Case Studies

Since 1988, JISTEC has been assisting JSPS fellows (including STA fellows) who are conducting research at universities and national research institutes.
During that time we have handled many kinds of problems and we would like to point out a few things that Fellows should be particularly careful about.

Problems associated with Obtaining a Visa

A short-term foreign researcher was going to be in Japan for three months, so he went to the local Japanese consulate and had them issue a short-term (90-day) visa. However, there were actually 92 days in those three months!

The counting of days starts on the day after one's arrival. Therefore, in this case if the researcher had stayed in Japan for 91 total days (including the day of arrival), it would not have been a problem. But since he was here for 92 days, it was one day over the limit. For that reason, he had to go to Japanese Immigration to have his visa extended by one day!

It is extremely important that you do not overstay your authorized period of stay. Even if only for a day or so, it can lead to much trouble for you. You may even be arrested and incarcerated.

A foreign researcher who is expected to be in Japan for two years was issued a short-term visa!

In this case, fortunately the immigration authorities at Narita International Airport noticed the mistake. In most cases, "short-term" visas cannot be changed into "research" visas, so researchers applying for visas should explicitly state that they are coming to Japan to do research. In this case, it was decided that the issuance of the short-term visa was probably a clerical error, so the researcher was given a new "research" visa.

When foreign researchers come to Japan on a "cultural activities" visa, they often have trouble getting "dependent" visas for their family members!

"Cultural activities" visas are limited to non-remunerative activities in Japan, so immigration officials are inclined to question why someone on a cultural activities visa would bring along family members since there would be no income to support them with. One foreign researcher had planned to bring his family to Japan once he had gotten adjusted here, but since he had arrived on a "cultural activities" visa, he had to have his visa changed at Japanese Immigration to "research" (stipulated for remunerative activities) before he could finally bring over his family.

What is particularly noteworthy with these cases is that you should confirm the type of visa and the length of stay permitted at the time you receive your visa. If family members are to accompany you (including bringing them over after you arrive in Japan), you should make sure beforehand that you will be able to obtain dependent visa for your family under your present status of residence. Once you arrive in Japan, it is very time- and labor-consuming to change your visa.

I want to attend an international conference, but... I can't get a visa!

Many foreign researchers who come to Japan often leave Japan for short periods to attend conferences overseas. In that case, they have to apply for a re-entry permit at Japanese Immigration, and apply for the visa of the country the conference will be held. One foreign researcher had made preparations to attend such a conference (prepared his presentation) and had received a reentry permit.
All he had to do was wait for his visa from the other country's embassy. Unfortunately, the visa was never issued! Sometimes, the issuance of visas depends on the relationship between the countries involved.

If you want to attend an international conference, you should, first and foremost, confirm with the embassy of the country you plan to visit that you will be issued a visa! It can be very complicated and time-consuming.

I want to attend an international conference, but... I can't get my passport in time!

Before attending an international conference outside Japan, you must, as we said earlier, apply for a reentry permit. Normally, the procedure is completed at an immigration center (or a branch) by getting the appropriate stamp in your passport. However, in this particular case, the foreign researcher was in a tricky situation. Since the conference was to be held exactly one year after his arrival in Japan, he also had to apply to have his visa extended because his visa was for one year. To make matters more complicated, his passport was also about to expire! Therefore, his visa could not be extended because there was not enough time remaining on his passport. It can take several days to have a new passport issued!
This particular foreign researcher was in constant negotiations with both his embassy and Japanese Immigration. Fortunately, he was able to get everything straightened out in time to attend his conference.

To prevent the occurrence of this kind of episode, make sure to renew your passport as early as possible.
Please also note that you can normally apply to renew your visa one month before it expires, so you should start the procedure as early as possible. Please keep in mind that it takes about two weeks from the time of application to the time the new visa is issued.


Renting Private Housing

What to be careful about when renting private housing.

Usually, when you lease an apartment you have to pay a deposit (which will be used for cleaning the apartment before the next person move in and to repair any damages that you may have caused). It is important that, when you move in you should go through the apartment together with the land lord or housing agency and have them point out things that will need to be repaired/cleaned. Also, it is good to take pictures of scratches, holes and other “damages” that were done before you moved in. If you don't take care of the apartment, you may be asked to pay additional fees for cleaning and repairs, but if you take good care, you will not be required to pay so much when you vacate it. However, it is probably better not to expect to get much of your deposit back.

【Some points to think about when renting】

  • If possible, rent an apartment that is already equipped with an air conditioner. Not only will you save the money buying one, you won't have to worry about how to dispose of it when you leave. (there is a heavy fee for disposing of electrical appliances.)
  • Be careful when you rent an apartment with tatami mats (straw mats) instead of flooring. It can be very convenient with tatami but there is a Japanese custom to always change the tatami when someone move out. That means that you may be charged for this when you move out. Be sure to confirm with the housing agency before signing any contract how much they expect you to pay.
  • When moving out, you are supposed to return the original key and if you have lost it , you may be charged with changing the whole lock. If possible, make copies and keep the original key safe in a drawer. When you return the original key to the housing agency, don't forget to give them the copied keys as well.


Traffic Accidents

Ramming a car into a roadside wall

In this case, the driver crashed into a roadside wall and destroyed a flower bed. Unfortunately, the driver did not have the proper voluntary insurance, so naturally he was required to pay all costs, including the costs of the wall and flower bed, not to mention the costs to repair his own vehicle. To replace the wall and flower bed alone he had to pay 200,000 yen!

Fortunately, no one was injured in this accident, so the driver only had to pay for the damages. Just think of all the trouble that might have occurred if this had been a major accident! Therefore, if you drive a car in Japan you should absolutely get extended voluntary insurance, called "Nin'i hoken".

Hitting another vehicle

While on the road, the driver in question hit the car ahead which had suddenly changed lanes. While no one was injured, and the only damage was to the vehicles, the other driver called the police. According to the foreign driver, "Because I could not speak Japanese, it seemed to me that the other driver was taking advantage of the situation. And it wasn't my fault at all!" Such situations can thus create a lot of stress. Eventually, the insurance companies of the two drivers reached an agreement on how much blame was attributable to each driver. When such calamities occur, you need to have someone who can act as your advocate.

Although the JISTEC Life Advisor can give you some pointers, it's best to prepare for a worst-case scenario by making sure there is always someone you can contact if you are involved in an accident.



Bicycle theft

The Number 1 type of theft you will be likely to encounter is bicycle theft. This sort of thing happens nearly every day. You especially need to be careful at shopping centers, apartment buildings, and train stations. If your bicycle is stolen, please file a report with the police department. If your rental bicycle is stolen, it may be covered by theft insurance, so please confirm this with the rental company. Sometimes, a new bicycle that you yourself purchase may be insured against theft, so please find out whether it is insured or not.
Unfortunately, we have not heard of many instances in which a stolen bicycle was actually recovered and returned to its rightful owner.


According to the latest information we have, the most common items stolen in apartment burglaries are laptop/notebook PCs, Walkman CD/cassette players, cash, passports, bank passbooks, signature stamps ("inkan"), bars for drying clothes, underwear, and cameras.
If your apartment is burglarized, please file a report with the police department so they can issue an official report about the theft.
Furthermore, to prevent illicit use of your important personal items, you should immediately report 1) passport theft to your embassy and Japanese immigration, 2) theft of a passbook/cash card to your bank, 3) theft of a credit card to your credit card company. Passports and visas can be reissued if you submit an official police report.