- Pop Culture
- Time in Japan
- Tokyo Things To Do
Comic Market or Comiket as I will call it from here on out, to the west usually is merely a mystical event. A place you've heard stories about, seen referenced in Anime and Manga, seen pictures of and fanart from. It's something that the majority of people in the western world have relatively little chance of experiencing, after all, it is on the other side of the world and there really is no comparable event anywhere in the world. During my one-year stay in Japan, I had the chance to visit Winter-Comiket and it made it for an absolutely fascinating experience I'm unlikely to forget all too soon. For starters, let me explain what Comiket in itself is about for those who aren't familiar with it. As aforementioned, the name "Comiket" stands for "Comic Market". It's a bi-annual event focusing on what the west generally dubs "Otaku-culture". This includes pretty much anything from Anime and Manga, Doujinshi, over music up to things like fanfiction or self-published web novels. The possibilities are near endless. " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"] The difference to your average foreign con is the actual focus of the event. Although a huge amount of companies are represented at Comiket and depending on their popularity can attract absolutely massive crowds, the event itself is mainly about fan created content. This manifests itself in several gigantic halls, packed to the brim with booths of different artists trying to sell their work over the course of the day that rotates each day in order for as many people as possible to be able to put their work on display. Being generally handled as the biggest convention in the world, it should be no surprise that Comiket is not friendly to those who dislike large crowds. The 91st iteration, the one I visited recently, listed over 550.000 visitors over the 3 days in its after report, more than any other convention in the world. A crowd this insane of course also brings with it quite a few negatives. It's incredibly hard to get your hands on a lot of the popular doujinshi and company merchandise due to the sheer amount of people streaming into the halls, making it absolutely necessary to get into Tokyo Big Sight as early as possible. These circumstances have sparked people to start lining up at absolutely impossible hours to get their hands on the things they want the most. So guess what I did. On the first day of Comiket, I woke up at 3 am (Seeing as the Shiohama Sharehouse is relatively close to Tokyo Big Sight, this would mean that if I walked I'd arrive before the first train and with that a big majority of the people attending Comiket). There was a particular, relatively popular company selling a lot of things I wanted to get my hands on, so I did the thing a lot of Comiket attendees will do for their favorite merchandise and woke up around the time I would usually go to bed. Packed with entertainment to pass the time, Food to feast on once I'd eventually get hungry and a good amount of caffeine to keep me awake throughout the day I made my way to Tokyo Big Sight, trying to mentally prepare for the more than five-hour wait I had ahead of me. I'm sure this must sound like absolute hell to most people and that was absolutely what I was thinking it would the evening beforehand, but as it turned out the waiting time was much better than expected. This was partially thanks to my luck of finding someone I would end up being friends with shortly after arriving but also thanks to the general organization of the lines. Although incredibly full from the start the lines don't feel nearly as cramped as one would think, you can leave the line at any point in order to get food or drinks at nearby vending machines and stands and even bring your own blanket or chair to sit on as you wait. In the end, the hour-long wait outside of Tokyo Big Sight in the morning may not be comfortable, but it's certainly not something that will make the entire con experience any less worth it. To me in fact, it only made it all the more memorable. The incredibly long waiting time only ended up building up my anticipation for the event even more and made getting to the booths I wanted to get to and buying the things I was planning to get all the more satisfying. If I were to go to Comiket again I would undoubtedly do it the same way again. Of course, if you don't have any specific, popular things you want to buy there's little reason to go through anything like this. Comiket's organization is absolutely impeccable and makes for one of the smoothest line experiences I've ever had. Of course, it helps that the convention in itself is 100% free meaning no ticket-checking is required, but around an hour after the convention opens there's already close to no need to wait in line anymore. Sadly, that means with all of the people that were originally waiting outside inside already the halls are absolutely cramped and, even worse, the lines for popular artists can be endless. Lines often have to be either led to the outside to continue lining there or have to be cut into several smaller parts so people can continue walking through the already relatively small corridors in between booths. 50 years of experience in holding Comiket, however, make all of this a surprisingly smooth ride as both the people working on site, as well as a lot of the visitors already know the general drill. The event feels chaotic, but it still at all times seems to be under people's control. It's an overwhelmingly odd experience, but for something as gigantic as this to work at least just as well as every smaller foreign con is fascinating to me. So would I actually recommend you to go to Comiket? Absolutely. Even if you aren't hugely into Anime and Manga, I do believe that at the very least the experience of the event is something that'll stay with you for quite a while. I do urge you, however, to think beforehand about how you would like to enjoy the event. Having done both the Hunting after things I wanted to have and the casual strolling around the artist's alley to find things to spend my leftover money on, I can say that both of them are incredibly fun in very different ways, but the former does have a lot of effort put into it beforehand. Doing research via the guidebook available in Akihabara the weeks beforehand, looking up your favorite artists, planning out the best routes for buying your stuff, getting up extremely early etc, is quite exhausting but extremely worth it. On the other hand simply strolling around the convention does, of course, have its own merits. The experience can be extremely calming and is a lot easier especially in its preparation. Instead of the constant running around it allows for a lot more actual looking through things and surprise artists you might not have found otherwise. Regardless of what you chose to do, Comiket is an absolutely insane experience and if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend you go through it!
Isabel (19) from Germany: "What I find so great about karaoke is that you don't have to be a great singer to have fun with it. You always go with friends as a group and it is particularly fun if you cannot sing, because everyone will join singing and bawling out, especially in case of songs everyone knows such as famous anime openings. It's always super fun. My favourite songs are the songs of Nishino Kana. The Karaoke shops always have some of her songs. Sometimes they also have some Western songs that you can sing in English. I also enjoy to sing Anime openings. There are plenty of Karaoke shops all over Tokyo. Just around the corner of our share house in Kiba there is a Karaoke place. In Shinjuku and Shibuya you find at least one Karaoke shop at every corner. Many of them belong to a chain of Karaoke shops. Choosing them you'll be on the safe side to have a fun time. However, there might also be cheaper non-chained places that are also good. Often you will find karaoke + a drink, or "All you can drink + karaoke", which is always the option that is most fun!" " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"]
It is a requirement for most nationals to have a Travel Health insurance for the whole duration of their time in Japan in order to get a Working Holiday Visa. The following insurances are recommended: Travel Health Insurance (obligatory). This insurance will cover your expenses for medical consultation, treatments and prescription medicines. Also it usually pays for a flight back home, should it be necessary from a medical point of view, if confirmed by a doctor in Japan. As a Working Holiday traveller, staying for up to one year in Japan, you can also join the Japan National Health Insurance (国民健康保険 Kokumin-Kenkō-Hoken), but you don't have to. You would need to pay for it an amount similar to foreign travel health insurances, but the Japan National Health Insurance only covers 70% of the medical costs, whereas foreign travel health insurances often cover 100%. As medical costs are relatively high in Japan, even the remaining 30% can make a substantial amount. Travel cancellation insurance. If you cannot travel to Japan after having made all travel arrangements due to a serious reason (e.g. serious illness, pregnancy etc - please check the conditions of the insurance), the travel cancellation insurance will reimburse your expenses. Travel cancellation insurances often need to be bought a certain time (e.g. one month) prior to your booked departure date. Liability insurance. As most companies in Japan have an employer’s liability insurance for their employees, this is often not necessary for those who are on a Working Holiday. In any case, please make sure what such liability insurance covers. In some cases, travel liability insurances are limited to liability claims related to travel activities (e.g. if you cause damage to a hotel room, rental surf board etc.), and don't include work-related liability claims.
Japan has a well-developed medical system of high standard, even in small towns. It might be hard at times to find English-speaking healthcare professionals though outside the big cities. Even in Tokyo, if you cannot fluently converse in Japan, options are limited, but available. “St. Luke's Hospital“ and the “Roppongi Midtown Clinic“ are two English-speaking hospitals in Tokyo that feature many medical specialties. As the prescription drugs sold in Japan are mostly made in Japan by Japanese pharmaceutical companies, and foreign medicines are not available, medication might considerably differ from the one you might be familiar with. Almost all drugs need a prescription and there are very few ones you can just buy at a drugstore. If you regularly need prescription drugs, we advise you to bring them from home for your whole duration of stay. Also bring the actual prescription with you, to proof that they are for your personal use. You might be asked at customs to show this. No vaccinations are required by law to enter Japan. Japanese encephalitis, a viral infection transmitted by mosquito bites, might be a risk in the countryside during the summer months (May to October). If you plan to stay in rural areas (e.g. doing farmwork) during these months, you might decide to get vaccinated against it.
As of April 2018, the airports in Japan where you can get your Residence Card on arrival are if you are holding a Working Holiday Visa are Kansai (Osaka), Tokyo-Narita, Tokyo-Haneda, Chūbu (Aichi), New Chitose (Sapporo), Hiroshima and Fukuoka.
Requirement 1: Have a Japanese bank account for your salary If during your Working Holiday you want to do remunerated work, you typically need a Japanese bank account, as employers don't pay out salaries in cash or to foreign bank accounts. There are only a few banks in Japan that open bank accounts for foreigners from the beginning of your stay. Most banks won't do it at all and some only after you have spent at least 6 months in Japan. The banks that open accounts from the beginning of your stay have further restrictions about new accounts, e.g. usually you cannot transfer funds from outside of Japan to your Japanese account within the first 6 months of your stay. Requirement 2: Bring a Credit Card from home So to avoid you have to bring a lot of money in cash and in order to cover your living expenses before you get paid out for the first time, which usually happens on a monthly base after having done the work, it is advisable to bring a credit card from your home country with you. You also need a Credit Card in order to get a mobile phone contract. At some, but not all mobile phone providers this can be a foreign credit card. There is no chance for anyone who is on a Working Holiday visa to get a Japanese credit card. Also it important to know that many ATMs don't accept foreign Credit Cards, even if they have the VISA or Mastercard logo. They only work with VISA and Mastercards issued in Japan. At areas where there are usually many tourists, you can find ATMs accepting foreign-issued credit cards (and even some foreign debit cards such as Maestro and Visa Plus), and also at Japan Postbank and 7Eleven Convenience stores.
Learning Japanese at a language school The most intensive and fastest method to improve your Japanese language skills, is to join a language course at a language school. Attending a language course can be your main reason to travel to Japan, or you can also add some language lessons to your Working Holiday or Au Pair experience. Many nationalities can book Japanese language lessons at formal language schools for up to 90 days (but not get involved in remunerated work) on a regular Temporary Visitor Status that they get granted for free on arrival in Japan. Citizens of the UK, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein can easily extend this status by another 90 days once in Japan. If you are of different nationality or you plan to come to Japan for language lessons longer than the time you get Temporary Visitor Status for OR if you wish to finance your stay in Japan through part-time work in Japan, this is possible on a Student Visa. Some (but not all) language schools are accredited to apply for Certificates of Elegibility to get you a Student Visa. With the Student Visa you can stay in Japan for as long as you are enrolled at full-time language lessons and you can also apply for a Work Permit, allowing you to work for up to 28 hours per week. These 28 hours per week are calculated as an average during your whole duration of stay, so you can for instance work full-time during a semester break and then work less hours while you are attending language lessons. Language schools offer the most intensive and effective way of learning Japanese. Besides attending lessons, you are expected to do our homework, and most language schools proceed at a relatively fast pace, so you need to put effort into studying the language. Book language lessons in Tokyo now! Which other options exist to learn Japanese in Japan? Other options besides formal language schools are to attend Community Centres and to learn Japanese with a Tandem Partner. Community Centres offer low-cost language lessons, offered by volunteers. There are language lessons targeting foreigners living in Japan, wanting to learn Japanese. They are offering classes around 1-3 times per weeks. Often it is necessary to prove that you are a resident of the ward where the community centre is located to be allowed to join the lessons at the Community Centre, so this option is not possible if you are on a Temporary Visitor Status. A Tandem Partner is a Japanese person who wants to learn your native language and in exchange teaches you some Japanese.
An internship in Japan is an investment into your professional future Internships are usually done by students or graduates to get practical work experience, applying the theory they learn at university in a real life work environment. Many students want to do an internship abroad to expand their global and intercultural skills. Unfortunately, the idea of doing a student internship is not very common in Japan. Japanese students, while attending university usually don't aim at getting practical work experience, but they learn about real work only after graduation when entering a company at an entry-level position. It is still the idea of many of them to stay with the same company thoroughout their professional life. As a consequence, many Japanese companies, particularly those with a more traditional mindset, don't see the point why a student wants to be with them for a limited duration of time only, and they don't see the reason why to spend effort into training someone who would leave after short time anyway. As a consequence, it can be really difficult to arrange an internship in Japan. There are agencies that arrange internships in Japan, but you need to expect to pay a relatively high amount of money to use their services. Also, internships in Japan are often not paid, or companies only pay a small living support such as reimbursing your commuting or accommodation costs. With the visa categories issued for internships (e.g. Cultural Activities Visa) it is also legally not allowed to have an income in Japan. It is usually not possible to finance your trip, living expenses and possibly ageny placement fees with the stipend you get for your internship. You should therefore see an internship in Japan as an investment into your professional future.
What are Working Holidays? Working holiday programs are based on bilateral agreements between Japan and partnering countries, making it possible for young nationals of the partnering countries to travel to Japan for a duration of 6-18 months (depending on the nationality), primarily for the purpose of spending holidays which have the aim of cultural learning and exchange, but also allowing them to legally engage in employment with the purpose of supplementing their travel funds. Typical Working Holiday Jobs are jobs in restaurants, cafés and hotels, sales jobs in shops, nanny & au pair, English teacher, sports instructor, farm work, light factory work etc. However, legally (almost) any jobs are possible. In Tokyo, these jobs are typically remunerated with around 890-1500 Yen/hour. At other cities, the salaries are slightly lower, but also living expenses are lower. So if you work part-time (28 hours per week) or full-time (40 hours per week) you can have a relatively good income, which allows you not only to cover your living expenses, but even to save some money, for instance to travel around or to pay for Japanese language lessons. lf you have some professional qualification and/or you have better skills of the Japanese language, you can find jobs with even a higher salary. Contrary to the "roadtrip" concept of Working Holiday like it is common in Australia and New Zealand, where you would travel around all the time and do constant job hopping, in Japan due to the expectations of employers that you stay with the company for a longer time, it might make more sense to plan your stay in Japan in a way, that you don't stay for less than 3 months at one place. It is simply often not feasible to find jobs for a short duration of time only. So if you stay for a full year in Japan, it is advisable not to plan to stay at a total of more than 4 locations if you intend to find remunerated work. To explore more parts of the country, you can travel around in between jobs or during weekends and public holidays. Who can do Working Holidays in Japan? The Japanese Working Holiday Visa currently exists for nationals of the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Austria, France, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. You must be between 18-30 years old by the time of applying for the visa (for some of above mentioned nationalities it is only 18-25 years) and you have to proof you are able to afford the trip. You apply for your Working Holiday Visa before leaving for Japan through the Japanese embassy (or consulates at some countries) at your home country. Even if you can’t speak any or only little Japanese, it is still possible to find a job, but the better your Japanese language skills are, the easier it is. It is always a good idea to attend Japanese language lessons while in Japan though (and prior to your trip). How can I find a job in Japan? The usual steps for Working Holidays in Japan are: 1) to apply for the visa at your home country; 2) to travel to Japan and sort out all formalities that Japanese employers usually require such as registering as a resident, getting a tax number, opening a bank account, and getting a mobile phone contract, and 3) to find a job once you have arrange all of this. It is difficult to secure remunerated jobs from abroad, as potential employers usually want to see that you have a visa which allows you to work in Japan, that you have a Japanese tax number, a bank account where they would pay the salary, and a phone number where they can reach you at. As many things are done completely differently in Japan than at your home country, plus there might be a possible language barrier as English is not wide-spoken in Japan, it might be a good idea for you to use professional support services to assist you with the formalities and to land a job. As an extra service, agencies might also be able to pre-arrange certain jobs prior to your arrival. The leading provider of Working Holiday support services in Japan, with a multi-lingual support team in Tokyo, is World Unite!. Besides providing support services such as sorting out the necessary formalities and helping to find jobs in Tokyo, World Unite! also pre-arranges jobs at ryokans (traditional Japanese hotels), (Western-style) hotels, ski-resorts and farms all over Japan and they run an attractive and affordable share house in central Tokyo. Read more about World Unite!'s Working Holiday support in Japan: Working Holiday in Tokyo Working Holiday jobs at ryokans, hotels and ski resorts Working Holiday jobs at farms World Unite! Share house in Tokyo