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Getting Settled

Settling into life in Japan will also mean a lot of work and- “paper”work! It may feel like a lot, but please be assured we will assist you in each step to make sure you are settling well (and legally) into life in Japan.

In order for you to feel more prepared, here is some information related to housing and set-up for when you arrive. Specifically, we will assist you to:

  • Register as a local resident

  • Make a seal

  • Open a bank account

  • Set up a phone

  • Find housing (whether it be your own place or living with others, it will require a process)

  • Set up your home

Register as a Local Resident

Praise God for bringing you to Japan! Now, you will register as official residents of the land. This means you will have access to the national health insurance as well as having your address printed on your “residency card” (which makes it a valid piece of personal ID), as well as applying for exemption from the national pension system (meaning, you will not be required to pay the pension).

One of the first things you will do when you arrive is to make a visit to the regional office. There, you will be filling in forms to register as official residents. Since it may take some time before you find a place to rent, you will be registering with the address of where you will be staying initially (most likely one of our staff’s own housing!) After all the paperwork is processed, they will give you your residency card with your address printed on the back, as well as a national health insurance card. (In Japan, national health insurance covers 70% of your medical cost.) Please make sure to always carry your residency card and national health insurance card.

As a sidenote, once you have moved into your own place, you will return again to change your address (and maybe even register your new phone number)! You will also have to notify your address change to your bank and phone company (if you have already signed up with them).

Make a Seal

Known as a “hanko” or “inkan” in Japan, a seal is a stamp of your surname pressed using red ink. It acts as your signature on official documents, and is often a requirement when it comes to renting a place and opening bank accounts. Making a seal is easy and not too expensive, therefore we recommend you to have one. If you are willing, we will help you order one at a seal shop in central Sendai. (The cost can vary depending on the design, but you can make a basic one for around ¥1000.)

Open a Bank Account

In Japan, the Japan Post (JP) Bank is convenient to use whenever it comes to sending money. JP Bank is also known for having no ATM charges! Therefore, we encourage and assist all of our staff to open a JP Bank account upon arrival (this does not cost any money). This will require a trip to a local JP Bank with your passport, residency card and seal. After setting up an account, you can also choose to apply for an online account at home (which we also recommend you do!)

There are also other local banks, such as 77 Bank (which is one of the major banks in Sendai) that may be convenient in the long run for you to use. This could be another lengthy process, but if the need arises, we will also assist you to open an account with them too!

Set Up a Phone

We recommend that all our team members have a mobile phone in order to be easily contacted and in the case of emergency. We highly recommend using a smartphone in Japan, as we primarily communicate via Riot as a team, and most people in Japan communicate using LINE. Please see recommended apps at the end of this section.


If you already own a phone from your home country, it is compatible with GSM SIM cards, and is unlocked, then you can use that here in Japan. Unlocking your smartphone may require some work, but will save you a lot of money. Most GSM phones can be unlocked so long as you are not still paying for it. The first place to turn is the network carrier to which your phone is locked. They will often unlock it for free upon request. The second place to turn is an IMEI unlock service provider. There are many online, just be cautious of choosing one that is well reviewed. One such company is DoctorSIM.

Otherwise, you can purchase a SIM-free (unlocked) smartphone from places such as Amazon or Expansys in Japan for around ¥15,000 for a basic smartphone, ¥35,000 for a mid-range smartphone or ¥80,000 for a high-end smartphone. You can also find them in second hand shops.

SIM Card

There are many different companies that offer affordable plans, which include some data and a phone number. You can find a list of the most popular plans at

Most of these companies require a credit card. As of now, Rakuten Mobile allows you to pay using a Japanese bank account. This would be the easiest option.

You can purchase a SIM card and set up a plan online. To give you an idea, Rakuten Mobile costs ¥1,728 per month which includes 3.1GB of data. This does not include any calling time, so you will be charged per minute for any calls, though most people call using a messenger app like LINE for free or little cost.

  • - Main tool used to communicate as a team within YWAM Sendai
  • LINE - This is the most popular messaging app in Japan. Most people you meet will ask to add you on LINE
  • Yurekuru Call - Disaster warning system in English
  • Google Maps - Reliable maps in Japan (Google pulls their transit info. from Jorudan)
  • Google Translate - Extremely helpful, especially the translate from a picture function
  • Japan Transit Planner by Jorudan Co. - Helps you find train and bus times and plan journeys
  • Japan Connected-free WiFi by NTT Broadband Platform - Register once and use free WiFi hotspots all over the country

Find Housing

At YWAM Sendai, we would like all of us to live in close proximity so that it’s as easy as possible to stay together as a community! Since we are in the stage of pioneering, at this stage we do not have “staff housing” and therefore require everyone to find their own place to live. Having said that, there may options of sharing an apartment with our other staff- availability will depend on the timing and size of our community at the time of your arrival.

When you arrive, the first step is to book a reservation with a real estate agency (which you may have already done so with help from our staff before your arrival). Based on your budget for rent and other preferences (size, location etc), they will present available options to you and take you around to look at it in person. (Please note that most places in Japan do NOT come with any furniture or appliances!) Once you feel peace about a place, you will sign a contract to rent the place (usually for 2 years). Upon signing a contract, there will be an “initial fee” including insurance, administration fee, security deposit etc. You will be given the keys to your apartment once you have been able to make this payment.

Here is an English guide that may give you more details on what it is like to search for a place to live in Japan:

Set Up Your Home

Once you have your key, you will then need to set up your home!

We will point you in the direction of places were you can get items you need, both new and second hand. We will also help you get Internet set up in your home, as this will likely need to be done after you have moved in.