Tokyo Factsheet


Introduction to Tokyo

Over 126 million people live in Japan, and the population is largely homogenous: 99.4 percent of the population is of Japanese descent. The Japanese economy is one of the strongest in the world. Only the USA has a higher GNP.

Tokyo is Japan's capital and the country's largest city. Tokyo is also one of Japan's 47 prefectures, albeit that it is referred to as a metropolis, and consists of 23 city wards, 26 cities, 5 towns and 8 villages, including the Izu and Ogasawara Islands, and several small Pacific Islands in the south of Japan's main island Honshu.

The 23 city wards comprise the centre of Tokyo and make up about one third of the metropolis' area, while housing roughly eight of Tokyo's approximately twelve million residents.

Fact File:

• Japan has 14 public holidays.

• Table etiquette: Westerners will be forgiven most social faux pas’ with the exception of standing chopsticks upright in rice bowls and passing food from one set of chopsticks to another as these relate to Japanese funeral rites.

• No tipping: This causes embarrassment and is not expected by waiters, bell boys and taxi drivers.

• Manners: Constant eye contact is considered rude; Speaking loudly is aggressive; Physical contact is likely to cause embarrassment.

The Legal Market

Japan's legal market has undergone significant transition over the past few. Until recently, co-operation between foreign and local lawyers was possible, but only using special joint venture structures. Legislation in 2005 now permits foreign lawyers to form integrated partnerships with their Japanese counterparts (bengoshi), thereby allowing firms to seamlessly provide both international and local law advice.

Having said this, the benefits of integrated partnerships are at present somewhat limited. Bengoshi are not permitted to join the partnerships of their counterpart international firm. And Japanese legal advice can only be given in the name of individual bengoshi, and not in the name of the firm.

In the Japanese (local) legal market, less emphasis is placed on specialisation; there is consequently far more scope (and demand) for generalists. International firms however retain their traditional practice area split.

Work in the Tokyo legal market involves a mix of outward, inward and domestic work. The outward work, which remains the domain of the US and UK law firms, could include, for example, advising Japanese banks on lending to fund acquisitions, projects etc anywhere in the world and particularly in emerging markets. The transaction is usually governed by US or UK law. Although the work handled can involve jurisdictions as far and wide as Asia, the Middle East, South America and the USA, lawyers do not tend to travel with their work as much as they would in other Asian centres such as Singapore.

Money Matters

Generally salaries for lawyers in Tokyo are amongst the highest in the world. Even relative to the cost of living in Tokyo (see below), it is possible to be remunerated generously.

UK firms tend to structure their salary packages in different ways. Some firms offer an ‘ex-pat’ package where salaries are linked to the lawyers’ level of qualification in London with a significant additional cost of living allowance. Other benefits typically offered include airfares home, health care, gym membership and sometimes even tax advice prior to relocating. Some firms will even allow their lawyers to nominate periodically whether they are paid in sterling or Yen – thereby allowing their lawyers to benefit from any variations in exchange rates.

US firms, on the other hand, will tend to offer a lump-sum salary which will be higher than that on offer from the UK firms, but there will be no other benefits on offer. Certain US firms, however, will give New York rates plus uplift, plus accommodation. Salaries and packages are firm specific rather than location specific.

Accommodation allowances are usually paid gross, which carries with it tax saving advantages. The allowance varies according to personal circumstances. Bonuses also often feature in the packages offered by some of the firms in line with the US and UK offices.

Japan has a progressive income tax system, made up of national, prefectural and municipal taxes. Employees are taxed between approximately 15% and 40% of their income in total contributions. For more information visit:

Tokyo is known for the high cost of accommodation. Real estate companies, which specifically target Tokyo’s foreign community, offer private and shared apartments for conditions that are much more suitable to the needs of foreigners, and often have staff trained in foreign languages.

For example, they offer rental contracts for much shorter time periods and lower and fewer initial fees than conventional companies. In addition, their apartments are often already furnished, and the cost for utilities may be included in the monthly rent.

The following ‘shopping basket’ gives an indication of the cost of living, on a daily basis:

· One-litre bottle of mineral water: ¥200

· 33cl bottle of beer: ¥200

· Financial Times newspaper: ¥600

· 36-exposure colour film: ¥500

· City-centre bus ticket: ¥200

· Adult football ticket: ¥4000

· Three-course meal with wine/beer: From ¥3500

Red Tape

Whether or not a visa is necessary in order to enter Japan varies by nationality. For particular details, contact your nearest Japanese diplomatic mission directly.

Please note that the visa itself does not guarantee permission to enter (visit) Japan but is only one of the requirements in obtaining an application for entering Japanese territory from the airport or seaport upon your arrival.

After Work

Living in Tokyo offers everything the professional ex-pat could wish for, and perhaps more. In contrast to many other Asian countries, English is not widely spoken, and signs are often not translated into English. For any kind of extended stay, developing some Japanese language ability, however basic, is a necessity.

Outside of work, Tokyo is a fascinating city of contrasts where neon lights, modern buildings and an atmosphere of energy and drive sit comfortably with a strong Japanese culture, with its formality and politeness. To the uninitiated it is perceived as a hectic, impersonal and perhaps even alien city. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the ultimate twenty first century city with a super efficient public transport system and a high degree of personal safety. Conversely, it has retained much of its ancient Japanese community spirit. Tokyo’s people have great pride in their city and show the ultimate respect to its deep cultural heritage.

For more information, please contact your advising consultant at Garfield Robbins International on +44 (0)845 671 0199.

Garfield Robbins International

30 Farringdon Street

London EC4A 4EA

T +44 (0)845 671 0199

F +44 (0)845 671 0180


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