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Moving to Japan, what do I need to know?

italianranmaitalianranma Registered User regular
edited February 2 in Help / Advice Forum
I can't begin to tell you all how incredibly excited I am to finally get an assignment in Japan after 14+ years of seeking one in the military! I'll be stationed at Yokota (1st choice!) and reuniting with friends from college, it's gonna be great. Still I know there's a lot I don't know about living there, so I'm seeking any advice from those who've lived in Japan: especially those who've been stationed at Yokota. I'm in my 30s, lived overseas (UK) before, and traveled to Japan a few times so I've got some idea of what to expect, but I won't be insulted with basic cornerstone advice. While I'm not (yet) fluent, I've got enough conversational and reading comprehension in Japanese to get around solo, read directions, and depending on the topic hold my own in a conversation. I haven't received my orders yet (just verbal confirmation from my boss) but I'd expect a flexible reporting date sometime this summer, nominally June. Some quick questions off the top of my head:
  • What can I expect for off-base housing options? I'm sure the Family Readiness Center will have a lot of info, and I'll give them a call next week, but big-picture what can I expect as far as size, location, and other sorts of pitfalls?
  • I'm totally enamored with the idea of living in an older home, but my first winter in England really taught me the downsides to rustic living. Are more traditional homes even an option in that area? If they are, how inconvenient are they compared to apartment living?
  • I've got some nice wooden furniture, but after seeing the size of my friends' houses I don't think I want to bring them. Any experience with long-term storage? Particularly with the military?
  • I know I won't be able to bring my gun collection, what are some ways I should consider storing them? Is it possible/desirable to store them in the same place I end up storing the furniture? Storing them with my family is an option, but I'm not really excited about that for reasons I don't want to get into.
  • I've heard that knives are also illegal, but I'm pretty sure that I've seen a lot of stores and stalls that sell them. I'm not particularly attached to these knives, but I don't want to get rid of them if it's not necessary. What's the truth data?
  • What kinds of things might be more difficult or expensive to buy in Japan? I know clothing is expensive, and I'm a big boy at 6' 220 lbs, so I'll probably update my wardrobe before I leave.
  • I've got a 2008 Mustang that I've done my own maintenance on. I would consider selling it, but I'm a little hesitant about doing so because it's starting to creek and shudder a bit (I think I need to replace the front control arms) and I wouldn't want to leave that with someone. I'm not sure I can spare the time to replace those right now. What are my options? Would it be more profitable to take it to a dealer or certified mechanic for a full diagnostic and repair, or should I just sell it back directly to the dealer? Alternatively I'm not in need of the money so I could be convinced to donate it to some sort of trade school, but I have no idea where I would even start with that.
  • Speaking of transportation, I've got dreams of riding my bike to work, holding a piece of toast in my mouth, potentially starting a romantic relationship with someone I accidentally collide with, etc. How easy is it to get around with just a bike?
  • I know I can run my appliances without needing a converter, but willsmart home technology (specifically Echo, a My Cloud server, and a robot vacuum) have any problems being in the wrong region? I'm an old now and don't understand how these things work.
  • I've also got an iPhone; should I bring that and unlock it or just plan to buy a new phone there? What are my options for international service: I expect I'll be traveling a bit between Japan, Korea, and Hawaii, and I feel like phone technology and service has changed a lot since I was last overseas.
  • I think I'm pretty well versed on how region coding works with blu-rays and my video game systems: Switch, & PS4 should be the same region as Japan right? What about service? Do I need to buy Japanese service?
  • How does internet service work over there? Is it still pay by the minute? What about mobile data?
  • My other big hobby is Warhammer, and I know that's a thing over there too. I doubt this is the case, but are there any weird gotcha's with paint or airbrushing? Like, I would feel really stupid if my stuff was confiscated because alcohol-based thinner is illegal or something. What about hobby supplies? I've been to a few hobby stores in Tokyo, but is it difficult say to find a hardware store there for boards and insulation foam?

I'm going to do my own research as well: I just picked up a bilingual book called the Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan 2nd edition. But I'm ready for your stories and advice. And if you're near Tokyo and going to want to play some Warhammer 40k or Kill Team in about 6 months give me a shout.

飛べねぇ豚はただの豚だ。
italianranma on

Posts

  • baudattitudebaudattitude Registered User regular
    I had good luck with nissen (nissen.co.jp) for large men’s sizes (I wear a 3L, they go to 5L), and kutsu no hikari for shoes up to size 30eee (though definitely a limited selection at that size)

    Also, I don’t know exactly what you need for your hobby but I expect Tokyu Hands will have it.

    Technically there’s nothing stopping your unlocked foreign iPhone from working in Japan but I have heard horror stories about getting service. That’s probably something your coworkers will know more about.

    No clue on most of the rest of your questions. Good luck on the move!

    italianranma
  • a nu starta nu start Registered User regular
    Let's see if I can address some of these....

    - Off-base housing, I don't know how Yokota does it, so I don't know what you are eligible for. I will warn you though that most houses do not have insulation, especially the older ones. So an old house will be freezing in the winter, and burning in the summer.
    - If you are eligible for off-base housing, there's no real reason to not bring your furniture, unless you have one of those monster section couches or something obscenely large like that. The military will (should) store any household goods you don't bring. This includes your car. You can bring your car here as well, but there's extra work and few thousand dollars of testing/mods you have to do.
    - You might be fine with clothing. I am 6'0" and 200 lbs and I can usually find pants (34" waist) and shirts (XL which is really a US large) no problem. But since you'll have access to base and the exchange, I wouldn't worry much about clothing. UNIQLO is cheap here and it makes up almost my entire wardrobe.
    - Riding your bike to work might not be too bad. A 15 minute car ride turned into only a 25 minute bike ride. Depends on distance, terrain, etc.
    - If you got an unlocked phone, especially an iphone, it will work here (as long as it's not like an iPhone 1 or something). The problem is with the way they do contracts and discounts, it's sometimes cheaper just to get the new phone from them.
    - Switch and PS4 (and Xbox, I believe) are all region free, except for the digital stores. So sometimes I will buy a physical copy of the Japanese game and since my Switch is set to English, everything will be in English (only certain games do that). If you want a digital download copy, you have to use the digital store for your region, which you probably already have anyway and can keep using no problem.
    - Internet service is awesome. Home service is like 2gbps service for $50 a month. Mobile service prices are kinda crappy sometimes though. I know people paying $140 a line for 50Gb a month.

    Number One Tricky
    italianranma
  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    @Mazzyx might have thoughts here!

    italianranma
  • MazzyxMazzyx Comedy Gold Registered User regular
    Spool was being helpful but since you are military my experience as a civilian in Japan in the country won't be much help.

    So something here:

    1)Internet if you are off base in normal Japanese housing is good and rather cheap. I pay twice as much for half the service I got 10 years ago in Japan.
    2)Japan itself is a cash based country. Not sure around bases but carry cash. Since you are military I think there should be exchanges/atms you can use. I had a Japan Post bank account when I lived there.
    3)I know the military does a lot of your housing but if you are living off base Japanese apartment on top of a normal deposit, first and last months rent usually have a thing called "key money." It is a months worth of rent or so and you lose it. It is just taken by the landlord and is paid upfront.

    Also look for convenience stores, they rock in Japan and are great when you just need some food.

    03x29di.png
    italianranma
  • amateurhouramateurhour One day I'll be professionalhour The woods somewhere in TennesseeRegistered User regular
    I can't help with Japan, but in terms of furniture and the mustang, if you are truly serious that money isn't an issue consider donating them to charity, otherwise put them on craigslist and make sure to just be honest and list the problems with the car. A LOT of shade tree mechanics like to buy cars that need a little work, and control arms aren't expensive or difficult to replace.

    For the firearms, if you're not keen on family and they're particularly valuable or rare or hold sentimental value, I'd check with a safe deposit box style entity. Otherwise sell them? You can always buy another firearm when you return.

    Lastly for the 40K, why not consider a 3D printer? You can print most of what you need for terrain and the up front cost is pennies compared to what it once was.


    Arch wrote: »

    I never expected this burn from captain bushmeat
    italianranma
  • DayspringDayspring the Phoenician Registered User regular
    There's a very active Warhammer scene (mostly 40k but AoS, KT etc too) based around the Tokyo Warhammer stores, with the Yokohama and Harajuku stores being the most active in my experience. Good mix of Japanese and non-japanese players. They mostly use Line to communicate. Give me a shout if you want and i can send you an invite to the group. There are also a few tournaments that are running several time a year, and a real effort by both GW store managers and tourney organisers to better integrate the Japanese and non Japanese player bases so imo the community is in a good place right now.
    Yokota used to have a very active club on base (and Yokosuka too, to a lesser extent) but i'm not sure how it is these days. I'm not military and I don't have much first hand experience.
    Finally, search Wargamers in Japan on facebook. It's the biggest, most active group and will probably find you players local to you.
    I live around Tokyo, so we can roll some dice when you get here!

    italianranma
  • SkeithSkeith Registered User regular
    @godmode might have some useful info here.

    mts wrote: »
    heres how i see it being a total win situation for you
    1. stay with your wife while she dog sits. this wins husband points since she knows its out of your comfort zone
    2. have sex all over her friends house so that the next time you see her friend look at you condescendingly, you can wink back knowing you did the freaky deaky where she eats her cheerios.
    italianranma
  • godmodegodmode Nooo-ooo-ooo... That ain't dancin', SallyRegistered User regular
    edited February 9
    First of all, congratulations! I flew in through Yokota, but I work in Yokosuka and live in Yokohama, so I won't be able to provide any region-specific advice. With that said I did just recently make the move and I have some recommendations. I'll try and hit these point-to-point

    -What can I expect for off-base housing options? I'm sure the Family Readiness Center will have a lot of info, and I'll give them a call next week, but big-picture what can I expect as far as size, location, and other sorts of pitfalls?

    If you're active duty, it all comes down to base policy: you'll receive information from your housing office about maximum prices, ideal locations, and the Navy housing office had to review every lease before signing, not sure about AF.
    It should be relatively easy to find a modern home regardless. Make sure you check the build date: anything after 2001-ish will be built to the newest earthquake standards.
    As I'm sure you know, houses are smaller in general, but so are the rooms themselves. They love to build tiny rooms with no immediately-obvious function. However, you're near enough to Tokyo you may be able to find a nice modern apartment built similar to Western styles (but, again, probably smaller.


    I'm totally enamored with the idea of living in an older home, but my first winter in England really taught me the downsides to rustic living. Are more traditional homes even an option in that area? If they are, how inconvenient are they compared to apartment living?

    I don't recommend it. Different material quality, different amenities, may not be as convenient to the base as other places built with Americans in mind. Tatami mats are a pain to maintain, the electricity or internet may be different, lots of downsides. Unless you're absolutely set on the aesthetic I'd look elsewhere.
    Plus, it's so easy to just go visit traditional Japanese architecture and experience it without having to live in it.


    I've got some nice wooden furniture, but after seeing the size of my friends' houses I don't think I want to bring them. Any experience with long-term storage? Particularly with the military?

    Take a page from Marie Kondo: as you're prepping to move, go around and survey all of your belongings. Do they bring you joy? Cause unless they're heirlooms I would not recommend storing.

    I know I won't be able to bring my gun collection, what are some ways I should consider storing them? Is it possible/desirable to store them in the same place I end up storing the furniture? Storing them with my family is an option, but I'm not really excited about that for reasons I don't want to get into.

    I left my guns with my parents, so if that's not an option then I'd echo the suggestion above of selling them.

    I've heard that knives are also illegal, but I'm pretty sure that I've seen a lot of stores and stalls that sell them. I'm not particularly attached to these knives, but I don't want to get rid of them if it's not necessary. What's the truth data?

    It's not illegal to own knives, you're just not allowed to carry them. You may keep them in your house and use them as tools of course, but carrying a knife for protection will land you in some incredibly hot water. Read about Carlos Ghosn to find out what the modern Japanese justice system is like for foreigners.

    What kinds of things might be more difficult or expensive to buy in Japan? I know clothing is expensive, and I'm a big boy at 6' 220 lbs, so I'll probably update my wardrobe before I leave.

    Big electronics, funny enough: TVs, stereos, computer parts. They're approximately twice the price of electronics in the US. Buy what you can on base (check the plugs in your house, of course), or use Amazon. Amazon can deliver most things to APO, just without the two-day delivery.

    I've got a 2008 Mustang that I've done my own maintenance on. I would consider selling it, but I'm a little hesitant about doing so because it's starting to creek and shudder a bit (I think I need to replace the front control arms) and I wouldn't want to leave that with someone. I'm not sure I can spare the time to replace those right now. What are my options? Would it be more profitable to take it to a dealer or certified mechanic for a full diagnostic and repair, or should I just sell it back directly to the dealer? Alternatively I'm not in need of the money so I could be convinced to donate it to some sort of trade school, but I have no idea where I would even start with that.

    Worst-case scenario, you can always take it to CarMax or another one of those volume dealers that will buy just about anything.

    Speaking of transportation, I've got dreams of riding my bike to work, holding a piece of toast in my mouth, potentially starting a romantic relationship with someone I accidentally collide with, etc. How easy is it to get around with just a bike?

    Depends how close you live to base. I have friends that will bike 20k to and from work just for the exercise. Important notes though: you can't take bikes on public transportation, so if you're biking then make sure you have a way to get all the way from point A to B. You could also consider keeping a bike on base and maybe one at home.

    I know I can run my appliances without needing a converter, but willsmart home technology (specifically Echo, a My Cloud server, and a robot vacuum) have any problems being in the wrong region? I'm an old now and don't understand how these things work.

    I bought my robot vacuum after I moved here, so I'm not entirely sure, and I don't have any of the smart home products. But if it only requires internet to work, it should be fine.

    I've also got an iPhone; should I bring that and unlock it or just plan to buy a new phone there? What are my options for international service: I expect I'll be traveling a bit between Japan, Korea, and Hawaii, and I feel like phone technology and service has changed a lot since I was last overseas.

    Google Fi sounds like it would be a good fit BUT*******
    If your Fi phone breaks and needs to be replaced, you can only activate service on a new phone within the US. Keep that in mind. That means you'd need to ship a phone home, have someone do the activation, then send it back. Not impossible but it can be a real pain. I personally have my First phone, and a phone with a local number that I got through the provider on base. I'd recommend having at least a prepaid phone with a local number for when you're house hunting. With that in mind, I don't know if this is all carriers, but SoftBank didn't have an option for me to change my prepaid number to a permanent plan later so you may just want to take care of it in one fell swoop and start off on the right foot.


    I think I'm pretty well versed on how region coding works with blu-rays and my video game systems: Switch, & PS4 should be the same region as Japan right? What about service? Do I need to buy Japanese service?

    I haven't had any problems using Switch or PS4 and they seem to have no problem retaining my regional US settings. You'll probably be fine. I don't know about buying PSplus or Nintendo's online service.

    How does internet service work over there? Is it still pay by the minute? What about mobile data?
    My other big hobby is Warhammer, and I know that's a thing over there too. I doubt this is the case, but are there any weird gotcha's with paint or airbrushing? Like, I would feel really stupid if my stuff was confiscated because alcohol-based thinner is illegal or something. What about hobby supplies? I've been to a few hobby stores in Tokyo, but is it difficult say to find a hardware store there for boards and insulation foam?

    Internet is superior to the States: price, speed, quality, all better than back home. Kinda makes you realize how hard US ISPs are fucking everybody.....but anyway.
    I don't know about painting but I suspect anything you can do inside is fine, outside may be a bigger deal and I wouldn't count on it. They're very wary of pollution and stuff.
    Buying supplies shouldn't be an issue. You'll probably want an Amazon JP account: Prime is $3/month, you can set the site to English, and you can sometimes get same-day delivery. I've never waited longer than a day for any other thing I've bought.


    Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions and I can try to help.
    Also I typed all this on my phone so if there are weird typos or you need clarification, I can elaborate.

    Another note about furniture I meant to mention: when I moved I got rid of absolutely everything. It's so easy and cheap to buy new furniture here, especially when you get to base. It's my opinion that it isn't worth the hassle trying to shoehorn Western furniture into a tiny building. Even like dressers and stuff, you have to remember that anything above the first floor will likely be an issue because unless there's an elevator, movers won't actually move it, or the stairway will be too small to accomodate.
    You'll know a lot more once you start house hunting, a lot hinges on where you live. But seriously I'd consider ditching all furniture if you can.

    godmode on
    italianranmaForarElvenshae
  • godmodegodmode Nooo-ooo-ooo... That ain't dancin', SallyRegistered User regular
    A special note about smart TVs: some brands (I think Samsung is one) will not activate outside the US if you buy it on base. You can circumvent this with router-based VPN, but just know that it'll look for an American server. My Sony TV works fine, but all the apps default to US unless I turn on a VPN.

    italianranma
  • italianranmaitalianranma Registered User regular
    godmode wrote: »
    Hope that helps!

    Awesome this man! Thanks I really appreciate it and the above advice. I just bought Spark Joy and I'm working through it right now. I'm really dead set on being able to pack all of my stuff into a small room if required, though I do have a ton of Warhammer stuff that there's no way I'm letting go of (well, maybe I don't need the old Warhammer Fantasy armies anymore...)
    I can't help with Japan, but in terms of furniture and the mustang, if you are truly serious that money isn't an issue consider donating them to charity, otherwise put them on craigslist and make sure to just be honest and list the problems with the car. A LOT of shade tree mechanics like to buy cars that need a little work, and control arms aren't expensive or difficult to replace.

    I'm interested in doing that but I just don't know where to start.

    飛べねぇ豚はただの豚だ。
  • GarickGarick Registered User regular
    I think most of the stuff you need to know has been said but something that a lot of people don't know is that guns aren't completely illegal here.

    They just are a pain in the butt to get a license for. I have a hunting friend that legally owns both a shotgun and a rifle here in Tokyo.

    You just can't import them, and you need to own a shotgun here for 10 years before they will let you apply for a rifle.

    italianranma
  • godmodegodmode Nooo-ooo-ooo... That ain't dancin', SallyRegistered User regular
    And is it not the case that there are special laws concerning storage, and that the police need to inspect your gun storage annually, and you have to pay a fee?
    It may be technically legal, but I think you're asking for a giant headache for something that there will be extremely few opportunities to use.

    Maybe I'm showing how much my anti-gun bias has grown over the years. I think they're fine, I like shooting, I'm very good at it, but one of the things I love about Japan is how guns just aren't a thing I have to worry about.

    Garick
  • italianranmaitalianranma Registered User regular
    I own a few. One is a very customized Kimber 1911 with engravings from my first deployment so I want to keep that gun forever. Plus it shoots nice. The other is a Glock 19 that's not very special to be honest, but again it shoots really well: I'm a bit of a local hero with it for being able to out shoot my friends at the 100 m line with this stock gun and it's fixed iron sights while they were using scoped hunting revolvers.

    I could store those with my family and they'd probably just put them up in the attic or closet with the shotgun they own. I bought a gun safe myself, but I'm not sure if there's a cost efficient way to send that to them in CA (I'm currently in NC). I plan on visiting them before I go overseas, I've just never travelled with guns before. I know there's a way to do that with checked luggage so I'll do a little research there.

    飛べねぇ豚はただの豚だ。
    Garick
  • SiskaSiska Shorty Registered User regular
    Bring ample supply of your own deodorant, if you use that. Very hard to find and expensive in Japan.

    Izuela.png
    italianranma
  • baudattitudebaudattitude Registered User regular
    I own a few. One is a very customized Kimber 1911 with engravings from my first deployment so I want to keep that gun forever. Plus it shoots nice. The other is a Glock 19 that's not very special to be honest, but again it shoots really well: I'm a bit of a local hero with it for being able to out shoot my friends at the 100 m line with this stock gun and it's fixed iron sights while they were using scoped hunting revolvers.

    I could store those with my family and they'd probably just put them up in the attic or closet with the shotgun they own. I bought a gun safe myself, but I'm not sure if there's a cost efficient way to send that to them in CA (I'm currently in NC). I plan on visiting them before I go overseas, I've just never travelled with guns before. I know there's a way to do that with checked luggage so I'll do a little research there.

    Without getting crazy off-topic, you may want to review laws in CA before you ask your family to store those, and definitely before bringing them into the state unless you want to pick up a potential felony charge for the magazines.

    More on topic: Siska reminded me of one other thing that is just mind-bogglingly expensive in Japan, and that's ibuprofen. I don't know if that's something you can buy on-base, but the one time I've needed to buy some while visiting I needed to pay like Y1100 for a package of 20 and they actually called over a pharmacist for a medicine consult where I had to promise that I wouldn't take more than 200mg every 12 hours.

    italianranma
  • godmodegodmode Nooo-ooo-ooo... That ain't dancin', SallyRegistered User regular
    I’ve heard the exchange at Yokota is quite nice. You’ll have plenty of cheap deodorant and all the American OTC drugs you could want.

  • GarickGarick Registered User regular
    godmode wrote: »
    And is it not the case that there are special laws concerning storage, and that the police need to inspect your gun storage annually, and you have to pay a fee?
    It may be technically legal, but I think you're asking for a giant headache for something that there will be extremely few opportunities to use.

    Maybe I'm showing how much my anti-gun bias has grown over the years. I think they're fine, I like shooting, I'm very good at it, but one of the things I love about Japan is how guns just aren't a thing I have to worry about.

    Oh yes, they are a headache to own here. You are right on all counts such as having a separate safe for both your gun and ammo and to add to that, you also need to account for every single round of ammo you have and use. If you shoot 6 rounds while hunting or target shooting, you better have all 6 empty shell cases to prove you shot 6 times. Although I like shooting it's too much for me to jump through all the hoops, but for some people it's worth it and good information to know if they are interested.

    And yes, that definitely is a bonus to living here knowing it's really really highly unlikely I will get shot.

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