What food should I try in Japan?
Here's a quick list of foods that I would say to try:
katsu curry (breaded-meat served with curry sauce and rice)
nabe (Japanese-style hot-pot where you cook meats and vegetables in a flavoured broth at the table)
gyoza (fried meat and vegetable dumplings)
ramen (noodles served in soup- try either the tonkotsu or miso varieties)
kushikatsu (breaded meat on a stick that you dip into a delicious sauce- make sure to only dip once!)
yakitori (grilled skewers of meat)
tempura (bartered and deep-fried seafood and vegetables)
This is by no means a complete list, just a brief selection of foods that I recommend people try when they come to Japan.
What's it like to be a member of WWOOF Japan?
From my experience (6 months WWOOFing in 2009) it was overall fantastic. I lived with some incredible families and met some people who would go on to become my closest friends (I now live in one of the cities that I WWOOFed in 6 years ago).
As long as you do your research, find a good host family, and work hard, you will have a great time.
I would recommend 2 hosts: Hiroyuki/Reiko Komoriya at Shalom Forest in Gunma. They live on a mountain in a hand-made wooden house and have a log-cabin for their WWOOFers. The work consists of lumberjacking and forestry. If you want a physical challenge alongside an exposure to Japanese family life then this is the place for you.
Hikaru Obana at Ibiza Smoke Restaurant in Fukuoka. Hikaru is a renowned chef/restaurant owner who regularly features on TV and in newspapers. He lives with his staff and family in a remote area of Ukiha, Fukuoka (in the mountains). The work is helping in the restaurant and you get will aid in the preparation of smoked/cured meats and general restaurant work. This is an opportunity to live among beautiful scenery and a chance to sample some really tasty food.
I hope you are able to visit both, please send them my regards if you do!
As a Westerner, what's it like to move to Japan?
If English is your native language then finding a job as a teacher will be a piece of cake. Even if you come over on a tourist visa it is extremely easy (and legal) to get your visa changed once you're here: just attend an interview, receive a job offer, and go with your new employer to immigration to fill out some paperwork.
If you're a white westerner, then its great (as long as you can deal with attention). If you're not white, then it can be tougher (you receive more suspicious looks than positive attention). Japanese people aren't inherently racist, Japan is just extremely homogeneous.
The only real difficulty with moving to Japan is that very rarely will you find anyone in a public-office who can speak English. This can make finding/moving into accommodation, applying for healthcare etc. daunting and difficult.
In summary, as a western person who moved to Japan, it's great!
On average, how much does it cost to have a baby in the Japanese healthcare system?We had our first baby in Japan just last month so I can give you a firsthand account as to how much it cost for us. The total cost for the birth and a 5-day stay in the clinic for my wife was ¥495,230. The Japanese government covered ¥420,000 of the total cost so ended up paying only ¥75,230. Taking into account the level of care, the service during my wife’s stay, the meals etc, we were very pleased with the cost and would happily pay the same amount next time for a similar experience.
What's a monthly budget like in Japan?
Living in Fukuoka, here is our monthly budget:
Rent: ¥56,000. We live in a 2DK which is a 13 minute subway journey/20 minute cycle from the town centre.
Gas: ¥4,500. I have a bath every night, my wife showers every day, and we use a gas stove for cooking.
Electric: Between ¥2,800–10,000. In the spring and autumn, we don't use our air-conditioning or heating, so the price is always a lot lower. In summer or winter, when the air conditioning/heating is on almost all day, the price tends to be around 10k.
Food: ¥50,000. Despite only having two adults in our household, we find the food bill to be expensive. We only eat meat 3 times a week, so lots of this budget goes towards vegetables (which can be expensive depending on the season).
Cell phone/internet: ¥10,000. We have 2 sim-only contracts with unlimited data, plus a portable WiFi device with unlimited usage.
Health insurance: ¥12,000. This will vary depending on your income (last year I was paying a lot less). Also, your employer may subsidise this for you.
Transport: ¥18,300. This is for my travelcard from home to work. Again, your employer may subsidise this. My wife spends ¥7,000 just getting to and from various parts of town on buses and subways. We don't own a car so I can't include that price I'm afraid, although you will of course need to factor in tax and insurance also (I can say that petrol/gas prices are very cheap in comparison to the UK).
If there's anything I've missed, or anything else you'd like know, just ask.
What are the good and bad neighbourhoods of Fukuoka?
I have lived in 7 different apartments since moving to Fukuoka, all in different areas of the city.
The best place I have lived in, so far, is Jonan Ward. It's slightly out from the city centre but easily accessible by public transport or bicycle, it has plenty of shops and supermarkets, and is very clean, safe and quiet.
Yakuin was also a nice place to live. It's right next to the heart of the city and is therefor a lively and vibrant area.
The worst place I have lived is in Nishijin. It's loud, dirty and a hotbed for drunks and gamblers. On more than one occasion we found ourselves being woken at night/before dawn by shouts or sirens.
I would also not like to live in Nakasu, the city's entertainment district. There are a plethora of clubs and seedy hostess bars that give it an unwelcoming atmosphere. Unless of course you want the nightlife!
In summary, good neighbourhoods: Jonan ward, Yakuin, Watanabe-dori, Sawara ward, most of Chuo ward. Bad neighbourhoods: Nishijin, Nakasu, and I also didn't enjoy living in Hakata (it was a bit run down and too busy for my liking).