Japan Life: Helpful Websites and Mobile Apps for Foreigners in Japan

Life in Japan is not easy for foreigners who are not fluent in Japanese. Even after my seven years here, I still struggle to remember the train schedules specially the last train.

Here is my list of helpful websites and mobile apps that will make your life here in Japan a little better.

Google Translate

https://translate.google.com

Google Translate is definitely a must have application if your Japanese language skill is still rusty.

Here are the reasons why I like it:

  • Aside from text translations, you can do image and Augmented Reality (AR) translations with the use of your mobile phone’s camera.
  • You can type in romaji and it will still try to translate it to your desired language.
  • You can download the translation data so you won’t need to be connected to the internet while doing the translation.

Excite Translator

https://www.excite.co.jp/world/english_japanese/

Excite Translator is a translation tool just like Google Translate (with only limited feature). And while they have the same purpose, most of the time, Excite Translator uses more appropriate or more formal translation than Google Translate. This is good when you’re writing emails and messages to your colleagues.


Jorudan – Japan Transit Planner

https://world.jorudan.co.jp/mln/en/?sub_lang=nosub

I know there are a lot of apps and website where you can check train schedule but for me, Jorudan, will always be my go to website for checking train schedule and transfers.

It provides a simple UI to input the starting station and destination station. You can also input the date and time you want to ride from the starting station or arrive in your destination.


Trip.com

https://www.trip.com

Trip.com is my go to website for finding cheap flights. This one saved me a lot of money when I travel for a Philippine vacation.

Our usual round trip flight fare from Tokyo to Manila is around 40-70,000 yen during off peak season but with Trip.com, you can find fare for as low as 20-30,000 yen.


TransferWise

https://transferwise.com/jp

TransferWise is one of the money transfer services I use (aside from MetroBank). TransferWise has the best exchange rate and easy to use and track because they have a mobile application.


There you go. I will update this list every time I find new useful websites and mobile apps.

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Japan Life: Sending money from Japan to the Philippines

I think it is safe to say that most of Filipinos living here in Japan sends money to the Philippines from time to time. It could be for supporting our love ones or for our investments in the Philippines. Either way, as much as possible we try to get the best exchange rate with the cheapest remittance fee that we can get for our remittances.

You probably only need a single remittance service for all your money transferring needs. In any case, here are the services I used since living here in Japan:

Metrobank Easy Transfer Service (METS)

METS is a service provided by Metrobank Japan. It’s my main mode of sending money to my parents for quite some time now.

What I like about this service is that the customer service is really great. I never had an issue with any of my remittance and in case of problem, you can always call them.

Their customer service accepts Tagalog, English and Japanese inquiries so we are pretty much covered even if our Japanese language skill is still not good.

Here is a link to METS website.

TransferWise

TransferWise is a UK-based money transfer service and among the remittance services that I use, this has the highest exchange rate from Japanese Yen to Philippine Peso all the time.

Since this is a global company, customer service is a bit slow to respond. They take hours or a day to reply to emails and I don’t really like calling them for inquiries about my remittance.

I mainly use TransferWise to send money to my personal Philippine savings account.

Here is a link to TransferWise website.

Western Union Money Transfer

I don’t really use this service anymore since the other 2 above are good enough to accommodate all my remittance needs. This was my main mode of remittance to my parents before I use METS.

Basically, it’s a bit troublesome since you will need to go the Western Union agent’s location personally to do the money transfer. You fill up a form and hand over the money physically. On top of that, exchange rate is not really that good.


So there you have it, these are the services I use to send money from Japan to the Philippines. Do you use a different service? Do you think it’s better? Comment below and let us know.

OFW in Japan: How to get an OEC when you just moved to another company?

UPDATE: April 17, 2019

For some reason, I think they changed the rule again. The person who processed my papers said that “verification-only” are only applicable to those who weren’t regular employees to begin with (i.e. those who came as students, dependents, intracompany visa holders, etc.). Otherwise, since I was already registered in the bm online and only changed jobs, I was given the OEC here and don’t have to go to the POEA office in the Philippines.

Ish (from the comment section)

Source: https://thefilipinogaijin.com/2018/10/16/ofw-in-japan-how-to-get-an-oec-when-you-just-moved-to-another-company/comment-page-1/#comment-96


If you’re living far from the POLO Tokyo office, I recommend you call or email them first to check the latest OEC procedure. Here is the Tokyo POLO office’s contact page.


Original Post: October 16, 2018

Recently, the POEA just released a new resolution about changing the process of obtaining a OEC.

I went to the POLO office in Tokyo just to found out that they recently changed the procedure and now I need to go to the Philippines POEA office to get an OEC.

What are the changes?

  1. Tokyo POLO will now need to verify your employment contract
  2. There will be no issuance of OEC in Tokyo POLO. They will only verify your employment contract then you will need to present it to POEA in the Philippines to get an OEC.

Who are affected by this change?

  1. OFW who are not yet registered in the Balik-Manggagawa Online Processing System (bmonline.ph).
  2. OFW returning to Japan the first time after you moved to a new company (i.e. change employer).

What do you need to do?

  1. You need to prepare the following documents
    • Copy of photo page of your passport (original to be presented; valid at least 6 months before your intended departure)
    • Copy of Residence Card (with valid visa)
    • Copy of Insurance Card (original to be presented)
    • Signed written statement (letter form) addressed to Labor Attaché Marie Rose Escalada (indicating all necessary details how you were able to enter Japan and manage to get a job/change employer)
    • Employment Contract (signed by you and your employer; in English or with a signed English Translation)
    • Employment Certificate or proof of existing employment such as payroll slip or valid company identification card (if you’re working for more than 6 months for the said employer)
    • Release letter or Employment Certificate issued by the previous employer
    • Company Registration “Tokibo Tohon” (with English translation; signed by translator)
  2. Go to Tokyo POLO and submit the documents
  3. After they verify your Employment Contract, schedule an appointment using bmonline.ph.
  4. Submit the verified Employment Contract in a POEA office and receive your OEC (Note: there are POEA satellite offices so you don’t need to go to the one in Mandaluyong)

Yeah, I know. That’s a lot of documents, right? Shoganai 🙂

You can read the actual resolution document in here.

PS: You might notice that the documents in the resolution document is not the same with the one I listed above, but those are the list of documents Tokyo POLO just asked me to submit when I did my last visit there. Feel free to contact them if you want to make sure.

How to Find Software Engineering Jobs in Japan for Foreigners with No Japanese Requirement

It goes without saying that looking for a job in Japan without Japanese language skill is very hard. Most of the job posting searchable through Google and GaijinPot Jobs are not really helpful in looking for tech companies hiring people that can’t speak Japanese.

Luckily, the number of companies and start ups in Tokyo which are willing to hire English-only speakers are increasing year by year.

Here is a website with a list of good companies (that don’t suck) hiring Software Engineer. Check out the ones with No Japanese requirement.

Here is another website with a curated list of jobs specifically for English speakers.

Rakuten, the Amazon of Japan, is also hiring software engineers for their different departments and teams. I know a lot of foreigner working there and they say the company is promoting the use of English.

Create a LinkedIn account, make a good profile and make yourself searchable for recruiters in Tokyo. They can help you find companies matching your skills.

Good luck!

How to Apply Chinese Tourist Visa in Tokyo (for a Filipino Citizen)?

This year, I was able to travel multiple times from Japan to China with little to no hassle at all.

As of this day (September 2, 2018), here are the details for the Chinese Visa application:

How much is the application fee?

The 30 day single entry tourist visa application fee for a Filipino is 9,400 yen. You will pay the fee when you collect your passport (with the visa) and you can pay with cash or credit card.

What are the required documents?

1) Passport
Original passport with at least six months of remaining validity and with blank visa pages, a colored photocopy of the passport’s data page and the photo page if it is separate.

2) Visa Application Form and Photo
One completed Visa Application Form with a recent 6 months colored passport photo (bare-head, full face) against a white background (size: 48mm x 33mm) attached. If the accompanying children on the same passport are also on the tour, their photos should be stuck on the Application Form, and related illustration is required.
There are two ways to prepare your application form. You may complete an Online Application Form (where a Visa Centre provides such service),  print it out and sign it; or, you can download the application form from our website and fill it out manually and sign it.

3) Residence Card
You will need to present your Residence Card and submit a copy of it. Please note that you may need to copy the back side of the Residence Card if your latest address is written in there.

4) Photocopy of previous Chinese Visa (if you previously had one).

5) Applicant’s round trip flight booking and hotel reservation.
Make sure that the flight dates and the hotel booking dates matches because the Visa Centre staff will check this information strictly.
If applicants can’t provide the hotel reservation, instead of staying at friend’s, relative’s place during holiday in china. Please provide the invitation letter and the inviter’s Chinese ID (front &back) copy or foreigner’s residence permit and passport copy .
The invitation letter should contain:
(1) Information of the applicant: Name, gender, date of birth, passport number and etc.
(2) Details of planned visit: arrival & departure date, tourism destination, expenditure arrangement and etc.
(3) Information of inviter: Inviter’s name, contact number, address, inviter’s signature and etc.

Where to apply for a Chinese Visa?

To apply for a Chinese Visa, you should go to the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre in Tokyo (not in the Chinese Embassy).
Address: 8th floor, Kamiyacho Prime Place, 4-1-17, Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Please note that it’s closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays.
Business Hours:
– Submission of applications: 9:00 to 15:00
– Payment and collection: 9:00 to 16:00

For more details about the Visa Centre, check this link.

When you go there to submit the application

  1. Make sure you have your passport, application form and all the required documents.
  2. Get a queue number from the staff in the front desk.
  3. Wait for your number to be called.
  4. When your number is called, submit the documents.
    The staff will give you a Pickup Form indicating the visa application fee and the day when your passport (with Chinese Visa) will be available for collection.

When you go there to collect your passport with Chinese Visa

  1. Make sure you have your Pickup Form with you. Also make sure you have the payment for the application fee.
  2. Get a queue number from the staff in the front desk.
  3. Wait for your number to be called.
  4. When your number is called, get your passport (hopefully with the Chinese Visa on it).

Additional Things to Know

  • The Visa Centre has a photo booth in case you need one for the passport photo. Last time I was there, it costs 800 yen.
  • The Visa Centre also has photocopying machines and personal computers connected to the internet which you can use to copy or print your hotel booking, flight itinerary and previous Chinese visa.