Holy Moly New Major, Graduation, Moving to Japan?

Kyandasu
Bento-ing from: Boulder › Colorado › USA
Joined: 23 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 20 weeks ago.

So, this is not happening immediately, or really any time soon, but in a few years (probably 3 at the most), I will probably be moving to Japan. I know this seems way in advance, but I am the kind of person who likes to have the next 10 years outlined. I am an English major, and until recently I was planning on getting my teaching degree in English. However, due to financial reasons, I changed that plan and added Japanese as a second major, while dropping the Pre-Education. It was a major change for me, as I've had the whole "going-to-be-a-teacher" persona for the past 6 years. However, I also love the Japanese language and anything related to Japan (mostly anyway), so I'm content with my decision. Someday soon, after we've saved enough money and such, my boyfriend (Justin) and I plan to move to Japan for a few years, probably between 3 to 5 years. Justin is also a Japanese major, and looking to go into translation work in the video game industry. We both want to be there to help secure jobs and become fluent. Neither of us is quite fluent yet, although I am better at the language than my boyfriend. I have stayed in Japan on a 4 month study abroad trip, and I taught English during that time. So I think that will be what I want to do when I am living there. (You don't really need a teaching degree for this.)

However, the problem is I have no idea where we should move, or how we should prepare for such a move. Justin should get a job where he can speak English, at least at first, until he gets more comfortable with the language. I don't know what kind of job that would be, or where he would find it. We also have cats that would have to come with us (non-negotiable), and I've heard it's quite expensive. Beside the expense, I don't even know how to get pets on a plane and across oceans.

So...I guess I am asking the JustBento community the following things:
-Are there any cities in Japan that are particularly friendly toward foreigners? Are there jobs available where you can speak English and be understood? I don't really want to live in Tokyo, but I am fine with Kyoto (<3), Osaka, etc. Do more rural areas have opportunities for foreigners? Because I'd love to live in Akita, which is where I studied abroad.
-What is the housing market like in Japan? (Not to buy, but to rent?) We need room for two cats. How does pricing work? Are all big cities expensive and small the way Tokyo is?
-Any tips for living in Japan as a foreigner?
-Have you ever moved to another country with pets? What is the process like, and how much did it cost? I heard Japan quarantines the pets for a while.
-We don't want to stay in Japan forever. Justin's work will probably have him working Stateside eventually. Any tips on putting a Japanese degree to use in the States? Or an English degree for that matter? (lol)
-Encouraging thoughts about making big changes (like switching your major) and steering your life into an entirely unforeseen direction?

It's fine if no one can really answer these questions. I am just throwing them out there to see if anyone has any advice. I don't really want to pester Maki about it, due to her condition, but I'd welcome her advice if she reads this. I know it seems like I'm jumping the gun, but I'm close to graduating, and I need a plan or else I will go crazy. Even if my plans change, they need to be there for me to have the motivation and momentum to make something out of my life. Changing my major was a huge leap of faith for me. I would love the comfort of a nice plan to prove that it was a good idea.

Thank you in advance!

____________________________________

Onaka ga suiteiru!
日本語を話せますか。私もちょっと話せますよ。友達になりたいです。

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Kyandasu
Bento-ing from: Boulder › Colorado › USA
Joined: 23 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 20 weeks ago.
Re: Holy Moly New Major, Graduation, Moving to Japan?

Oh also, Justin and I are planning on getting married before we move. So pretty much I feel like "Ahhh! All of a sudden my life is happening! What do I do?" >.<

anon.
Re: Holy Moly New Major, Graduation, Moving to Japan?

The only bit I can possibly help with is the moving with pets. When I was young I lived in Texas, however I am actually Icelandic. So when I was about 10 we moved back to Iceland and we had a cat that I absolutely would not allow to be left behind. In fact, I'm pretty sure I asked that if I never again got a christmas present or a birthday present, could we take her home with us. My parents at that point were like, well, we can't leave the cat behind now...

However, it was quite difficult to get her home. For one thing, she had to be in quarantine in Iceland for 2 months, once she arrived there. But there was also a que to get into the quarantine area, so we actually had to leave her for several months in the states with family there, before they could ship her over to us.

We did have to fly her from Texas to Pennsylvania ourselves as that is where the family that looked after her for us were. We had a cage for here that could actually fit under an airline seat, so we could have her with us the whole flight.

Hope this helps a bit, you can start planning it ahead of time, not like we did ;) :P

Loretta
Moderator
Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 1 day ago.
Re: Holy Moly New Major, Graduation, Moving to Japan?

Neither of you are married to a Japanese person nor are you likely to have jobs that come with pre-approved visas before arriving in Japan - which might mean you'd need to go on visitors' visas and hop over periodically to Korea to extend them.
Add to this the fact that your cats live in the USA in a region that will possibly have had a case of rabies in the past two years http://www.iatatravelcentre.com/JP-Japan-customs-currency-airport-tax-re... (information in link now out-dated, see Maki's contribution)
which means 6 months of quarantine for the cats in Japan.
It doesn't add up and I can't see how immigration will be OK with allowing you in on a visitors visa (where you effectively declare that you won't be visiting for more than 3 or 6 months) whilst you're also applying for long term quarantine.

Is Bolder, Colorado exempt from the quarantine conditions?
All the Americans I've known who brought pets to the UK had to have their animals in quarantine for 6 months - it cost a fortune and was very hard on pets and owners. The system in Japan seems similar to the one used in England (EDIT - the UK's status also changed on the 1st Jan 2012).

bronwyncarlisle
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Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 19 weeks ago.
Re: Holy Moly New Major, Graduation, Moving to Japan?

New Zealand has pretty strict quarantine conditions for animals of all sorts, and I think there is some scheme whereby you can, depending on where you are coming from, have your animals in a sort of house-arrest type of quarantine in an approved facility for the quarantine period before you leave. You can go and visit the animals during that time, and they can then travel at the same time you do and come out of quarantine when they arrive. It's a bit easier than the old fashioned strict no contact quarantine for months after arrival, but still not easy. It's a good portion of a cat's lifetime. Not really very fair on it.

____________________________________

Bronwyn

My blog is Food and Shoes

maki
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Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 3 weeks 2 days ago.
Re: Holy Moly New Major, Graduation, Moving to Japan?

The IATA page that Loretta pointed to seems to be out of date. As of January 1, the US is not one of the 'designated areas' that require a long quarantine period. Here is the official government page that details what you have to do for dogs and cats: http://www.maff.go.jp/aqs/english/animal/dog/import-other.html (in English). It seems that if you do the preliminary steps (vaccinations, microchip, blood test) your pets may only require a 12 hour quarantine. However, as Loretta said, you really need to be sure your human situation in Japan will be solid before even thinking about moving your pets along with you.

I would strongly suggest trying to line up jobs beforehand, even if it means both of you get English teaching jobs, at least initially. (ETA: an English teaching job can lead to other opportunities - and at least it gets you in the country legally, with a job.) Working illegally in Japan is really not a good idea. (Actually, it's not a good idea for the U.S. either.) If you somehow get caught you may never be allowed back in. That being said, it's certainly not impossible to find a job, even if you are not married to a Japanese citizen. Try perusing a site like http://www.gaijinpot.com/ for example to see what's out there.

As far as where to live - well, if you don't speak any Japanese at all, Tokyo or Yokohama would be the most low-stress places to be, but if you don't want to be in an urban area you can still get by with some very basic Japanese for a while. But again, many people move to Japan without a lot of Japanese knowledge and get teaching positions in small towns or rural areas and do OK. I guess it all depends on your sense of adventure, and willingness to learn and adapt.

____________________________________

The Big Onigiri.

- Wherever you go, there you are. -

maki
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Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
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Re: Holy Moly New Major, Graduation, Moving to Japan?

I commented on Quora about this a bit - I agree with you about the reasons why he was detained, if he indeed was ( http://www.quora.com/Japan/Are-there-any-reasons-to-believe-that-parts-o... )

In any case, you don't want to mess with things like visa status if you want to stay out of trouble - to keep it on topic ^_^ And this applies to *any* country.

Loretta
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Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 1 day ago.
Re: Holy Moly New Major, Graduation, Moving to Japan?

Thanks Maki for picking up on the outdated link I submitted (I've also noted that any fantasies I might have had about owning a dog which could be brought to Japan will need to be revised now that the UK's status has changed).

The immediate problem seems to be on which visa you'll be entering on.
Generally you're required to enter Japan with a return ticket unless you have one of the following visas:
http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/long/index.html

So even if you can satisfy the quarantine requirements and avoid a long spell of isolation for your cats, those cats will need to have return tickets also.

Now, plenty of people do bend the rules, they go to Japan without visas, find jobs which enable them to acquire visas, find ways of extending their stays, but almost all of these scenarios involve leaving Japan for short periods.
(here's a cautionary story showing what can happen when it all goes wrong http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2012/01/japans-immigration-control note the part about the short sleepless visit to Seoul which gives a big clue about what kind of visa the man who called Tokyo 'home' actually had).
I discussed this with my Japanese born husband who returned to Japan to live for 5 years having attended school and University in the UK. He began by teaching English over the phone under a forced English pseudonym so as not to ruin the illusion that he was a handsome blue eyed blonde instructor. Then he got to leave and pursue his chosen career. Phone teaching seems to be a default option for those who want to work in Japan with faces and racial characteristics that don't fit into the accepted pigeonholes of the "genki gaijin" English teacher.
His view was that, outside of English teaching, opportunities to work solely in English tended to be in niches and industries with unsavory associations. In other words, the majority of those who work without having to use Japanese do so illegally, one way or another.
For the few legitimate roles available there is also a lot of competition as these are dream jobs for those in Japan on spouse visas. And there are enough people with this or a similar status for companies to recruit from this 'pot' without going through the tedious and expensive business of acquiring a visa. And also, there's no guarantee that if you do get a job and a visa is applied for that it will actually be granted (as happened to me when I hoped to be in Japan longer so I could support my then boyfriend through his mother's illness and bereavement).

My view is that you'll need to understand what is required to be able to move your cats there.
You'll also need to figure out a way of obtaining some kind of visa before you go.

Although many people just get flights to Japan and find jobs and opportunities once they are there, the cats will make many of the usual options difficult (having brought cats in would you be allowed to leave Japan for a visa extension trip without them? Who would be taking responsibility for them in your absence? What if you weren't allowed back into the country?)
What I mean is that the cats may force you to have to stick rigidly to the law regarding your immigration status. The reality is that a great deal of the people who arrived without appropriate visas in Japan have bent (if not actually broken) the regulations as far as they'll go in order to stay there.

maki
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Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
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Re: Holy Moly New Major, Graduation, Moving to Japan?

The source of that Economist story (which is not actually a formal report they fact checked, just something that appeared on their blog) has been widely disputed for what it's worth. See http://www.japanprobe.com/2012/01/20/christopher-johnson-under-fire-for-...

Loretta
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Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
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Re: Holy Moly New Major, Graduation, Moving to Japan?

The Japan probe article confirms my own suspicions about his visa status. A LOT of people seem to get away with extending stays that are made contrary to government advice and regulations and there's a lot in expat forums and websites with how to go about doing this with details about runs to and from neighbouring countries such as Korea and other techniques.
I don't trust Mr Johnson's account of what happened nor his explanations about why he was 'targetted', but I do believe that something along these lines did actually happen to him and it's worthwhile remembering this outcome when considering how far one wishes to bend the immigration laws.
Stay on the right side of the law and the story should remain completely irrelevant.

Kyandasu
Bento-ing from: Boulder › Colorado › USA
Joined: 23 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 20 weeks ago.
Re: Holy Moly New Major, Graduation, Moving to Japan?

We were both actually thinking of getting teaching jobs. I actually taught an English class as a Saturday baito while I was there studying abroad, so I know I like it. Of course, that will be through a program which, from my understanding, usually sets up your visas and such for you. We were definitely going to have everything set up--jobs and living situation and such--before we left for good. We would never work there illegally. If the quarantine thing for our cats is just a couple days, or even a couple of weeks, I'm okay with it, but 6 months like some other people are saying is so long!

Justin and I are not completely green in Japanese. By the time we are both graduated we'll have finished 6 semesters, and we were both in Japan for 4 months, during which our Japanese improved a lot. I can hold a decent conversation, direct taxis, etc. There is just a lot of vocabulary I haven't gotten around to learning. I have the basic structures of the language down though, and a lot of the phrases I picked up from my roommates and friends in Japan. But Justin is not as good as I am, though he can manage. I just want him to be able to get used to speaking Japanese before he's plunged into an all-Japanese speaking work environment. Even if it's just a part-time thing for a little bit. An English-teaching job might be best for him, too.

I should also add that I know you can get a job there without being a citizen, because Justin's brother lives and works in Kyoto for a video game company, and has been for the past 3 years or so. He's on a work visa.

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