Once you’ve arrived in Shizuoka on the JET Programme, there are a few things that must get done rather quickly. Here is a list of the common things that need to get done, where you can get them done, and what you need to get them done!!
Alien Registration Card a.k.a. “Gaijin Card”
外国人登録証明書 (gaikokujin touroku shoumeisho)
All foreigners living or working in Japan must register with the local authorities. You will be asked to mail two passport photos and a copy of your passport to your consulate once you have been accepted to the JET program. These will be used to make your alien registration card. The process for getting the registration card has been simplified over the past few years. Instead of having to go to a registration office to receive your registration card it will likely be given to you upon going through customs in Japan. Getting your card may involve digital finger prints. Once you arrive in your placement you will need to go to city hall to register yourself. Most likely someone from your school or board of education will help you with this.
You should carry this card with you at all times, as you can be arrested if you fail to present it when asked by a police officer. Needless to say, your supervisor will be getting a call and will need to come to the police station to pick you up (it’s uncommon, but it has happened!). But luckily, in reality, you will likely never be asked to show this card. It will outweigh your passport in terms of official identification for use just about anywhere, so once you have it you will not need to carry your passport as a means of identification.
Hanko / Inkan
A hanko is your own personal stamp that acts as your signature. To “sign” official documents in Japan, you don`t sign, but stamp. The stamp is required on all official and legal documents. It is very small and carried in what looks like a lipstick case. The writing on your Hanko will be likely be in katakana, as you are a foreigner, but not necessarily. If you have a name which has Chinese characters, you can use them for your hanko.
Since you will need a hanko for things like opening a bank account, or getting a cellphone, yours will likely be ordered before you arrive in Japan, by someone at your school or board of education, who you can pay back later. This is not a guaranteed, however, so you should check with your predecessor or supervisor to make sure. Hanko can be ordered for about 2,000 yen at a book shop or hanko shop. If you are responsible for making your own hanko you should ask where you can get it made. You will need it to sign your contract and any other agreements (phone, electricity, rent etc) with it, so you its best to have it made as quickly as possible.
Don’t lose your hanko, as someone who finds it, along with your bankbook (not the bank card, but the book in which your balances can be printed) can withdraw money from your account. Keep it safe – at school is probably the best option. Japanese people usually have three or more hanko – one for the bank only, which they leave at home and only bring with them when going to the bank. Another for official documents to sign at school etc., and one for miscellaneous uses when they don`t want to sign their name in pen.
Stamps which have ink within the stamp (i.e. you don`t need to dip them in ink before using them each time) cannot be used for official documents. Most hanko do not come with their own case. You can buy hanko cases in many places, but a simple and cheap option is to buy one from a 100 yen shop. Some hanko cases come with a small inkpad inside.
Please check with the tax office in your home country to see what tax agreements your home country and Japan have, and/or what taxes you are liable to pay while in Japan. For American JET’s Kumamoto JET has excellent tax resources that we highly recommend.
Medical Care / National Health Insurance
社会保険 (shakai hoken)
If you need to go to the doctor, remember that the medical care here may not be the same as you are used to back home. But as Japan is a first-world country with state-of-the-art medical facilities it should be perfectly adequate, though some things may strike you as unusual.
You must carry your Health Insurance Card (保険証、houkenshou) at all times in case of an emergency. It entitles you to 70% off all doctors’ bills, hospital bills, and prescribed medicines. Your school will give you this card soon after you arrive. If you have dependents then register them under your name. Japanese hospitals and clinics do not accept insurance from overseas.
年金手帳 (nenkin techou)
Once you arrive in Japan you will receive a little blue pension book. Please do not lose this. Every month a portion of your paycheck goes into the Japanese Pension Fund, but at the end of your time here in Japan, if you are returning to your home country indefinitely, you can apply to get the money back. Your school or board of education will either give you this book or hold onto it for you. Make sure you know where it is at all times while you are in Japan. If possible, and if you have one, we recommend you store it in a safe place at your base school/board of education.
You will need to open a bank account in order to receive your salary and, in some cases, have utility fees automatically withdrawn. Your supervisor, or another staff member should help you open an account at a local bank. You must bring your passport or resident card, and your hanko.
Once you open a bank account you will receive a bank book. This can be used for taking out money, but can also be updated with all of your withdrawals and deposits, making it a good way to keep track of expenses. Depending on which bank you open an account at you may need to do further paperwork to receive your bank card. This card can be used at ATMs in your bank, and at certain convenience stores. Note that this is not a debit card, and cannot be used as such. You may or may not be able to apply for a debit card at your bank.
Note: It is important that the account name matches the name on your alien registration card, as any differences can cause problems later down the line. Your bank account is under your name in surname-first name-middle name order, usually using the Roman alphabet to match your passport.
In the past foreign people living in Japan needed to apply for reentry permits in advance before leaving Japan to travel overseas. These days the process is much simpler. At the airport you can find reentry permits while going through security. Simply fill the half of the form meant for leaving the country, and give the form to whoever is behind the desk. They will staple the return form to your passport. Upon return you should fill out the information on this form. Please do not forget to fill out your re-entry permit. If you forget, and you attempt to reenter the country with your visa it will cause a massive issue for both you and your place of employment.