Living in Japan

Procedures after arriving in Japan

What procedures are necessary to complete after arriving in Japan?

Tohoku University International Support Center (ISC) is available to assist with necessary procedures. For more information, visit the ISC webspage for post-arrival procedures (will open in a new tab).

Life in general

Driving, transportation

I would like to drive a car or motorbike in Japan.

To drive a car or motorbike in Japan, it is necessary to have a Japanese driving license or international driving license.

What should I do if I want to use a driving license issued overseas in Japan?

It is possible to convert it to a Japanese driving license if the following two conditions are met.

  • a) It is a valid foreign driving license (expired driving licenses cannot be converted)
  • b) You can prove that you have stayed in that country for three months or more, counting from the date when you obtained the foreign driving license. (It is necessary to present a document that can prove the period of stay, such as your passport.)

The procedures are: (1) Aptitude test (visual acuity, vision test, etc.); (2) Test of traffic rules (written test); (3) Test of driving proficiency. Some countries and regions are exempted from the theory test and practical test. However, no one is exempted from the aptitude test (visual acuity, color vision, etc.). Please click the link below for a list of the documents needed for procedures and a detailed explanation.

Please tell me about public transportation in Sendai City.

Sendai City has a relatively well-developed public transportation system.

Buses Sendai City operates a city bus (will open in a new tab), Miyagi Transportation buses (in Japanese) (will open in a new tab), etc. Children below elementary school age pay half the price of the adult fare.
JR Line (will open in a new tab) JR tickets can be purchased at stations. If using an IC card such as Suica (will open in a new tab), you can ride without a ticket.
Subway (will open in a new tab) There are two subway routes in Sendai City that extend in the north-south and east-west directions from Sendai Station. You can also use Suica for the subway lines.
Bicycle sharing (DATE BIKE) (will open in a new tab) There are also bicycle sharing services in Sendai. Services are available even for a one-time use, and at an affordable price.
Long-distance buses (will open in a new tab) Long-distance buses operate between Sendai and other cities. It takes about 5.5 hours to travel between Sendai and Tokyo, and you need to book in advance.

Please tell me about how to ride a taxi and taxi fares.

If the lamp on windscreen on the passenger’s side shows “空車” (“Vacant”), you can raise your hand to stop the taxi. Once the taxi has stopped, the door opens automatically on the left side at the back of the car, so please wait and do not open the door on your own. The basic flag-down fare is shown on the window, so please check before you get on. As a time and distance combined fare system is used, the fare goes up even when the taxi is not moving at a traffic light or in a traffic jam. You can also use apps such as “GO” or “Uber taxi.”

What are the bicycle rules in Japan?

When riding a bicycle, please follow the traffic rules of Japan and be aware that breaking the rules will result in penalties.

  • In principle, ride on the left-hand side of the road, and on sidewalks with lanes marked for bicycles.
  • Pedestrians have priority on sidewalks, and cyclists must ride slowly on the side of the road.
  • Do not ride a bicycle drunk, ride double or ride side-by-side.
  • Do not ride a bicycle while making a phone call, using a mobile phone, or wearing headphones or earphones.
  • Do not use an umbrella while riding a bicycle.
  • Please wear a light when riding at night.
  • All the cyclists are required to make an effort to wear a helmet while riding.

Are there any driving schools in Sendai City that offer driving courses in English?

There are currently (as of 2024) no driving schools in Miyagi Prefecture where you can take driving courses in English. There are multilingual driving schools in other prefectures, so please inquire directly with IAC if you are interested.

Medical institutions, emergencies

What should I do when I feel sick?

If you fall ill in Japan, take your health insurance card with you and go to a nearby medical facility. Please be aware that you may not be seen if you go to a major hospital without a letter of introduction. For emergency, please call 119.

Earthquakes occur frequently in Japan. What should I do if a major earthquake occurs?

Sendai City has prepared materials (video) about what you should do in the event of a major earthquake. You can view it from link below. This is important knowledge for living in Japan, so please have a look.

What numbers should I call in case of emergency?

  • Police (Traffic accidents, incidents etc.): 110
  • Ambulance (Illnesses, injuries): 119
  • Fire: 119

*In case of emergency only!

Other matters

I’m looking for used bicycles, home appliances, and large furniture items. Are there any thrift shops?

There are several large thrift shops, so please inquire directly with IAC. IAC also provides a short-term rental service, as well as a “Give over & Receive” service to help people give away furniture and home appliance items that they no longer need when they leave Japan.

Where Can I buy imported food in Sendai?

I want to send something abroad. What’s the best way to do it?

You can send items abroad by Japan Post EMS serivce. Please check the URL before for details.

Are shops open on Sundays and national holidays?

Most shops in Japan, including supermarkets and restaurants, open on Sundays and national holidays. Their opening hours may be slightly different from the weekdays, so we recommend checking beforehand.

I have questions about the letters, bills, etc. I have received by post at home. Can I consult with IAC?

Yes, please feel free to do so. If you have any problems, you can contact us by phone or e-mail, or visit the IAC Office in person.

What are some of the things I need to take note of when living in Japan, such as driving a car, drinking alcohol, or smoking? What are some actions that would constitute breaking a law?

In Japan, bicycles and cars travel on the left side of the road. In principle, pedestrians travel on the right side of the road. After consuming alcohol, regardless of the amount of alcohol you have consumed, it is prohibited to ride a bicycle or drive a car. Japan has traffic rules that are not applicable countries—for example, when driving a car, it is mandatory to stop momentarily in front of a railway crossing. Hence, please check the website below for details.

What should I take note of when living in Sendai City?

Pickpocketing, breaking and entering when residents are away from their homes, and bicycle theft are some of the crimes that sometimes occur, so it is necessary ensure that you lock your door and be very careful with watching your surroundings. If you are a victim of crime, please be sure to report to the police. (Tel: 110)

I wish to send large parcels to my home country ahead of returning. What are some of the methods I can use?

You can use Yamato Transport’s “International TA-Q-BIN (will open in a new tab)” service or Japan Post (will open in a new tab) to send large parcels to international destinations. However, as the shipping costs are high, it may sometimes be cheaper to bring it with you as additional checked baggage on your flight back. Please check the fees for additional checked baggage with the airlines company.

Childcare, education

Are there kindergartens or nursery schools on the campus?

Tohoku University provides on-campus childcare facilities for Tohoku University employees and students. Please check the URL below for more details:

Is there a nursery school in Sendai that offers classes in English?

Are there international schools in Sendai?

The Tohoku International School in Izumi Ward is a private school where a curriculum can be taken that runs from kindergarten through to high-school graduation. This school is not within Japan’s education system, but as a WASC accredited school, graduating students can obtain eligibility to enter universities worldwide, including Japan. Children of Tohoku University faculty members may receive a reduction or exemption of course fees.

How do I apply for admission to elementary and junior high schools in Sendai City?

You must conduct procedures through the Sendai City Board of Education, Educational Affairs Section. In principle, schools will be determined based on your place of residence. If you will be in Japan for two months or less, you can enroll children temporarily (trial enrollment), but you must contact the elementary school or middle school in the area of your place of residence in advance and get confirmation on whether your child will be accepted.

Is there any interpreter support that I can request for procedures at administrative offices, schools, etc.?

SenTIA, Sendai Tourism, Convention and International Association provides interpreter support services.

I would like to talk to someone about my child's education in Japan.

SenTIA also provides support for children with roots abroad and their parents/ guardians. Please check website below for details.

Matters related to status of residence

What should I do if my activity in Japan changes?

If those who hold the status of residence of “College Student” or “Cultural Activities” choose to stay in Japan as paid researchers at Tohoku University, they must have their status of residence changed to “Professor” at the immigration office. Applications may be made as soon as possible.

How can I extend the period of stay?

If you wish to extend your permitted term of residence, you must apply for an extension at the Sendai Regional Immigration Services Bureau. It is possible to apply starting 3 months prior to the expiration date. It will take about two to four weeks to complete the procedures. After you receive the notice, visit the Regional Immigration Bureau with the notice, passport, Residence card and 4,000 yen fee. A new Residence card with the new expiration date will be issued.

How can I get my families to Japan?

If international researchers invite their dependent family members to stay in Japan for more than 3 months, the family members are required to obtain “Family stays” visa status before coming to Japan. The Certificate of Eligibility for Status of Residence (CoE) is required for the visa application, then the international researchers staying in Japan needs to apply for his/her family's CoE at a Regional Immigration Services Bureau. The COE is usually issued about two to four weeks after the application form is submitted. If the family members stay in Japan less than 3 months, they can visit Japan on a Temporary Visitor visa. If their passports are issued by the countries or regions with Visa Exemptions, they do not have to obtain a Temporary Visitor visa before coming to Japan.

I’m leaving Japan temporarily and coming back. Is there anything I have to do?

Re-entry refers to leaving Japan temporarily and then entering Japan again during your authorized stay in Japan. If you re-enter Japan within one year (or by the expiration date of the status of residence) after leaving Japan provisionally, and continue the same activity in Japan, “special re-entry permit” is applied. When you are leaving Japan, show your residence card and submit the Embarkation and Disembarkation Card for Re-entrants which has been checked ☑ the box of “☐ 1. I am leaving Japan temporary and will return” to the immigration officer.

If the period of your authorized stay is more than one year, and you leave then re-enter Japan more than a year later to continue the same activity, you must obtain a “Re-entry Permit” before you leave Japan.