Retirement Around the World – Japan

Published on April 2, 2015

Welcome to Japan, “Land of the Rising Sun”—where you can experience a spectacular and completely different way of life! This Pacific island nation combines traditional Asian culture with Western influences and has a sizable expat community.

One can witness the beauty of cherry blossoms in the spring, enjoy different regional cuisines, and experience traditional Japanese entertainment from knee-slapping manzai comedy to kabuki theater.

Retirees will be happy to learn that Japan has a generally high standard of living, good health care and is considered a very safe place to live. Other attractions are its strong economy, very efficient infrastructure, rich heritage and its gracious people.

Retirement for Japanese

Japan has two types of government-run pension plans, the National Pension and the Employees’ Pension.

National Pension

The Japanese Kokumin Nenkin requires all registered residents of Japan (both Japanese and foreign) to enroll in it. It is managed by the Japan Pension Service, a government organization administered by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

National Pension benefits are paid from age 65 up to those who satisfy certain conditions, such as having paid their national pension contributions for 25 years or more. The monthly benefit amount for members who have paid contributions for 40 or more years is 66,000 Japanese yen (approx. $540 USD). Shorter contribution periods result in lower benefits.

Employees’ Pension

Full-time employees and their families can apply for Employees’ Pension. Companies pay 50% of the monthly premiums and automatically deduct the other 50% from their employees’ salaries.

Healthcare in Japan

The Japanese health care system provides services such as screening examinations, prenatal care and infectious disease control, with the patient responsible for 30% of these costs and the government paying 70%.

A universal insurance health care system offers payment for personal medical services with relative equality of access to the public. The fees are set by a government committee to control costs. Currently, Japan’s universal healthcare system is being revamped by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to align with his economic policies.

All Japanese residents are required to have health insurance. Those who do not have insurance through employers can participate in a national health insurance program administered by local governments. Patients may select their doctors or facilities and cannot be denied coverage.

Healthcare in Japan is required for expats who have a resident’s visa or work permit. In addition to the two public plans, expats and retirees can also obtain private medical insurance to cover conditions that are excluded by the national plan.

As the number of expats in Japan rises, the government has increased its efforts to provide them with quality healthcare. This includes staffing hospitals with English-speaking medical professionals (more prevalent in larger cities). US retirees will be happy to learn that many surgeons and specialists practicing in Japan obtained their training from western countries such as the US and the UK.

Americans in Japan

Thanks to a waiver agreement with the US, American citizens traveling to Japan for up to 90 days do not need a tourist visa, provided they enter as a tourist. This applies as long as you are not planning to do any paid work and can prove that you have the finances to support yourself.

Many expats who live long term in Japan have a Japanese spouse and have applied for a spousal visa. If you do not have a Japanese spouse and do not want to apply for a work visa, you can receive a permanent visa using long-term stay visas; however, this process can take over six years! Permanent visa applicants must prove they know the Japanese culture and language, and pass several exams before receiving permanent residency. All long-term stay visa applicants must provide a Certificate of Eligibility along with the application. To qualify for this certificate you must provide documentation on your financial status, criminal convictions, and immigration history to Japan. For more information on visas, go to

Cost of Living

Living in Japan can be expensive, but remember, you’re also getting a high quality of life. Expats retiring to larger cities will need a significant budget, especially if they wish to enjoy western luxuries. However, expenses can be significantly lowered by living outside the main cities. It’s a good idea to travel to different regions of any country to become familiar with various lifestyles, attractions and living costs.

Housing – Housing in Japan’s major cities is among the most expensive in the world so many people in urban areas choose to rent apartments rather than purchase homes.

If renting in a vast city like Tokyo you should see at least 5-10 properties to get an idea of the different types of apartments available. Most people use real estate agents rather than directly renting from landlords. Frequently, information about your financial background will be requested and you may even have to get the contract co-signed by a Japanese national.

Typical expatriate apartments usually include common household appliances and often require at least four months deposit. A typical Japanese-style apartment will probably not include these appliances, will require a smaller deposit, but will also require “key money” or Reiken. This is an upfront non-refundable payment to the landlord for letting you rent the apartment—usually two months of rent.

Apartment rental costs will vary depending on size and location. In the cities they are small and usually built up. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center averages approximately $740 per month, while the same apartment outside the city goes for about $450. A three-bedroom apartment in the city center rents for approximately $1,540 per month and outside the city center it goes for about $1,012. Keep in mind, these prices are nationwide averages; major cities or beachfront areas can range significantly higher.

There are no legal restrictions on foreigners who want to purchase real estate in Japan. Once a property has been chosen, negotiations and a private survey may begin. It is important to hire a real estate agent who can also act as your translator.


Those who own a car in Japan must already have a parking space. Most apartments in Japan will offer one, but it’s important to check on this before renting a place. In situations where parking costs/spaces are not included in the rent, parking expenses could range from 30,000-70,000 Yen (approximately $247-$576 USD), depending on the area and building in which you live.


As with other countries, the cost of living (beyond housing) varies from city to city. In Japan, a three-course dinner for two in a mid-range restaurant averages around $34.00, while a fast-food combo meal is approximately $5.50 per person. At the market a dozen eggs costs $1.87 and a fresh loaf of white bread $1.45. A movie ticket costs $15.32 and a fitness membership for one adult runs approximately $72.00 per month.

Major Cities

Tokyo, the country’s capital, is a large, vibrant city and very popular with expats. The greater Tokyo area is the world’s largest metropolitan area with over 30 million inhabitants. This cosmopolitan hub has many art galleries, museums, restaurants and places to shop. Tokyo also has a very rich live music scene with a variety of concert festivals held during the summer. Expats are known to routinely pick up their free weekly copy of Metropolis magazine at different stores to learn about that week’s lineup of events and entertainment.

Osaka, Japan’s third largest and second most important city, has been the economic powerhouse of the Kansai Region for many centuries. The bustling city is a cultural center for entertainment, arts and food and is referred to as the “nation’s kitchen.”
Osakans are very proud of their city and maintain their own dialect—but they are also very welcoming and helpful to foreigners. Getting around Osaka can sometimes be challenging because it is divided into numerical areas, with very few street names. However, its extensive public transportation system is very convenient. Osaka is home to the impressive The Osaka Aquarium, The Osaka Museum of History (which chronicles the city’s history beginning in ancient times when Osaka served as Japan’s first capital), the Shitennoji Temple, one of Japan’s oldest temples, and the National Bunraku Theater (Osaka has been the capital for traditional bunraku Japanese puppet theater for centuries).

Kyoto is in the central part of the island of Honshu, Japan’s largest island. Close to 1.5 million people live in this major part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area. Here you can enjoy a variety of Japanese cultural traditions. In the summer, the Kyoto locals escape the city heat for a relaxing dinner show at the Takao Momijiya restaurant on the Kiyotaki River. You’ll dine on the elevated outdoor terrace and watch maiko (similar to geishas) perform songs and dance throughout your meal. You can also ride in an authentic Japanese rickshaw and view some of Kyotos’s most scenic and historic districts.

Hiroshima City, “The City of Peace,” is the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu. There are many tributes to peace around the city including the famous Hiroshima Peace Museum, which was built to memorialize the victims of the atomic bombing and as a testament to world peace. Hiroshima is also a very cultural city with its own professional symphony orchestra and art museums. As the prefectural capital, Hiroshima City is developed but it’s not as congested as Tokyo. Expats will also be impressed by its citizens’ kind and friendly attitude.

Nishinomiya is situated between the much larger cities of Kobe and Osaka, where residents enjoy the wonderful food of each. Among the tasty dishes are Kobe beef, takoyaki and kushi katsu. The city is also home to Koshien, Japan’s most storied baseball stadium that hosts Osaka’s professional team, the Hanshin Tigers. Nishinomiya is also a shopper’s paradise due to its numerous malls.

Fujisawa is the perfect destination for expats who prefer the serene laid-back atmosphere of a beach town. This relaxed coastal city in Kanagawa is less than a 30-minute train ride from the heart of Tokyo’s excitement and culture. Fujisawa has centuries-old temples and breathtaking sunset views of Mount Fuji. Anyone who appreciates nature, history or the relaxing sound of the waves will love it here.

With its stunning landscapes, bustling cities, historical countrysides and distinct culture, Japan offers expats a truly unique and fascinating lifestyle!

Have a question now? Contact Next Generation at (888) 857-8058 or, or read through our Starter Kits for more information about building a retirement future today.


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