Osaka, Japan Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Osaka, Japan

Osaka, Japan 07/10/18

Background:

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

No. Three prior assignments in the Middle East.

View All Answers


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?

Washington, DC. Long direct flight to Tokyo and then short domestic hop to Osaka. Or DC to LAX or SFO and then to Osaka. The connections are easy but the total travel time is quite long.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

Seven months.

View All Answers


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

US Consulate General Osaka-Kobe, direct-hire.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The housing compound in Nishinomiya is where many of the families from the consulate live. It is a lovely, quiet neighborhood with a river, great walking trails and hikes, convenient restaurants and grocery stores, and even an "Irish" bar nearby. However, it is at least 50 minutes door to door to the consulate, and with a young family this is a challenge.



The apartments are spacious by Japanese standards and it is easy to entertain at home or at the compound pool. Family size is more important than rank in terms of housing assignment. There are a handful of two bedroom apartments, several 3 bedroom apartments, and three large houses. There is also a community garden and a park nearby, which is very convenient for pets.



The commute is worth an additional paragraph to describe in detail. There are two options at present: self-drive shuttle and the train. The shuttle takes 45 minutes or fewer in the morning and 50 minutes to an hour in the evening. The train is another, more flexible option. It takes 10-15 minutes to walk to the station, 25-30 minutes on the train, and 10-15 minutes to walk to the office. So in total it is 45 minutes to an hour commute. A few of the single employees live downtown in small (1.5 or 2 bedroom) apartments that are walking or biking distance to the consulate. A few other employees live on Rokko island near the Canadian Academy.

View All Answers


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

Same as DC.

View All Answers


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

There is a Costco here. No need to ship food items.

View All Answers


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

No concerns.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

DPO is pretty speedy. All mail routes through Tokyo first.

View All Answers


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

All household help in Osaka and Kobe is from the Philippines and each employee must be officially sponsored by one family. Currently there is one woman who provides help for several families on a part time basis. The CLO in Tokyo can provide you with a detailed reference guide on this issue.

View All Answers


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

There is a small gym at the consulate.

View All Answers


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?

Cash economy, for the most part, but cards are also widely accepted.

View All Answers


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

Great English-language non-denominational church in Kobe, about 40 minutes from the housing compound in Nishinomiya.

View All Answers


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

SO important. All positions should be language designated at the 2 level or higher. This is not Tokyo. English speakers are few and far between. Japanese is essential for everyday life. Spouses without Japanese are often frustrated.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Yes, but taxis are very expensive.

View All Answers


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?

Cars designed to drive on the left side of the road are easiest.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

It takes two to four weeks to complete installation upon arrival. No concerns on speed or billing.

View All Answers


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

Personal phones require a Japanese ID with your address, so most wait until they receive their driver's license to get a personal phone. Cells are issued by the consulate upon arrival.

View All Answers


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?

Talk to the CLO well in advance of arrival. Total time to complete import requirements is 6 to 7 months. That said, our dog is happy here and it wasn't too difficult to follow the detailed Government of Japan import requirements.

View All Answers


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?

There are three positions at the consulate. See the FAMER for details.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

None.

View All Answers


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

No concerns.

View All Answers


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?

No concerns.

View All Answers


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

No concerns.

View All Answers


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

No concerns.

View All Answers


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

Similar to Washington, DC with hot and muggy summers.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. 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?

International daycares do not accept children until 1.4 years old (I know, random age). This has been a big challenge for dual-working households. Even then, daycare typically runs from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm, challenging a full time work schedule. Nishinomiya International School is popular among consulate employees.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Small and shrinking. Many companies are relocating to Singapore.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

The lack of daycare options...

View All Answers


Osaka, Japan 10/08/13

Background:

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

No.

View All Answers


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?

From Washington DC you can either fly direct to Tokyo and then onto Osaka or you can fly to SFO and then onto Osaka. Both routes take more or less a day door to door.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

A bit more than one year.

View All Answers


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

Government.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

If you're USG, there's a housing compound in Nishinomiya, a 40-minute drive or 55-minute train ride to/from the office. Lots of expats live on Rokko Island in Kobe.

View All Answers


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

Household goods are available at Costco and while more expensive than the U.S., it's cheaper than local supermarkets. Costco is a ways away and local supermarkets have fresher food. Almost everything is available but it's more expensive.

View All Answers


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

Lots of really good local food, good French and Italian food. American fast food (McDonald's, KFC) is available if you really want to eat it.

View All Answers


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

There are mosquitos during the summer but they're not a big deal.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

DPO.

View All Answers


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

It's available but not cheap.

View All Answers


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

Gyms are available but they're expensive.

View All Answers


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?

More and more places take U.S. credit cards but still many fewer places than you'd think. Western ATMs work at 7-11.

View All Answers


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

The more, the better.

View All Answers


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

The Kansai is very wheelchair accessible. Many train stations and buildings have elevators or ramps. Osaka and Kobe are easier to get around in than most U.S. cities.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Public transportation is extensive and reasonable. Taxis are very expensive.

View All Answers


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?

Japanese make, left-side drive is probably the most suitable and easiest to repair.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes.

View All Answers


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?

It's difficult.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many.

View All Answers


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

Kansai is the cool-biz capital of Japan.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

None whatsoever. Japan is one of the safest countries in the world.

View All Answers


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

High quality medical care here.

View All Answers


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?

It's generally pretty good, though spring can be rough with pollen and sand from continental East Asia filling the air.

View All Answers


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

The Kansai is generally pretty warm and Osaka is roughly the same latitude as the border between North and South Carolina. Osaka stays warm into November, but doesn't really warm up until late May. Summers are really hot, Spring is nice but brisk, Winter is cold but there's little snow, and Fall is the nicest time of year.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

There are several international schools choose from. Canadian Academy and Osaka International School are good K-12 options while St. Michaels in Kobe and the YMCA in Osaka offer K-6 or -7 schooling. Marist Brothers in Kobe is also a possibility.

View All Answers


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

In house accomodations for educational special needs students are somewhat limited but schools have shown a willingness to work with families. Both Canadian Academy and Osaka International School are wheelchair accessible.

View All Answers


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?

There is a preschool in Nishinomiya that caters to international students (It's called Nishinomiya International School). The staff are responsive and while it's not cheap, it's not that expensive.

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

It's big but scattered. Morale tends to correlate with Japanese language ability.

View All Answers


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

Definitely great for families. There are lots of kid-friendly activities and events.

View All Answers


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

Travelling around Western Japan, visiting Kyoto and Nara, the peace memorial in Hiroshima, hiking, sailing in Osaka bay, riding the high-speed train aka the shinkansen...

View All Answers


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

You can reach a hiking trail in 15 minutes by foot from the housing compound. There's so much to do in the region.

View All Answers


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

Japan has a unique culture, great scenery and nature, great food and lots to do. If you're into temples and museums, Japan has them. If you want to ski, sail, hike, camp, etc, etc, Japan has it.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. Do your best to learn some Japanese before you come. The more Japanese you can speak and read, the more you can access here.

View All Answers


Osaka, Japan 08/14/06

Background:

1. How long have you lived here?

Lived there for 2 years.

View All Answers


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

Government.

View All Answers


3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

10 hours from the West Coast.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The housing compound is one hour away by train from the Consulate, door-to-door. By van, it takes a little less time.

View All Answers


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

Groceries are expensive. The closest commissary is 8 hours away. However, FSOs can order from the Iwakuni Commissary and they will send items by Black Cat.

View All Answers


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

Pretty much everything is available here.

View All Answers


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

Most available: McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dominoe's, Starbuck's, Subway. No Burger King.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

One officer contacted the Philippine Consulate and got a name of someone interested in doing housework. She charges about US $10 per hour.

View All Answers


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

This is still largely a cash society. Exchange Services are available at the Consulate.

View All Answers


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

Not sure.

View All Answers


4. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The Japan Times is available. It costs about US$1.50 per day.

View All Answers


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

A lot. I think it would be hard to live here without any Japanese.

View All Answers


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

Lots of stairs -- probably difficult for someone with a disability such as bad knees. However, convenient for those with vision impairments since the whole city has a textured grid leading to and from the train stations.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Left.

View All Answers


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

Trains and buses are very safe, but transportation in the Kansai area is fairly expensive. I had a monthly train pass to get to and from work and it was about US $100.

View All Answers


3. 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?

We didn't bring a car. We received a free second-hand car. It is possible to live without a car, but if you want to go to Costco, you need a car (or a friend with a car).

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

We had cable internet/tv. It comes to about US$80 per month. It is very fast.

View All Answers


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

The Consulate issues our phones.

View All Answers


3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

We have a cheap calling plan arranged by the Consulate.

View All Answers


Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Dogs are popular in Japan, and I have heard that there are many good vets and kennels nearby. (The kennel is expensive, though!)

View All Answers


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?

If they don't speak Japanese, then the only jobs available are English teaching jobs. No EFM positions at the Consulate...yet.

View All Answers


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

At the Consulate, business.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

The industrial pollution is fairly bad here. Plus, everyone smokes EVERYWHERE. It is hard to escape the cigarette smoke.

View All Answers


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

No.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

Most people send their children to Canadian Academy and are very pleased with it.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Not as large as Tokyo and hard to meet other expats.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

For single women, low. For men, maybe a little bit higher, but morale in Tokyo is higher despite the fact that Kansai is a more interesting place to live!

View All Answers


3. 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 consulate community here is not very social. People attend the requisite hails and farewells, but they rarely do much socializing otherwise. This is probably because most of the spouses are Japanese.

View All Answers


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

Good for families and couples. Good for single males. Not good for single females. Most Western men here want to date Japanese women, and most Japanese men prefer Japanese women as well. Some spouses have had trouble if they are not Japanese. The Japanese tend to be very insular.

View All Answers


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

Good for gay men, I hear. There is a big gay neighborhood in Osaka.

View All Answers


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

Lots of racial discrimination in Japan.

View All Answers


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

Discount day at the movies for 1000 yen, all the historical sites in Kyoto, lots of hiking, lots of good restaurants.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

We managed to save some since we didn't go out drinking every night.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

No.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


7. Do you have any other comments?

You have to really love Japan to do well in Osaka.

View All Answers


New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More