Japan conjures images of a country totally and utterly different in culture from what we're used to in Canada. It is known for being expensive, busy, and full of cutting edge technology while managing to keep strong ties to it's ancient history and culture.
If you've ever watched one of those mad Japanese gameshows where hundereds of contestants injure themselves (while keeping a smile on their faces) trying to pull off ridiculous stunts, you'll get the impression that the Japanese are up for anything! Add to that some amazing scenery, bustling vertical cities, mind blowing vending machines, sushi, and a bit of sumu wrestling and you'll have plenty to keep you occupied.
Because of the huge cultural differences and the high cost of living, Japan will be a far more challenging working holiday option than Australia or the UK. But for those who take on the challenge, the rewards will be great and you might even get a chance to pick up some of the language during your stay in Osaka or any other city and surprise your friends!
Japan is an expensive place, there's no way around it. If you want to live in central Tokyo be prepared to pay a lot even for a tiny apartment. Tokyo hotels are a good option for new arrivals into the country. As you move away from the centre or out of Tokyo altogether prices will fall. Renting an apartment through a conventional real estate company will be difficult and expensive. Many require leases of 2 years and a load of up front fees.
Fortunately, companies have been set up to cater for foreigners. These exist mainly in Tokyo and other major cities and have both private and share apartments on offer for shorter periods of time, usually furnished and some with utilities included in the rent. A shared apartment will typically cost between 40,000 and 100,000 yen in Tokyo or at least 100,000 for a private place. Another option is a 'gaijin house' ('foreigner house') which is an inexpensive guesthouse catering for shorter stays. Some have weekly rates.
There are horror stories floating around about $10 watermelons etc. but eating in Japan doesn't have to cost a fortune if you stick to traditional Japanese food, seasonal vegetables, seafood, and rice. Discounts on perishable may be available at supermarkets if you hang around until closing time. Inexpensive restaurants will have noodle and curry dishes and even hamburgers for between 500 and 1000 yen. A more average price to expect though is 1000 to 3000 at a half decent place.
To open a Japanese bank account you have to show your alien registration card and sign some documents.
Income tax in Japan is subtracted from your wages by your employer and you are required to submit a self-assessment at the end of the tax year to determine if you have over or under paid. The tax year starts on January 1st and ends December 31st. The amount withheld by your employers is very likely to be accurate unless you leave Japan before the end of the tax year, have more than one employer, have an annual income of more than 20,000,000 Yen, have a side income of more than 200,000 Yen or if your employer does not actually make deductions. Tax returns must be filed at the local tax office (seimusho) between February 16 and March 15 of the following year. If you want more information head to Income Tax Guide for Foreigners.
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