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Married Aliens: What about my gaijin spouse’s Japanese visa during long stays overseas?

 MARRIED ALIEN: I want your advice on a a Visa related matter. My wife would be going to the university in the US for her Phd next month. She is French and has a Dependent Visa (based on my Engineer Visa as a French engineer) for Japan til 2009. She will be coming to Japan once every six months or so whenever there is a short/long break at the university. Now my question is:
1) Does she have to surrender her Gaijin card at the imiigration when she goes to the US?
2) Does she have to get a tourist Visa everytime she travels to Tokyo to meet me or can she maintain her dependent Visa status even as she studied in the US?

TARO: If she’s going to the university in the USA under a student visa on a French passport but entering Japan under a Dependent Visa, both the US and Japan passport control officiers might give her the anal probe or worse.  However, she should be able to get away with it.

MARRIED ALIEN: Thanks a lot for your advice. I had the HR Manager of my office at IBM Japan send an email to the Tokyo immigration bureau inquiring about this issue and they replied back saying that this is not a problem. Basically they said that as long as the J-Visa period is effective for my wife and the Re-entry permit is valid, she can come back and forth between Japan and the US as many times as she likes.

TARO: Well gr-r-reat! :D I would have thought that Japan would be more picky about spouse visa.

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Should I get a teaching certificate to work in Japan?

Question: Should I get a TESOL/TEFL teaching certificate at the Masters level to improve my job prospects in Japan? I only have a grad degree in the Arts but I was hoping that TESOL/TEFL teaching certificate would make me more “marketable” to a higher-paying English gig in Japan such as corporate-level instruction or teaching in the university.

Answer: Sad to say that there are very few full-time corporate gigs these days. Sadder to say that teaching engrish in Japan is such a cruel joke that teaching certificates are little help since most employers don’t really give a shit. To apply for a position at the international schools here in Japan–they will require a valid (Western) teaching certificate.

For a real, full-time public university job teaching engrish, you must have a masters or Phd nowadays. However, just as important —if not more important — is that you have to have a published paper in your university field. For an example, if your were teaching engrish to econ students, you should have a published paper(s) in economics (or EFL, English education). Publishing a paper takes a little time and a little scamming but a public universities in Japan expect it of all faculty members.

Since you have a masters in music, a published paper in the field of music is not going to help to get a university job teaching English or specifically teaching English for science/business/econ/CS majors. However, you could get a LEGIT (not fake 3 month course) TESOL Certificates in a 1-or-1.5 year program and make damn well sure you publish a paper while you are in grad school. Since your present “employer” offers free education benefits, you could salvage your unmarketable Arts degree by doing an original EFL/ESL research paper in something like, “Using Art to express words in English” or “Using song to teach adults English pronunciation”.

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Is it ok to have a ’sleeping’ Japanese bank account?

Question: “I’m wondering whether I should keep my Japanese bank account open in Japan. The banks in [my homr country] are terrible. If you leave $50 there for a year, it’ll disappear from account keeping fees and in fact you’ll be in debt, rather than having earned any interest. Is it the same in Japan? Do you recommend keeping open or closing my [Japanese] account?”

Answer: No problem-o!
Japanese banks have no charges for inactive accounts and by law they cannot close an account with only 100 yen in it for a decade!! I have at least five “sleeping” accounts since different employers have forced me to get them for direct payment of wages. Last August, I just “found” one Japanese bank account with 230,000 yen that had been sitting there since 1989. I withdrew 229,000 yen from it and now it’s sleeping peacefully.

Posted by Taro in General, Money | 5 Comments »


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Are my medications available in Japan?

Q: Can I find medicine for anxiety/depression there? How are medical conditions taken care of in Japan for foreigners?

A: Saaa.
Are your meds available? Maybe. Maybe not.
Ask the Japanese Embassy before you come.

Japan has fewer options for anxiety/depression meds. If you need them, you should always bring them with you (if legally prescribed). Authorities in Japan disagree about what you can bring in but “reasonable” supply of prescribed meds to cover the length of your tourist visa should be ok. Read more about other gaijin dealing with anxiety/depression here, here, and Pills To The Rescue? ; Japan Times; July 10, 2005.

Please note that many Japanese doctors here have little interest-or-abilities dealing with such problems.*

You really you need to think over the wisdom of coming to Japan, if you’re already having such issues. If you have anxiety/depression now just think what changing cultures/languages/food/housing/jobs is going to put you well over the edge in terms of life-change stress factors.
Take the test answering the questions as though you just arrived in Japan. Most regular noob gaijin will score a deadly 300+ points in Life Change Units (LCUs) meaning physical illness or psychosis will be a danger.

*For an American with pre-existing medical conditions that cause insurance problems, the Japanese national health insurance system is wild bargan, IF you can handle the Japanese language/system well.

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How can I be a freelance journalist in Japan?

Q: How should I get a “journalist visa” to work in Japan. I have a good portfolio of samples of my work and some awards> However, I never completed my college degree and have only worked for the school paper. I don’t know where to go.

A: Read Justin’s “Getting a Journalist’s Visa to live in Japan”
Justin got his start with the Japan Foreign Correspondents Club—-They really need new members under the age of 60.

Without a degree (or getting married), Japan is a real pisser for a middleclass American. More importantly, it’s a pisser cause Japan really doesn’t want you. When you get engrish teaching jobs, you will always be paid less without a degree (and abused even more than the regular abuse).

White-collar jobs in companies will be a almost impossible without a degree. Japanese journalism as a freelancer is hard work—without Japanese fluency it will be hell. Mainstream newspapers in Japan hire only one or two gaijin a year, and they always require a degree (or 10 years experience with the New York Times).

Ok, ok, yes there are several non-degree gaijin working in Japanese journalism who scammed their way into a job (but they used less-than-legal methods which are harder to apply since Japanese Immigration finally got computerized two years ago). You’ve picked a damn hard way to start an already difficult career.

Bottom Line:

Do you really need Japan so badly that you want to stay as a non-degreed, second-class, non-citizen?


Taro, the lame

Posted by Taro in General, Visa | 6 Comments »


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Online unversities and Japanese work visas

QUESTION: Is it possible to get a work visa with just a two year degree
from a Jr or Community College? How about a degree earned from an online university?

Basically, work visas in Japan require a 4-year degree from a university. A 2 year degree will not get you a Japanese work visa unless that 2 year technical degree is combined with 6+ years of real work in a technical field for a real company. Self-employment, consulting work, working for a friend is not going to cut it for you to get a Japanese work visa. You need the degree and/or a special skill such as being a chef.

A 4-year online university degree should be acceptable if and only if the online university has a fully-accredited brick-and-mortar campus. Japanese immigration has a secret internal list of fully-accredited universities so there is no use trying to scam them with a semi-fake online-only college. Bible colleges that offer 4-year degrees for a large “free-will” donation don’t work either.

Basically, Japanese Immigration is hip to all the scam online colleges and you should ONLY consider a real university program whether it’s a traditional or online course of study. If the 4-year online university degree would get you a real job working for a Fortune 500 company, then it will get you a Japanese work visa.

Sorry. No shortcuts.

Posted by Taro in General, Visa | 2 Comments »


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I want a design job in Japan but…

Q: I want a a design job in Japan but I don’t have a degree of any kind. I am good in the field of design and can speak some Japanese? How can I get a design job?

A: Ignoring your problems of not having a design portfolio with Japanese clients and finding a design job in Japan…

Basically you have a big problem getting a company-sponsored visa problem since you don’t have a degree. You need to prove you have at least 5-7 years’ experience in your field as a “designer”. That’s real experience, not flakey self-employment claims. You’ll need a great design portfolio with major corporate clients and/or a REAL work history as a design company employee in a real design-related company.

A “working holiday visa” is available for Western people who are not from the USA, but those visa’s are short-term lasting only a year or two—it’s a visa for a student on a lark. See the 3Yen post: Working Holiday Visa.

You could self-sponsor your own visa by opening your own design company in Japan, but you need plenty of capital, strict personal organization, legal groundwork and many months (if not a year or two) of preplanning. See the previous post about I want to start-up a new biz in Japan…

Posted by Taro in Business, General, Visa | No Comments »


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I want to start-up a new biz in Japan…

Q: I want to start-up a new biz in Japan, where can I get help?

A: Check out the Japanese government’s ISBC service. That is…

JETRO’s Invest Japan Business Support Centers (IBSCs) have a wide range of services and facilities to help you when you are ready to set up your company in Japan…JETRO staff members are assigned to the Center to exclusively help you in your efforts. These advisors and staff members offer market information and conduct individual consulting at no charge. In addition an exhibition hall and private conference rooms are available for client use at no cost…Companies engaged in the process of opening an office in Japan are invited to use the IBSC for a period of up to 50 days. At the Tokyo IBSC, our business and legal specialists provide no-cost consulting services to clients planning to expand business into Japan. The Center includes 11 advisors representing specific business categories, as well as 5 legal advisors.

NOTE: Without a solid business plan and Sesame-Street style presentation, JETRO will neither understand what want them to do nor will they do any undefined work for you. You must give JETRO a bullet-point list on paper of your ideas so they can understand your needs.

Also refer to my previous report: Foreigner start-up companies wanted in Japan’s medical care sector.


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Can I claim dual Japan-USA nationality ?

Q: Can I claim dual Japan-USA nationality ?

A: Many Japanese-USAmericans do it. First hear out the official government policies (see below). Then seek real lawyer if you do not like the “offiical” answer. Hint: If either government doesn’t want you to have two passports…. remember that [nudge-nudge-wink-wink] what they don’t know about….

Another tip: Never try leave Japan or USA using one passport and then try to return on a different passport.

Questions About Dual Nationality
American Community Update – October 2005

Every year thousands of children are born to U.S. and Japanese parents, with just about all of these newborns obtaining both American and Japanese citizenship. As a result, U.S. consular officials are often asked for information or guidance on a myriad of issues related to dual nationality.

United States law does not contain any provisions requiring U.S. Citizens who are born with dual nationality or who acquire a second nationality at an early age to choose one nationality or the other when they become adults (see Mandoli v. Acheson, 344 U.S. 133 [1952] ). The current nationality laws of the United States do not specifically refer to dual nationality.

On the other hand, according to a pamphlet published by the Japanese Ministry of Justice, Japanese law requires persons holding both foreign citizenship and Japanese citizenship (dual nationals) to choose a single nationality before reaching age 22 (or, if having acquired dual nationality after age 20, within two years of acquisition). Failure to choose one nationality may result in that person losing their Japanese nationality.

“Choosing” Japanese nationality does not mean you lose U.S. nationality. If your choice is to remain Japanese, you will still retain your U.S. citizenship. If you wish to renounce your U.S. citizenship, something we never advise, you must come to the Embassy or a consulate in person to complete that procedure. This is completely separate from the Japan requirement to choose or not choose Japanese citizenship.

While recognizing the existence of dual nationality and permitting Americans to have other nationalities, the U.S. Government does not endorse dual nationality as a matter of policy because of the problems which it may cause. Claims of other countries upon dual-national U.S. Citizens often place them in situations where their obligations to one country are in conflict with the laws of the other.

In addition, their dual nationality may hamper efforts to provide diplomatic and consular protection to them while they are abroad. It generally is considered that while a dual national is in the other country of which the person is a citizen, that country has a predominant claim on the person. In cases where a dual national encounters difficulty in a foreign country of which the person is a citizen, the ability of the U.S. Government to provide assistance may be quite limited since many foreign countries may not recognize the dual national’s claim to U.S. Citizenship.

If you are a dual national, Section 215 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act ( 8 U.S.C. 1185) requires U.S. Citizens to use U.S. passports when entering or leaving the United States unless one of the exceptions listed in Section 53.2 of Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations applies. Dual nationals may be required by the other country of which they are citizens to enter and leave that country using its passport, but they do not endanger their U.S. citizenship by complying with such a requirement.

More information on dual nationality can be found at:


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Can a foreigner be forced to complete the Japanese Census?

Statistics Bureau: Concerning the 2005 Census
The 2005 Population Census will be conducted as of October 1, 2005, across the country. The respondents of the Population Census are all people living in Japan (about 128 million people, including foreign residents in Japan)..Note: the results of the census will be used only for statistical purposes and never be used for any other purposes such as the immigration control, taxation or police files….it is obligatory to answer the questions of the census….

Q: Since my Japanese visa has been expired for quite some time, is there anything in Japanese law that can force a foreigner to complete the Japanese Census?

Yep, you can be compelled to do the census, but they have to find you first.
Japan’s Census Regulations clearly state, “Everyone living in Japan as of October 1 will be surveyed at their place of residence. Foreigners who live in Japan will also be covered, regardless of their nationality. ”
[110月1日現在、日本国内に普段住んでいる全ての人を、その普 だんす ちょうさ にほん す 段住んでいるところで調査します。このため、日本に住んでい がいこくじん かた こくせき かんけい ちょうさ たいしょう る外国人の方も、国籍に関係なく調査の対象となります。 ]

The problematic term that provides a slim possibility for an “out” from this law is kokumin, 国民【こくみん】 (n) national; people; citizen. Only Japanese people/citizens” are covered in the original Census law of 1947.

I don’t like the odds of winning such an argument, so I just “lose” my census form and only speak Lithuanian if a census guy catches me coming out my front door. ;-)

Statistics Law Appendix 1-(2) [Population Census]
Promulgated on 26 March 1947 (Law No. [u]18[/u) Latest amendment pursuant to Law No. 160 of 1999
Obligation to Answer Questionnaires
Article 5 The Government, the chief of a local public entity or a Board of Education is authorized to place an obligation on a person or a juridical person to answer the questionnaires of the designated statistical surveys.
2 If the person required to answer the questionnaire in accordance with the preceding paragraph is a minor without legal contractual capacity, or a person under guardianship having reduced mental capacity or a juridical person, his/her legal representative or the director or other person authorized to represent the juridical person by law, shall be under an obligation to answer on behalf of, or as the representative of the person concerned.


Article 19 If any person
(1) being requested to answer under Article 5, refuses to answer or gives a false answer,
(2) obstructs answering as requested under Article 5,
(3) refuses, neglects or interrupts the inquiry, refuses or neglects to submit the materials required, submits false materials, or makes a false statement in answering questions requested under Article 13, or
(4) being a person engaging in the operation of the designated statistical surveys or participating in it, acts to falsify the results of the designated statistical surveys,
this person shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand yen.


Bottom Line: Try to avoid the census if you can, submit skewed information if the census folks twist your arm, but don’t bother fighting them.


Question: I will be on vacation overseas during the Japanese Census. Will I still be counted?

The Japanese census counter will come by your house in late Sept. If you’re not home, they leave the census form in your mail slot.

Let’s say somebody wanted to avoid the census—
That person could leave the form in the mail slot until they returned from a long overseas trip. Most likely the census folks will just skip your house (they skipped mine in 1985 and 1995).

Let’s say somebody wanted to be counted in the census but missed it—-
You can mail in the form late or call them ahead of time and they will send someone out.


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