The pension system, inheritance taxes and health care in one’s declining years may not exactly be the stuff of scintillating dinner party conversation, but nevertheless, they are topics on which you’ll want to brush up if you’re contemplating staying in Japan for the long haul. Journalist Wilhelmina Penn has called Japan home since 1973, and in this one slim volume she has collected a treasure trove of useful information that readers will want to dip into again and again.

The Expat’s Guide to Growing Old in Japan: What You Need to Know, by Wm. Penn
127 pages

To their credit, Japanese government agencies have recently been stepping up their efforts to make more information available in English for the international population, but it is frequently hard to navigate and often ambiguous in nature. Going to see an agency in person can be just as frustrating, when answers can vary depending on whom you happen to speak with that day. Penn takes the guesswork out of things with her clear and concise explanations, laced with subtle twists of humor in just the right measure.

And just in case you’re thinking that the “growing old” part of the book’s title doesn’t yet apply to you, Penn says, “Actually, the ideal audience for this information is probably not those of us on the far side of 60 but those in their 40s and 50s who still have time to adjust their plans to the approaching reality of growing old in Japan.”

Whether it was finding your life partner or dream job that kept you here or more a case of “just haven’t got round to leaving yet,” if retirement is now closer than your college graduation, you probably need this book.

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