • There are two main types of cars. Your standard car and your Kei-car. Kei-cars are small with small engines, but are cheap, have low tax/insurance, and have great mileage.
  • Standard cars have a white registration plate, kei-cars have a yellow one.
  • To buy a car, you may need a juuminhyo (a certificate from your city hall with your name and address on it.
  • Even if you go in with cash, it could take over a week until you actually get the car. 
  • There are services to get the car driven to your house when you buy it. 
  • You may need to inform your kanrigaisha or landlord, the company/person responsible for the building you live in that you bought a car. 
  • By law, you have to have shaken on your car. This is not insurance but is similar to a very expensive MOT that must be done every year for old models, once in five years for a brand new car, and every two/three years for cars in between.
  • Most cars in Japan are automatic. 

 

What insurance to go for?

We went to a place called “Hoken no Madoguchi”, which isn’t an insurance company, but a company who explained how the insurance works and gives a few recommendations with a discount.
You’d be surprised but there are a ton of options you can add/remove from your insurance to alter the price, so if you know Japanese or have a Japanese partner, it’s worth a visit.
Even if you’re a native Japanese speaker, it’s unlikely you’ll know what each and every option does (there’s a surprising amount).
For example, one option is to insure you for repairs that surmount the cost of the car you hit. 
What this means is… if you crash into a car worth $1000, but the owner loves this car and chooses to repair it for $1500. Since $1500 exceeds the value of the car, your insurance will only pay out $1000, leaving you with a $500 bill to pay. 
If you wish to, you can choose to increase the amount your insurance will fork out, regardless of the value of the car.
Vandalism insurance, medical insurance, third party insurance, theft insurance, maximum and minimum payouts… the list goes on. You can make your insurance incredibly cheap (but with less coverage) or incredibly high (with incredible coverage). 

 

All about Toukyuu.

Toukyuu decides how expensive your insurance will be. It is the equivalent of a no-claims bonus. You start at around tier 6, each year you will raise a tier and the price will drop. Make a claim, and the cost will rise. Apparently, if you drop to tier 4, insurance will sky-rocket.
So unless you have a few tiers to spare (e.g. you’re on tier 25 and dropping down to tier 20 won’t hurt too much), then it’s best to avoid making a claim where possible. 

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8 Different Types of Employment In Japan And How They Are Changing

Employment in Japan is drastically different when compared to many other countries. So different that I thought it warrants an article explaining the different types of employment Japan has to offer and how they are changing.

 

(1) Arubaito/baito  アルバイト・バイト

The strict definition of an arubaito is a job that someone does while they are a student. It could be 1 hour a week, it could be 40 hours a week – if you’re a student, it’s most likely an arubaito you’re doing.

Typical arubaito jobs are supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants. Since it is often inexperienced students doing these jobs, they are quite easy to obtain (assuming you have the required Japanese).

(Not suitable for visas)

(2) Part-time パート

Part-time is quite similar to an arubaito except for the fact the employee is not a student. They tend to work shifts several times a week and is often the same or similar to arubaito jobs. A good example of someone who does this kind of work would be a housewife who has a few extra hours of the day they have spare to work.

(Not suitable for visas)

(3) Freeter フリーター

A ‘freeter‘ is typically someone who works full-time hours but does not commit to the job for extended periods of time. They may work for 6 months, take a break or travel, then find a new job and start saving up again. Freeters often tend to have a bad image in Japan, but to each their own!

(Not suitable for visas)

(4) Neet ニート

Neet is not a form of employment, but rather a status of unemployment. The term N.E.E.T stands for ‘Not in Education, Employment, or Training’.

Neets go long periods of time without employment and have a rather bad image. Neets are often associated with hikkikomori shut-ins. (Click here for an article about that).

(Not suitable for visas)

(5) Contract Employee 契約社員 けいやくしゃいん

A keiyaku-shain is a typical contract employee. Contract employees may have mid-high hourly wages that depending on your specialties, can earn a lot of money. However, as Japan is all about job stability, becoming a contract employee is not always seen as ideal since your contract may not be renewed. In reality, however, most contract employees get their contracts easily renewed and have complete stability (unless it’s specified when applying for the job).

(Applicable for visas)

(6) Agency Employee 派遣社員 はけんしゃいん

A haken-shain is employed directly by an agency who then charges the company you will actually work for. For many university graduates, becoming an agency employee is often not seen as successful. This is mainly because compared to number 7 on the list, the wages are considerably lower (often due to bonuses). However, in recent years, the amount of agency employees has been drastically increasing and is now up to around 30%. Some university students graduate with the sole intention of working for an agency. This is because compared to number 7, the responsibility is much lighter and there is often no or little of Japan’s infamous overtime hours.

Recently, the law has been changed to make the maximum length one can work at a single company is three years. The new law is still unclear what will happen when one reaches the limit.

(Not suitable for visas)

(7) Lifetime Employee 正社員 せいしゃいん

This is by far the hardest type of employee to become. Many university students will start searching for these kinds of jobs 1-3 years before they even graduate university and may be required to attend up to five interviews. Particularly in spring, you will often see an army of clones wearing completely black suits rushing around the train stations. These are freshly employed seishain. There are many advantages of becoming one – job stability, bonuses, increased wages each year, and promotions. However, you are often expected to pretty much give your heart and soul to the company. You will be expected to attend all the company drinking parties, even after working a ridiculous amount of overtime – and generally must always put the company before yourself, your family and sometimes even your health. That’s why it’s extremely important to choose your company carefully, and whatever you do, don’t enter a ‘black company‘.

(Applicable for visas)

(8) Self-employed 自営業者 じえいぎょうしゃ

As a foreigner, being self-employed could be quite difficult in Japan. You will be required to submit the necessary documents and pay the required taxes based on your company’s income and profits. There is a visa for those who wish to be self-employed in Japan, but I believe it requires a $50,000 capital and some sort of office. (For those interested in this, I recommend consulting with someone who has experience with this).

(Applicable for visas, but very difficult)

 

Good luck! 

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What Japanese Language Qualifications ACTUALLY Mean in Japan

While many of you may be studying Japanese for your trips to the country, or to better understand manga and anime – there are quite a few of us who spend thousands of hours studying with the aim of getting a job in Japan. 

I’ve already put in the thousands of hours and managed to get some nice qualifications under my belt. For the last couple of months, I’ve been searching for a non-English-teaching job. So, were the Japanese language qualifications that I slaved away to obtain any actual use in the interviews? Keep reading to find out! 

(1) JPLT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test)

This is the most well-known Japanese language test aimed at foreigners and has five levels from N5-N1. For employment, only N3-N1 are of real importance. N3 may help you get an English teaching job or an IT job depending on the company. N2 will help you with most jobs, and N1 will show evidence that you have a deep understanding of the Japanese language (but it’s incredibly difficult to obtain). 

Unfortunately, though, even this test is not known by everyone. From my experience, this test is well-known and respected by companies who regularly employ foreign employees. For example, the hotel industry often employs foreigners, so most employers in the industry will have heard of this test. 

Click here to visit the website. 

RECOMMENDED

(2) BJT (Business Japanese Test)

The BJT is a very difficult test aimed at those will work in high-level business situations. There is only one test and your grade depends on how well you do. Getting the top grade J1+ may even be harder than N1 – however, without a failing score, you’re guaranteed to get a qualification at one level or another. 

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who actually knew was this test was. 

Click here to visit the website. 

NOT RECOMMENDED

(3) Kanji Kentei (Kanji writing/reading test)

The kanji kentei is designed as a test for native Japanese speakers, but foreigners are also free to take part. Level 10, the lowest test has a pass rate of 95% (and is mainly taken by young children), while the highest level (level 1) is most often taken by university students and has a pass rate of just 10%. 

In the test, you are required to be able to write complex kanji, spot minor differences, know synonyms and antonyms, and have a deep knowledge of Japanese phrases and idioms. Due to the fact that many foreigners struggle to even write daily Japanese, the vast majority of people will find the upper levels of this test difficult even after a decade of studying. Those born in countries like China who also learn the characters as a child will have a huge advantage. (I have studied for levels 4, 3, 2 but have never taken the test because even with N1, I knew I didn’t have a chance at any levels worth doing without putting a billion hours of writing practice in). 

If you do have the courage to take this test, it will be extremely useful in your future job hunting. Since this is a common test Japanese people often want on there resume, almost all employers will know what this test is and how difficult it is. 

IF YOU CAN DO IT, RECOMMENDED

Click here to visit the website. 

(4) Hisho Kentei (secretarial test)

While the test is designed for those who wish to be a secretary in Japan, the required understanding of business culture makes it a very useful test to have even for Japanese people. The test has three levels (3 being the easiest). To pass the test, you will not only be required to read and understand complex questions – but to have a deep understanding of Japanese culture. 

For example, one question might be “which pattern card is appropriate to send to a wedding and how much money should you put in it?”. In Japan, the cards you send for different occasions have different string patterns – for a wedding, string with a knot that won’t come undone is appropriate. When giving money (in Japan, money is given as a present at weddings), even numbers are seen as unlucky because they can be divided. An amount of money that cannot be shared evenly is seen as best (10,000 yen, 30,000 yen, or 50,000 yen). 

The lowest level of the test is achievable by those who have an N2 level of Japanese (and have studied related materials for the test). The test is also well-known by employers and shows you understand business culture – so it’s a great one to have in a bag.

Click here to visit the website. 

RECOMMENDED

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While there are many more tests you can take, these are the main ones (and the ones I have experience with). So, go pick up your books and start studying! 

5 Ways To Get To Japan (And Stay There)

To go to Japan isn’t as hard as many people think. All you need is a plane ticket and some time off work (and possibly a tourist visa depending on your country). 

However, it’s much, much harder to stay in Japan! As a tourist, your time in Japan is limited, expensive, and you don’t have the right to work. Even so, thousands of people each obsess with ways in which they can get to Land of the Rising Sun as easily and as fast as possible. Here are a few ways to get to Japan and stay there.  

 

(1) Student visa 

Possible one of the easiest methods to stay in Japan long term. Your school will generally take care of most visa issues and there are very few requirements to enter a Japanese language school. Those aiming to enter a Japanese university will have a much harder time due to incredibly difficult entrance exams. 

Merit: easy to get and is a simple process for you. 

Demerit: It takes a decent sum of money and you’ll need to think about what you’ll do after you graduate from the school. 

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(2) Work visa (English teacher)

There is a bunch of different types of work visas and some are easier to get than others. The easiest would be an English teaching job that generally just requires a diploma from an English speaking country. Your university will probably be able to help you with this if you apply through programs such as JET. 

Merit: If you have a diploma and pass the interviews, you can go to Japan and make money while you’re there. Little to no Japanese required. 

Demerit: Spaces may be limited, you may have no control over which area in Japan you teach at, and you are generally limited to English teaching. 

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(3) Work Visa (Other)

If you have a diploma or 10 years or more experience in a specialized field, then you may be applicable for a work visa. Unlike an English teacher, you’re probably going to need some Japanese language ability. One of the most common fields is the IT industry which is constantly looking for skilled foreigners. 

Merit: High wages in a Japanese office.

Demerit: Requires Japanese language ability and an understanding of Japanese work culture. You will also need to find a sponsor for your visa first. 

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(4) Spouse visa/Family Visa

If you are getting married to a Japanese national, the spouse visa is probably most suited for you because of its flexibility. You can work in any industry without limitations. You will need your partner to apply for the visa (which is fairly complicated) and you will need a guarantor and proof of income or funds. 

Merit: Freedom to work whenever and wherever.

Demerit: You need a Japanese partner or Japanese family. 

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(5) Company transfer

If you work in a large company that also has branches in Japan, you may be able to get transferred to Japan. Your company should take care of most of the visa procedures.

Merit: Move to Japan with the support of your company and its benefits. 

Demerit: You may need to leave Japan on the whim of your company. 

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This is just a very simple and brief guide at some of the ways you can stay in Japan long-term. I don’t think you should change your whole life on the hope that you can go to Japan in a few years from now. Japan isn’t the country for everyone and the vast majority of foreigners leave after a few years. If you have to go no matter what, try visiting the country as a tourist first and try to brush up on your Japanese while you can. 

Cheapest Phone and Internet in Japan (UQ Mobile?)

I recently went through the troubles of setting up internet and getting a new phone in Japan. Hopefully, this article might make it a little easier for you.

 

Internet

To get internet in Japan is a pretty slow process. It may take a whole month and you may be required to have work done in your house. To make things even more confusing, the company who provides your line and the company who provides your internet are often completely different companies.

This all seemed like a pain and I really didn’t want to wait a whole month, so I went with the wifi option.

If you go with the wifi option, you’ll get sent a small device within a couple of days that allows you to use wifi in your home (or wherever you wish to take the small, battery-charged device).

I assume it works pretty much in the same way mobile data works, only it’s not as expensive. I chose the giga-hodai (unlimited giga) plan from UQ Mobile. It gives me 10 gigabytes to use every 3-days, but once you go over your cap, you will find your internet speed drop (but you can still use it).

UQ has an ongoing campaign where the device itself is free of charge, saving you a few hundred bucks on the first payment. If you pay with a credit card, there are also some other cool offers you can get.

There are a few companies doing very similar services to UQ, so you should shop around for when suits your needs the most.

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Mobile Phone

I also need a new phone (as well as cheap network carrier). Once again, I chose UQ Mobile for this. The reason for this was that no credit card was required, and similar to their internet service, they are also doing a campaign where the mobile phone is free of charge (108 yen to be exact) if you sign up for Plan M or larger.

For this, you will need a bank account and some Japanese ID that doesn’t expire for at least 2-years (resident card, driving license).

My resident card only had 1 year on it, so I got a driving license instead. For a guide on how to do that, click here.

However, if you pay with a credit card, you’ll also be applicable for some pretty cool campaigns.

The plan I chose gives me 6 GB a month (increased from 3), and 120 minutes free. This cost 3200 yen/month plus I opted in for device insurance (500 yen/month). Considering the phone itself (I chose Sharp Aquos Sense) is free, the price isn’t too bad. After 14-months, the price will increase by 1000 yen/month (so I believe it might be best to opt out of the contract after 2-years and re-enter a contract with better deals). I will also apply for the family discount, so I’ll get -500 yen/month to the final price.

It may sound expensive, but considering the standard price for a phone and contract was around 10,000 yen/month – Japan is making progress!

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Campaigns

Campaigns can save you a lot of money, so be prepared to shop around. UQ currently has campains such as “the device is free”, “introduce a friend”, “pay with a credit card”, “apply for both UQ broadband and UQ mobile”, and “double data free”, “family discount”.

 

Some level of Japanese (or a Japanese friend) is required to get you through this much easier. Anything to do with contracts and campaigns is a headache, regardless of the language.

 

NOTE: If applying for UQ Mobile, not that there are subtle differences between the offers, plans, and campains between the UQ Mobile Communications website and UQ Mobile Store website. (If you type UQ Mobile in English, the first Google result is the communications  website – I DON’T recommend this one).

Japanese Uniforms: A Complete Guide To What They Wear!

In recent times, Japan has been gathering attention for being wacky and weird. However, Japan is also famous for having some of the coolest and cutest uniforms in the world. 

Whether it’s student uniforms or builder uniforms – Japan loves them. It shows professionalism and pride in one’s job, and so are hugely popular throughout each and every industry in Japan. 

That’s why we thought we’d have a look at some of these awesome Japanese uniforms! 

(1) Convenience store clerk

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(2) Chef japanese uniforms, japan uniforms, japan, japanese, uniforms, seifuku, school uniforms, japanese school uniforms

(3) Food delivery

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(4) Restaurant 

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(5) Festival

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(6) School

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(7) Interview/Uni graduate

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(8) Drink server at baseball games

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(9) Kendo 

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(10) Shrine maiden

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(11) Monk

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(12) Airport staff

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(13) Businessman/salaryman

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(14) Idol (entertainment industry)

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(15) Maid cafe

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(16) Sumo

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(17) Delivery service

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(18) Spokesperson

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(19) Train station attendant

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(20) Security guard

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(21) Tour guide

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(22) Cabin attendant 

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(23) Information booth

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(24) Construction worker

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(25) Thief/cat burglar

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(26) Nurse

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(27) Firefighter

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(28) Police officer

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Any Japanese uniforms we missed? Let us know in the comments! 

Getting A Japanese Driving License: What You Need

Okay, so today I got my Japanese driving license (yay). However, it was a bit of a headache trying to find out what you need. 

The first thing to know is there are three ways in which you can get your license. 

  1. To take the classes and the tests as would any Japanese person. Avoid this if possible as it is both expensive and difficult (you need a good level of Japanese). 
  2. Apply to have your license changed over from your own country’s license and your country does not have any agreements with Japan (requires a theory test and a driving test). 
  3. Apply to have your license changed over from your own country’s license. There are no tests and this process is paperwork only (this is called a gaimen kirikae). 

The countries that fall into method 3 are: 

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, or USA (only Maryland [from Jan 2016] or Washington [from Jan 2017] )

 

I was lucky enough to fall into method 3, so that is the method I’m going to talk about. 

It’s also important to remember that the requirements and process may vary slightly according to which prefecture you are in (I’m in Fukuoka).

 

What you will need

  1. A valid driver’s license (not expired)
  2. A juuminhyo (a document from your local town/city hall that shows your address) 
  3. Your passport
  4. 2 photos (size 3 cm by 2.4) 
  5. Residency card (zairyuu card) 
  6. Money (for me, it cost 3600 yen)
  7. Translation of your driver’s license. (For this, go to your nearest JAF center. Some embassies may also over this)

You may also need: 

  1. Proof that you have resided in your country for at least 3 months since you passed your test. 
  2. Your old/expired license 
  3. An interpreter

 

Numbers 1-6 on the list are pretty simple. For number 2, a visit to your city hall (or where ever you first registered your residency card is a bit of a pain if you don’t already have one. The size of the photos for your the application is also quite small (I cut some 4cm-3cm ones I had spare, they didn’t have a problem with it). 

Number 7 on the list is a bit of a pain, especially depending on how far away your nearest JAF center is. It cost me 3000 yen to get it translated and took 45 minutes (the JAF website it can take anywhere from 1 day to 2 weeks). 

The website (in my case, it was part of the Fukuoka prefecture police website) said that I would need to prove I resided in my country for 3 months since I passed my test. It says a passport with exit/extra stamps of your country will suffice. Many countries don’t stamp your passport, so I was a little worried. After asking Gaijinpot, many people said to take things such as diplomas or utility bills. I took my degree, but in the end, they didn’t check it. 

If your license has recently been renewed and it does not show the original date you passed, then it could be hard for you to prove that you resided in your country for 3 months. Just to be safe, I made sure the translation included the original date I passed (it did) and took my old license anyway (it wasn’t needed). 

If you’re Japanese is not so good, you may need to bring a Japanese friend with you. When you arrive at the test center, you will need to fill in an application form (in Japanese) and do a very basic eyesight test. 

 

Japanese Driving License Summary

It took about 3 hours in total when I visited the test center. Most of the time was just waiting about to have the eyesight test, fill in the forms, and have the card made. 

From getting my UK license translated, to getting my Japanese driving license – it only took 2 days (although the website warns both the translation and the license could take weeks). 

My driving license is valid for 3 years, which means I should now be able to enter into certain 2-year contracts, even though my current visa is only for one year. 

That’s everything in my case. Good luck! 

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4 Tips When Moving and Renting in Japan

Moving to Japan, or wanting to move from a mansion to a detached house? Here are a few basic bits of advice that could save you a lot of trouble when renting in Japan. 

My wife and I are moving to into a detached house (we’d had enough of small flats). So we booked a 4-hour bus into Fukuoka and planned to visit three estate agents over two days. 

Tip 1. Keep your wits about you

Of the three estate agents we visited, we only actually liked one of them. 

Estate agent 1: This guy acted like a car salesman. When we said the one house we were interested in was a little dear, the staff member printed one other house out – that was nearly double the size and price of the first house. He didn’t try to introduce us to any cheaper houses or understand our circumstances, he just wanted to make a sale. When it looked like he was losing us, his boss came in with a pitch to try win us over. We didn’t feel comfortable with things, so we told them we would contact them after we have met another estate agent that had a house we were interested in. After saying this, they desperately tried to find out what the company name was and where the house was, simply so they could ridicule it. 

Estate agent 2: Even though we traveled 4-hours to get there, the estate agent didn’t have the decency to tell us that the house we wanted to see was no longer available due to leakage. He only bothered to tell us when WE rung him, the day before. 

Estate agent 3: A genuinely decent person who helped us look through many houses for several hours. He tried to find us a cheap but decent house. We eventually chose a house here, and he went out of his way to get us a better deal by negotiating with the landlord.

Tip 2. Learn the lingo

There are a few words you should probably know if you’re interested in renting in Japan. Here are just a few of them.

Chintai Mansion 

This is a block apartment style building that is made from concrete or similar materials. They are usually more expensive than an apaato, but they have much better sound-proofing.

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Apaato

Cheaper than a chintai mansion, but because they are made of wood, sound is likely to carry between rooms. 

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Ikken-ya 

A detached or semi-detached house. 

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Shoki-hiyou 

The initial costs when renting.

Fudousan-ya

An estate agent.

Tip 3. Understand the expenses of moving.

Renting in Japan is insanely expensive. We were told that when moving into a detached house, one can expect the shokki-hiyou (initial costs) to be 10 x the price of one month’s rent. So if you’re rent is $1000 a month, it could cost $10,000 to actually move. (Apartments tend to have lower initial costs).

Let’s break down some of these costs. 

Chinryou (rent) – of course, you need to pay your first month’s rent (sometimes even two months). 

Reikin (Thank-you money) – this is a gift to the landlord. Perhaps the landlord has had work done to the house, most likely they’ll want some thank-you money. This could be anything from 1-3 months rent.

Shikikin (deposit) – Pretty much the same as anywhere else, but it could cost 1-3 months rent. 

Chuukairyou (estate agent’s fee) – usually one month’s rent. 

Kagi Koukan-hi (key exchange fee) – when moving, the keys for the doors will be changed. This costs up to one months rent.

Chuusharyo (parking spot fee) – some houses require additional fees for parking. Prices vary. 

Hokenryo/Hoshouryo (insurance fees) – prices for insurance and guarantor fees could add up to nearly a month’s rent. 

Pet-keeping fee – in some cases, additional rent or an extra month’s worth of ‘thank-you money’ could be required. 

Make sure to chose a house with has both affordable rent and as fewer fees as possible! 

Tip 4. What you need when renting in Japan

To actually be able to rent in Japan, you’ll need a few things. As explained earlier, a fair amount of money is one. Another difficult thing to attain is a guarantor. If you don’t have proof of income from a permanent position, you’ll probably need one. A guarantor is liable to pay all fees if, for some reason, you can’t. If you’re married to a Japanese person, you may be able to ask their relatives to become a guarantor, if not, you can pay for an insurance company to be your guarantor. This, of course, costs even more money. 

Another thing you may need is a hanko/inkan. This is a stamp that acts as a signature in contracts. 

While there is a ton of other stuff you’ll need to know, sometimes it’s easier to learn along the way than to burden yourself with too much information at once. You should also be aware that there may be prejudice against foreigners trying to rent. This isn’t due to racism per se but is simply to do with communication worries and a fear that foreigners don’t understand how things are done in Japan. Hopefully, you’ll have a bit of good luck and find a nice place. And perhaps just maybe, this article will make renting in Japan a little easier for one of you.  

How to Write Romaji (Japanese) Without Looking Like A Buffoon!

Have you ever been confused about how you should write Romaji Japanese words? For those who don’t know, Romaji is Japanese that is spelt using the Roman alphabet. Unfortunately, you soon become aware that it isn’t always as simple as it seems.

 

Don’t pluralize Romaji nouns

Have you been writing ‘animes’? Uh-oh! In Japanese, nouns are both plural and non-plural. Accordingly, it’s become commonplace to stick to the same pattern when writing romaji, too. So no pluralization!

 

 

Accents vs elongation vs ignoring it altogether

Let’s makes this simpler with an example. とうほく (東北) is a well-known region in Japan, but how should you write it? You could write it as Tohoku, Touhoku, or Tōhoku. There is no golden rule to writing Romaji, and there are several different styles to choose from. The most important thing is consistency! Don’t mix and match!

I generally avoid using the accent simply because I’m too lazy to type it!

 

 

 

N or M?

In Japanese, when the ‘n’ syllable meets a syllable that starts with ‘p’ – many consider the sound to be an m instead of an n. That means you can write ‘kampai’ instead of ‘kanpai’ and ‘tempura’ instead of ‘tenpura’. Of course, you’re allowed to use either, but once again, consistency is key.

 

 

Using italics

If you’re doing a bit of serious writing, you may want to consider using italics. Many professional writers often write foreign words in italics to highlight them. How do the italics in this article look to you? It’s completely up to you if you use them or not, though. 

 

The pronunciation H

Some writers like to write Japanese words how they are pronounced. The letter H can come in quite handy here. For example, you could write ‘koban’ as ‘kohban’. This is one of the rules that follow under the Hepburn writing style.

 

 

Most of this article I wrote from the top of my head (I read a whole book on romanization last year). However, if you’re still unsure or want more information on the Hepburn style or any other styles, you could check out the wikipedia page here.

 

 

 

How to Type in Japanese and Download Japanese Fonts (Win10)

If you’re learning Japanese or work with the Japanese language, chances are you’re going to want to type Japanese characters. However, the standard Japanese fonts can be limited and a little tame. Here’s a quick guide to get you typing like you’re a kanji master.

Before you start, make sure you’ve got a free program like Winrar installed so that you can unzip files.

 

Step 1. Add Japanese to your default keyboard settings

Go to your windows search bar in the bottom left of your screen and type in “Region & Language” and then click on it (or access it through the control panel).

 

 

Click on Add Language, search for or type in Japanese and install it.

 

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Step 2. How it works

To access the Japanese keyboard, click the ENG sign at the bottom right of the screen and change it to Japanese. Make sure the input method is set to hiragana input and not romaji input (It should be the  symbol, not the A symbol). The quickest way to switch between English and Japanese is by using the shortcut “Windows button + Spacebar”.

 

Step 3. Installing new Japanese fonts

If you want more than just the standard fonts, for example, fonts that look like they were done with a brush, follow these simple instructions.

Go to a website like this one:

http://fontfree.me/

Here, find a font that you like a look of and click on the image.

Follow the instructions from the image and click on the “配布サイトでダウンロード” button.

 

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Click on the download button (each site may have the button in a different location).

 

Click on the download and open it in Winrar (if the download doesn’t appear, go to your browser’s downloads).

 

Open the file and double-click on the TFF document. Click on install, this should take a couple of seconds and then you’re done! You can now play around with cool fonts and download as many as you want.

 

Note: Make sure to restart the program you wish to type in for newly installed fonts to work.

Note: Not all fonts support kanji – some are hiragana and katakana only.

How To Drink Green Tea According To Japanese Tradition

 

Japan has traditions and customs about pretty much anything – of course, that includes drinking green tea.

One of the main reasons to drink green tea is because it has a substantial amount of health benefits. While there is a lot of hype (and lies) around the health benefits, there have been studies that show it can:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Speed up metabolism
  • Contains B vitamins, folate, manganese, potassium, magnesium, caffeine and other antioxidants, notably catechins.

 

So, let’s start off about clearing any confusion about what Japanese green tea “緑茶” actually is.

Green tea in Japan is not a sweet, fruity tea like you often by in supermarkets in the west, but has a homely taste. Green is NOT the same as the powdered maccha tea, which is a much stronger and thicker type of tea used in tea ceremonies (sadou).

 

Green tea “ryokucha” (left) looks like this, while maccha (right) looks like this.

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There are many types of green tea, but the best leaves are the ones picked from the first harvest. The higher the harvest number, the lower the quality. The green tea you would buy in a convenience store bottle is often used with the lower quality leaves – unless you go out of your way to buy the fancy stuff.

 

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To make your tea in the traditional way, you’re going to need something called a ‘kyuusu’, which is basically a funny-looking teapot.

 

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How to Prepare Green Tea

 

Step 1. Boil the kettle.

Step 2. Put roughly 2 tablespoons of tea leaves into your kyuusu (for a typical size kyuusu).

Step 3. Once the boiled water has cooled slightly, pour the water into the kettle.

 

  • For tea with a bitter taste, 80 degrees is ideal.
  • For standard tea, 70 degrees is best.
  • For tea with a slightly sweeter taste, 60 degrees is best.

 

Step 4. Allow several minutes for the tea leaves to blend into the water.

Step 5. Take the kyuusu (teapot) in one hand, hold down the lid with your other hand, and pour the tea into the cups for you and your guests. (It’s common for men to hold the teapot and hold down the lid all with one hand).

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TIP: Don’t fill up the cup all in one go! Fill each cup little by little to prevent one tea becoming stronger than another.

Step 6. Once the tea is a drinking temperature, take the cup with both hands and drink away!

Step 7 (optional). If you’re having a wagashi (Japanese sweets) with your tea, please wait until after you’ve had a drink, or the sweet will hide the taste of the tea.

 

Note: Because maccha tea has a much stronger flavour, feel free to eat your sweet before you have a drink.

 

That’s everything you need to know about drinking green tea in Japan. Enjoy!

 

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How to Use Japan’s Convenience Store Printers

 

Need to print documents, but don’t have a printer? Use convenience store printers!

Buying a printer can be a hassle if you don’t need to print things regularly – and let’s not forget the price of new ink cartridges.

Luckily though, with over 10,000 stores around the country, it’s not hard to find convenience store printers.

There are a few methods in which you can do this, so it’s best to choose the one that suits you best.

Take your USB

If you put your files on a USB, you can usually plug your USB into the printer, which allows you to print off any document you want.

Sign up for an online account

This is the method I usually use. Sign up for an account, upload your files, preview your document, and receive a code. Go to the printer inside the store, input your code and print the documents you need.

You can make an account here that you can use at Sunkusu, Family Mart and Lawson.

Connect it to your phone

I’ve never used this one before, but it seems you can connect your phone to the printer – so if you have the documents saved on it, this method could be good for you.

Scan it

If you’re wanting to make copies of a document, then it may be easier to take the document to the store, scan it, and then print it.

Cost

The cost varies depending on which convenience store you go to. While I found it easier to use the networkprint service at my local Family Mart, this isn’t the cheapest way. If you’re printing a document, especially a colour document, prices can start to add up. At Family Mart, a black and white print will cost 20 yen, while a colour print will cost a whopping 60 yen.

A full list of prices can be found here.

By far the cheapest printing service I found was Ministop. At only 10 yen for A4 and even B4 black and white printing, you really can’t go wrong.

Printing settings

While it doesn’t take too long to get the hang of it, there are a few settings you need to watch out for to make sure you don’t mess up your print.

Black and white vs colour
Double-sided vs single sided
Double-sided print both starting at the top of the page – double-sided print starting on opposite sides of the page.
Resizing vs. not resizing.

10 Amazing Things You Probably Didn’t Know You Can Do at a Japanese Konbini

 

 

If you’ve been to Japan, there is no doubt that you went to at least one of Japan’s famous ‘konbini’ stores.

For those of you who haven’t been, a konbini is a store that’s always open and stocks a wide variety of daily items. Seven Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson are the three konbini giants, but it’s not hard to find other franchises, too.

The best thing about a konbini is that you can buy almost anything. Food, drinks, tobacco, magazines, manga, snacks, cleaning products, cooking products, toiletries – the list goes on.

But the real question is, are you making the most of your local Konbini? Here are 10 things you may not have known about.

1. Pay your utility and phone bills.

Personally, I prefer to have it automatically taken out of my bank each month, but you can also choose to pay at your konbini, too. You never know, actually handing over the cash directly might help you lower that expensive summertime air con bills.

コンビニ、konbini

 

 

2. Buying hot food and bento lunches.

Konbini have a large variety of sandwiches, salads, desserts and bento meals to choose from. A bento meal is a ready-to-eat meal that is often rice-based. If you want to eat it warm, just ask the staff to warm it up for you. If you’re in the mood for something less healthy, you can go to the counter and get foods such as fried chicken, sausages, hash browns, chips, manjū, and a ton of other stuff.

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3. Paying for online purchases and concert tickets.

If you buy a product online, you’ll often get the chance to pay for it via konbini. Inside the store, there will be a machine (it’s easily mistaken for an ATM) and use the code you received when you bought the item to print off a ticket. Take it to the counter and you will be charged the same amount as your online purchase. For those who don’t have a debit card, this really comes in handy!

konbini, convience store

 

 

4. Buying garbage collection coupons.

Ever wondered how you are going to get rid of your old bicycle, cupboard, or microwave? No need to go to some far away place – go to your konbini! If you ask for a ‘gomi no ken’ (garbage ticket), it will allow you to throw away garbage at a designated area that’s most likely close to your home. The two most common tickets are the 200 yen tickets and the 500 yen tickets. If you decide to throw something large away, make sure to check with your local council about the size, restrictions, and costs of disposal (a lot of this information is the garbage calendars you get from the town hall). For especially large items, you may have to ring up and choose a day for it to be collected.

konbini, gomi, gomi no ken

 

 

5. Buying soft served ice-cream.

I don’t know if all konbini do this, and it may only be in summer, but you can buy soft ice-cream! If you don’t fancy anything from the wide variety of ice-creams in the freezer, ask the staff or look around for displays to see if they are selling soft ice-cream! And as you’d expect of Japan, there’s plenty of flavours to choose from!

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6. Topping up your travel cards.

Has your Suica or Pasmo train card ran out of money? Is topping them up in a busy train station too much of a pain? Then go to your local konbini and top it up there! If you’re not sure of how much you have left on your card, feel free to walk in and ask them to check your balance for you.

konbini, suica

 

 

7. Winning prizes.

When I worked in a konbini, there was almost always some kind of promotion on. A common campaign was if you bought two or three of a particular selection of products, you’d win a collectible keyring, anime product, notebook or something similar. My favourite, however, is the 700 yen lottery. For every 700 yen you spend, you get to pull a raffle out of a box. The hit rate was about 50%, but sometimes you’d have a lump of winning tickets all together. A customer would come in and buy his usual 4200 yen carton of tobacco, and walk out with a whole bag full of goodies that he won!

konbini, 700 yen kuji

 

 

8. Buying oden and yakitori.

You know winter is coming when you see convenience stores advertising their oden! Oden is a winter food that consists of boiled eggs, radish, fish-cakes, and other ingredients. It’s a great food to warm you up on those winter days!
While in summer, it’s all about yakitori. Yakitori is chicken on a skewer, it sounds simple – but you’d be surprised at how many choices you have. While you can choose from around ten different types of chicken meat, the main choice you need to make is if you want it salted or coated with a shoyu sauce.

oden, konbini

 

 

9. To quickly eat some pot noodles or soup.

You might be thinking “well, everyone knows Japan loves pot noodles, so it’s pretty obvious” – but did you know that you can actually make the noodles and soup while you’re in the store? Many konbini will have a hot water dispenser just for your noodles!

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10. Printing service.

Almost all convenience stores in Japan will have a printer that you can use. You can take in a USB or make an account online and upload whatever it is you need to print. While this is perfect for someone who only occasionally needs to print something off, if you regularly need to print off colour documents, it could get expensive.

For a guide to use a convenience store printer, click here.

konbini, printer service

Ten Japanese Words You Should Learn For Your Trip to Japan

There’s no doubt that Japan is a pretty magical country – which is exactly why you will want to make the most out of your precious trip. Here is a list of ten Japanese words that you really should learn before going!

  1. Arigatou gozaimasu (a-ri-ga-toh go-zai-mass) – Thank you.

Of course, you need to know how to say thank you! This is the polite version, but if it’s too much of a mouthful for you, you’ll get away with the casual version “Arigatou”.

 

  1. Doumo (doh-moh) – Thanks.

Doumo also means thank you, but this is a lot lighter than saying number one on the list. You say this when you want a casual, off-handed thank you. For example, when you buy a snack at a shop, all you need to say is “doumo” and you’ll look like a pro!

 

  1. Irrasshaimasei (irra-shy-mah-say) – Welcome.

It’s unlikely that you’ll need to say this word, but oh will you hear it! This is on the list simply so you won’t get confused when you enter a shop or a restaurant. It means “welcome” and will often be shouted when you enter a restaurant. Feel free to ignore it, or just give a slight nod to the staff.

 

  1. Kore kudasai (ko-reh ku-dah-sigh) – This, please.

Japan often has menus with pictures on them, so when you have no idea how to say the thing you want to order in Japanese, just point to the menu and say ‘this please’!

 

  1. Sumimasen, [x] wa doko desu ka? (su-mi-ma-sen, x wah doh-koh dess kah?) – Excuse me, where is (x)?

I wasn’t sure if this should be on the list. Sure, it should be useful to ask where something is (i.e how to get there), but if you don’t understand the answer, it won’t be much help. Luckily, many Japanese people will try to explain it to you in what little English ability they have.

 

  1. Toire (toy-reh) – toilet.

It could come in handy to know how to say toilet. Use this with number 5 on the list to ask where the toilet is!

 

  1. Hoteru (Ho-teh-lu) – hotel.

Just in case you have trouble finding your hotel, using this with number 5 could get you out of a pinch.

 

  1. Konnichiwa (kon-knee-chi-wa) – hello.

Okay, so this actually means something like “good afternoon”, but this is a list to allow you to get by with the bare minimum of Japanese, so I’ll forgo morning and evening greetings – it’s not like a Japanese person won’t understand you.

 

  1. [x] ni ikitai (x knee ih-key-tie) – I want to go to x.

While you’re in Japan, you’re probably going to want to see the sites, meaning you might have to ask someone how to get there. This phrase would also work on staff at the train station – assuming you know how to say the name of the place you want to go!

  1. Kuukou – (kooh-koh) – airport.

The last word on the list is airport. ‘Kuukou’ and ‘airport’ sound nothing alike, so a Japanese person who doesn’t know much English might not understand, and the last thing you’d want to do is miss your plane home!

 

So this is the end of the list. There’s a ton of other words that you might need, but this is the bare minimum you can quickly pick up on the long plane journey to Japan. Have fun practising!

JAPAN AND YOUR SHOES

 

Do you need to take off your shoes when entering someone’s home in Japan? It’s pretty obvious, but yes. I’m from the UK, and some people have no-shoe homes, and other people have shoes-okay homes – either way, when I enter someone’s house for the first time, I ask them!

 

In Japan, 99.9% of the time, you will need to take your shoes off – so it might be worth thinking about what shoes and socks you’re going to wear. I made the mistake of wearing some extremely tightly fastened Converse boots when entering a bar with almost no space for taking my shoes off. I was crouching down, pretty much in the small entrance of the store, struggling to unfasten my shoes while the staff awkwardly waited for me!

 

So, where do you take them off, and what do you do with them?

When you enter someone’s house, there will be a small area to take your shoes off. Many homes will also have a small step when you enter the main part of the building – make sure to take your shoes off before here! It’s common practice to put your shoes together neatly so that they point towards the exit.

 

Where else do I need to take my shoes off?

There are many places you need to take your shoes off (and sometimes change into slippers). You should always take your shoes off when entering a tatami-mat room. You’ll probably be required to take them off at the doctor’s office, or in traditional-style Japanese restaurants or drinking establishments. When drinking, it can be easy to forget! I know at least a few times, I’ve gone to the bathroom in a Japanese bar, put on the bathroom slippers, done my business, and completely forgotten to leave my slippers in the bathroom! Don’t worry though, I’ve even seen Japanese people do this, too.

 

Do I have to use slippers in my house and my bathroom?

Many Japanese people have house-slippers, and even more have bathroom slippers. When you have a guest over, it might be a nice touch to put some slippers outside of the toilet. But if you don’t want to, don’t worry! It’s your house, and it’s unlikely you’ll have guests over all the time, so there’s no need to buy slippers if you don’t want to. And if you’re living in a small flat, it might even feel stupid to have bathroom slippers!

 

Should I wear socks if I’m going to take my shoes off?

If you’re like me, then you will be wearing socks no matter what! But many people also enjoy being foot-naked. Really, you don’t have to wear socks, but if it’s something formal, you should probably wear what is required for that formal situation. If it’s something casual, then feel free to whip those feet out!

 

What shoes should I wear to an interview in Japan?

If it’s an interview at the 7/11 down the road, you’ll probably be okay in casual footwear, assuming that they don’t draw too much attention. If it’s a career interview, then men should always wear black shoes to match your suit. Women should wear black shoes with a slight heal.

 

I want to buy shoes in Japan, but I don’t know what size I am.

Unlike many countries that use sizes that are more complex than required (different size types for men and women and for adults and children), Japan keeps it nice and simple by using centimetres. So all you need to do is google your shoe size in centimetres, and if for some reason you can’t do this – just try some shoes on until you figure it out.

 

MEN

UK77.588.599.51010.51111.512
US88.599.51010.51111.5121314
EU40.5414242.5434444.5454646.547
JP2626.52727.52828.52929.5303132

 

 

WOMEN

UK33.544.555.566.577.58
US5.566.577.588.599.51010.5
EU35.5363737.53838.5394040.54142
JP2222.52323.52424.52525.52626.527

GUIDE TO THE JLPT (JAPANESE LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY TEST)

jlpt, test, results, japanese

You’re studying Japanese? Well done! Studying Japanese can be a lot of fun, but if you’re serious about it, you should definitely give the JLPT a go.

The first thing you need to decide is what level test you want to take because you can only take one test every 6 months!

LEVEL GUIDE

JLPT N5: This test isn’t really taken seriously. It tests you on a small amount of the basics of Japanese. It really doesn’t show that you can do Japanese at all – so unless you really want that benchmark, and going to the test site isn’t too much of a pain for you, then I don’t really recommend taking this test.

RATING: NEW TO JAPANESE

JLPT N4: So now things are getting a little bit more difficult, and while this test doesn’t prove your fluency in Japanese, it might show that you can make some broken conversations and read hiragana. It’s a good benchmark and shows that you have real interest in Japan and learning Japanese, so it might be good to have for an ALT (assistant language teacher) interview.

RATING: FOOT IN THE DOOR

JLPT N3: I’ve never taken N3, but I have studied it when I first arrived in Japan. Now you’re starting to get pretty good. You need to be able to understand paragraphs, read a fair few kanji characters, as well as being able to understand basic conversations. Getting this certificate will look good on your resume and show you can understand basic Japanese. If you work in the IT industry, this may be enough for you to land a job in Japan!

RATING: INTERMEDIATE

JLPT N2: N2 was the first test I took. It consists of a wide range of Japanese that is used in a broad range of situations. It can take a long time to get good enough to pass this test. You’ll need to be able to read and understand difficult passages that you might find in a newspaper or similar. Many people attend language school in order to pass it. If you’re from a country like China that uses kanji, it will probably take you half the amount of study hours as someone from a country that doesn’t use it. If you’re looking for a job in Japan, then this will suffice for many jobs if you gained skills in university! If you’re from a country that uses kanji, you should ideally have N1 when applying for a permanent job.

RATING: ADVANCED

JLPT N1: You want to challenge N1? Then you must be study-masochist! N1 is seriously hard. It takes many people years and years of full-time study in Japan! The majority of Japanese that appears in this test you will never even use. I managed to scrape a pass on my third attempt – that’s two years after I passed N2 with flying colours. So you have to be really serious to even dream of N1 – but don’t be fooled, even if you have N1, there is still a long way to go!

RATING: HARDCORE

TEST SECTIONS AND MARKING SCHEME

There are four sections to the JLPT test that may or may not be divided, depending on the level you take.

Listening (choukai) – you will listen to an audio tape and write down the answers on your answer sheet. On some questions, there are visual aids. Even if you’re confident in Japanese, you should practice a few of them to get the hang of the types of questions that appear.

Grammar (bunpou) – This tests your grammar. It’s quite straight-forward, just choose the correct answer. Towards the end of the grammar section, there will be a few questions where you have to put the words in the correct order to find the answer.

Vocabulary (goi) – This tests your vocabulary range and your kanji reading skills. On occasion, there will be some fairly obscure nouns that pop up, but don’t dwell on it, one or two points isn’t the end of the world.

Reading (dokkai) – This is usually considered the hardest part to pass for people from a non-kanji country. You will be asked 1-4 questions on extracts of Japanese text that vary in length. There can be some very long texts that you are required to read, so this section definitely needs practice so you can skim through it and pick out the correct answer.

All questions of the test are multiple choice, and there are no speaking or writing sections.

The following is a table showing the pass marks for each test and in each section. In any of the tests, if you score left that 19 points in a section, you will automatically fail, even if you have enough overall points to pass.

LevelOverall pass markLanguage Knowledge
(Vocabulary/Grammar)
ReadingListening
N1100 points19 points19 points19 points
N290 points19 points19 points19 points
N395 points19 points19 points19 points
Total possible180 points60 points60 points60 points
N490 points38 points19 points
N580 points38 points19 points
Total possible180 points120 points60 point

N1 READING

If you’re interested in this, then you must be pretty serious about Japanese. A lot of people don’t actually know why this section is so hard. Aside from the incredibly difficult passages, tricky questions, and obscure words, there is actually another reason why most people fail.

Unlike other sections, the reading section has up to four questions on the same text. To stop people fluking an average of one point when your previous answer is incorrect,  you may receive 0 marks even if the following answer is correct.

For example:

Question 1.a – INCORRECT

Question 1.b – INCORRECT

Question 1.c – CORRECT

It’s possible that you would get zero points, and unfortunately, in N1 reading, every point is extremely important! It could take you five whole minutes just to pick an answer! Because of this, if you don’t know grammer and vocabulary fast enough, you’ll run out of time.

For more information, visit the official site here.

MARRYING IN JAPAN WITHOUT BEING THERE

 

Did you know it’s possible to get married in Japan without even stepping foot in the country once?

 

Unlike many other countries, marriage in Japan is not legalized by having a ceremony in front of a celibate, but by registering your marriage at the town hall the Japanese partner was born in.

 

This makes it both simple and cheap to get married in Japan, assuming you don’t want a big fancy wedding. And as a foreigner to Japan, what you actually need to do is very little. This is a little guide or what you need to do based on the UK-Japanese procedure.

 

 

What YOU, the foreigner needs:

Residing outside of Japan: a certificate on non-impediment.

Residing in Japan: an affirmation of marriage or an affidavit or marriage.

Translation of certificate of non-impediment (CNI)/affirmation of marriage.

To sign/fill in the application of marriage form. (Kon-in Todoke)

Translation of your passport.

 

What your PARTNER, the Japanese national needs:

To get the application of marriage form from the town hall where the partner was born.

To sign/fill in the application of marriage form (Kon-in Todoke), with the signatures of two witnesses.

 

 

If you haven’t researched this yet, you might be thinking “what the hell are all these documents”?! Here is a quick explanation for each.

 

Certificate of non-impendiment (UK): A certificate from the town hall you are residing at in the UK. It is basically the certificated version of the 28 day waiting period one is required to wait before one can be legally married in the UK.

 

Affirmation of Marriage: A non-religious document that shows you swore an oath stating that there is no legal reason you cannot get married. This can be got from the UK embassy in Tokyo.

 

Affidavit of marriage: A religious document that shows you swore an oath stating that there is no legal reason you cannot get married. This can be got from the UK embassy in Tokyo.

 

Application of marriage (Kon-in Todoke): A form that needs to be filled and signed by you, your partner and two witnesses. This application form is best gotten from the government office your partner’s family is registered. If you register the marriage at a different government office, you will need to get a family register document (koseki tohon).

 

Translation of CNI/affirmation/affidavit/passport: This does not need to be done by a professional, but it is best to do it as accurately as possible. Those with Japanese ability or partners with English ability can do it. If you’re worried about making mistakes, then I offer a value translation service to ensure that a little mistake somewhere does cause you to waste weeks of your time. When you’ve finished the translations, don’t forget to date and sign it.

 

Under most circumstances, this will be all you need. To get all the mentioned documents, it is easier to be residing in Japan on a long-term visa, but if you have your partner in Japan or some helpful relatives of your partner, then it is possible to get married while being outside of the country.

 

It may sound complicated at first, but it’s quite simple compared to many other countries. I would recommend leaving most of the work to your Japanese partner, who should ring the government office/town hall where they were born, and directly find out the list of documents required.

 

CHANGE FROM A TOURIST VISA TO A JAPANESE SPOUSE VISA

 

The simple answer: yes, it is theoretically possible, but it could be a risk to try and change your Japanese visa so suddenly.

 

I wondered this exact same thing, though. I saw this asked several times on forums such as Gaijinpot, and each time, the answers contradicted each other!

 

Commenter A: Yes, I did it. It was easy, just walk in and change it.

Commenter B: It’s illegal. You will be deported and may be banned from entering the country.

 

So, who should you believe?! Well, it really depends on your own personal situation.

 

In Japan, it is hard for unskilled foreign labourers to get a long-term Japanese visa that allows them to work. In recent times, there has been a large number of foreigners having sham marriages to gain one. Not only that, a large number of people who got their marriage visa denied disappeared and are over-staying their tourist visa illegally. Because of this, the Japanese Immigration Bureau will want to carefully assess if your marriage is the real deal or not – this takes time, more time than your typical tourist visa.

 

Normally, to receive a long-term visa in Japan, you will have to get a CEO (Certificate of Eligibility) that proves you are eligible for one. Because it takes a long time to process a CEO, the Immigration Bureau will ask you to return to your country while it is processed. Then, you will be required to visit one of the Japanese embassies in your country, where you will finally receive your Japanese visa.

 

So then, it’s impossible? Well, not quite. There are exceptions where one is permitted to change from a tourist visa to a spouse visa.

 

  1. The visa applicant has a child with a Japanese partner.
  2. The applicant is not yet married and is intending to marry on the current short-term visa.
  3. The applicant was married overseas and has not yet registered the marriage in Japan.
  4. Applicant already has a COE.

 

So now you might be thinking that filling one of these conditions doesn’t seem very hard. You may be correct, or you may not be.

 

The problem with visas is that everyone’s visa application is different. Not only are applications different, but also the people who grant them. If you ring the Immigration Bureau, they will have no definite answer for you. They won’t want to guarantee something that could possibly be overturned by someone on the other side of the country.

So at the end of the day, the choice is up to you. I opted to do things the long and safe way and got my CEO and visa while in my own country.

 

For those who can read Japanese, or have a Japanese partner interested in the information, please visit this website.

LINK TO JAPANESE PAGE