Life in Ibaraki

A collection of important information for living in Ibaraki prefecture. On this page you can find our PA’s guides, written to help cover many topics ranging from the workplace to license acquisition. You can also find forms, handbooks, pension, tax information, and a collection of sagely advice from previous JETs in Ibaraki prefecture.

If you’re a new JET, we recommend reading through the guides (if you have not already) as well as the advice section. Use forms, handbooks, pension, and taxes for future reference.

Contents

  1. Guides < Recommended for new JETs
  2. Forms
  3. Handbooks
  4. Pension
  5. Taxes 
  6. Advice < Recommended for new JETs

Guides

These guides written by our Prefectural Advisors (PA) are chock full of information about life in Ibaraki. If you have a question, chances are it’s been covered in detail below.

Orientation Handbook

Ibaraki Orientation Handbook (2014)

Licensing Guide

Ibaraki Licensing Guide

Predecessor’s Guide

Ibaraki Predecessor's Guide (2014)

Leavers’ Guide

Ibaraki Leavers' Handbook (2014)

-JET Program overview
-Relevant organizations
-Jobs outside of the classroom
-Work expenses
-Holidays and paid leave
-Office terminology and common items
-Transportation in Japan
-Communication
-Health and sickness
-Natural disasters and emergencies
-Apartment care and living
-Japanese language study
-Recreational activities
How to get a Japanese driver’s license. Fill-able guide for your successor. -JET Program matters
-Pre-departure issues
-Post-departure issues

Other guides:

ALT-JTE Communication guide. For when you’re having difficulty communicating with your JTEs, or need some useful tips.

Japan Post re-delivery guide. For when you receive a package and are not home to accept it. You can either call the post office and reschedule a pick up time, fill out a form online, or simply bring the slip they leave in your mailbox to your post office. Guide contains all the steps to accomplish this.


Forms

ALT-JTE Communication form. Helps facilitate communication and lesson planning through a structured form.

Overseas travel notification form. Required if you’re planning on traveling overseas at any point during your stay in Japan. Fill out and submit at least one month prior to leaving. Here’s a sample.


Handbooks

The two major handbooks to consult are the General Information Handbook and the ALT Handbook.

General Information Handbook. Broader information resource about life in Japan not specific to Ibaraki. Should be one of your first stops should you have a question about life or work in Japan.

ALT Handbook. Same as the General Information handbook, covers a lot of very general information regarding working as an ALT in Japan and adapting to your new workplace.

There is also the Guidebook for Foreign Residents written by the Ibaraki International Association. It covers a lot of the same ground as the General Information Handbook, but in a pinch can be used as well.


Pension

Currently, information regarding your pension refund can be found in the General Information Handbook. In the future, it will be displayed here as well.

Pension Refund Procedure


Taxes

JET Programme participants live and work in Japan, and because they are working residents, they are liable for Japanese taxes. The specific liabilities for each participant will depend upon his or her status of residence and nationality. What follows is accurate as of January 2006 unless otherwise noted. Country-specific information exists in the General Information Handbook.

The following are excerpts from the JET Programme website’s Taxes page. For more general information about taxes, please visit their Taxes page directly.

Personal Income Tax

Your tax status in Japan depends largely on your nationality, the length of your stay and your occupation in Japan.

It is important to note that first and second year Canadian and New Zealand ALTs, all third year ALTs, and all CIRs and SEAs of all nationalities are liable for tax in Japan.

Tax Exemption Form

Those JET participants eligible for tax exemption in Japan according to the information in the previous section should make sure they fill out forms for tax exemption (examples in the GIH). Your Supervisor will present you with these forms for signing shortly after you arrive.

Local Inhabitants’ Tax

JETs who are liable for income taxes will likely be liable for inhabitant taxes also. Inhabitant taxes are calculated based on the previous year’s income in Japan.

The inhabitant tax bill is delivered around June for the previous January to December’s income. However, even when you are liable for taxes your first year (as are CIRs and SEAs), inhabitant taxes are generally not required in the calendar year in which you arrive. So, if you arrived in July 2006, you will have inhabitant taxes due in 2007.

Contracting organizations generally handle payment of your inhabitant taxes in one of three ways:

-They will make monthly or quarterly payments for you.

-They will include the money in your gross monthly salary, and you will be responsible for using this to pay your tax bill in June.

-They will pay the money in a lump sum in June when your tax bill comes.

It is very important to confirm whether you will be liable for inhabitant taxes, and if so which method your contracting organization is using. Ignore this, and you may find yourself with a large inhabitant tax bill and no funds to pay it. Please clear this up early on, and check on it from year to year to be sure it has not changed.

Note that all JETs who arrive in 2012 or later are on a pre-tax salary and are responsible for paying any non-exempt taxes on their own.

For citizens of the United States of America

The JETs in Kumamoto Prefecture have put together detailed guides on how to complete Federal Tax returns. Please visit their taxes website for more information.


Advice

Largely aimed at new Ibaraki JETs, we’ll cover some of the most common pieces of advice for before, during, and after your transition to life in Japan. Full guides with the raw information will be posted at the end of each section.

This advice is courtesy of previous Ibaraki JETs. As always, every situation is different, so take this advice to heart but don’t feel obligated to follow it lock-step. You can decide for yourself what action is warranted in each situation. Use this as a general guideline, not gospel.

Contents

  1. If you need help
  2. Before coming to Japan
  3. Upon arrival
  4. After your first month, general tips
  5. Unwritten rules
  6. Seasonal advice

If you need help

First of all, if you need help, there are many resources available to you. JET, both in Ibaraki and the rest of Japan, has a very large and established support network. Here are some steps to take if you find you have a problem at any point during your stay in Japan.

1. Check if it’s something you can solve on your own.

There are a lot of resources available to JETs. If you have a logistical question, try checking the GIH or the Ibaraki Orientation Guide. Both are useful to consult before coming to Japan and as references once you’re here.

2. Google the problem.

Chances are someone else has had the same issue you are having. Google will help you find those people and, subsequently, what they did to solve the problem.

3. Contact your main supervisor or your base school’s vice-principle.

Your supervisor’s job is to help your transition to Japan and to make living in the country easier for you. You can contact them about any issues you may face in your daily life.

4. Ask your JTEs or other teachers around you

If your supervisor is busy, you can ask your other JTEs and co-workers for help. Chances are they will be more than willing to see to your problem.

5. Ask a PA

The Prefectural Advisors are here to help as well. Check out the Prefectural Advisors page on how to contact them.

6. Ask a Block Leader or “Senpai” (upper year) Ibaraki JET

Other JETs are also more than willing to lend a hand! They’ve lived here for at least a year before you and will have a good understanding of life in Japan.

For more detailed information, and to find where this information came from, check out this guide.

Before coming to Japan

Generally, you will be able to buy most of what you need to live here in Japan, so don’t feel like you’ll need to pack your entire life.

Things that are regarded as musts, do to lack of in Japan or inferior quality.

Toothpaste. Japanese toothpaste is fairly lacking in quality. Stock up on home brands and bring them with you.

Deodorant. Surprisingly hard to find, and the products you do find don’t work very well. Bring your preferred home brands and stock up.

Shoes and clothing if you wear a larger size. It may be difficult to find larger clothing or shoe sizes in Japan, so bring clothing and shoes you know will fit you.

Things you’ll need immediately after arrival.

Work clothing and a suit. You’ll be whisked immediately into Tokyo orientation, which is a suit only event. Your first day at work will also be in a suit as you meet your future co-workers.

Summer clothing. Japan will be hot and sticky, be prepared for the dog days of summer with appropriate clothing.

An international driver’s license. If you’re planning to drive, this is a must. Get one before you move to Japan.

Not required, but good things to pack nonetheless.

Omiyage, souvenirs, or little treats and trinkets from your home country. You’ll hand these out to your coworkers and make friends! Japanese people will, in general, buy souvenirs for the office when they take a vacation or travel somewhere far.

Hobby materials. If you have any packable hobbies that you’ll want to practice in the months immediately after arrival, bringing them is always a good idea. You should be able to get what you need in Japan, but before you have regular internet access it’s a good idea to have something to occupy yourself with.

A little something from home. Be it a picture or a familiar object. If you feel the onset of homesickness, a reminder of your roots can go far.

More detailed information in this guide.

Upon arrival

You will be busy. Your first few days will be orientation in Tokyo, in which you’ll sit through event after event with little time for yourself or to explore. Once you exit this bubble, you’ll be whisked to Mito to meet with your supervisor before moving to your new hometown.

Once there, expect another day of moving around and setting up various things, like bank accounts and registering with city hall. You’ll also meet your base school’s principle and vice-principle.

After the initial busyness of setting up your life, you’ll find yourself in the midst of summer break and little to do, as most teachers and students will not be at school. Use this time to familiarize yourself with the office, your school, and your co-workers. Visit the sports clubs that meet during the summer and get to know some of your future students. And don’t forget to plan your introduction lesson!

Once school begins, you’ll give a speech to both your coworkers in your office as well as the student body as a whole. You will repeat the office introduction for every school you have, the student one may or may not occur. Your first month or two will be your introduction lesson on repeat.

Things to keep in mind: Your life will settle down, so don’t worry. Your life will oscillate between being busy and having nothing to do, so don’t push yourself. Ride out the initial month and it’ll be smooth sailing.

For more information, check out the detailed responses in this guide.

After your first month, and general tips

Good ideas and thoughts to keep in mind as you live your Ibaraki JET life.

-Ask a lot of questions while you are still new. You can ask questions when you’re not new as well, but abuse the privilege of ignorance while you have the chance!

-Stay connected, reach out and make friends. This rings especially true for when colder weather descends on Japan. Isolation is the last thing you want to do.

-Don’t keep your problems to yourself. Living as an expat in another country is difficult. As noted above, you have a gluttony of resources at your disposal, don’t be afraid to abuse them.

-Be patient. Patience is always an important virtue, but even more so here.

-Don’t feel obligated to do everything. You’re here to do a certain job, make that your number one priority. Everything else is accessory.

-Make your home your home. Living in Japan is amazing, but sometimes you need a Little-America, British-ville, or Jamaica-town to return to at the end of the day. Build yourself an enclave to retreat to when Japan becomes too much.

-Come in with as few expectations as possible. Trust us, it’s going to be way different than you imagine. And that’s a good thing!

-Share your interests with your students. If you show passion for something, so will they! Don’t be afraid to be yourself in the classroom.

As always, way more information and advice can be found in the original guide here.

Unwritten rules

Yeah they’ve been written down, shush. These are mostly concerned with etiquette in the workplace and Japan.

-Every situation is different. JET gospel, but it’s true. You might be leading your lessons, or you might be playing second fiddle, it all depends.

-Be polite, be professional, and you’ll be respected in return. If you sit on your phone all day, don’t wonder why you might not be taken seriously.

-Do your best! Even if you fail, your effort will be noticed and noted. Trying is what matters.

-Go to staff parties/social events. The regularity will depend on your school, but you’ll have at least a couple a year. Use them to bond with your co-workers over beer and food!

-Be on time, if not early. 15 minutes is the soft rule, but tardiness is frowned upon.

-Don’t feel obligated to stay overtime. You’re not a regular teacher, you don’t work regular teacher hours. If you have a legitimate reason to stay, helping students after school or club activities, feel free to. But if you don’t have anything, you’re only contracted for 35 hours a week, so don’t stay.

-Weather is the best conversation starter (or conversation in general!) Many legitimate workplace conversations will be a chorus of “it’s hot, isn’t it?” over and over again. Relish in the easy small talk!

-Humility is important. Like patience, always a good virtue to have regardless, but more so here than anywhere else.

-Beating around the bush is a very common cultural motif. If someone comments on your wonderfully long hair or shiny jewelry, it might be time for a hair cut or to wear less.

-When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Should you want more, check out the detailed guide here. 

Seasonal advice

For many JETs, either the summers will be extraordinarily hot, the winters extraordinarily cool, or some combination of the above. Here is our advice on how to handle the more extreme seasons in Japan.

Summer

Bugs

Japan will be rife with insects in the summer, and so will your living space if you don’t properly take care of it. Here are some of the bugs that you should look out for and actively combat.

Cockroaches (gokiburi)

There are three kinds of cockroaches to look out for. The giants, the small black ones, and the small red ones. The giants aren’t too concerning. They can and will fly, but are outside bugs that got lost and ended up inside. Use roach spray to kill them.

The small black ones and the small red ones on the other hand are the kind that will infest your house. Killing them is easy enough, any roach spray will do. It’s keeping them down and out that requires a bit more effort.

Make sure to keep your place clean. Wash dirty plates regularly and remove kitchen waste. Take out your trash as often as possible. Clean out any dirty areas of your apartment or house, and keep doing so on a regular basis. If you have roaches, you have filth somewhere.

To remove the ones currently living in your apartment, there are two types of traps. First trap is a gokiburi house (or hotel). It’s a little cardboard structure you set up to bait roaches into getting stuck on sticky sheets of paper. You’ll have a collection of roaches to dispose of soon enough.

Second trap is a much smaller black trap. These contain poisoned bait designed not only to kill the roach, but take out it’s nest as well. Roaches will take the food back and poison everything. It doubles up when they die as roaches are cannibals and will eat the poisoned corpse.

Tatami Bugs (dani)

These are the bugs that live inside tatami mats. If you have tatami mats, you should look out for signs of them (they are microscopic so you won’t see them with the naked eye.)

Tatami bugs will leave small bite marks on your legs, often appearing in pairs and they will often irritate pre-existing asthma conditions.

To get rid of them, you need special tatami bug spray from your local home center. The bottles will have a needle on them for pushing into tatami mats.

Mosquitos

Mosquitos aren’t deadly in Japan, just annoying. Make sure if you leave your windows open to air your house that you have screens to keep them out.

Mosquito coils will keep them back, but can make your apartment smokey. An electric mosquito repellent is the best measure. For a few thousand yen it’ll plug into the wall and release an odorless liquid over the course of a couple months.

Centipedes

There are two kinds of centipedes to look out for, house centipedes and mukade.

House centipedes are only slightly concerning. They are smaller, and although poisonous, their fangs can’t pierce human skin so they are of no danger. However, they are predators that hunt roaches and spiders. If you see one in your house, it’s as good a sign as any that you may have a roaches as well.

Mukade on the other hand are dangerous. Easily recognizable by their black/brown bodies and bright orange legs and head, they are large, fast, and will poison you. You can buy spray poison, but it may act slow so a heavy shoe will work as well. Just be careful when doing so, and if bitten, seek medical aid.

Moisture and Mold

Not only do bugs come alive in the summer, but so does every other awful thing out there, including mold. Standard anti-mold tactics apply, you just need to keep at it constantly while the heat is on.

Mold grows in humid and warm conditions. Air out your apartment to allow the air to change. Use moisture absorbers (shikke tori) around your apartment to collect excess water in the air. It’ll help keep your cupboard, closet, and yourself a little bit drier. Don’t leave anything laying on tatami mats for any extended period of time, including futons. Futons should be hung outside on a regular basis, the sun will dry and murder mold spores.

Most modern air conditioners can also help dehumidify your apartment with the dry setting. Make sure you clean your air conditioner on a regular basis (at least once every 2 months) as clogged filters will make it operate less efficiently and make your apartment smell.

As for your heaters from winter, if you have a kerosene operated one make sure to burn up the excess fuel as kerosene has a shelf life and will become home to bacteria. Wrap up your heater to prevent any bugs from getting in after getting rid of the excess fuel.

Cleaning Supplies Vocabulary
-ant spray – ari no sacchu zai
-bath tub cleaner – furo yo sen zai
-bleach – hyo haku zai
-chlorine bleach – enso kei hyo haku zai
-color fast (non-chlorine) bleach – sanso kei hyo haku zai
-drain cleaner – paipu kurina
-dust mite or tatami mite killers – dani no kujo
-mildew spray – kabi kira
-moisture collectors – joshitsu zai, shikke tori
-mosquito coil – katori senko
-electric mosquito repellent – denshi katori
-moth repellent – bochuzai
-roach hotel – gokiburi hoi hoi
-room freshener – hoko zai
-for toilets – toire yo
-toilet cleaner – toire yo sen zai
-toilet plunger – tsumari tori (“blockage take out”)

For more detail, check out this guide. 

Winter

The bugs will die off for a good reason, it will get cold, both outside (expected) and inside (unexpected). However, keeping warm isn’t too big of a hassle. Many different kinds of heaters exist to make you cozy.

Your air conditioner

Before even looking at other products, double check your air conditioner! Chances are, if it’s modern enough, it can invert and operate backwards. This means it will pull in cold air and spit out warm in an extremely cost efficient manner.

Kerosene heaters

Three kinds, pot belly, radiant heaters, and fan heaters. All are pretty cheap to run, but require regular refueling (about 600 yen of kerosene will give you 55 hours of continuous heating). Pot belly heaters are the cheapest but most annoying to manage. They smell a lot and are very finicky. Radiant heaters are a little more expensive but are the same hassle. Fan heaters are the most expensive, but also come with the most features, such as electric ignition, timers, thermostats, lift out kerosene tank, and carbon monoxide detectors.

If using kerosene, remember to store and refuel your heaters properly. Store and refuel outside to avoid the smell getting in. Never refuel an operating or hot heater. Use fresh kerosene and get rid of old fuel, as bacteria can and will grow in it. Make sure the flame is blue. If it is yellow, there is soot and a sign your heater is giving off carbon monoxide.

As usual, never sleep with your kerosene heater operating and never use anything that isn’t kerosene as fuel.

Electric heaters

Slightly less economical compared to kerosene, but are much less of a hassle and don’t smell. Ceramic, radiant fan heaters, and oil column heaters are the big three. Only with oil column heaters can you operate it while sleeping, as you can set a shut off timer.

Kotatsu

One of the few luxuries of a Japanese winter, kotatsu are heated tables with blankets. You turn one on, get inside, and make a cocoon of warmth and coziness. Extraordinarily cheap to run, they keep you comfy enough that leaving one to do anything becomes a pain.

Downsides are unless you go all in it only really warms your lower half. It’s also not good to sleep in one overnight (it’ll dehydrate you). But other than that, abuse it if you own one or invest in one if you don’t!

Personal heating

If simply layering isn’t enough (Uniqlo’s line of heat tech clothing is very popular for a reason) then you can also use hokkairo, or heated patches. When exposed to air, the chemicals in the patch will heat up and run for a certain amount of time (usually hours). You stick them on top of clothing or in pockets, but never on the skin as it will lead to burning.

If you need more winter heating tips, or a breakdown of electricity costs (in general), check out this guide. 

Advertisements