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IAC Global’s guide for pilots moving to Japan

Are you a Captain or First Officer moving to or living abroad in Japan?

From Shikoku (the smallest island) to Tokyo (the vibrant capital) and any where in between, IAC Global can provide you with a wealth of reliable information about Japanese expat life.

This guide will explore many often-asked questions about working and living in Japan, including visa requirements, healthcare, housing market, social security, social etiquette and more.


Moving to Japan

Moving to Japan can be an incredible intercultural experience. For most pilots, relocating to the Land of the Rising Sun will probably mean working in highly populated and urbanised areas like Tokyo, Yokohama, the Kansai region or the Nagoya region.

  • Tokyo - the Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world. With over 13 million inhabitants, Tokyo is home to countless insurance providers and investment banks, as well as the Tokyo Stock Exchange. According to Mercer͛s annual Cost of Living Survey for 2017, Tokyo is the third most expensive city for expatriates, rising two places since 2016. However, Tokyo is also regarded as an enjoyable megalopolis for those whose salary can allow for the city's creature comforts. IAC currently have positions available based in Tokyo. Air Japan has B767 Captains/First Officers positions available with a proven Command upgrade program which First Officers can apply to join after the first 5 year contract at AJX. The B787 has also been introduced by AJX. Peach Aviation have A320 Captains positions available for type rated and non typed pilots.
  • Sapporo - Capital of the mountainous northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, is famous for its beer, skiing and annual Sapporo Snow Festival featuring enormous ice sculptures. The Sapporo Beer Museum traces the city's brewing history and has tastings and a beer garden. Ski hills and jumps from the 1972 Winter Olympics are scattered within the city limits, and Niseko, a renowned ski resort, is nearby. IAC currently provide B737NG Captains to AirDo based in Sapporo.
  • Haneda - Haneda Airport offers great access to central Tokyo, it's easier than ever to enjoy the city's various hot spots. The vibrant Tsukiji Market is not far away, this sprawling wholesale fish market has an array of seafood & viewing areas for the ever-popular tuna auction. Covering an area of 230,000 square metres, it has a daily turnover of more than 3,300 tons of fish and vegetables valued at two billion yen. IAC are currently seeking TR and NTR B737NG Captains for SKYMARK Airlines based in Haneda.
  • Sendai - The largest city in the Tohoku region of Japan, it's full of cultural monuments, unique foods and vibrant city lights. Visiting the mausoleum of the feudal Llord Date Masaumune known as Zuihoden is a must, the giant cedar trees surrounding the walkways, the moss covered stone statues and the ornate buildings all depict the Momoyama cultural traditions. Zuihoden is a surreal place where some just come to stroll the beautiful grounds for the weekend. IAC currently provide IBEX with CRJ Captains based in Sendai.
  • Yokohama - located south of Tokyo, Yokohama is the major commercial hub of the Greater Tokyo Area. Additionally, this metropolitan area has become a centre for industries like IT, bio-tech, electronics, pharmaceutical and semiconductor. Whilst the cost of living is still considered high on a global scale, Yokohama is notably cheaper than Tokyo.
  • Kansai Region - the Kansai area (also called Keihanshin) is the most popular choice for expats for cultural, academic and economic reasons. Home to over 10 percent of the Japanese population, the Kansai region includes Ôsaka, Japans third-largest city, and Kōbe, the sixth-largest, as well as cities like Kyōto and Nara, which are rich in heritage and home to picturesque temples, shrines and gardens.
  • Nagoya Region - the Nagoya area is a hub for Japan's manufacturing sector. Compared to the aforementioned areas, the Nagoya region can seem a welcome reprieve from the bustle of a megalopolis. Nonetheless, Nagoya is a thriving port city in its own right, and is in fact Japan͛s fourth-largest city and the centre of the Chūkyō Metropolitan Area.

Pilots need to acquire long-term or working visas to undergo gainful employment in Japan. In 2012, Japan introduced a points-based immigration system to give skilled professionals priority when moving to Japan. Pilots working in specialised and technical aviation fields can apply under this system. If successful, the pilot will be granted certain benefits, including prioritised processing of their application, leniency of any permanent residency applications, and/or permission for a spouse to work, regardless of whether the spouse is a highly skilled professional themselves.

For more information about visa requirements for Japan, contact IAC Global or head to the Immigration Bureau of Japan website.


Living in Japan

Experiencing the vibrant metropolises and stunning countrysides of Japan can be exciting, but also overwhelming if you don't know much about living in Japan. We'll provide you with the information you need about life in Japan.

Housing in Japan:

  • When it comes to flat hunting in Japan, the importance of language skills cannot be overlooked. It is a good idea to bring someone who can translate as you negotiate contracts with the real estate agents.
  • Most pilots tend to rent rather than buy housing. In Japan, your monthly rent will typically include the yachin (rental fee), kanri-hi (a maintenance charge), and kyoueki-hi (a building management charge). Sometimes electricity costs will be included as well.
  • Furnished apartments can be hard to come by, so many people will opt for unfurnished homes, which are much more readily available. But be aware that an unfurnished Japanese apartment truly is unfurnished! Sometimes even major items, like cooking appliances or air conditioning, will not be included in the rental price. Check for these extra costs and exclusions before signing a rental contract — and be sure to acquire a certified English translation of the contract.
  • Japanese housing may be smaller than what you are used to, and can often be poorly insulated. You might need to prepare yourself with a fan for summer or heaters and blankets for winter.
  • You will need to apply for utilities like gas and electricity (at local commercial companies) and water (at the local government office) when you move in.
  • Make sure you have sufficient funds to cover all fees in your rental agreement, which can include approximately two months͛ rent in advance, a security deposit, an agent͛s fee, insurance premium for furnishings, and a non-refundable gratuity for the landlord.

Education and childcare in Japan:

  • Pilots with children will often look for housing that is close to childcare facilities, kindergartens or nearby schools. While there are many options in Japan, the language barrier may pose a problem. Public childcare facilities are typically Japanese-only, so parents often choose private day care services, bilingual nannies, or one of the many independent preschools in the Tokyo or Yokohama areas.
  • Yokohama, in particular, have several options for English-speaking children.
  • Private international schools in Japan, though expensive, have the distinct benefit of of providing preschools, day care services and after-school facilities under one roof, and they cater to children who lack Japanese language skills.
  • The Greater Tokyo Area, the Nagoya-Aichi area, and the Kansai Region offer English-language institutions, with some schools catering to US American, Canadian, British, French, German, Indian, Chinese and Korean communities.

Healthcare in Japan:

  • Japan has very high quality standards for medical care, with a public healthcare plan that serves resident non-citizens and long-term visitors.
  • Coverage is provided by the SHI (Social Health Insurance) for large companies, or the NHI (National Health Insurance) for those employed by small- or medium-sized companies. The NHI is also available for non Japanese residents staying in the country for at least three months.
  • Both SHI and NHI patients will be required to pay 30 percent of total hospital costs (or 20 percent in the case of children under three years receiving treatment).
  • If you have private medical insurance, you may be required to pay costs and then file a reimbursement claim with your insurance provider. However, some healthcare providers will have direct billing services with certain Japanese hospitals.
  • Please note that some medical treatments are not included with SHI or NHI. This includes voluntary vaccinations, health check-up exams, prenatal care, deliveries, pregnancy terminations, orthodontics, and some others. For this reason, many expats elect to take out additional medical insurance from a private provider.
  • The language barrier may prove to be a problem if you get sick. You should bring not only your health insurance card, but also a translator when visiting a clinic or hospital. Alternatively, ask your nearest embassy for recommendations of bilingual medical staff.

Working in Japan

Living abroad and working in Japan can be a challenging but incredibly rewarding experience for expats. Here is some important information to help you get settled in Japan͛s business world.

Social Security in Japan:

  • There are currently social security agreements with Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Some others are under preparation for implementation.
  • Generally, expats from these countries have to pay state pension contributions in Japan only (unless their employment contract explicitly states that their assignment is temporary, in which case they will be exempt from contributing to Japanese pension schemes, but will be required to pay pension contributions in their home country).
  • If your home country does not have a social security agreement with Japan but has a comparable state pension plan, you may need to pay contributions in both countries. This will be dependent on the exact nature of your employment in Japan, the length of your stay, and other general regulations.
  • It can be complicated to apply social security agreements to the situation of individual expats. It is always best to seek advice from the pension office of your country before relocating to Japan.

Taxation in Japan:

  • Direct taxes in Japan are levied on a national, prefectural and local level.
  • National taxes include such things as liquor or tobacco tax, and the annual income tax. You will need to pay your automobile tax to the prefecture where you reside, and there is both a prefectural and local residence tax.
  • If you have lived in Japan for more than 183 days in a year, you will be classed as a ͚resident͛ and may be subject to income tax. If you have lived in Japan for less than five out of ten years, the income you earn from outside of Japan will be exempt from Japanese taxation.
  • Whilst some airlines will pay tax on behalf of the pilot and provide credits relevant to countries they have tax treaties with, we recommend that you get in touch with an international tax advisor (at home and in Japan) for further information about your individual circumstances as a taxpaying expat.

Social etiquette in Japan:

  • Be sure to address your business partners by their surname, followed by san (a polite term similar to Mister, Missus, Miss, etc) — for example, ͚Tanaka-san͛ for Ms Tanaka. Official titles, like professor or doctor, should also be used where relevant.
  • You should only address Japanese people by their given name if they have explicitly given it to you. Try to avoid more familial terms like kun or chan when meeting your colleagues.
  • When first meeting someone, you may be offered either a handshake or a bow. Bowing can range from a small nod of the head (casual and informal) to a deep bend at the waist (to indicate respect). Most Japanese people will not expect foreigners to know proper bowing techniques, and thus a nod of the head is usually sufficient. Simply follow their lead to choose the appropriate form of greeting.

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