In a country famous for stunning landscapes, ancient architecture, and a passionate food scene, working remotely in Japan might be the dream destination for you. Now, with many of us being thrust into a digital age of work, it is a better time than ever to begin thinking of relocating to a new country.
Notable for its heights in leading technology, metropolises like Tokyo sound like an ideal location for digital nomads. Or maybe you prefer a more quiet and serene environment to peacefully work in? No matter your needs, there should be a place catered to what you are looking for in Japan.
If you’re considering working remotely in Japan then here’s everything you need to know. From living costs, choosing the right city, coworking spaces, and more.
Recommended Cities to Live in Japan
Before packing up your life and moving to a completely new country, deciding upon where you choose to reside will be the biggest decision you make. This is why it’s important to look at all your options carefully, and thoroughly go through all the reasons why you make a pick a certain place. To get you started, here are some of the top spots for remote workers that Japan has to offer.
An undeniable inclusion on this list, Tokyo is everything that a digital fanatic can wish for and more. Hailing as the capital, many large and established companies are located here, with a reliable infrastructure to support the demands of millions of people who are connected virtually.
All over the city, you can find many establishments that offer free Wi-Fi and many other places that cater for anyone looking to temporarily send some emails, to renting overnight rooms with state-of-the-art computers.
On top of all that, you can expect to find everything you would typically see in major cities, like large shopping complexes, numerous cultural attractions like shrines, and most definitely, good food. World famous for their cuisine, it should not be a surprise that Tokyo is the city which hosts the most Michelin stars in the world, at 226.
What is more impressive, is that it has held the number one spot for the last thirteen years. So, if this does not entice you enough, maybe you are looking for something a bit slower paced?
Home to a lifestyle of harmony and a peaceful way of life, Kyoto is a drastic contrast from the bustling routine of the citizens of Tokyo. In a country that is already rich in culture and history, Kyoto is the pinnacle of that very essence.
Every street you turn, building you see, or park you visit, will radiate the aura of Japan during a past era. Witness the delicate craftsmanship of the buildings that have been preserved for decades and stroll through the thousands of shrines and temples located in this very city.
If you are the type of person that prefers peace and quiet in order to be the most productive, there is no other place better suited than here. Towards the western outskirts of the city, you will find the tranquil area of Arashiyama.
Most famous for its stunning bamboo grove and monkey park atop of a mountain, the scenic river and backdrop of lush rolling mountains make for an ideal getaway for holiday-goers to people who want to get away from city life.
Found at the southern end of the country, you can find this place on the island of Kyushu. A flourishing city with a youthful population, this place is well on its way to becoming the next major city with the likes of Tokyo.
One of the biggest highlights of Fukuoka is ‘yatai’. ‘Yatai’ is the name for food stands, but in the case of Fukuoka, it is a cultural way of life. In the evening once the sun goes down, ‘yatai’ fill the streets and hungry people flock to them with glee. Each stand can usually only accommodate a few seats, and the social aspect is what makes it a must-try experience.
Conversing with locals in a huddled space while eating the famous Hakata Ramen and drinking the night away is something you would never forget. One of the great things about Fukuoka is that since it has only recently started to develop into a large metropolitan city, the cost of living is quite cheap when compared to the other major cities.
If you want to get a taste of living in a key Japanese city without the despair of high costs of living, Fukuoka is the destination for you.
Located in the prefecture of Aichi, you can find this city in between Tokyo and Kyoto. Similar to Fukuoka in the sense of it being an established place in Japan, but maybe not as highly recognised to the outside world, Nagoya is a great destination to settle down.
While places like Tokyo and Fukuoka are large sprawling cities and Kyoto is a smaller petite location in contrast, Nagoya is almost like the perfect blend of both types of places. It is not too large and not too small.
Hailing a population of around 2 million residents, paling in comparison to the roughly 14 million of Tokyo, you will be sure to experience city life here without having to make your way through waves of people.
As Nagoya remains as a place that is not often visited by tourists, you will also be able to build a closer bond with the community and naturally embrace the culture with both hands.
Read More: Best Visas for Working Remotely in Asia
Cost of Living in Japan
In Japan, the local currency is yen (¥) and is still a very cash-reliant society. Outside of large international chain stores and key locations such as airports, you will struggle to find many places that accept card. The further you travel from major cities these chances will continue to dwindle, so always be sure to carry cash with you in Japan.
The average cost of living in Japan is roughly around $1800 a month but bearing in mind the drastically expensive costs of living in the larger cities, you can find a lot more affordable options in places like Fukuoka and Nagoya for example.
Since Japan is quite a small country in terms of size, many of the apartments and homes are smaller than people may expect. However, this means that typically the rent is on the cheaper end of things, and buying food and produce is what drives up the costs more.
Recommended Cafes and Coworking Spaces in Japan
Paper Back Café
An ideal spot for any book lovers, this a cosy little café can be found in Kanda district in Tokyo. Adorably located in a jointly shared bookshop named ‘Books Tokyodo’ you will have nothing but peace and quiet when working here. Free Wi-Fi is available here with multiple outlets to charge your devices, all the ingredients you need for a productive day of work.
If the smell of freshly brewed coffee and toasted sandwiches distracts or you’re maybe searching for a place that offers a strictly working related environment with networking opportunities then why not try a Japanese coworking space?
A sleek, modern coworking space, which offers a variety of work environments from private rooms, traditional cubicle-style rooms to even a rooftop terrace. Aimed towards building a foreigner-friendly working atmosphere, Blink Community is a great place for any remote workers or travellers looking to get some work done.
Situated in the business-centric area of Roppongi in Tokyo, you will be surrounded by like-minded, hardworking individuals. A possibly unusual inclusion on this list, parks are a great free spot to get some work done. You can find an abundance of parks all throughout the country, many boasting alluring scenery, paired with fresh air to clear your mind and help you ease into completing your work.
If staying connected online is not a necessity to finishing your work, parks should be towards the top end of top locations for working outdoors. If, however, you need to stay connected, you can find portable Wi-Fi devices that you can rent out or buy for the duration of your work period.
‘Ueno Park’ and ‘Yoyogi Park’ both cover an expansive area in Tokyo, giving you plenty of options to find a nice quiet area. Best during the summer and spring, you will be blessed with the sunny days or beautiful cherry blossom trees as your backdrop. Unfortunately for the latter, expect to find parks to become crowded, especially during the peak periods, so you may want to head out and find a smaller hidden park to get work done quietly.
Pros and Cons of Working in Japan
In Japan you will be exposed to a convenient and easy standard of living. A country where you can rely on convenience stores for literally everything whether it be picking up some lunch, posting some mail, buying event tickets or purchasing a new T-shirt, you will be in comfortable hands.
The infrastructure of most places is up to a high standard and you can expect to find fast reliable internet to do all your work throughout many of the cities. Unfortunately, cursed to be upon multiple tectonic plates, geographically, the country is prone to disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis so phone alerts will become a normal part of life.
Measures that are put in place to counter these events are highly effective and hardly cause enough damage as it did many years ago, but do not be surprised to experience a few tremors during your time living here.
Is Japan Safe for LGBTQ+ People?
Overall Japan is a safe place to travel and live for LGBTQ+ people, Tokyo in particular has an established gay scene, though most of it is inaccessible if you don’t speak Japanese; here are some gay-friendly bars in Japan for English speakers.
There are some laws protecting LGBTQ+ people and homosexuality is legal. A large Pride parade is also held every year in the summer and there are gay-friendly hotels available. However, public displays of affection are generally not a thing and can create awkwardness.
Do I Need to Learn Japanese to Live There?
Japan is a country where being bilingual is not common at all. A large portion of the country’s population is made up by Japanese people who were born and have lived here their whole lives. Unless you are in metropolitan cities like Tokyo or Osaka, it will be very difficult to find anyone that can speak English well, let alone any other language.
Generally speaking, you can get by in Tokyo and Osaka with just English and all signs are bilingual so using the trains and metro will be fine. But, especially for anyone looking to relocate to Japan, I would say it is important that you at the very least learn to speak and read some very basic Japanese.
You’ll be amazed how much easier your life will be just learning to read katakana as these words are likely to be ‘imported’ words and will generally be recognizable to English speakers e.g hoteru (ホテル) for hotel. This will get you further than you may expect and will be very handy for many situations.
Some of our favourite ways to learn beginner’s Japanese:
Hai Hiragana and Hai Katakana Flashcards – We love everything this couple, based in Japan, create. The quality is high, the flashcards make it so much easier to learn the characters and they are gorgeous to look at. They also have a new book on Kanji for anyone wanting to take things further.
Lingodeer or Doctor Moku – Doctor Moku acts in a similar way to the flashcards, applying an easy-to-remember picture and sentence to the characters while also being conveniently portable. Lingodeer is a straightforward way to learn the characters but you will also be able to carry on and learn basic Japanese with their fun, interactive lessons.
Lonely Planet Japanese Phrasebook (which has an alphabet chart in the back) – If you just want something convenient that you can whip out when you need it then the Lonely Planet phrasebook covers a lot of ground from restaurant and shop speak to public transport. There’s a pronunciation guide and alphabet chart at the back plus basic kanji.