Resources for Living in Japan

When I came to Japan this time last year I was in way over my head. I barely knew any Japanese (one semester in university hardly scratches the surface) and wasn’t really prepared for how difficult life away from a major city would be. Even though I live in a fairly convenient mid-sized city, cosmopolitan it is not. But never fear! The internet is here. For the first few months, most of my time was spent searching for and perusing various websites about expat life in Japan. There are quite a few to choose from. These are the ones that I have found to be the most useful.

Daily Life

Surviving in Japan (without much Japanese) – this site is what it sounds like, a survival guide to life in Japan when your Japanese ability is less than impressive. I basically lived on this site for the first few months of my life here. Especially helpful for me were the posts about winterizing your apartmenttransferring moneydoing a furikomi (ATM transfer)fighting bathroom moldgetting a library card, and ordering contact lenses (look at the links in the comments section).

Kumamoto Jet Cleaning Guide – This is a handy guide to some of the unique housekeeping challenges in Japan. Actually, Kumamoto Jet has a lot of really great resources for everything from expat life to teaching so even though I’m an Aomori Jet participant, I tend to use a lot of their stuff.


I’ve learned a lot about Japan from, especially from its features section. There is a lot of interesting information regarding Japanese society and some nice explanations about aspects of the culture and the language that have really enriched my experience. Even if you’re just traveling to Japan on vacation, I think you can get a lot more out of your trip from visiting this site.


If you’re not too far out in the inaka, it’s actually possible to live in Japan without altering your diet too much. The main thing is to get used to more stovetop cooking and not rely on having an oven. Even so, learning about Japanese food is a good way to adjust to life here. Plus it’s delicious!

Just Hungry and its sister site Just Bento are good introductions to the world of Japanese cuisine. The recipes can be a bit elaborate, so I tend not to use these sites unless I’m looking for a culinary challenge.

Just One CookbookCooking in Japan, and Little Japan Mama also have a ton of recipe and meal ideas, if you have time to browse.

I’ll Make It Myself provides more of a mix of Japanese and Western fare.

Then there are YouTube channels. I actually use these more because it helps me to actually see how the dishes are made. If you don’t mind a bit of dark humor, Cooking with Dog is a great YouTube based Japanese cooking show that provides step-by-step instructions in English. Another channel I like is Jun’s Kitchen, a spin-off channel of the vlogging couple Rachel & Jun.

Studying Japanese

There are SO many sites and resources it is overwhelming. These are the ones that have worked for me.

First, dictionaries. I bought a paper Japanese-English dictionary before coming to Japan and I have never used it. What I generally use is It’s completely free and really versatile.

For translation, I prefer Weblio to Google translate. The translations are still pretty wonky most of the time, but overall I find it to be more functional.

I’ve mentioned it before but is a great vocabulary-learning site. And of course I’ve mentioned the language exchange sites GoVoluble and for writing and speaking practice. For basic language questions, I use HiNative.

And although I’m not sure of the legality of this one, JTest4You is a good website if you’re studying for the JLPT.

iPhone Apps

I didn’t own a smartphone before I came to Japan, but I really recommend owning one if you decide to live here. Just having a map/GPS application alone makes it worth it. But there are a lot of other ways it is helpful.

As I said, I never use the dictionary I bought. When I’m not by a computer I use the application imiwa? It’s free, you can look up kanji using multiple methods, find examples, save words to vocab lists, etc. etc.

Weblio has an app that has made deciphering Japanese text messages a lot faster and less painful for me.

If you use, you can download their app as well. It’s a great way to be productive while waiting for the train, bus, or in other situations where you have some dead time.

If you’re an American, it’s helpful to have a unit conversion app for shopping, cooking, understanding the weather forecast, or simply answering questions about how tall you are. I use one named Units Plus but there are others that would do the job just as well.

And of course, having a camera on you at all times can be handy when you don’t understand a sign in your neighborhood or apartment complex, or simply notice something photograph-worthy in your new environment. I also use my smartphone for listening to podcasts and Spotify radio. It helps keep me sane.

So there you are, some of my key resources for living a happy, healthy life in the land of the rising sun. Do you have anything you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments!

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