Japan is a country full of contradictions, a very private culture whose produce is exported to the masses overseas, a society centered on family life, with a cutthroat business environment.  However, Japan does have one of the oldest cultures and monarchies dating back thousands of years with a way of life deeply entrenched in society.

Consisting of over 3,000 separate islands, the country is dominated by three main islands, one of which takes in Tokyo, one of the largest cities in the world with a population in the region of 30 million.  Called “The Land of the Rising Sun” , the country offers a beautiful mixture of intrigue, history and a way of life which is alien and mesmerizing to many Westerners.

Many are surprised to learn that this economic giant has between 70% and 80% of forest and mountainous unsuitable for even the simplest of agricultural industries.  It is also surprising to learn that the country encompasses 6 different climatic regions, from the Northern area with its regular snow falls, cold winters and cool summers and the Southern islands which have a subtropical climate and humid weather.

Over the last 20 years the country has opened up to both foreign visitors and foreign businesses as immigration numbers for Expats living in Japan are steadily increasing.  Many are attracted by both the prospects for the economy as well as the traditional family values which ensure that the elderly and poor receive excellent financial assistance throughout their lives.

The visa system in Japan is one of the most straight forward in the world, and once a visa (whether temporary of permanent) has been granted there is no need for renewal.  Applications for residency in the country are considered on the person’s financial background, employment prospects and ability to fund their way in the country There are certain timescales for different situations and these should be checked before applying for the paperwork. One of the posts on Japan Expat Forum last March 13, 2009, share their idea as:

”As of noon (or so) yesterday, I now have a visa stamp in my passport which bears no expiration date. Having accomplished this feat allows me to debunk a couple of the stranger myths about Japanese permanent residency that I've picked up along the way.

First, you obviously don't have to be a famous celebrity or a sumo wrestler. I'm neither.

Second, you don't have to have a Japanese spouse (although, from what I hear, that can make the application more of a formality than a hurdle).

And, lastly, you don't have to fit the apparent high standards suggested by the examples presented on the MOFA website.

You probably *do* have to be able to show some committment to living in Japan (there are no written rules but I've been here over 10 years now). You probably also have to show some reason why you want to live here forever, other than simply enjoying the parties in Roppongi. We have two kids who were born here but, because Japanese citizenship only transmits by parentage, they're both US citizens. They played a large part in the "reasons" essay I wrote as part of the application. It's not certain which of the reasons I gave turned out to be the winner -- they don't return the paperwork with grades on each point. But you can bet they at least considered the reasons before granting the visa.

The point is that if you're patient, stable, and have good intentions, you *can* obtain permanent residency in Japan -- even if you're just a working stiff like the rest of us.

I hope this information helps encourage others who may be thinking of applying. If anyone is in that position and has questions as to my personal process, contact me either privately or on this thread.”

Contents: Culture in Japan | Employment in Japan | Property in Japan | Japan Key Facts

Culture in Japan

While the Japanese culture is still heavily influenced by original Jomon culture from thousands of years ago, a number of subtle influence are now visible from Asia, Europe and North America, due in the main to the strong relationships Japan has with these areas of the world.  However, there is no doubt that the more traditional areas of Japanese culture are renowned around the world, and offer a great promotional tool for the authorities.

Japanese culture is very strong in the areas of food, dance, crafts, gardens and clothing to name but a few although it is perhaps most well known for the various forms of self defense which have been embraced by other areas of the world.  It has also become the hive of business throughout Asia, with many entrepreneurs emerging from the once secret society of Japan.

Historically, the Japanese have been a nation who preferred their homeland to overseas, although the resistance to moving abroad has reduced in recent times.  Then again, why move from a country which has low crime rates, a booming economy and the highest life expectancy rate in the world at over 81 years of age!

Employment in Japan

The Japanese economy has emerged as the second largest economy in the world, behind the mighty United States of America, although it does dictate the direction of neighboring Far Eastern economies.  The country has always had a very strong work culture, with Japanese employees working longer hours than most nations of the world.

The employment picture in Japan is very impressive, and while it can be susceptible to short term peaks and troughs, the country has a great history of adapting to the latest trends and technologies of the day – it is this speed of change which has given the country a lead over many competing nations.  Strong in banking, insurance, real estate, retailing, transportation and telecommunications, the country leads the way in many fields of business that has become the envy of many other nations.

Because of the current world fiscal crisis, the rate of unemployment in Japan has increased to 5.4% for 2009 and is one of the highest in the last ten years.  The tax revenues have been affected because high employment allows authorities with fiscal capacity to replenish the attractive social benefits paid to poorer groups of society, as well as funding lavish internal investment programs which have given Japan the most modern of transport networks in the world. The concern that the Japanese economy has faltered as there is great financial trouble in the US, where economic observers have stated that if the US sneezes, the whole world, especially Japan catches a cold.

Foreign nationals who relocate to Japan (either short term or longer term) should have a little difficulty obtaining employment, with a vast array of Western companies having offices in the region despite the high cost of operation in the country. In the recent years, economic programs have been instituted by the government to stimulate the economy.

Property in Japan

The performance of the Japanese property market is heavily influenced by foreign investors as well as the direction of the local stock market.  Property prices in central Tokyo reached sky high figures in the 1980s ahead of a property boom, from which many of the so called “hot spots” have never recovered. This has been exacerbated by the current global fiscal crisis and foreign property analysts in 2009 indicate much speculation that the market has bottomed out and together with the favorable market conditions that fuels the growth of the Japanese property market.

While many believe that the current boom in Japanese property cannot continue, when you bear in mind that the price of property in some areas is still only 50% of values in the 1980s (ahead of the crash), the situation may not be as bad as many think..  The property market is very much split into two areas, Tokyo (and its suburbs) and the rest of Japan.  As one of the largest cities in the world, Tokyo has a sub economy and sub property market all of its own, which is highly dependant on immigration and foreign investment.

While the interest of foreign investors in the Japanese property market is not as high as it has been, this may to some extent be due to the regularity of earth quakes and tremors in the region which have a massive impact on society and the economy.


There is no doubt that Japan is a fairly unique country compared to the majority of developed nations, although it has a massive impact on the overall region (as the US does on America and Europe).  The nationals are very friendly towards foreign travelers thus helping a sizeable tourist industry.

The increasing influence of Western cultures on Japanese society is becoming more evident, and this has led to a large increase in immigrant workers and people applying for permanent residency.  Many share their experiences as Japan Expat Forum in 2009:

“The experience was great, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Of course there were some bad bumps in the road, especially near the end of the stay. I think 3 years would have been perfect, but beyond that I really got tired of it.”

Perhaps attracted by the landscape, the climate, the culture and life expectancy of over 80 years, Japan has a lot going for it.

More facts about Japan :-

Capital : Tokyo

Official Language : Japanese

Government : Constitutional monarchy with an Emperor.

Size : 377,873 km2

Population : 128 million

Currency : Yen

International Dialling Code : +81

Economy : 2nd largest in the world

Religion : Buddhism / Shinto