Kenyans In Japan Association


16 October 2020

KIJA website -FAQs
Life in Japan

Before sending us a question, please check to see if you can find the information you’re looking for in the FAQ section below.

1. How much should I expect to spend on living costs?

The exchange rate for 100 Yen in June 2020 is roughly 100 Kenya Shillings. (1 for 1) Japan is an expensive country and accommodation near the center of major cities can be particularly expensive, but you might be surprised how cheaply you can get by if you are careful. Below is a list detailing the estimated monthly living costs for a working holiday maker in Tokyo. Such costs will obviously vary a great deal depending on your spending habits, and the area you live in.

You should expect that you have to spend substantially more during the first month of your stay.
Accommodation (studio apartment) 70,000 yen per month,
(share-house) 50,000 yen per month
Food 60,000 yen per month
Utilities 40,000 yen per month (Power, water, gas, internet)
Total 165,000 yen per month

A soft drink can from a vending machine usually costs between 100 yen to 150 yen, a bowl of rice and chicken costs 500 yen, and a McDonalds meal costs 550 yen. Food in supermarkets can also be quite expensive, and eating out can sometimes work out cheaper than cooking your own food at home.

Items such as meat, fruit, and vegetables might be more expensive than what you are used to, but make sure you cut back on other things before you cut back spending on food. You may need more nutrition than usual to help you to cope with the stress of adapting to your new environment.

2. How do I get a work visa?

To work full-time in Japan, you first need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree in any field (or prove you have at least 10 years of experience in some industry), then find a company or school that agrees to hire you. You can apply for a visa in or out of Japan.

Some can work legally in some field (entertainer, chef, etc.) without a college degree but the rule of thumb is for a “specialist in humanities/international affairs” type of qualification, the government requires some type of Bachelor’s degree.

One can also enroll in a language, martial arts, or other accredited school and get a student visa which allows you to work up to 28 hrs/week legally (there is a separate form from Immigration you’ll need to fill out). To get a student visa however, many times the Immigration Dept. will demand that you have at least one million yen in a Japanese bank account, and to see your college diploma (the real one or certified copy, no photocopies).

For those of you considering teaching English in Japan (EFL, or sometimes called ESL), please refer to online resources on this matter. In all such cases for a work permit/visa, you will need a guarantor for your visa — usually your employer/company/school can act as one for you; if they won’t, you’ll need someone (often they’ll demand he be a Japanese citizen) with a stable job and salary who’ll be one for you.

The only other viable legal options to work in Japan are through a spouse visa by marrying a Japanese, or a dependent visa by being married to a foreigner in Japan who is legally working full time.

3. How can I rent a private apartment or house? (Apartment Hunting)

Unfortunately, most apartments have 24-month contracts. Basically the larger the city, the higher the rent. There is also a very large difference between rent in the city centres and suburban areas. Accommodation that is close to train stations tends to be more expensive. Rent is usually charged monthly in Japan.

When choosing an apartment a few things to consider are:

  • Age of the apartment. The older the apartment, the less earthquake proof it is. Stay away from any building older than 40 years old.
  • How close it is to a bus or train station?
  • How close it is to a supermarket, post office, restaurant or laundromat?
  • Is it on a busy street? (Many motorcycles run at all hours of the night on the big streets while revving their engines).
  • Is it near a hostess-bar (“sunakku”)? Then I hope you like the drunken wails of old men who actually think they can sing.
  • Is it on a slope? You will have a hard time riding your bicycle.
  • Can you adapt to the Japanese squat toilet? Although rare these days, the older apartments still have squat toilets from the 1970s.
  • Does the building already have an internet cable connection? Most do. Saves you time and money to get the internet to your room.
  • Rooms are measured according to how many tatami mats fit into it. A tatami mat (-jo) is 1.8m x 90cm, and a typical room has 6-jo, or about 10 square meters (108 sq. ft.). A 1K apt. has one 6-jo room with the mini kitchen in the hall-way, 1DK has two 6-jo rooms (1 room, 1 dining 1 kitchen = 1DK), 1LDK has that plus a living room. Other apartments have 2DK which means 2 6-jo rooms and kitchen room, etc.

    The initial fees, deposit, etc. that you are required to pay upfront usually amount to around 4 to 5 months rent, and only part of this is refunded. These initial costs are;

  • The deposit called shikikin (usually equal to 1 months’ rent and is refundable after your contract expires or when you move out),
  • The landlord gift money called reikin (usually equal to 1 months’ rent and is nonrefundable)
  • The realtor agent fees (equal to one month’s rent. You only pay if you decide to sign the contract and is nonrefundable)
  • Fire and water damage insurance (usually around 20,000 yen/year, required annually and is nonrefundable)
  • A guarantor who is a Japanese citizen with a stable full-time job and a good credit record. In lieu of that, you pay guarantor companies to guarantee that they will pay rent should you default. (usually around half a months rent/2 years, non refundable, required upon renewal of the 2 year contract annually)
  • Then finally the first month’s rent.
  • Apartments are usually completely unfurnished so you will need to buy everything from light bulbs and curtains to a refrigerator and washing machine. And on top of all that, Unfortunately many landlords are extremely reluctant to rent to non-Japanese people. This is either due to bad prior experiences with foreigners (all foreigners are deemed equal), or the “ambience” of the apartment, or whatever reason. At this point screaming about discrimination and “My Rights” won’t help you. Realtors know which apartments to propose to you (landlord OKs foreigners) and which they will not propose to you. So, you may see ads for nice apartments online or on noticeboards, but since it is illegal to write “Japanese only”, you will not know if the landlord allows foreigner tenants or not until you ask a realtor to call in and check. There are furnished apartments that cater to people staying temporarily in Japan but they tend to be about 50% to 100% more expensive. If you change apartments, some landlords require at least a one-month advance notice or you may have to pay a penalty.

    4. How can I get on the Internet in Japan?

    There are many net providers in Japan, with many different rate plans. Japan has some of the highest internet speeds available for consumers in the world, with up to 100 Mbps level fiber optic cable and can be used for as little as 2000 to 4000 yen per month. Many net provider services run on one or two year contracts.

    Some of the biggest ISPs are Asahi, OCN, Au, Biglobe, So-net, IIJ, and Rakuten. One of the newer methods is a portable dongle router like Wimax2+, UQ, RakutenMobile or Ymobile, which allow a maximum download speed of 220 mbs. Speeds may vary depending on if you are in an isolated location. Search online and just call in, or walk into your nearest electronics shops and apply in person.

    5. Cellular Phones

    In Japan for the cellular phones, prices and functions vary — the largest are NTT, Softbank, and AU. Prices for the basic phone can vary widely though, and the phone charges may be comparable to calling long distance on a landline. In Japan, the caller assumes all the charges — if you never make any calls you’d only have to pay the monthly contract fee. If you buy a phone you also have to buy a contract with it, usually good for 2 years although a monthly contract type also exists. There is the new proliferation of sim-free cheaper android phones. These are the most viable, when coupled with the “kakuyasu sim” or “cheap sim” packages offered by 2nd tier vendors such as UQ, RakutenMobile or Ymobile.