The following information should be considered a non-comprehensive list and is provided for reference only.
There is no guarantee that any or all of these things will occur, or in what order, or if your Supervisor or Board of Education will help you (although ideally someone will). Consider this as a starting point of what is most important to do during your first weeks.
It is also important to keep in mind that JETs in Oita are generally paid closer to the end of the month, so you will need to bring enough money to cover your costs in the first few weeks of being in Oita. Please bring enough money in yen to potentially pay your key money (which is usually the equivalent of 3~5 months of rent), food and other essentials for the first few week or so, and any other costs.
Also, it is going to be really, really hot. Be prepared for that.
Meet Your Supervisor In all likelihood, you will meet your supervisor when you first arrive in Oita. For City BOE ALTs, your supervisor will probably be waiting at the airport to meet you. In the case of Prefectural BOE ALTs, your “supervisor” is the English Consultant for the Oita Prefectural Office’s High School Division and you will first head to the Prefectural Office with her/him before your on-site school supervisor comes to the Prefectural Office to meet you and help you settle into your new living situation.
Sign Your Contract At some point, your supervisor should ask you to sign a contract. Please sign it, though your arrival in Japan technically already signified your complicit agreement.
Inkan You will need an inkan or personal seal/stamp that has your name carved into it. This will be used like a “signature” on official documents, etc. Find out if your CO will be providing it to you, or if you need to go get one yourself. Your supervisor/CO may ask you to leave it in your desk for convenience or ask you to carry it on you at all times.
Apartment and Utilities Make sure you know how much your rent is, what utilities you are provided and must pay for, and how you will pay it. Payment is usually done via direct bank transfer or with monthly slips that you pay at a nearby convenience store.
When you first arrive at your new apartment, make sure you have everything you need to stay there for the first couple nights at least. A futon, blankets, pillow, whatever you need for your nightly ritual (soap, shampoo, etc.), food for the night and for the next day or so, etc.
Ask about fire insurance. If you aren’t sure whether you have it or not, be sure to ask your supervisor when you are signing/paying for your apartment.
Bank Account Set-up Your supervisor should help you set up your bank account. Your CO may have a specific bank they want you to use, and you may need to use more than one whether or not you already have a Japanese bank account. When you create your bank account, you will need a bank card to withdraw money.
Register with City Hall You must register your residence with your local city hall within the first couple weeks of arriving. This is the law.
Pension and Health Insurance When you are registering your residence with your city hall, you should also be registering for pension and health insurance.
There are two major types of health insurance in Japan; National Health Insurance (国民健康保険 kokumin kenko hoken) and Employees’ Health Insurance (健康保険 kenko hoken). National Health Insurance is intended for people who are not eligible for enrollment in an employment-based health insurance program. JET Programme Participants are eligible for Employees’ Health Insurance and once enrolled will receive a blue health insurance card that lists their name, DOB, place of work etc., and should be taken with them whenever they go to a hospital or see a doctor. When receiving medical treatment covered by Health Insurance the JET will only pay 30% of the cost. The remaining 70% will be covered by Health Insurance.
Phone The most convenient way to communicate in Japan is definitely with a cellphone, though you may prefer a smartphone. The benefit of the smartphone is being better connected, being able to use services such as Line or Skype, and Google Maps/Apple Map for when you get lost, though it is more expensive and it is possible to get along just fine without it.
There are three main cell phone companies in Japan, Softbank, AU, and Docomo. The reason this is important is a general difference in price, and there are extra costs when calling or texting people on with a different company. For example, you will get charged a bit extra if you call someone with AU if you have a Softbank phone.
Something to note for the future is the frequency that AU iPhones run on isn’t compatible with the other two major Japanese mobile phone providers (Docomo or Softbank), or most mobile phone service providers overseas. You can go to an AU store in Japan and ask them to unlock your phone (“ロッククリア” “rokku kuria” in Japanese, apparently it costs a little under 3,000yen) but because AU iPhones are programmed to register the AU sim card inserted into that specific phone, by unlocking the phone you would probably only allow for a different AU sim card to be put into the phone. So even if it is unlocked it is very unlikely that a sim card of a foreign mobile phone service provider would work in the phone, and it’s also unlikely that the frequency of AU iPhones would be compatible with most overseas mobile phone service providers. If you are hoping to invest in an iPhone to use in your home country after leaving JET, it might be best to investigate Docomo and Softbank plan options, or consider getting a different type of smart phone.
Find your nearest Embassy/Consulate. They can provide support, host events and provide important services like postal voting.
Find out about your tax obligations. Some countries have tax exemptions but these require paperwork - we recommend getting started as soon as you can to guarantee your exemption.
Going to Work
Schedule/Commuting As soon as you can, try to find out what your CO/supervisor expects from you work-wise in the first couple weeks. Some COs expect their JETs to begin reporting to work right away. In this case, confirm how you can get there (bicycle, car, taxi, train, bus, etc.), what your hours are, and whether there is anything you should be doing. Other COs might give you time to settle in, or actively show you around the city/area.
Be sure to make sure you find out what the long-term plan is as well. What schools you will be going to, how to get there, what you need to do, etc.
Workplace and Coworkers Once you have started going to your schools, take the time to explore and ask questions about your workplace. Talk to your teachers, and not just the English teachers! Please remember that not all teachers will be comfortable talking to you, even if you can speak Japanese. Be polite and try to be sure that when you are speaking English, you slow it down a little for them! Be sure to establish an open line of communication early.
Welcome Parties Your teachers/schools may have a welcome party for you! If you don’t drink, it is perfectly acceptable to let your supervisor know and then order a soft drink or tea instead. Alternatively, you could have a beer and just take a couple sips, and then order something non-alcoholic.
If you do drink, be sure to drink responsibly and have a going-home plan! The laws on drinking and driving (or even biking!) are very strict in Japan. If you are caught, you can go to jail for up to two years, be fined, and deported.