Osaka, Japan Report of what it's like to live there - 05/16/21

Personal Experiences from Osaka, Japan

Osaka, Japan 05/16/21

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I have lived in Loei, Thailand; Inchon, S Korea; Bogota, Colombia; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; Asuncion, Paraguay; and Hyderabad, India.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home country is the USA. It takes many hours to fly from Washington to Tokyo and then Tokyo to Osaka. Plenty of flights.

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3. What years did you live here?

2018-2021.

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4. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is apartments provided by the consulate. There is a large compound with 2 and 3 bedroom apartments, as well as 3 stand alone houses. A few people live in apartments in Osaka or Kobe. I love my 3-bedroom apartment, but the kitchen is small and the a/c is mediocre.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It's all available and all more expensive than the USA. When I left the US, milk was about $4 a gallon. Here it's more like $10.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I order whatever I need from Amazon. No problems getting anything.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Japanese food is plentiful and good. Pizza delivery options are not great - expensive compared to the US. We have Italian, Indian, Korean, and Chinese restaurants nearby.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Sending packages and letters through Japanese mail is much more expensive than American mail. In the US it's 55 cents to send a letter. In Japan it's more like 95 cents. We can use the pouch at the Consulate.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Although there are plenty of household helpers at the Embassy in Tokyo, there is only one here in Osaka. There are not many Filipino maids and nannies in our community. They are expensive to employ.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a gym within walking distance of the housing compound and the consulate. There is also a very small gym inside the consulate.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Yes, yes.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Baptist, Anglican, Non-demoninational Christian

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need some Japanese to survive here in Osaka. Not as many people speak English here as in Tokyo. I think you can find local classes and tutors here. $45 an hour

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Not too bad. There are wheelchair accessible bathrooms everywhere, the trains all have space for disabled people, handicapped parking spots are designated everywhere. It's a lot like the US, but the housing compound has no elevators.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

If you are single or childless, you do NOT need a car. If you have a family and need a car, just buy one when you get here. No need to send a car to Japan-- there are MANY affordable options to choose from.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, not long at all.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Softbank is good. No problems with mobile phones here.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes, there are plenty of vets in the neighborhood. Japanese love dogs and especially cats. Yes, animals do need to be quarantined upon entry to Japan.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Interesting question. One Eligible Family Member (EFM) works as a drum instructor. Another gives piano and other instrument lessons. Two work at the Consulate. All are part-time.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

You can volunteer with the homeless, abandoned animals, soup kitchens, orphanage...

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Suits in winter and "cool biz" in summer when the weather is warm. No formal dress. No balls. Few other diplomatic missions in Osaka.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is great. Most doctors know some English. I have a good dermatologist and dentist within walking distance of my apartment.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Fantastic. I have asthma so air quality played a big role in my choosing this post. Haven't been disappointed at all.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Lots of seafood here. If you have a seafood allergy, be very careful.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

No.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Seasonal. We have all four seasons. Nothing is extreme or severe. Summers are pretty humid though.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

We have a few good options. Most people send their kids to Canadian Academy. My two children went there. Both had great experiences.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I think it depends on the school and the special need. One of the kids in our community was not able to attend Canadian Academy because they could not accommodate his needs, but the German school could.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, they are available. I don't know about the expense as my kids are way beyond preschool and daycare.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

It's not particularly large. We live in a country that is 98% Japanese. Since Covid hit, there are fewer foreigners than ever.
Morale among expats is pretty high. Japan is easy to live in and the Japanese are kind. Don't expect to make intimate friends with them, but they are outwardly friendly.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

The school was a good way to meet other expats before the pandemic. There are clubs you can find via Facebook. Lots of good hiking around here. There is probably a hiking meet-up group, but I don't know.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, yes, and yes. Japan is great.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

No, in my opinion the Japanese are not especially easy to get to know. They don't invite you over for dinner or parties, but they are always polite.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes, nobody cares.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Women and men are NOT equal. It's a patriarchy. Women are expected to stay home and care for their families. Working and having a family at the same time is frowned upon if you're a Japanese woman. They don't really care what foreigners do.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Climbing Mount Fuji was great. Traveling to see the snow monkeys in Nagano was awesome. Visiting Okinawa was also great. I love Yokohama -- and Tokyo in small doses. There are lots of good day trips from Osaka. Great hiking, biking, and running opportunities abound. There are also LOTS of museums to visit. Universal Studios Japan is really fun, too.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are lots of good day trips from Osaka. Great hiking, biking, and running opportunities abound. There are also LOTS of museums to visit. Universal Studios Japan is really fun, too.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

If you like flea markets and swap meets, temple markets are a blast. We went to a lot of these before Covid hit. You can find lots of beautiful antiques and kimonos.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Excellent public transportation, no crime, clean sidewalks, lots of public parks, etc. It's a great place to live.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Japanese is killer hard. It's easier to learn if you're younger or have a background in Korean, which is syntactically similar.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Heck yeah

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Nothing

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4. But don't forget your:

Nothing

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

There are so many great movies about Japan, I don't know where to begin. If you like anime/cartoons, you'll love Japan.

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