Sapporo Japan is a great city to live in with its great and surrounding nature. I know people who have come here intending to stay for one year and then ended up remaining here for good, so there is quite a large ex-pat community here.
For me, the year round Japan weather is perfect. That’s not really a surprise though, as I am from England where it rains about 80% of the year. In Sapporo there are four distinct seasons so that there is something for everyone to do all year round.
If you enjoy winter sports then Sapporo is perfect to ski Japan as Hokkaido has arguably the best snow in the world; light, fluffy and powdery unlike the wet heavy snow that is found in Europe and North America.
Spring is my least favourite season of the year. In Sapporo Japan, even in late May, small heaps of dirty brown snow can still be seen and the wind still has its chill. It also rains a lot in spring so it feels like the weather doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going.
The summer is also perfect here getting as hot as 30 degrees Celsius and dry, so it’s very comfortable, unlike other parts south of Japan where it can be very humid and unbearable when commuting to work, and can last up to four months. The summer gets into full swing around the end of July until the end of August when it is time to check out the local Japan beaches.
It is very convenient to live in Sapporo Japan and most people do not need a car because the public transport is so good. The subway system and JR (Japan Rail) are always on time and regular. The bus system is a little more complicated as a lot of buses only have Japanese so it is better to familiarize yourself with the area before you start using the public buses.
Owning a car in Japan can be very expensive as you have to pay a lot of fees. If I want to drive it’s much cheaper to rent a car for a couple of days. Non-Japanese can drive in Japan with an International License, obtained from their home country for a period of up to one year.
If are from the UK (like me) and other European countries, it is very easy to get a Japanese drivers license. If not, then you would have to take a written and driving test, all in Japanese.
Obviously being able to speak Japanese is a great bonus and I highly encourage those to study if you want to enjoy living in Sapporo Japan. Unlike the big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, where Japanese is not needed, most Japanese people in Sapporo do not speak English. Therefore I think basic Japanese conversation is essential in Sapporo for you to have any kind of happy life here.
Unfortunately, unless you can read and write Japanese very well (minimum JLPT 2) it will be very difficult for you to get a job other than teaching English. As a result, most native English speakers that come to Sapporo Japan teach English. Check out this link to find out how to teach english in Japan. There are many Eikaiwas all over Japan ranging from small private companies to large corporate firms, so these are probably the easiest to get into as they are always hiring and the turnover tends to be high.
Teaching at elementary, junior high and high schools is also another option. The schedule is usually 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday and you get all the holidays during the year, paid. To work at these schools some basic level of Japanese is usually required. To get into these much sought after positions can be very difficult
Teaching at Universities is probably the most lucrative and the most difficult job to get in Japan. However, to work at a University a Masters Degree in a teaching discipline is required and a competent level of Japanese. There are other jobs that you can do besides teaching English, such as recruitment or overseas customer reservations but there are few in Sapporo Japan, so your best bet is to go to a larger city like Tokyo.
Alternatively if you can speak, read and write Japanese to a high level you can work for a Japanese company and become a salary man or an office worker.
Filing a tax return in Japan is compulsory if you are self employed in Japan. If you are employed full-time then there is nothing for you to do as your company will file your tax return for you. However, if you are working part-time at various companies, or you have some side jobs or some extra work, then you must file a tax return every year. There is a benefit to filing a tax return in that you may get money back from having paid too much tax. This could be in the form of "company expenses". Follow this guide which explains very simply how to file a tax return in Japan.
Getting a flat or an apartment can be a real pain in Sapporo, especially if you don’t understand Japanese. Pretty much all of the rental agencies do not have anything in English, so you will have to take a Japanese person with you to translate.
It is also very expensive when moving into a place. You will usually have to pay about two months rent up front, a deposit, an agency fee, insurance fees, management fees, key money fee and some other costs. All in all you will need about 200,000 yen to move into an apartment with a monthly rent of about 45,000 yen.
When you first arrive in Sapporo Japan, it is advised you find some cheap accommodation for the first couple of weeks to a month as usually you will not be able to move into your new apartment straight away.
The apartments are very small compared to western standards and a basic apartment for a single person consists of a studio room that doubles up as a bedroom and living room, a tiny kitchen, tiny bathroom and toilet.
If you are applying for a job in your own country then the company should have organized the accommodation for you, which means you won’t need to worry about anything. Your company will take care of everything, from furniture to contracts to setting up bank accounts for transfering money.