1. International Driving Permit (IDP)
IDLs are valid for one year from the day you enter Japan, or for the term of your home country’s license (whichever is shorter).
2. Proof of Foreign Residence
It may seen odd for you incoming JETs to think ahead into your 2nd year, but for those of you considering two years, it is highly advised you bring some form of proof of your non-Japan residence for your Japanese license conversion process.
Converting your English license into a Japanese one will probably be the most complicated task you’ll need to undertake during the end of your 1st year on JET. To further complicate the process, you will be required to have proof of residence in another country for at least three months. Most JETs are able to use their passport as proof. However some passports (US in particular) do not verify your proof of residence due to the fact that that the passports do not have the necessary stamps showing the exact dates of entry and departure. In this situation, you will be required to produce additional documents (tax forms, college transcripts, etc) to prove your status of foreign residence. It is highly recommended to obtain an additional copy of your college transcript for proof of foreign residence required for drivers license conversion.
3. How Much Money to Bring?
The initial cost of moving to Japan and setting up in your new location is often much greater than new JETs expect, but the total cost does vary by person and situation. We asked a few JETs to show just how much the price can differ. All dollar amounts were converted at a rate of 110 yen to the dollar. Theses are only approximations and are not exact figures.
- 420 000 yen (about $4,200) pred’s stuff, housing fees and key money (money given to your landlord similar to a deposit except you don’t get it back – very annoying but something that is part of Japanese society that you just have to accept!), first month’s rent, parking spot, electricity/gas deposit, (About 50% of the new JETs need this much for start up costs). If you plan on buying a used car expect to pay 150,000 yen to 300,000 yen (depending on the condition of the car) on top of this amount.
- 350 000 yen (about $3,500) , pred’s stuff, housing fees and key money, first months rent, parking spot, electrity/gas deposit. (About 40% of new JETs spent about this much on start up costs). If you plan on buying a used car expect to pay 150,000 yen to 300,000 yen (depending on the condition of the car) on top of this amount.
- 150 000 yen (about $1500) pred’s stuff, teachers’ housing, first month’s rent, luggage shipping. (Maybe 10% of the new JETs only needed this much). For a used car expect to pay 150,000 yen to 300,000 yen (depending on the condition of the car) on top of this amount.
4. Okinawan Dress Code
Very soon you’ll find yourself living on a tropical island, in the middle of the hottest, most humid weather you’ve ever experienced including rain, typhoons, moldy apartments, schools where air-conditioning breaks down or may not exist at all (or they just don’t switch it on until you’re lying in a puddle on the floor)… One of the biggest questions you may be asking yourself is “What should I wear?!” Lucky for you, help is at hand.
School Dress Code
Unfortunately, here I’m going to have to apply that horrible acronym you’ll be hearing so much: ESID (Every Situation Is Different). I will give you a few guidelines though.
- Smart pants, slacks, suit pants are all good for down below. No jeans, no tracksuits (at first, at least – at some schools all teachers wear tracksuits, but assume that they don’t!), nothing with rips, tears and holes.
- For shirts, kariyushi wear, golf shirts and short-sleeved suit shirts should all be fine. No vests, no t-shirts. Some schools do allow t-shirts, but dress up at first.
- If you are teaching at the primary school level, then a more relaxed dress code may be okay, however like we said before, start formal and then work your way down.
- If you ever went to a private school, or had heard of their skirt rules, similar rules apply in Japan. When deciding whether or not to wear a skirt, put your hand just above your knee. If your skirt covers a finger or two, it’s probably okay. If it’s shorter than that, it gets delegated to weekend wear. So – no miniskirts, or thigh-revealing skirts or shorts. Most schools prefer women to wear pantyhose with skirts, so keep that in mind, although it is easier for foreigners to bend the rules without hearing anything about it. Suit pants or smart slacks are also good, as are long skirts.
- Same shirt guidelines as for boys – kariyushi wear and golf shirts are good (though golf shirts may seem too casual for women at most schools). Girls at least have a bit more freedom with the shirts they can wear. Any smart, short-sleeved shirt will be fine.
At any official function however, please, never wear sneakers, sandals, flip flops or slippers. The dress at these functions is business, which means Kariyushi Wear or Suit! So anything less than a proper dress shoe isn’t appropriate and anyone you see wearing this kind of footwear is messing up the rules (Japanese or foreigner otherwise)! Official functions include:
- Okinawa New JET Orientation (Kariyushi Okay)
- Skill Development Conference (Kariyushi Okay)
- Tokyo Orientation (Kariyushi wear is actually never acceptable on the mainland in place of a suit)
- Any participation as a judge in a speech, recitation, debate, or skit contest
- Any time you are presenting at any Orientation or Conference as a representative of your contracting organization.
Home Dress Code
As I’ve said, when you arrive here it’ll be very VERY hot. The temperatures average in the high twenties or low thirties. The humidity is what will kill you. The average humidity in Okinawa is 70%, and it does reach the mid-nineties more often than you’d think or like.
So, when you get here, you’ll want all the summery clothing you own. Summer in Okinawa is between April and October (though this is arguable, some of us were still wearing short sleeves in November, and our first swim in the sea was on April 1st). You’ll also be arriving in the middle of typhoon season (though the dates of typhoon season are also often argued), so bring a raincoat!
Girls, bring swimming costumes. Bikinis are fine for the beach here, though you’ll hardly ever see locals wearing them. If you plan on joining a gym, you’ll need a one-piece costume. Do bring bikinis, though, girls (and boys, if you really, really want to) – you will be visiting the beach plenty in your first couple of months here, and bikinis here are both very expensive (¥3000 to ¥13 000) and a particular brand of hideous. You can find bikinis in surf shops, though these will only be in Naha, Chatan or Okinawa City , and they will be very expensive.
Be aware that Japanese people are rather small. So if you’re very tall, have big feet, or any sort of curves (no, girls, this doesn’t mean you’re fat, it means, firstly, that we have much higher and thinner waistlines, as well as bigger bums and thighs than Japanese women), you’ll want to bring clothes with.
Clothing here is measured in centimeters, so get your shoe size converted to centimeters. You can generally find shoe sizes up to 26 for women, and 28 for men. If yours are bigger than that, you may have difficulties finding shoes, though it isn’t impossible. Too much bigger than that and you will have to import.
Guys, you should be OK with finding most clothes, unless you’re very tall (taller than about 6’3”). If you’re taller than that, you may want to ship some pants over.
Also, bring bras. If your waist size is larger than around 72cm you may want to bring panties. Bras here are very highly padded, are usually very small, and do have the “ugly factor” to consider (unless, of course, your taste in underwear extends to sequins, bows, lace, feathers and glitter, all in one piece).
This is no joke and it may seem crazy when you arrive in sweltering August but it can get terribly cold in Okinawa in January and February, as most buildings are concrete with little to no insulation, so the cold wetness seeps into everything. Although the thermometer may never dip below 11°C/51°F, it can seem much colder with the rain and wind. While the sun is strong year round, it is usually cloudy and very windy in winter (Okinawa is the windiest prefecture in Japan), nullifying and warm that might have been gained from the sun. So while it might be 15C outside, it will only be 16C inside, and you will be cold unless you’re in the shower. You should bring some warm layering clothing for both at home and at work. Hardy souls may wear shorts into December, but they truly are hard people if they can. You may also consider bringing winter clothing if you want to make a trip to mainland Japan during December or January, as it is very snowy there, and you may have trouble finding winter clothing in your size to buy on Okinawa.