View overlooking Kyoto, Japan.



Japan beckons digital nomads with its modern conveniences and deep-rooted traditions – neon lights illuminating streets just a stone’s throw from serene temples shrouded in the whispers of centuries past. Here, technology is not just a tool but a way of life, making it an alluring haven for those who earn their living online. It’s this juxtaposition of cutting-edge innovation with its ancient customs that truly enriches the experience of settling in as a nomad.

As you step off the plane, you’re greeted by a world where vending machines serve up hot meals, robots are budding hoteliers, and the internet speeds can make the rest of the world seem like it’s buffering. Yet, a short journey can transport you to tranquil landscapes where time seems to stand still, amidst the serenity of a bamboo forest or the solemn beauty of a Zen garden.

Japan’s legendary efficiency is matched by an equally complex social etiquette, where the intricacies of interpersonal interactions can seem as labyrinthine as navigating the sprawling Tokyo metro. The meticulous planning surrounding the cherry blossom season, a fleeting yet fervently celebrated phenomenon, mirrors the Japanese appreciation for beauty and the transient nature of existence.

Japan offers digital nomads not just a place to work but a culture to immerse oneself in, a cuisine to delight in, and a society that values respect, precision, and harmony. The contrast of living in a country that prides itself on both its technological prowess and its cultural heritage creates an experience that is as enriching personally as it is professionally.

I. The basics

Cost of living

Japan’s cost of living is known for its wide range based on location, lifestyle, and choices. Here’s an expanded look at the main expenses with USD equivalents (note: currency conversion rates can fluctuate, these are approximate conversions based on a rate of ¥110 = $1 USD):

  1. Accommodation: Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in city centers like Tokyo or Osaka ranges from ¥100,000 to ¥200,000 ($909 to $1,818) per month. More affordable options exist outside city centers, with rents starting from ¥50,000 to ¥100,000 ($455 to $909).
  2. Utilities: Expect to pay between ¥8,000 and ¥15,000 ($73 to $136) monthly for utilities, including electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage. This can vary with the season, especially with the need for air conditioning in summer and heating in winter.
  3. Food: Groceries for a single person can cost ¥3,000 to ¥7,000 ($27 to $64) weekly, depending on dietary habits. Eating out at casual dining restaurants will cost around ¥800 to ¥2,000 ($7 to $18) per meal. Fine dining and international cuisines can be significantly more expensive.
  4. Transportation: A monthly public transportation pass is essential for city living, costing about ¥10,000 to ¥20,000 ($91 to $182). Taxis and ride-sharing services are convenient but pricier, especially for longer distances.
  5. Internet: A high-speed home internet connection costs about ¥4,000 to ¥6,000 ($36 to $55) per month. Many co-working spaces offer high-speed internet as part of their membership packages.

Connectivity and infrastructure

Japan excels in providing a highly efficient infrastructure, crucial for digital nomads:

  • Internet and Mobile Connectivity: With one of the world’s fastest internet speeds, Japan offers exceptional connectivity. Mobile data plans are widely available, with competitive rates for unlimited data.
  • Transportation: Japan’s public transport network is renowned for its punctuality and efficiency. The Shinkansen (bullet train) connects major cities at high speed, although tickets can be pricey.
  • Co-working Spaces: Urban areas, especially Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, are dotted with co-working spaces. These spaces often feature amenities like high-speed internet, meeting rooms, and coffee bars, with daily passes starting around ¥2,000 ($18) and monthly memberships varying widely based on services and location.


Japan’s healthcare system combines quality and accessibility, though navigating it can be challenging for non-Japanese speakers:

  • System and Insurance: Residents, including foreigners living in Japan for more than three months, must enroll in the national health insurance system, which covers about 70% of healthcare costs. Monthly premiums vary but are typically around ¥20,000 ($182) for an individual.
  • Quality of Care: Healthcare facilities in Japan are equipped with advanced technology. Physicians and medical staff are highly qualified, though English-speaking practitioners are more readily found in larger cities and international clinics.


One of Japan’s most appealing aspects for digital nomads and expatriates is its safety:

  • Low Crime Rate: Japan has one of the lowest crime rates globally. Violent crime is rare, and petty crime rates are also low, making it safe to travel at any time of day or night.
  • Natural Disaster Preparedness: Japan is prone to natural disasters, but it is also one of the best-prepared countries. Buildings are constructed to high safety standards, and there are comprehensive emergency procedures and information available in multiple languages.
  • Public Safety: The general safety in Japan extends beyond low crime rates to include cleanliness, public health, and a helpful society. Emergency services are reliable and efficient, providing peace of mind for residents and visitors alike.

Japan offers a unique blend of modern efficiency, cultural depth, and safety, making it an attractive destination for digital nomads. While the cost of living can be high, especially in major cities, the quality of life, infrastructure, and the overall experience often justify the expense for many.

II. Living in Japan as a digital nomad


Japan’s climate varies significantly from north to south, offering a diverse living experience throughout the year:

  • Northern Japan (Hokkaido) experiences cold winters with heavy snowfall, making it a haven for winter sports enthusiasts. Summers are mild and comfortable.
  • Central and Eastern Japan (Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto) have four distinct seasons. Winters are relatively mild with little snow, while summers can be hot and humid. Spring and autumn are particularly pleasant, marked by cherry blossoms and colorful foliage.
  • Southern Japan (Okinawa) enjoys a subtropical climate with warm winters and hot, humid summers. It’s ideal for those seeking a warmer climate year-round, with opportunities for beach activities and exploring tropical landscapes.


Japan’s natural beauty is both diverse and accessible, offering a counterpoint to its urban environments:

  • Mountains: Over 70% of Japan is mountainous, with trails ranging from easy walks to challenging climbs, such as Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest peak and a popular destination for both locals and visitors.
  • Forests and National Parks: Japan’s forests cover vast areas, offering serene escapes and hiking opportunities. National parks, like Nikko and Hakone, provide stunning landscapes, hot springs, and a glimpse into Japan’s rich natural heritage.
  • Coastlines and Islands: With its extensive coastline and numerous islands, Japan offers beautiful beaches, diving spots, and marine life exploration, especially in regions like Okinawa and the Izu Peninsula.


Japanese culture is deeply rooted in respect, cleanliness, and a sense of community over individualism. These values manifest in daily interactions, where courtesy is not just expected but woven into the fabric of society. From the orderly queues at train stations to the meticulous care with which meals are prepared and presented, every aspect of life in Japan speaks to a deeper cultural commitment to harmony and precision.

Cuisine in Japan is another realm where diversity and richness abound. Far beyond the well-known sushi and ramen lies a culinary landscape ripe for exploration. Each region boasts its own specialties, offering a palette of flavors and ingredients that reflect Japan’s geographical and cultural diversity. In Hokkaido, the fresh seafood is unparalleled, while Kyoto’s kaiseki ryori—a multi-course meal rooted in the aesthetics of tea ceremony—offers a taste of Japan’s culinary artistry. The food scene is not just about traditional Japanese cuisine; it’s a global mosaic, with international restaurants dotting the urban landscapes, ensuring that no palate goes unsatisfied.

When the sun sets, Japan transforms. The cities light up, and the nightlife begins its pulsating dance through the night. The neon dazzle of Shibuya and Shinjuku invites the adventurous soul to dive into a world of bustling izakayas, where laughter and sake flow freely. For those drawn to the allure of Japan’s traditional arts, the historic geisha districts offer a glimpse into a world where every gesture and expression tells a story. And yet, for every high-energy club and bar, there’s a cozy café or a serene jazz bar, where one can unwind and reflect on the day’s adventures.


Japan’s culture interweaves millennia of history with contemporary innovation, creating a society that respects its past while eagerly embracing the future. The country’s history is evident in its majestic castles, ancient temples, and shrines, each telling stories of feudal lords, samurai warriors, and divine traditions. These historical sites, found throughout the islands, offer a glimpse into Japan’s complex past, from the serene majesty of Kyoto’s Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) to the solemn peace of Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park.

Local attractions in Japan vary widely, ranging from the neon-lit skyscrapers of Tokyo to the tranquil gardens of Kanazawa. Japan celebrates its four seasons with fervor, with each season bringing its own set of festivals and natural attractions. The cherry blossom season in spring draws visitors and locals alike to parks for hanami (flower viewing) parties, while autumn’s fiery foliage invites contemplative walks through temple grounds. Winter sports enthusiasts flock to Hokkaido’s world-class ski resorts, and summer brings vibrant festivals like Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri, showcasing Japan’s rich cultural heritage through music, dance, and elaborate floats.

The cultural experience in Japan is also deeply influenced by its arts, both traditional and modern. From the meticulous practices of tea ceremonies and ikebana (flower arranging) to the cutting-edge fashion and technology districts in Tokyo, Japan offers a fascinating contrast of the timeless and the contemporary. Museums and galleries across the country showcase the breadth of Japanese art, from ancient pottery and samurai armor to contemporary anime and digital art installations.

Language and communication

The Japanese language, with its three scripts—hiragana, katakana, and kanji—presents a formidable challenge to newcomers. While learning basic phrases can greatly enhance your experience and is deeply appreciated by locals, English proficiency varies across the country. In major urban centers like Tokyo and Osaka, as well as tourist hotspots, English signs and assistance are readily available, making navigation and basic communication relatively straightforward for English speakers.

However, outside these areas, English becomes less common, and daily interactions may require some basic Japanese or the help of translation apps. Many Japanese people study English at school, and while they may understand more than they can speak, shyness and fear of making mistakes can hinder communication. Patience, a friendly smile, and a willingness to engage with the language can go a long way.

For digital nomads, this language barrier can be both a challenge and an opportunity—an opportunity to immerse in a new culture and perhaps learn a new language, even if just at a conversational level. In professional settings, especially in co-working spaces and international companies, English is more commonly used, easing the way for business communications and networking.

III. Cities to consider


Aerial view of Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan.
Photo by Jules Marvin Eguilos

Tokyo stands as a colossal metropolis, where the heartbeat of Japan’s economy, culture, and technology pulsates with relentless energy. This city, a marvel of modernity interlaced with traditions, offers digital nomads an environment where creativity and connectivity flourish amidst skyscrapers and serene parks. The diversity of Tokyo’s districts—from the electronic mecca of Akihabara to the fashionable streets of Shibuya—ensures that every taste and interest is catered to. Co-working spaces abound, nestled in neighborhoods that range from the buzzing epicenters of commerce to tranquil residential areas, making Tokyo a city of endless possibilities. The culinary scene here is unrivaled, offering gustatory journeys from street food stalls to the highest echelons of gourmet dining.


View overlooking Kyoto, Japan.
Photo by Su San Lee

The cultural heart of Japan, Kyoto presents a contrasting scene of tranquility and historical beauty. Once the imperial capital, its streets and waterways whisper tales of centuries past, with temples, shrines, and traditional teahouses dotting the landscape. For digital nomads, Kyoto offers a slower pace of life, where work can be interspersed with moments of reflection in zen gardens or inspiration under the cherry blossoms. The city’s growing number of co-working spaces and internet cafés provide modern sanctuaries for creativity, while its cultural heritage offers a deep well of inspiration. Living in Kyoto is to live amidst the beauty of the seasons, each celebrated with festivals and rituals that invite participation and contemplation.


Cyclist in Shinsekai, Osaka, Japan.
Photo by Nomadic Julien

Osaka exudes a different kind of charm, with its reputation for being the nation’s kitchen and its people known for their warmth and humor. This city blends historical landmarks like Osaka Castle with the neon-lit excitement of modern urban life. Digital nomads find in Osaka a vibrant startup scene and a plethora of spaces that foster innovation and collaboration. The city’s culinary landscape is a paradise for food lovers, offering delights from takoyaki to world-class sushi, all contributing to a lively social scene. Osaka serves not just as a fantastic place to work and live but as a gateway to the wider Kansai region, rich in history, nature, and culture.


View of the Fukuoka waterfront in Japan.
Photo by DEAR

Fukuoka, with its forward-thinking approach to startups and innovation, is fast becoming a beacon for digital entrepreneurs and nomads alike. Positioned on the northern shore of Kyushu, it offers an appealing mix of urban life and access to nature. Fukuoka’s welcoming atmosphere is complemented by a lower cost of living compared to Tokyo, yet it lacks nothing in terms of connectivity and modern amenities. The city is renowned for its culinary scene, especially its Hakata ramen, adding another layer of appeal to a lifestyle that balances work with exploration and enjoyment. Fukuoka’s initiative to attract global talent with startup support programs marks it as a city looking to the future, making it an exciting base for those looking to immerse themselves in Japan’s innovative spirit.

IV. Off the beaten track

Exploring Japan beyond its bustling cities reveals quaint towns and secluded spots perfect for digital nomads seeking tranquility, natural beauty, and a touch of the local way of life. Here are specific towns that promise not just a retreat from the urban hustle but also an enriching experience tailored to the nomadic lifestyle.

Biei, Hokkaido

View of flower fields in Biei in Hokkaido, Japan.
Photo by Ken Shono

Nestled in the heart of Hokkaido, Biei is a picturesque town known for its rolling hills and vibrant, flower-filled landscapes that change colors with the seasons. This town is perfect for digital nomads who appreciate nature’s beauty and seek inspiration from serene environments. The peace and quiet, coupled with the stunning backdrop, make Biei an ideal location for those looking to work in a tranquil setting. The town also offers easy access to outdoor activities, such as cycling through its scenic routes, making it a harmonious blend of work and leisure.

Naoshima, Kagawa Prefecture

Two people sitting on the waterfront in Naoshima Kagawa, Japan.
Photo by Kaori Chin

Naoshima is not just an island; it’s a living art project, blending modern art installations with the natural beauty of the Seto Inland Sea. For digital nomads, Naoshima offers a unique lifestyle where creativity and inspiration can be found around every corner. From the iconic pumpkin sculptures by Yayoi Kusama to the architectural marvels of Tadao Ando, the island stimulates creativity. With its laid-back atmosphere and scenic beauty, Naoshima is an excellent spot for those looking to combine work with artistic exploration.

Tsumago, Nagano Prefecture

Street view of Tsumago-juku in Japan.
Photo by Dmitriy Galanov

Tsumago is a beautifully preserved post town along the historic Nakasendo trail. Stepping into Tsumago is like stepping back in time, with its traditional Edo-period buildings and absence of modern distractions such as power lines, which are hidden to maintain the historical ambiance. For digital nomads, Tsumago offers a peaceful retreat where one can focus on work amidst the tranquility of the Japanese countryside. The town also serves as a gateway to exploring the Kiso Valley’s natural beauty, providing a perfect balance between work and exploration.

Koyasan, Wakayama Prefecture

Japanese rock garden in Koyasan, Japan.
Photo by Hu Chen

Koyasan is a secluded town nestled atop a mountain, offering a spiritual retreat unlike any other in Japan. The town is renowned for its monastic complex and serene environment, making it an ideal place for digital nomads seeking peace and inspiration. Staying in a temple lodging allows for an immersive experience, with the opportunity to join monks in morning prayers and meditation. The tranquil setting, rich history, and spiritual atmosphere provide a unique backdrop for creative work and reflection.

Taketomi, Okinawa Prefecture

View overlooking Taketomi Island, Okinawa, Japan.
Photo by Hiroko Yoshii

Taketomi Island, a short ferry ride from Ishigaki, is a small, traditional Ryukyu village surrounded by pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters. Its well-preserved cultural heritage and slow pace of life make it a haven for digital nomads looking for a tropical escape. The traditional stone walls and sandy streets, coupled with the breathtaking natural surroundings, offer a tranquil environment conducive to both relaxation and productivity. Taketomi is ideal for those who cherish simplicity, natural beauty, and a warm, welcoming community.

These towns offer not just a place to stay but a chance to experience a different facet of Japan, where the pace of life slows, and the focus shifts to the beauty of the moment. For digital nomads, these destinations provide serene workspaces amid Japan’s rich cultural and natural heritage, offering a truly unique way to live, work, and explore.

Types of visas available for remote workers 

1. Digital Nomad Visa

Japan announced a new Digital Nomad Visa set to launch by the end of March 2024. This visa aims to attract remote workers by allowing them to stay in the country for up to six months. To qualify for this visa, applicants must meet specific criteria, including an annual income threshold. Here’s a summary of the key details:

  • Income Requirement: Applicants for the Digital Nomad Visa must have an annual income of at least ¥10 million (approximately $68,300). This high income requirement is set to ensure that digital nomads can support themselves during their stay in Japan.
  • Duration: The visa allows for a stay of up to six months, providing flexibility for remote workers seeking to immerse themselves in Japan’s culture and society while continuing their work for companies registered outside of Japan.
  • Eligibility: The visa is available to citizens from 49 countries and territories, highlighting Japan’s intention to welcome a diverse group of digital nomads. However, specific details on the countries eligible were not mentioned in the initial summary.
  • Healthcare Requirement: Applicants are required to have private healthcare, ensuring they are covered without relying on Japan’s national health system.

This move by Japan to introduce a Digital Nomad Visa reflects the country’s recognition of the growing trend of remote work and its potential to attract international talent and stimulate the local economy. For those interested in applying, it’s crucial to prepare the necessary documentation, including proof of income and private health insurance, and to stay updated with any additional requirements or changes to the application process as the launch date approaches​.

2. Temporary Visitor Visa

This visa is suitable for short-term stays (up to 90 days) and can be used by digital nomads planning a brief stay in Japan. While it doesn’t allow for formal employment in Japan, it’s often used for tourism, business meetings, or short-term studies, which can encompass remote work for a company based outside of Japan.

3. Working Holiday Visa

Available to citizens of certain countries with which Japan has a mutual agreement, this visa allows young people (usually aged 18-30 or 18-25, depending on the country) to stay in Japan for up to a year. While it is intended for holiday purposes, holders can engage in work to supplement their travel funds, which can include remote work.

Application process and necessary documentation 

The application process and necessary documentation can vary depending on the type of visa and the applicant’s nationality. Generally, the process includes:

  1. Application Form: Complete the visa application form available from the Japanese embassy or consulate in your home country.
  2. Passport: Must be valid for the duration of your stay, with at least one blank page for the visa.
  3. Photograph: A passport-sized photo taken within the last six months.
  4. Proof of Financial Means: Bank statements or other documents proving you have sufficient funds to support your stay in Japan.
  5. Return Ticket: Evidence of a return ticket or funds to purchase one.
  6. Detailed Itinerary: For the Temporary Visitor Visa, including accommodation and plans.
  7. Letter of Explanation for Remote Work: While not always required, providing a letter explaining your intentions to work remotely for a company outside of Japan can clarify your situation and support your application.
  8. Additional Documentation: Depending on the visa type, additional documents such as a business plan (for the Business Manager Visa), a letter of invitation from a sponsor in Japan, or proof of enrollment in a cultural exchange program might be necessary.

It’s essential to check the specific requirements with the Japanese embassy or consulate in your country, as regulations can change. Furthermore, Japan’s immigration policies are subject to evolve, so staying informed about any new visa categories or adjustments to existing ones that might better accommodate digital nomads is crucial.

VI. Tips for a smooth landing in Japan

Finding accommodation

  1. Short-term Rentals: Platforms like Airbnb and are good for short-term stays. This allows you to get a feel for different areas before committing to a longer lease.
  2. Share Houses: Popular among young professionals and expats, share houses (or “guest houses”) offer furnished rooms with shared common areas like kitchens and living rooms. They’re a great way to meet people and ease into Japanese life. Websites like Oakhouse and Sakura House are good places to start.
  3. Long-term Rentals: For stays longer than a few months, consider a long-term rental. Be aware that renting in Japan often involves significant upfront costs, including refundable deposits (shikikin), non-refundable key money (reikin), and agent fees. English-speaking real estate agents can help navigate this process.

Setting up local bank accounts and financial considerations

  1. Bank Account: Opening a bank account can be challenging due to language barriers and residency requirements. Major banks like Shinsei Bank and Japan Post Bank are more foreigner-friendly. You’ll need your residence card and a personal seal (hanko) for some banks, though others may accept a signature.
  2. Cash Culture: Japan is still a cash-centric society, so always have cash on hand. International ATMs are available at 7-Eleven stores and post offices.
  3. International Money Transfer Services: Consider using services like TransferWise (now Wise) or PayPal for cheaper international transfers.
  1. Public Transit: Invest in a prepaid IC card (like Suica or Pasmo) for convenient access to most trains, buses, and even some stores. These cards can be reloaded at any station.
  2. Bicycles: Many locals use bicycles for daily commutes. You can buy a used bike or rent one monthly. Just be sure to register it at a local police station.
  3. Understanding the System: Japan’s transportation system is punctual and extensive but can be complex. Apps like Google Maps, Hyperdia, and Japan Rail Pass Calculator are invaluable for planning routes and understanding schedules.

Adapting to local customs and cultural nuances

  1. Respect and Etiquette: Politeness is a cornerstone of Japanese culture. Be mindful of local customs, such as bowing, removing shoes indoors, and speaking quietly on public transport.
  2. Language Barrier: Learning basic Japanese phrases will go a long way in daily interactions. Consider using language exchange meetups or apps like Duolingo and Tandem to improve your skills.
  3. Networking: Join local expat and digital nomad communities through platforms like Meetup and Facebook groups. They can be great resources for advice and friendship.

Adapting to life in Japan as a digital nomad can take time, but with preparation and an open mind, you can fully embrace the unique blend of tradition and modernity that Japan offers.

VII. In summary


  1. High-speed internet: Japan boasts one of the fastest and most reliable internet infrastructures globally, essential for digital nomads reliant on connectivity.
  2. Cultural richness: Offers a deep dive into a culture that balances modernity with tradition, providing a unique living experience.
  3. Safety and cleanliness: Known for being exceptionally safe and clean, Japan offers a comfortable living environment.
  4. Public transportation: An efficient and punctual public transport system makes navigating the country easy and convenient.
  5. Culinary experience: A paradise for food lovers, offering a wide range of culinary delights from street food to high-end sushi bars.
  6. Natural beauty and diversity: From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the serene landscapes of Kyoto, Japan offers diverse environments to explore.
  7. Community and networking: A growing community of expats and digital nomads, alongside local meetups and co-working spaces, provides networking opportunities.


  1. Cost of living: Especially in cities like Tokyo and Osaka, the cost of living can be high compared to other digital nomad destinations.
  2. Language barrier: While English is used in business, daily life often requires some knowledge of Japanese, which can be a steep learning curve for some.
  3. Cultural and social integration: The distinct Japanese social norms and business etiquette can be challenging to adapt to for newcomers.
  4. Work visa requirements: Japan has strict visa requirements, and obtaining a long-term visa suitable for digital nomads can be complicated without company sponsorship.
  5. Accommodation costs: Initial costs for renting apartments (such as key money, security deposits) are high, and short-term accommodation options can be expensive.
  6. Isolation: Without a basic understanding of Japanese, it can be easy to feel isolated, given the homogeneity of Japanese society and the emphasis on social conformity.
  7. Natural disasters: Japan is prone to natural disasters like earthquakes, typhoons, and tsunamis, which can be a concern for some.

The allure of Japan for the digital nomad is undeniable, with its unparalleled internet speed making deadlines a breeze and its streets so clean you could lose your lunch on them and eat it too (though one wouldn’t recommend it). The public transport is so punctual, you’d think the trains were synced to the atomic clock, and the food—oh, the food!—is a saga of flavors that could occupy your taste buds for a lifetime.

Yet, for all its neon-lit glory and sushi that rolls straight into your heart, Japan poses its own riddles. The cost of living dances high enough to make your wallet weep, especially in the urban labyrinths of Tokyo. The language barrier stands tall and proud, turning simple errands into quests of epic proportions. And the cultural nuances—subtle, profound—are like a delicate dance you’re learning on the fly, where missteps are inevitable but part of the charm.

Securing a visa can feel like unlocking a level in a particularly challenging video game, where the prize is the chance to stay and navigate the high costs of setting up a home. The recently announced digital nomad visa should hopefully provide some relief here. And yet, despite these trials, or perhaps because of them, Japan offers a backdrop of such compelling contrasts and learning opportunities that the heart grows fonder with every challenge navigated, every phrase learned, every local dish savored.

In this land of meticulous order and serene chaos, of high-speed connections and timeless traditions, the digital nomad finds not just a place to work, but a landscape ripe for exploration, both external and internal. Japan, with its quirks and charms, its hurdles and delights, stands as a testament to the adventurous spirit of those who choose to live and work within its embrace, offering a journey not just across space, but also through time, culture, and self.

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