The Land of the Rising Sun, Japan, has long been a destination for travelers seeking a blend of ancient traditions and modern marvels. Its rich history and thriving culture have captivated the hearts of millions who venture here each year. 

Setting foot into Japan is like entering a realm where age-long rituals harmonize with cutting-edge innovation. Beyond the charm of its touristic appeal lies a place you can call home in your golden years. The decision to retire in Japan is an invitation to immerse yourself in an exceptional way of life.

The very essence of Japan’s allure is reflected in its people – a workforce that embodies the fusion of modernity and tradition. The efficiency that permeates everyday life can be felt from bustling city streets to tranquil rural towns. So let’s wait no longer and highlight what to expect and the best places to live if you retire in Japan. 

Factors to Consider Before Retiring in Japan

Securing a Japanese Visa

The first step of moving abroad is to secure a visa. The process of entry for leisure purposes is notably accessible. As it stands, Americans can enter Japan visa-free, with a grace period of up to 90 days. This stay grants them Temporary Visitor status, allowing them to explore the country’s treasures without a visa. 

If you aim to make Japan your permanent home, there’s a process to follow. First, you’ll need to stay in Japan for three years using one-year visas. After that, you can apply for a long-stay visa. To get this visa, you need a special certificate from the Ministry of Justice. Meeting specific rules in the Immigration Control Act helps you get this certificate.

With the long-stay visa, you can extend your stay in Japan for another three years. This journey eventually leads to your goal of becoming a permanent resident of Japan. However, this step requires passing a test to show you can speak Japanese well and understand the country’s culture.

Cost of Living

Japan is known for being expensive, but here’s the good news: housing in Japan is around 40% cheaper than in the United States.

A one-bedroom apartment in the middle of a city in Japan costs about $740 per month, while the same type of apartment in the United States would be around $1,400 per month. If we look at central Tokyo, it’s about $1,220 per month for a similar apartment. But in New York City, it’s a whopping $3,350 on average.

Even if you look outside the city, the trend continues. An apartment like that in Tokyo’s outskirts would be around $680 per month, while in New York, it’s about $2,270. Remember, even though housing is relatively cheaper in Tokyo, the city is still one of the most expensive in the world.

The lower housing costs in Japan mean you can have a similar lifestyle for less money. Things you buy every day are also cheaper in Japan compared to the United States. Living in Japan is a more affordable option overall.

Taxes 

For non-residents holding a one-year visa, the tax scenario is clear-cut. Tax obligations extend only to income earned within Japan’s borders. However, for those residing in Japan for less than five years as non-permanent residents, a broader tax liability takes shape. Here, income taxes apply to all earnings except foreign income outside Japan.

When you become a permanent resident, you have to pay taxes on all the money you earn, whether it’s from Japan or anywhere else in the world. This means you need to think about all the money you make when you’re figuring out your taxes.

Healthcare 

Healthcare in Japan is top-notch. The World Health Organization puts Japan’s healthcare system in the top ten. This means it’s well-organized, offers good care, responds quickly, and treats everyone fairly.

In Japan, the government helps a lot with healthcare costs. They pay for about 70% of the expenses of living there. They’re even more generous to those with lower incomes, paid for through the taxes people pay.

If you’ve been in Japan for over a year, you can join the National Health Insurance or Employees’ Health Insurance programs. This helps a lot with medical costs. Once you’re part of these programs, you only need to pay 30% of your medical bills. This includes regular check-ups, going to the hospital, and getting medicines prescribed by doctors.

Safety and Security

Japan is known for being safe, which is excellent for living there. But like any place, it’s wise to be careful, especially in busy areas where small thefts are prevalent. But don’t worry, these things don’t happen often and Japan is still very safe overall.

Even though Japan is calm, it’s essential to know that earthquakes and other natural disasters can happen, even if not very often. If you ever feel unsure or unsafe, Japan has a helpful thing called “kobans.” These are small police boxes in cities where you can go for help. They’re free to use and like a direct line to the police. If something terrible happens or you’re in trouble, you can go to a koban for quick help.

Our Top Places to Retire in Japan

In Japan, the spectrum of living possibilities is vast, offering a range of lifestyles to suit your preferences. Let’s dive in and explore the top places you can consider retiring.

Tokyo

Tokyo

Is there truly a need to introduce Tokyo? This metropolis is an unparalleled marvel, offering an urban experience that defies comparison. Tokyo remains a city that never slumbers, catering to your desires day and night. Its robust public transportation and meticulously designed train system will serve you, ensuring that no corner is beyond your reach.

Tokyo is an exciting and big city that’s also very safe. But, like in any big city, you might have to consider costs. Tokyo can be expensive, so if you’re looking for a peaceful place, there are other options. You can save money by living a bit further from the busy parts of the city or significant transportation spots.

Osaka

Osaka

Osaka, too, stands among Japan’s grandest cities, celebrated as a hub for both domestic and global commerce, alongside a thriving media scene. While similar to Tokyo, Osaka distinguishes itself through its notably relaxed and laid-back atmosphere.

In many ways, Osaka presents itself as a harmonious midpoint between the energetic pulse of Tokyo and a more serene setting. The city retains its grandeur and a wealth of year-round events, yet the chaos is dialed down a notch, making for a more tranquil urban experience. 

While Tokyo may exude a more relaxed ambiance, Osaka counters with a warmth of spirit; its people are known for their approachability and friendliness. This attribute becomes a considerable boon, particularly for retirees embarking on a new chapter of life in Japan.

Additionally, Osaka boasts the advantage of a more affordable cost of living. For those concerned about expenses while still aspiring to immerse themselves in the vibrancy of a metropolis, Osaka offers a solution. The city’s dynamic blend of urban living and approachable atmosphere can be enjoyed without straining your budget.

Fukuoka

Fukuoka

Much like its metropolitan counterparts, Fukuoka boasts a vibrant artistic landscape and a thriving fashion scene. It is a thriving hub for technological innovation, yet it uniquely stands apart with its expansive and verdant beaches just a stroll away.

In Fukuoka, the transition from city life to nature’s sanctuary is remarkably swift. With a mere bike ride, the cityscape recedes, revealing the lush trails of the best hiking spots in a mere 15 minutes. This juxtaposition extends to its parks, some of the finest in Japan, allowing for an oasis of calm within easy reach of the city center.

The allure of Fukuoka lies in its perfect amalgamation of business vitality and relaxed charm, urban vibrancy, and a touch of cottage essence. Unquestionably, it stands as one of the premier retiree destinations in Japan, offering a harmonious blend that caters to diverse aspirations and lifestyles. 

Okinawa

Okinawa

If you lean towards an even more serene and local experience, Okinawa beckons as an exceptional choice for foreign retirees seeking a quiet refuge within Japan.

As the fifth-largest island in Japan, Okinawa rests amidst an archipelago of smaller companions, mirroring the enchanting allure of Hawaii. This island retreat seamlessly blends stunning natural beauty with a delightful climate, forming an idyllic backdrop for retirement dreams to flourish.

Life in Okinawa stands in stark contrast to the mainland’s hustle, offering a laid-back pace harmonized by the warmth of its inhabitants. It also boasts a more affordable cost of living. With a perpetual summer vibe and the option to seek respite from the heat whenever desired, Okinawa provides an inviting escape that echoes the essence of island living.

Beyond its natural splendor, Okinawa offers a unique facet of Japanese culture in its purest form, stemming from its local population. A bounty of delectable cuisine awaits, complementing the island’s relaxed ethos and fostering an environment where living life to the fullest comes naturally.

Yokohama

Yokohama

If you’re looking for a place that’s close to the bustling energy of Tokyo but is less pricey, Yokohama might be another place to consider. This city is situated south of Tokyo, and you can easily travel between the two cities by train in about 30 minutes.

Living costs in Yokohama are generally lower than in Tokyo, making it a popular choice for expats who work in Tokyo but want to save some money. Many expats prefer to live in areas like Yamate-cho and Minato Mirai. However, it’s more than just expats who find Yokohama appealing. Families with children also appreciate the affordability and peaceful atmosphere the city offers.

Yokohama is quite a bustling place. It’s Japan’s second-largest city, with over 3.5 million people. The city is essential for various industries, such as semiconductors, shipping, and biotechnology.

One of Yokohama’s highlights is its vibrant “Chinatown,” the largest in Asia, boasting over 500 shops, restaurants, and other Chinese businesses. But that’s not all – the city has a lot to offer regarding attractions. You can visit the Cup Noodles Museum, explore the beautiful Sankei-en Garden, or enjoy the modern Minatomirai beachfront area.

If you’re seeking a place that combines convenience, affordability, and a touch of tranquility, Yokohama could be the right spot for your retirement in Japan.

Sapporo

Sapporo

Sapporo has something for everyone. For those who love skiing, the city’s a hotspot. It’s also famous for its Sapporo beer brand and the delicious Miso Ramen. If you’re into beautiful cherry blossoms, mid-April to early May is when you can witness the enchanting cherry blossom viewing.

Compared to other Japanese cities, Sapporo has a milder and cooler climate. Summers are warm and humid, while winters are cold and snowy. This might be a great place to learn the local language since not many people speak English in Sapporo.

For those interested in working during retirement, Sapporo offers opportunities in information technology and tourism. Expats find Sapporo appealing due to its efficient transportation system and reasonable living costs – factors that led to its inclusion in the list of best cities to live in Japan.

Pros & Cons of Retiring in Japan

Japan emerges as an enchanting realm offering a wealth of adventures and opportunities, yet its allure comes hand-in-hand with specific challenges. What might be a dream come true for one could be a nightmare for another. Let’s look at some of the country’s advantages and drawbacks.

The Pros

Unique Culture

The enigmatic Japanese culture might initially feel bewildering, but this very disorientation is what many find captivating. Uncovering countless distinctive experiences and attractions found nowhere else on Earth becomes an ongoing adventure.

Culinary Delights

In Japan, food is essential because it’s about more than just eating to stay whole. They have well-known traditional foods, but they also have a lot of different and creative foods. They use ingredients from their place and develop new ways to make delicious dishes even though they have a limited amount of farmland. It’s like going on a unique food adventure.

Shoppers’ World

From the high-fashion mecca of Harajuku to the tech havens of Yokohama, Japan boasts a retail landscape that caters to every whim. Sprawling malls, bustling markets, and eclectic boutiques form a retail haven. Even before settling in, your friends abroad will seek guidance from you on Japan’s shopping treasures.

Leader In Technology

Japan has long held the mantle of technological innovation, resulting in meticulously planned and efficient cities. This technological prowess extends from the world-famous bullet train to the intricate efficiency within urban areas. Many expats from North America and Europe are astounded by the seamless fusion of technology and daily life.

Cons

High Cost of Living

Japan’s stature as one of the world’s costliest countries is evident. The convenience of swift transportation and vibrant culture comes at a premium. This financial burden can prove daunting. So you have to evaluate your financial solvency before retiring in Japan.

Limited Work Opportunities

Securing employment in Japan poses a challenge, particularly for non-natives. While global trends favor native candidates, Japan’s job market leans even more toward Japanese nationals and permanent residents. Even for those entering on working vacation visas, finding a suitable part-time position that aligns with visa criteria and accommodates temporary employment can prove challenging.

Complex Visa Process

Navigating the intricacies of immigration can be difficult. Japan’s visa regulations create a conundrum where securing a job is essential for obtaining a visa. Jobs often favor individuals with established residences. Language barriers and a lack of experience within specific regions will further limit opportunities.

Urban Density

Japan’s cities, while bustling hubs of activity, can be both a blessing and a burden. Crowded apartments, congested trains, and bustling restaurants are part of the urban tapestry. While this environment suits city enthusiasts, those unaccustomed to such density might find it overwhelming. 

While rural retreats exist, trading urban amenities for a more serene setting requires thoughtful consideration.

Conclusion

In contemplating the prospect of retiring in Japan, you’ll enter a realm that seamlessly integrates ancient traditions with cutting-edge innovation and tranquil landscapes with bustling urbanity. The charm is undeniable, as Japan’s unique culture, delightful cuisine, world-class shopping, and technological marvels beckon individuals seeking a fresh chapter in their lives.

In our exploration of retiring in Japan, we have delved into the captivating tapestry that defines this nation. From Tokyo’s vibrant energy to Osaka’s laid-back charm and from Fukuoka’s harmonious blend to Okinawa’s tranquil haven, Japan reveals its multifaceted character. 

Retiring in Japan can be very exciting and promising. You can create new experiences, embrace diverse cultures and craft an enriching retirement tapestry. As you embark on this journey, equipped with insights and awareness, we wish you the very best in making the most of your retirement in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I retire in Japan as a foreigner?

To initiate the process, residing in the country for three consecutive years on one-year visas is necessary. Subsequently, eligibility for a long-stay visa can be sought, involving the acquisition of a Certificate of Eligibility from the Ministry of Justice. 

As a foreign retiree, can I live in Japan without speaking Japanese?

For English-speaking retirees, living within Japan’s English-speaking and expat-friendly enclaves is feasible, even with limited Japanese language skills. Embracing these supportive environments allows you to connect with people and adeptly navigate various aspects of life in Japan.

Can I work in Japan as a retiree? 

While it’s possible to work as a retiree in Japan, job opportunities might be limited due to language barriers and preferences for Japanese nationals or permanent residents. Retirees can consider part-time or freelance work, especially if they have a strong command of the Japanese language.

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