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Hokkaido Government 北海道 Living guide

M.Housing / Moving

 Japanese land and houses are generally deemed expensive to both buy and rent. Housing conditions in Hokkaido are relatively better than the national average, though foreign nationals may still experience difficulty buying or renting in the Japanese language and with Japanese contact procedures.

 To rent housing, Japanese people normally read housing information magazines and consult with property agents. You may feel inconvenienced if you do not speak Japanese, so it is recommended to bring a friend or associate who speaks Japanese.

[Useful Information Concerning Japanese Housing>
* Room area is expressed by number of tatami mats, while land area is expressed with the term tsubo
 (1 tatami mat is 0.9 m × 1.8 m, 1 tsubo = 2 tatami mats).
* Prior to moving into a house, you must pay a variety of fees in addition to rent – a maintenance fee, key money to your agent, and deposits to the landlord (This will be a mortgage on house rent). Please speak with your real estate agent in detail.
* Few detached houses are available for rent. Rented accommodation is equipped with electricity, gas, water and other utilities; while individual residents need to provide their own lighting, gas cooker, (microwave/gas) oven, and other furniture.
* In Japanese municipalities, there are resident groups within communities, called in Japanese chonai kai or jichi kai, aiming to get to know neighboring residents and meet with each other.

 When moving into new housing, there are many procedures to do including submitting a new address notification, cancellation and application of electricity, gas, water and land line phone. Please go to the following websites for further general information.

○ Details of the system and procedure
   Go to http://www.clair.or.jp/tagengorev/en/m/index.html (CLAIR)

○ Lists of organizations for processing and general inquiries
  (Changing address, national health insurance and national pension)
    Municipal offices in Hokkaido(Excel)
  (Changing contracts for electricity, gas, water, telephone)
    Please refer to Section O: Other Daily Life Issues.

N.Transportation

 Foreign nationals who wish to drive in Japan must have one of the following licenses:
  (1) International driving permit, issued by the Geneva Convention signatory countries
  (2) Drivers license issued in Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Taiwan and Italy
 License holders of (1) or (2) must also have a translation of the license made by either their home embassy/consulate in Japan or the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF).
 As these licenses are no longer valid one year after their entry into Japan, those who plan to stay in Japan for one year or longer should obtain a license valid in Japan.
 Alternatively, foreign nationals who hold a driver’s license from their home country/region are able to take a driving test in Japan to switch your original license to the one valid in Japan.

 Please visit the Hokkaido Government’s website “Drive Hokkaido,” in which you can find multilingual information on basic traffic safety in Japan.

○ Details of the system and procedure
   Go to http://www.pref.hokkaido.lg.jp/ks/dms/saftydrive/index.htm (Drive Hokkaido – Department of Environment and
       Lifestyle, Hokkaido Government) [Available in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean]
            http://www.clair.or.jp/tagengorev/en/n/index.html (CLAIR)

○ Lists of organizations for processing and general inquiries
 (Issuance of a translation of an international driving permit)
   Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) offices
   Embassies,Consulate Generals and Consulates in Japan,Consulate generals/consulates in Hokkaido(Excel)
 (Switching an original license into Japanese one)
   Driver’s license centers

○ Links
  List of foreign diplomatic missions in Japan (Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan)
     http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/link/embassy/ [Available in Japanese]
  Contact addresses of Japan Automobile Federation
          http://www.jaf.or.jp/inter/entrust/index.htm [Japanese]
          http://www.jaf.or.jp/e/list/hokkaido.htm [English]
      Guidance on driver’s license (Hokkaido Police Headquarters)
          http://www.police.pref.hokkaido.lg.jp/guide/menkyo/menkyo1.html [Available in Japanese]

O.Other daily life issues

 Understanding and observing various rules, manners and customs in Japan will help you have a comfortable life in Japan.
 Hokkaido is Japan’s coldest region with a frigid and snowy winter from December to March. Dynamic seasonal changes lend further attractiveness to Hokkaido, though you will need to keep in mind a few tips for spending the winter comfortably in Hokkaido.

[HOW to live during winter Hokkaido]
* Layer cloths to accommodate for the temperature difference between the indoors and outdoors.
* Wear nonskid shoes to prevent falling on icy streets/roads.
* Beware of snow-covered roofs, from which accumulated snow (or ice) may fall.
* Water pipes may freeze when the outside temperature drops below – 4°C. Drain the water from the pipes when necessary.
* Make sure to let fresh air into the room when using a gas burning heater.
* Snowfall may cause heavy traffic congestion and the delay of public transport vehicles. Listen carefully to TV/radio traffic information, and leave for a destination earlier than normal.

 The CLAIR website provides you with useful tips for daily life in Japan, including:
* Personal seals, holidays in Japan, formal occasions, how to separate and dispose of waste, how to keep animals, taking a bath, how to use a Japanese toilet, etc;
* Essential utilities (electric power, gas, water), postal system, how to get on train/bus, etc.

○ Details of the system and procedure
   http://www.clair.or.jp/tagengorev/en/o/index.html(CLAIR)

○ Lists of organizations for processing and general inquiries
  (Water, separating and collecting wastes)
    Municipal offices in Hokkaido(Excel)

○Links
 (Electricity)
   Hokkaido Electric Power Co., Inc. (HEPCO)
    http://www.hepco.co.jp/ [Available in Japanese and English]
 (Gas)
   Hokkaido Gas Co., Ltd.
    http://www.hokkaido-gas.co.jp/ [Available in Japanese and English]
 (Postal system)
   Japan Post Co., Ltd.
    http://www.post.japanpost.jp/index.html [Available in Japanese and English]
 (Railway)
   JR Hokkaido
    http://www.jrhokkaido.co.jp/ [Available in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean]

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