What is Kokumin Nenkin? Do I have to pay for it?

Have you ever heard of “Kokumin Nenkin”? 

“Kokumin” means “nation”, “Nenkin” means ”pension” and “Kokumin Nenkin” is the Japanese National Pension System.

【What is Kokumin Nenkin?】

The National Pension system, Kokumin Nenkin, is one of Japan’s national social security systems, created based on the concept that all people support each other for when we become old, have a disability due to an accident or illness, or the bread winner of our family passes away.

Based on this concept, regardless of their nationality, all Japanese residents between the ages of 20 and 59 must be part of it and pay the premiums as required by law.

In that case, what are the benefits of the system and when can we receive the pension? There are three types of pensions.

1) Old-age Basic Pension

Old-age Basic Pension is for the elderly, which can be received by those who have been working and have reached retirement age.

2) Disability Basic Pension

Disability Basic Pension can be received by those who have been classified as disability Grade 1 or Grade 2 due to injury or illness.

3) Survivors’ Basic Pension

Survivors’ Basic Pension can be received by the dependent spouse who is caring for minor child(ren) or their dependent minor child(ren) when a person who is covered by the National Pension system passes away.

For more details, please visit the links below.


【Pamphlets in Various Languages】

The Japan Pension Service also provides pamphlets in Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Indonesian, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese, Myanmar, Cambodian, Russian, Nepali, and Mongolian.

Please click the button of the language you would like to read from the section ‘Pamphlets in Various Languages’ in the link or the QR code below.


【If it is Difficult to Pay the Premiums】

But…you might be thinking, “What? I don’t have Japanese citizenship. I just live in Japan! Do I still have to pay for it? ”.

Unfortunately, the answer is Yes.

“Yes!? How much is it…?”

The answer is about 16,000 yen per month.

Did you think, “What!? I can’t afford that much…!?”

Don’t worry!

If it is difficult for you to pay the premiums, you may apply for a National Pension Contribution Exemption or Payment Postponement for each year.


Check the flowchart below to see which special provision is available for you.

Please note  “National Pension Contribution Special Payment System for Students” is not an exemption, but a deferment. You can postpone the payment period. For more details, please refer to the link below.


Here is the link to the Application for National Pension Contribution Exemption/Payment Postponement in 15 languages.


【Difference between Exemption and Postponement】

  • EXEMPTION:  You don’t have to pay the premiums for a certain period of time. The amount of the exemption depends on your income, and it can be full (no payment required), three-fourths, half, or one-fourth of the regular premium amount.

    For your reference, according to the Minoh city website for the year 2023, the amount of the full amount to be exempted is: if you live alone and have no family in Japan, and your income for the previous year was 530,000 yen or less, you will be exempted from the full amount.
  • POSTPONEMENT: You can postpone the payment of premiums. You still have to pay them, but at a later date.

Any applications and consultations regarding the Japan National Pension system are available at the city office or pension office where you live.

You can find the nearest pension office from here.


If you have received some documents like these from The Japan Pension Service, bring them and your residence card with you when visiting them.

If you have a Japanese “My Number Card”, you can proceed with the procedures online, though the site is available only in Japanese.


【Benefits for Non-Permanent Resident 】

You might think, “I will go back to my home country in several years. I don’t want to proceed with such a troublesome procedure.”

No, no. Even if you plan to go back to your home country after completing your studies or work, there are benefits to properly applying for the exemption or postponement.

1) Receiving a Basic Disability Pension

If you get an unexpected accident or illness and it causes a disability as specified as a Grade 1 or Grade 2, you will receive a basic disability pension, which provides financial support.

2) International Social Security Agreement

There is cooperation with some countries and the pension enrollment history in Japan is transferred to the pension system in your home country. 

For more details, please refer to the link below and also contact the institution for the pension system in your home country as laws are frequently changed or added.


【After Going Back to your Home Country】

Those who have paid the premiums can claim a “Lump-sum Withdrawal Payment” within two years from the date on which the applicant no longer has a domicile in Japan. Additionally, you might also get some money back that will be calculated based on the duration and the amount of the premiums you have paid.

For more details, please refer to the link below.


You can find the application form from the link below and it is available in 14 languages.


【Don’t throw away the documents】

In any case, please don’t throw away the documents for the pension system, and bring them with you if you return and live in Japan again in the future. It is because you will be required to join the system with the same pension number.

【Consultations with Interpretation Service】

Last but not least, the Japan Pension Service provides consultations with interpretation services in 10 languages on the phone.

You can find their contact information from the link below.


In the end

I work for a center for international students at a university as a clerk. I wrote this article because our students often ask us, “Do I have to pay for Kokumin Nenkin??” and some of them are scared to hear the amount of the premium. I hope this article will be of some help to people from abroad.

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