There comes a time in every Japan lover’s life when they find themselves considering the inevitable: Should I live in Japan? After that comes an even more inevitable question: Is Japan really that great?

It’s something that’s crossed my mind before and has even become a reality for many of my good friends from college.

To help anyone else who has been thinking about packing up and moving to the Land of the Rising Sun, I’ve put together this helpful list. I talked to some of my friends currently living in Japan to get their opinions, put it together with what I learned from being in Japan for 10 weeks, and compiled it all into this post. Hopefully you find it useful and informative.

PRO #1: The Shopping and Convenience Stores

Convenience stores in Japan are awesome. You can find almost anything there, and they’re always clean, well serviced, and safe. Compared to the average American convenience store it’s like night and day. Their shopping centers are pretty awesome too, but I suppose this can be said about most modern nations. To learn more, you can check out Hashi’s post on how Convenience Stores In Japan are Surprisingly Convenient.

CON #1: No Individualism

is japan really that greatTo some, this may be viewed as either a pro or a con (some people like group mentality way more than others), but for the average American/Westerner, the strict group mentality of Japan can be a bit jarring. Everyone has to be involved in business decisions and meetings can take forever as a result with people feeling like nothing is getting done.

This is kind of a broad generalization though, but I would say on the whole, Japan is much more group minded than the average Western nation. But like I said, some people really enjoy this sense of community that comes with the group mentality. For more about Japan and this issue, you can check out Hashi’s post on The Nail That Sticks Up.

PRO #2: The Food

is japan really that greatJapanese food is great. It’s healthy, tastes great, and is fun to eat. They have everything from sushi, to okonomiyaki, to fugu. Compared to an average American diet, the average Japanese diet is much healthier. It’s definitely a large part of Why Japanese People Live so Long. For more about Japan and its crazy healthy diets, you can check out Koichi’s series of posts on How To Eat Like A Japanese Buddhist Monk.

CON #2: The Food

is japan really that great

Yes, for some people Japanese food is not a pro, but a con. Seafood and rice is not for everyone, and if you can’t handle it then you’re not going to be quite as happy living in Japan. Sure, you can find other stuff, I mean, Japan has a pretty awesome selection of fast food joints, but it’s definitely not going to be like home. Some things are even pretty hard to find in Japan, such as root beer.

Since Japan is an island nation, seafood is going to be the cheapest and most readily available food, with imported goods being a bit less accessible and a bit more expensive. For a look at some of the Japanese dishes very few would enjoy, you can check out Fiona’s post on her Selection of Wonderfully Weird Japanese Foods.

PRO #3: Improving Your Japanese

is japan really that greatOkay, so maybe this one is kind of obvious. Of course if you go to Japan and totally immerse yourself in the language and culture and society and everything, your language skills are going to benefit much more than if you were back at home in your native land. But maybe this is the main reason you’re moving to Japan, so you can get better at the language.

In Japan you’ll find no shortage of people willing to talk to you and some will probably be interested in practicing their English skills with you. And for those of you who lack the means to travel to Japan for study, you can check out my guide on How to Learn Japanese Without Really Doing Anything.

CON #3: Less than Ideal Living Quarters

is japan really that greatOf course this one depends on what area of Japan you find yourself living in, but on the whole, Japanese housing is going to be a bit smaller and a bit less cushy than what you’re used to. Out in more rural areas, you might get lucky and find a place of decent size, but most often you’ll be housed in a place a good bit smaller than what you’re used to.

Also, central air and heating are a bit less common over there than they might be in places like America, so that’s another little annoyance to keep in mind as well. For more on this, you can check out Hashi’s posts on whether or not Japanese Houses are Worthless, and how Japan Keeps Warm in the Winter.

PRO #4: Getting a Job

is japan really that greatProbably the easiest way to get yourself over to Japan is by getting yourself a teaching job there. Luckily, there always seems to be an abundance of positions available, because Japan always wants to learn more English. For some people, the job market isn’t so hot in their home country, so getting a teaching job in Japan can seem like an attractive option. This is what many of my college friends ended up doing after graduation. You get living quarters provided for you, and you get a steady job and a paycheck. For more about how to land such a teaching job, you can check out Koichi’s post on Applying for the JET Program with Jason and his Argonauts.

CON #4: Working in Japan Can Suck

So, yeah – they give you a teaching job, but it’s not always ideal. Take a look and some quotes from my friends who are currently living and teaching there now.

I think people work too hard here. People stay at work for upwards of 15 hours every day. Before moving here I thought I would eventually want to work in the business world here, but now I’m not so sure anymore. People have no time to see their families and it’s not weird for kids to almost never see their own father.

Yes, the work hours can be pretty harsh – even for a teacher. Of course it depends on where you’re working and what program it is with, but overall I’d say that the work life is much more stressful over there than your typical Western country.

It’s ridiculous that people show up 15 minutes early and stay 90 minutes late every day. It’s expected that if you are sick, you use a vacation day rather than a sick day. And to be hire-able at your next job you need to show that you’ve used as few vacation days as possible.

It’s also not too rare for people to have to take weeks or months off of work due to “mental illness” but it’s actually because they are so #$!%*&@ overworked and stressed out.

When my grandma died, my supervisors expected that I would follow the same rules as everybody else. You get one or two days off work for grieving and travel to the funeral, any other time is to be vacation time. So I had to pull out my contract and remind them that they agreed to give me a week in such an event. So yeah, moral of the story: Japanese people are overworked and under social pressure not to relax.

This all sounds pretty lousy to me. I mean, my job isn’t very stressful at all, but I still really look forward to my days off and just having time to relax. I can’t imagine living and working in Japan being so stressed out and then being discouraged to take time off. It sounds awful. And for more on the subject, feel free to check out Koichi’s post on how Teaching English in Japan is Total BS.

PRO #5: Public Transport

Compared to American public transport at least, Japanese public transport is unbelievably awesome. In Europe and other countries, it’s probably pretty good as well, but the Japanese have really got it down pat. Their subway and train systems are crazy convenient, accurate, and make getting around the country so much easier. Even their buses are awesome.

When I was in Japan, I never felt like having a car would have made my life more convenient. Having such a integrated system of public transport made getting around very easy and simple and it’s one of the things I miss most. Japan sure does love its trains though. For more about that, you can check out Hashi’s post on Japan’s Love Affair With Trains.

CON #5: Prejudice Against Foreigners

Again, this is one of those cons that depends on the people you’re with and the area in which you find yourself. It also seems to depend on the age of Japanese people you’re around as the younger crowd seems much more tolerant of foreigners. I’ve heard some of my friends talking about how whenever they walk around in Japan, older Japanese folk will click their tongues when they see Americans. Like they are tsk tsk-ing them for showing themselves in public.

Overall, I would say that it’s not too bad, and to an extent probably depends on the person (what you look like, how you dress, and if you’re with Japanese friends when you’re out), but if you’re already finding yourself isolated and not making friends in Japan, people scoffing at you in public will only add to your depression. For more on this, you can check out Japan Focus’ post about Japan’s Entrenched Discrimination Toward Foreigners.

So…Is Japan Really That Great or Not?

And there you have it, some of the best and worst things about living in Japan. I feel as though some of these can only really be experienced when you’re living there on your own, but some can be realized only after a few days of travel there. Japan is a great country and a fun place to visit. But would I ever want to live and work there though? I can’t say. Maybe sometime in the future, but for now, I’m happy where I am.

So tell me, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about Japan and how they do things there? Have you ever lived in Japan before? Ever had any first hand experiences with any of the issues listed above? Any interesting stories to share? Let us know in the comments!

  • kuyaChristian

    The first thing I saw was Girls’ Generation [omg SNSD!!]. Though they’re Korean, to know they do promotions quite a lot in Japan…I’m sold. I’m going to Japan :P

  • Stephen Thomas Garr

    I would like to visit and maybe live there, ofcourse I would have to find a job that didn’t blow/ work from home.

  • Dimitri Bouniol

    Another con, which will probably keep me from ever living there (though I would visit as much as a traveler’s visa allows!) is inflexible administrations, probably deeply related to individualism that you brought up above.

    Also, I find small living quarters a plus, not a con :P

  • Kering

    Thank you great article… !!!

  • Mashimaro

    All those cons, worth the pros! I was in Japan for 2 months and I already decided I want to live there… It’s just saving up money and getting a job without a degree that ruin my life! Otherwise I’d already been living there lol

  • Tariq Lacy

    I live in West Shinjuku, a district of central Tokyo, and I’m glad you highlighted some really great and disdainful aspects of the country.

    Whether your experience in Japan is ‘good’ or bad depends 39% on your work environment, 33% on your location (inner-city Tokyo, Osaka, out in the boonies, etc.), and 28% on your proficiency in Japanese.

    The work environment means so much because that’s where you’ll be making the majority of your friends (unless you meet up with interest groups in your free time); the location is vital because no one wants to travel far to get together, or make up an excuse to take their last train at around 10:30pm when everyone else is in the midst of an intense night out (the case for those who live south of Yokohama who need to leave from Nakameguro, etc.); proficiency in Japanese means more than I originally anticipated. I began to realize this when my friends began to complain about the shallow conversations they were experiencing with their Japanese counterparts. The truth is that you’ve got to get your friends a little intoxicated (the art of nommunication) before most of the thoughts in their heads begin to flow out of their mouth. It’s a disconcerting truth (slightly for some) that I suggest you get used to.

    I just made up those numbers, but I hope they give you an idea of what to focus on and consider before you make the trek out here. One more point to make is that this place is far easier for an atheist to live than for those of a religious background (especially for those who still actively practice their faith).

  • Alexa VanDemark

    I went for a study trip for ten days a few summers ago in Osaka, with 31 other very-American-looking Americans. We were all studying Japanese, and were fluent to the point of being able to hold a conversation. My friend and I went to a mall the day after we got there to look around and this younger couple, probably in their twenties, walked up to us while we were looking at some yukata and said in English, “Can we help you?” I smiled and said “No thank you” without thinking about it, but as my friend and I walked away, I realized they were probably making fun of us, for being American. (C’mon, we Americans are touristy! We go to foreign nations without knowing the language!) I don’t know if this is a common thing or if we just got some bad luck, but it’s something I definitely remember with an ill feeling whenever I think about how I could be seen when I go there to study abroad.

  • Mescale

    I’d like to hear view points of different types of gaijin living in Japan, often the points of view are from Americans, which is nice, but culturally quite different from other countries.

  • Tariq Lacy

    Naw, you weren’t being made fun of — it’s likely they genuinely wanted to help you, especially if it’s a couple. Learn how to brush that sort of thing off, or you’ll be paranoid every time you come over here.

  • Tariq Lacy

    If the foreign person doesn’t speak English, then they are definitely working either a manual labor job, or if they are lucky, working as a nurse or a retail sales rep. This being an English news site, I’d say your only remaining choices are those from the UK, Singapore, Canada and Australia (mostly).

  • Mescale

    I believe there is at least one German person who lives in Japan and speaks English and posts comments on Tofugu.

    The reason I ask is what an American expects will be different to what other nationalities expect.

    For instance with apartment size, in the UK or France in metropolitan areas, especially capitals, apartments are expensive and small.

    For instance when I lived in France, in a suburb of Paris, I had a 26 square meter apartment for 520 euros a month, which was an very good size / price, for that kind of size it would usually be more like 700 euros. Move in towards Paris and you’d be looking at thousands of Euros per month.

    I’ve heard Americans saying that apartments in the UK are small as well, so without knowing what constitutes small or big or whatever by an American I can’t really be guided by their expectations.

  • Tariq Lacy

    Good luck with that — especially because, in the case of apartments, they aren’t measured in square meters or feet; they are measured in tatami mat spaces, even if the rooms are western style. Note: 1 tatami mat is 85.5cm wide and 179cm in length (about 33.5 by 70.5 inches) = 1.53 meters.

  • Mescale

    Why good luck?

    I don’t understand what you are saying. Good luck in getting an answer? Good luck in getting an apartment that size for the money…?

    A tatami mat is still an area, so its about 1.5 square meters.

    So how many tatami mats is a typical apartment and how many yens do they go for?

  • Musouka

    Great article. Under CON #2, I think it should be mentioned that vegans (and to some degrees vegetarians) would find it hard to manage.

    I would also say that dealing with garbage should be listed as a major con.

    And while buses are awesome, I initially got confused when I went to Tokyo after using the ones in Kansai for more than a week. I guess that’s something you would get used to in the area you live, though.

  • Orphe

    They are Korean. But, most of Kpop stars extend their market to Japan since they are able to sing in Japanese with little effort.

  • Ines Tsukiyomi

    It is REEEEAALLY hard find trash cans/bins anywhere O.o and when u’re at public restroom they don’t have handpaper O.O only those dryer thingies…
    Also, u can’t eat while walking o.o strange…
    But I love Japan and japanese, so helpful and kind ^^ they cheer up when I say I’m from Finland lol
    I do wanna try living there someday :3

  • Guest

    I can understand a little bit them being against foreigners.

  • Shaun Krislock

    Another nicely laid out Tofugu article, thanks John. I’d like to add a few Pros and Cons from my experience:

    Pro: Baths. I miss being able to soak in my Japanese bath every day, sitting more upright with only my head sticking out of the water. And that post-bath beer…. ummmmm doesn’t get much better than that.

    Con: HOT HUMID SUMMER. It’s enough to make a Canadian boy from Alberta melt. 38 degrees with 95% humidity? The walk to the subway station was pretty long and sweaty on those days. +1 for Hokkaido though, as I hear it’s much nicer up there.

    Pro: Since you already covered the food, I won’t mention Mos Burger here, so let’s go with this one: Safety. Sure, there are some cracks in the armour here and there, but overall you don’t have to be watching your back when you’re out and about.

    Con: This speaks to how much better your experience is as your language skill improves, but even after a few years I still struggled with this one: not knowing what the heck is going on around you. I had no idea what was going on politically or socially when I was there, and then within groups there is a lot of non-verbal and social-norm sort of communication that goes on that you just don’t *get* for a while. I think this is a great example of “the more you put into it, the more you get out of it”.

  • Anna Yulin

    I can understand a little bit their ‘hate’ towards foreigners. I always thought Japanese were strange, weird and cool all together, but after watching some Japanese TV shows it just struck me how different their culture is from everyone else. That what makes me wary about living there. I wouldn’t know how to act in the simplest scenarios. Maybe it just comes with the time.
    But I WILL go travel there at least for couple months :)

    Thank you for the article!!!

  • Jonas

    I have to say that I disagree with some of the cons here. I agree on your point about individualism, but indeed it’s a generalization, and one that I don’t personally notice very often.

    I highly disagree on the food being a con. I find Japan to be one of the best countries for foreign cuisine, the problem is that most foreigners don’t look in the right places. My tip would be to get off the main street and look up. A lot (most in fact) of the good restaurants are not located on the bottom floor like they tend to be in western countries. It might be a bit scary at first, but you’ll get used to it. Another tip would be to go to places like Shimokitazawa and Koenji, those places are crowded with interesting restaurants, cafes and bars run by young and worldly Japanese people who are more than happy to talk with foreigners such as myself.

    I have, sometimes, had trouble finding the right ingredients when I cook on my own however…

    But enough about food. Living quarters, a con? For some maybe. But again, this also has a lot to do with most people not knowing where to look. My recommendation here would be to not be afraid of sharing. Japan (in and around Tokyo especially) has some of the most amazing shared houses and apartments, and I’m not talking about Sakura House, Oak House or any of those famous ones, those are complete and utter crap. Instead of paying 100,000 yen for a small but decent studio apartment, pay 60-90,000 yen for a private room in a shared house. You get a lot more for your money if you do that. Last time I paid around 60,000 and for that I could live in a place with a big and great kitchen, living room with a big lcd tv with tv games and sound system, a play room with a pool table, darts etc., a small gym, smoking rooms, clean showers and so on and so on. The big plus about these places is that Japanese people choose to live there themselves, I’d say 70-80% of the people living there are Japanese. And they don’t choose it because it’s cheap, they could just as well get their own place, but they do it because it’s a great deal and it’s a lot more fun than living alone.

    Prejudice against foreigners is nothing I’ve experienced myself, but I guess most people don’t really have any opinions about Swedish people… which I find being both sad and awesome :P

    I think I should probably stop there… damn that’s a long comment!

  • Jonas

    I’m not sure what age you think we’re living in. Nowadays the estate agencies in and around the big cities of Japan measure apartments in square meters. I don’t think any of my Japanese friends or girlfriend would be able to answer how big their apartments are in tatami.

  • Maryam Alshatti

    hello, firs of all thamk you very much for the useful info. my name is Maryam. from Kuwait. right now i’m studying japanese in Kuwait universty as non craded course. but i really want to study more and leaarn more about japanese cultcure. and after improving my japanese i’ll go and study there. this info it help me alot. thanx ^^

  • Jonas

    My girlfriend pays about 950 euros for a 26 square meter apartment roughly 6 minutes from the center of Shinjuku. But that’s a bit more than you have to pay, she opts to pay a bit more for higher security. There’s plenty of cheaper options available.

    Hope that helps.

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    Good luck in finding out why your being wished good luck!

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    Even if the summers are much hotter than ours, I think it evens out, since they have the better sounding cicadas.

    …What do you mean, misplaced priorities?

  • John

    Yeah, I agree – a lot of this is personal preference and pretty sweeping generalizations. Much of it depends on location and people and all that. And thanks for the comment! I’m really enjoying the feedback and discussions that are happening in the comments here. They add that much more to those thinking about living in Japan so I really appreciate your input!

  • John

    I TOTALLY forgot about the lack of trash cans when out in Japan! Haha, thanks for reminding me – yeah that really bugged me when I was over there.

  • Jeremy

    My wife (shorter than the average woman in the US) says the best part of living in Japan is that she can reach the top shelf at the stores.

  • Tora.Silver

    That area under Pro #5 looks beautiful. Where is that from?

  • milos81

    Great post, John. Very informative.

  • kathryn

    Discrimination against foreigners goes a lot further than old people tsking. If you want to live in Japan long-term, you face discrimination when trying to find housing and things like that. One of the hardest parts of living in Japan for me was the condensation. No matter how long you live there, you are always treated like you are just off the plane.

    Japan is a very racist and sexist society. Anyone who lives there and says they haven’t experienced that, is fooling themselves or justifying behaviour in the Japanese that they wouldn’t at home.

    Teaching English is an ok job if you are just out of uni but they pay is around $3000 a month. Not that great really. Plus, unless you are very lucky, there is no career path. Experience doesn’t count for much and so after a few years you are still on the bottom rung of the ladder.

  • ZXNova

    No use dwelling on the negative. Might as well be happy where you’re at, and focus on the positive.

  • John

    Tokyo, I believe – not sure which area though.


    Even the “weird” food is delicious! After all this site is partially named after one of those “weird” foods.

  • R. Ali

    hmmm… what we all need to do is pool our money and start a school and/or a restaurant over there… that way we have employment and get to set our own hours. :p 9 to 5 FTW! ^_^

  • Tanner M Colvin

    In regards to unabashed discrimination I thankfully had very few nasty experiences while I was abroad. It really does vary by age. Though I had only two problems regarding discrimination, both were exclusively with the middle-age corporate salarymen. One of these encounters involved simply passing a guy on my bike on the sidewalk and he completely flipped out. Telling me that I couldn’t ride on the sidewalk in the least subtle way possible. What made it even more hilarious was how another Japanese guy was riding his bike down the sidewalk in the opposite direction.

    It’s obviously different for everybody, but I only ran into problems with the older male working class demographic. I guess after being worked like a dog all day they just take their crap out on everyone around them and the easiest targets happen to be foreigners.

  • foozlesprite

    If you’re interested in more pros and cons of living in Japan, Google up “1000 things about Japan”. It’s an ongoing blog run by a woman who lived in Japan for many years, and has some interesting stuff to say–I’ve learned a lot about different aspects of Japanese culture by following 1000 Things.

    Obviously, with 1000 things, some will be trivial, and everybody’s opinions differ, but it’s interesting nonetheless :)

  • Jordy Meow • Totoro Times

    Not a word about earthquakes and natural disaster? Really?

    I lived in Japan for almost 5 years, and experienced the 2011’s earthquake (luckily not the tsunami) from the 42th floor of a tower located in central Tokyo. Knowing that this was a relatively “small” earthquake for Tokyo, everyday I think about the long-awaited big one that will be way more powerful and destructive. Everyday I look at the paintings hanged-up on the wall in my company and they’re swaying constantly. I know that it is not because there is an earthquake, but after what happened you pay this attention to all the details around you. Of course, you can share your worries with your colleagues but they would reply things like: “well, we have to die of something”, “that’s life”, “at least we’ll all die together”, etc… reassuring? ;)

    This is the biggest and #1 con for me. I love Japan, and I also love the company I work for, unfortunately the package comes with constant fear. Of course, I am still a special case, working in a very tall tower + in Tokyo, after having experienced a big earthquake.

    Another con is, once you lived here, life anywhere else seems to be SO HARD. Japan is so convenient and “friendly” that it makes you wonder how you could go back home someday. Along with the previous con, you can imagine the struggle it is :)

    Last con but not the least, the prices (transportation, food in the supermarket), accessibility of sports centers (except if you are going to the odd-looking and cheap community sport center, all the others are crazily expensive), and the huge traffic jams.

    I will not talk about the pros because there are way too many and they are overwhelming, but let’s say that: they beat the fact that I am afraid (stupid thought but still a thought) of losing my own life! ;)

  • Cheeses

    Why? Japan is one of the few Asian countries to never have been colonized – and in fact, they colonized a large chunk of Asia. If you mean, “They should be against foreigners because they know full well that many Asians have very real grudges to hold against them,” then, yes. They ought to be wary of foreigners. But, to be perfectly honest, in the context of global history, Japan has had a really, really easy time interacting with foreign powers – again, never colonized. Are you referring to the A-bomb? The A-bomb that was dropped in order to end the war that Japan started?

    No, their binary racism (divide the entire world up into “Japan” and “foreign”) is honestly and frankly unacceptable in the 21st century. Japanese racism is, frankly, absurd and laughable.

    Let me give you an example: many Japanese people will say, “Japanese people do not commit crimes. 90% of the crime in Japan is committed by non-Japanese people, mostly Japanese-born Koreans.”

    Hm, so all the crime in Japan is done by Koreans? Let’s look at that: Japan invaded and colonized Korea and forced many Koreans to come work in Japanese factories in slave labor conditions during the war. And now they want to blame all their problems on Koreans? The people that they invaded, oppressed and even tried to wipe off the face of the planet?

    Yes, that makes perfect sense. “We invaded their home, and then forced them to work in Japan, but they are totally the cause of all of OUR problems, not the other way around.”

    Say whatever else you want about Japan – I absolutely love this country – but their racism is some of the stupidest, most hypocritical bullshit I have ever seen.

  • SusiePlummer

    A lot of the comments on here seem to be coming from people who have only lived in Tokyo, and I think it’s important to remember how different the experience there will be to the rest of the country. I’m living about 20 minutes outside of Sendai, so not exactly in the sticks, but the experience here is completely different to ones outlined by Tokyo based commenters below.

    Prejudice, access to foreign food (both restaurants and ingredients), meeting people (Japanese and foreign) who speak some English, public transport (yes it’s always on time and very clean but it doesn’t go to a lot of more rural places) and finding accommodation are all much much more challenging here than in Tokyo. I’m not saying that there are more cons than pros at all, but living in Tokyo (like most capital cities) is a totally different experience to the rest of the county.

  • SusiePlummer

    All good and interesting points, but only relevant to living in Tokyo (and maybe Osaka/Kyoto). Outside of those cities, there aren’t the worldly areas you talk about, or the genuine foreign restaurants, no matter where you look (obviously the occasional isolated one but not many). There also aren’t really shared houses, or certainly not ones that a foreigner would ever be allowed in (except perhaps a few that are solely for students). Prejudice is also something that is very very obvious outside Tokyo, and I don’t think actual nationality makes a difference, most people here would assume straight away that anyone Western looking was American.
    I’m not saying that all your points aren’t really good ones, just that they don’t apply to the whole of Japan.

  • SusiePlummer

    I’m from England and there are definitely some things that annoy Americans that don’t bother me at all. Smaller apartments is definitely one, it being normal to mostly use public transport is another. Lack of “proper” American and Mexican food is a further one. Overall, Americans generally seem to be less understanding of the fact that other countries are different (sorry, major generalisation there!).
    Also, Japanese people aren’t usually very forthright, they’re more polite and “whatever you want” about it, which really irritates a couple of Americans I know. I definitely think that Japanese are more similar to Europeans than Americans in their demeanour.
    PS – Following on from discussion below, all the apartments I’ve seen advertised are shown both in tatami mat size and meters squared.

  • zoomingjapan

    While I agree on most points, this post is definitely cutting it too short.
    I think everybody who has lived in Japan for some years would agree.

    All I can do is recommend that people go to Japan for a short time and see and experience it for themselves rather than trusting any books or blogs.
    I’ve seen so many people here that couldn’t “handle” Japan after the honeymoon phase was over and they left, some of them hating Japan at that point.

    There are many good things, but also many bad things in this country – just like anywhere else.
    You gotta find out if you can live with the bad ones or not.

  • zoomingjapan

    Somebody called me?? ^___^;; …

    Yeah, I even write a blog series called “A German Alien in Japan”. *g*
    Unfortunately most Japanese will always assume that as a Western foreigner you MUST be from America … when really many of us are not.

  • zoomingjapan

    I agree with @twitter-144209322:disqus
    They didn’t make fun of you! A lot of Japanese people really just want to help OR / AND practice their English. They rarely get the chance to!

  • zoomingjapan

    About the hot and HUMID summer I have to agree, but after my 6th summer in Japan I got used to it. I thought this would NEVER EVER happen, but it did.
    Something else that will bother me forever is all the creepy (and partly dangerous) insects that come along with the heat:

  • John

    Yeah, with only 10 bullet points, this is only skimming the surface. And of course, some things will depend on the individual and where they end up staying.

  • Adele

    I am a Singaporean, been living in Japan for 10 months now. I while many of the above (and below) mentioned cons are true, I think the main thing is getting yourself prepared for adjustment when you do decide to move. Apartments in cities are always going to be different than living in a landed house, coming out to somewhere as unique as Japan is always going to see cultural differences. I found the garbage disposal system a bit confusing initially, but I like that there is an effort to recycle. I like the safety here. I am Asian so most times people here speak to me in Japanese, but I have not felt discrimination for not being able to speak Japanese. Sure, sometimes I do find myself shutting off almost with the language barrier but I think the isolation can’t be helped for any newbie in a foreign land sometimes, one might just feel it more strongly in Japan. Even in frustrating moments, the Japanese people apologize for the language barrier when they really do not have to. Im not too crazy about living in Tokyo, it is like any big city I guess and has its many pros and cons, what I do love about Japan though is the countryside and travel potential for hotsprings, nature and cultural sites like castles.

  • Shoganai

    Unless you marry a Japanese or have some rare higher academic position, you will not be able to stay here. Sure, you could live here for a few years, be an eigo clown with alien status, but there’s really no room to grow your roots into the society. Japan will smile at you warmly, but she’s always nudging you back through the revolving door. It’s this country’s policies which will exclude you, no matter how N1 your Japanese is, or how Japanese your spouse or children are.

    The nature of Japanese work culture is often soul-crushing and inefficient. I’ve never met a Japanese in my entire life who thought the work culture was positive or healthy. People do not try to change the societal stress factors that cause people to use vacation days when they’re sick, or sit at their desk acting like they’re busy just because the boss hasn’t gone home yet. People are resigned to accepting their suffering together, but it’s not because they think their way of life is great. Nor do I think mine is any better, but there’s something to be said when people readily admit their dissatisfaction with some of their own cultural characteristics. To the person who commented that the Japanese are closer to Europeans than Americans, I suppose you’re right. There’s a common saying here, shoganai. Maybe the Friench would call it “c’est la vie.”

  • Tariq Lacy

    I don’t know of one person in my neighborhood, work area, or group of friends who knows the dimensions of their apartment in any unit other than tatami mats. Maybe talking with a real estate agent will be a different experience. Mine is a 1K 10-tatami mat ‘mansion’ with wooden floors. I hear this sort of talk all the time among my neighbors.

  • Tariq Lacy

    ‘Good luck’ finding anyone with an apartment here who can tell you how many square meters their place is off of the top of their head, because I sure can’t! I had to look up the info to tell you the dimensions of a tatami, and I’m sure any Japanese friend of yours would have to do the same (or you could do the work for him/her).

  • Tariq Lacy

    Erika-san, you’re so funny! そんなに分かりづらいか...いい加減にして!

  • r

    con #4 sounds like most of my jobs in Australia.

  • Robert Patrick

    I CAN’T believe you didn’t mention the MOST OBVIOUS things for foreigners :
    1) no trash cans in the street. You eat in the street, good luck with finding where to discard the wrapping.
    2) no benches except in few cities. You’re tired, want to sit somewhere ? Too bad.

    3) the public garbage system is just that… Garbage. The way Japanese deal with their daily garbage is extremely bothersome. Say I finish my pack of milk on Friday morning 9AM. Oh, that’s too bad, I CAN’T put it with the other garbage and have to wait until NEXT Friday 7AM to discard it. Also no solid trash can, just plastic bags ? Great, so I CAN’T put my garbage outside the day before or it will be shredded by crows, and I have to wake at 7AM the next day to put it outside. Where it still may be shredded by crows.

    Welcome to 2012.

  • Robert Patrick

    Oh yeah, for those living in Japan, there is also :

    1) the sound isolation system. Oh, guess what ? There is none ! It’s as cold inside as it is outside AND as noisy !
    2) washing machines that don’t wash because they’re using cold water AND power-downed washing products. You’ve got a stain ? Discard your clothes and buy new ones.

    I love living in Japan, but seriously, they’re retarded. Who gives a damn about walking robots when you can’t have your everyday clothes properly washed ? (unless you spent $2000 on a washing machine that uses hot water).

  • Dan

    It’s in Kanda, near Akihabara, when you’re walking from Kanda Myojin shrine to Ochanomizu station. Pretty cool!

  • Dan
  • Jonas

    You’re right, I was referring to the bigger cities, because that’s where most foreigners tend to choose to live, for multiple reasons. The reason why I did so is because issues such as prejudice against foreigners, lack of foreign restaurants and housing in smaller cities and towns are not issues that are specific to Japan. Those are things you’ll notice in most smaller cities in most countries, so I wouldn’t count it as a reason not to live in Japan.

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    Tsk tsk.

  • hjordisa

    I definitely noticed the bench thing. I think I saw one bench the whole time I was in Japan other than in large parks and it was at the end of a very crowded, popular street. Very bizarre to me.

  • Sbear

    Being in Japan won’t improve your japanese unless you do the effort to learn it. Being in Japan will only force you to learn survival japanese (less than a hundred sentences). Once you’re stuck in the “i can handle myself so it’s ok” loop it’s really hard to get out of it.
    Now about racism in Japan, every day a truckload of tourists come to Japan seemingly for the sole purpose of giving foreigners a bad reputation. Being rude, breaking the rules (even when they are written in english everywhere), considering japanese girls like cheap sluts, not doing the effort to learn the language, … we’re clearly not helped here. Racism is not specific to Japan, i never felt it to be a more racist country than any other country i’ve ever lived in. Yes you have to do more efforts than a native to be liked by your neighbours so what? It would be the same in every country. If you’re a respectable person you will be respected.

  • Tom

    Hope you guys don’t mind a few comments on what I’ve experienced. Obviously, everyone’s situation is different. I’d just like to touch upon some of the cons people listed that I seem to have differing past experiences with:

    * Trash Cans – I never had an issue with this? Whatever was sold at a vending machine had adequate trash cans for that specific item. Whatever was sold at the convenience store had trash cans right out in front. If I happened to buy something strange, I was always able to throw it away at one of the many trash cans in the train station area right before I boarded the train. This was the same in Tokyo as it was in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Yokohama, so keep that in mind. I never truly went out in the boondocks.

    * Discrimination – Honestly, every country has this, and it can be hard to grasp for some people in today’s global and multi-ethnical cultures, especially if you happen to be the majority in the country you currently live in. Granted, it’s true that there’s xenophobia, but a lot of times it’s not as bad as some people make it out to be. Some people mistake kind heartedness and/or curiosity with racism (you can use chopsticks example, speaking to you in English example, mentioning how good your Japanese is example). I hear Korea is worse in this aspect, but I really can’t comment on that. I’m not trying to make light to this aspect, since racism is obviously a big deal and is never a good thing. I just think certain people out there that tend to exaggerate it more than it is and actually spend time trying to overanalyze everything into a racist connotation. Again, I’ve only experienced what it’s like to live in the cities, so I can’t comment on the more rural areas, and I’m sure there’s a much higher amount the farther you get away from the cities.

    * Jobs – Someone mentioned that they’re always trying to push you out of the country when you get a job and you can’t live there long. I’m kinda mixed on that. It’s true that you can only stay for a few years if you don’t have any actual skill that’ll be beneficial to the country, but a lot of that depends on your own personal ambition. Teaching English would be probably the biggest example of this. If you only put enough effort to join JET, then you really have no reason to complain if they tell you to leave the country once your time is finished. If you truly love that job, you should be out there trying to find other ways of acquiring ESL teaching jobs. Universities have a lot of options you can look into. Obviously, this requires some knowhow, meaning you should be fluent in Japanese. For any other job, you need to not only be well qualified but also be fluent in Japanese. Kinda hard to work in the medical field if you can’t read anything since it’s all in Japanese. Same goes with anything computer/IT related, business related and so on.

    * Overwork – This is actually a really serious issue, and you need to stand up for yourself in this regard. Don’t let them try to push you around. If they keep trying to pressure or bully you into things that are not in your contract, start looking for another job. Be willing to quit and move on. I know that’s easier said than done, especially in this economy, but overwork is truly a serious issue that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Interestingly enough, this is something a lot of Japanese people don’t do. They get too comfortable working at one place and never seem to be willing to seek out another one, despite problems at work. Generalization, but I think you get what I’m talking about.

  • Jaysabug

    #1 really depends on where you are. I’m living in a mansion in Kobe and the sound proofing is better than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. It also comes with the utilities of a washer and dryer that do in fact work.

  • FoxiBiri

    I was one of 3 Americans at the language school I attended in Tokyo, and it was a big school, I’d say it had over 500 students! About half the school was either Chinese or Korean, the rest European and the majority of my friends were Swedish. We would be out and about, and college kids doing their english projects would always ask my Swedish friends questions about America as I snickered in the background xD
    My friend was asking an employee at SoftBank what the phone procedure was when he returned to his country, and the employee said, “ア!アメリカ!” to which he replied for probably the millionth time, “ちがう、スエーデン。。。”
    Haha so I know Japan’s stereotype about Americans is totally skewed since many of them might not be able to tell the nationality of one white face from another.
    That’s ok though I guess… but there was this one girl at school that only spoke french. I can immagine how frustrating it is for her when Japanese people assume she speaks english, and I always wondered what the reception is like for westerners born and raised in Japan… たいへん!

  • FoxiBiri

    Yeah it can get pretty uncomfortable hearing “Gaijin” in snippets of other people’s conversations nearly every time you walk outside.
    Most times people weren’t saying anything bad by it, they were just pointing out there was a foreigner, and some times they were saying nice things kehee ^^
    But hey, at least your’e being noticed right… >.>
    In a country where so many people struggle with their identity, and dye their hair various shades of orangish-brown in an attempt to stand out, one can find solace in their gaijiness and the effortless effort of standing out no matter what.
    You have to think of that way… or else your blood will just boil and you’d become like all those bitter cynic bloggers (I’m looking at you “This Japanese Life” guy) who love being miserable.

  • Scott Greenwald

    “Ain’t nuthin’ quite like a big bowl o’ cod sperm.” The Shirako season is here! It actually tastes better than it looks. Something to try if you ever do visit Japan.

  • Scott Greenwald

    And if you’re of a darker complection, then you must be from Brazil :) I am American, but get mistaken for a Brazilian more often than not. Not to mention there are very few other Americans in my town. Most white people around here are Canadian or Australian. But every foreigner speaks English, so they must be American!

  • Kaycee

    I’ve been living in Japan for about 2 months now, and I don’t really have a problem with any of these cons. Granted, I do have a huge advantage that your average person moving to Japan doesn’t – my company pays for my housing and let me live pretty much anywhere I wanted. I live in a nice single family house, that actually has really good heat/AC and a great washer, plus it has an American dryer in it (so no taking hours to dry like Japanese dryers).

    But for the rest… I don’t run into that. So far, I haven’t had people treat me different or poorly for being a gaijin. Most people expect you to know at least a little Japanese though, so if you don’t, you might get treated like an idiot by some. I’ve loved Japanese food for a long time, so no issue for me there. I’m not really into seafood very much, but every time I’ve gone out to eat, I’ve always found alternatives or I’ll just eat the seafood anyway. The trash sorting thing is effort, sure, but as an environmentally conscious person, it’s always irritated me that most trash in the US is just thrown in a landfill, even stuff that could be recycled or reused somehow. I’d rather deal with the Japanese trash sorting any day in comparison.

    I think the only thing that’s going to be a downside for me is the thinner walls that is Japanese construction. It’s not a heating/cooling thing for me, as I mentioned above. It’s entirely a “first-world problem” thing of I love video games, movies, and music. I have a very nice speaker system that I brought over from the states. If I’m watching an action movie like Die Hard, I want the explosions to be loud like they’re supposed to (movie theater type loud). In the US, I always lived in places that it wasn’t a problem. But I probably can no longer play things very loud anymore or I’ll bother my neighbors.

  • Kaycee

    I’ve actually run into a few Japanese bathrooms that also don’t have toilet paper. You just have to get used to carrying around a pack of tissues (they give ’em out for free for advertising all the time) and a mini-towel or handkerchief around to dry your hands. The Japanese do the exact same thing.

  • JAKE

    Let’s not forget about Tim Roger’s rant on how Japan is a vegan-unfriendly country.

  • Habbit

    God, people like you are so annoying. Always trying to get your little jabs in on America, whenever and wherever you can.

    For the record, Europe must be a pretty shitty place to live if the European mindset is to act polite in your face, but secretly hate you and talk about you once you’ve left. At least here, the fakeness and insular xenophobia can be blamed on physical and exterior differences and the language barrier.

    Grow up.

  • Habbit

    The biggest con of all is the disgusting cigarette smokes that invades your lungs wherever you happen to innocently stroll.

  • Habbit

    Japanese men don’t consider Japanese women cheap sluts? Get out of here. Foreigners treat Japanese women with way more respect than any Japanese man.

    One of the few exceptions I’ve noticed is my co-worker I’m closest to… His wife bosses him around, which I quite like, because it lets me know he doesn’t slap or beat her up whenever she messes up.

    As far as racism… You’re white.

  • Habbit

    Absolutely agree. Crime is only crime when committed by a “jingai,” when it’s done by a Japanese person it’s ignored.

  • SusiePlummer

    I never said the American way was worse, and had no intention of insulting America. Your comments about Europe are far more out of the context of the discussion, and inflammatory than any of mine. Mescale asked for a non-American perspective, and I gave one. I explained it was a generalisation, and it is of course just based on my experience.

    Oh, and “for the record”, most of Europe would be pretty confused at you claiming they don’t have a language barrier or “physical and exterior differences” with America. I think you just nicely proved my point that some Americans are unable to realise different countries are different.

  • Habbit

    Oh my bad, I forgot to add “generalization” at the end of my comment… because that would be the non-forthright, vague European way of posting an insult. Stupid, ignorant Americans with our big houses and apartments, ability to drive wherever the hell we want, whenever we want, and access to every single type of food you can think of… why can’t we just get over seeing the lack of these things as inconveniences?

    I’m sure you’d enjoy living in a shack in the middle of Cameroon, no inconvenience at all, since you’re so cultured and understanding, right?

    “Oh,” and for the record, white people look white, and a much greater majority of Europeans supiku Ingurisshu beta fthanu Jupanizu than the reverse. I thought you’d be familiar with the whole generalizing thing.

  • SusiePlummer

    I’d rather live in that shack than next door to someone like you.

    Your comments are proving my generalisations better than I ever could.

  • Habbit

    You act like it would be your decision… wrong. I would stay as far away from abhorrent Japanophiles as I can. Go watch anime or something.

  • Tangentdi

    Habbit… Stop, your making me embarrassed to be an American. Susie the generalization is Justified I think. However, its fair to say that every country has their raff, America just tends to show theirs off. >.< But we're not all bad ;)

  • Edmund Edwards

    from life experience.. if you hated it so much while you were there.. would have quit and left.. why prolong further.. you are fooling yourself being even alive at all.

  • kathryn

    Did I say I hated living in Japan? This article is about the best and WORST things about living in Japan and I mentioned some of the negatives. If you can’t accept that Japan isn’t all cherry blossoms and manga and that you will experience real problems if you live there long term then you are fooling yourself.

  • Wendy

    I must agree that convenience stores are probably my biggest pro about living in Japan. 7-11 and 7-11 owned stores actually have foods not loaded with artificial, fun loving, addictive chemicals. It’s also not loaded with sugars and salts. I don’t feel concerned the hot dog spinning on the rack was there since last week. I also like the fact that I can take my bill in and take care of it on the spot.

    CON: Ever tried canceling dinner reservations and someone tells you that they expect you to pay for the meal still? Restaurants sometimes goes out an buy extra products to serve for your reservation, especially large groups. It doesn’t seem like a reasonable request to still pay without receiving service when 20 people of a group originally reserved for 21 shows up.

    How about trying to negotiate? Let’s say you want a salmon, egg and bagel sandwich instead of bacon and eggs. They have bacon. They have salmon. They have eggs. But the bacon must go with the egg and you may purchase that sandwich. They will put the bacon on the side for you at your request, but you also have to buy a salmon sandwich then rearrange the sandwich to your liking. After watching my friend do that once… yeah, I figure it’s better to leave if they don’t have exactly what I want on the menu.

    I have certain gripes about living in Japan, and there are certain things I will miss when I leave in 2 years. There are many things I won’t miss though, especially legal discrimination against gaijin (a fit would be thrown if it ever came out in public in America that a nice German couple has to pay more rent than advertised, or that the apartment is only available to naturalised or born Americans). I’ve become accustomed to the lifestyle and diversity stateside, and though it too is imperfect, I’ll take it over Japan.

  • breeze

    lol americans stupid idiots

  • Jeremy Rawley

    38 degrees isn’t hot! Quit messing with my head!

    Gun control? Why the hell do they put up with that instead of adopting the superior American model? And why the hell don’t they ditch their fucked-up “group harmony” in favor of our superior ways? What do they think is going to happen?

    This whole mess with Japan not being as accepting of foreigners would never have happened if they didn’t have that retarded closed-country policy during the Tokugawa era!

  • Carol Matsubara

    My son’s first two rooms in Sagamihara and Ueno (Tokyo) as well. 1-K 8-mat and a 7.8 mat (that made me laugh). Once you get to 3DK or so the measurement changes to square meters, so you’re both right, just talking about different types of rooms.

  • Carol Matsubara

    ‘No individualism’ is a bit of a stretch. Americans are conformist and oppose individuality on different issues from the Japanese. We all stick to what we stick to as a culture. Ever worn the ‘wrong’ jeans, sneakers or hairstyle in an American high school? Vote for a red candidate in a blue state? The prevalence of tattoos, the huge number of women wearing leggings with UGG boots instead of pants this fall, the trend of multi-layered low cut spandex T-shirts with plenty of cleavage that has been the trend for the past few years in the US, all show that Americans, too, in some ways lack ‘individualism’. Don’t like football and beer on the weekend? What’s wrong with you ;-P

  • Akmi

    How is $3000 a month is not great???? I make less than $600 in a month and wont make all that much more after I graduate from uni…maybe $1500 at best if things go well. But I wouldn’t say $3000 isn’t that great of a rate for just getting out of Uni lol

  • averagehumanbeing

    you’re a disgrace to human race.

  • Ryan Toth

    Like so many other internet forums where people have the convenience of anonymity, this discussion became quickly bogged down by egregious insults and heavy emotional responses…mainly from Hobbit.
    However, I must admit, as an American living in Japan, I do disagree with you about your generalisations (British English spelling! I’m multi-national! Woo hoo!) of Americans. Anytime you start by saying “Overall (insert nationality here)…” the proceeding statement is bound to be a generalization, so no need to state that, yet I for one appreciate the understanding and respect you tried to show by doing so.
    Anyway, maybe we can make certain generalizations about culture and nationality, but I, being American, like to try and take people on their individual merit and tendencies. After all, as the author said, I value individuality. (I also walk while eating here…if it’s something like a Sunkus fried chicken breast, and many young Japanese do, too!)
    As for small apartments, I have no issue with that. Many Americans can’t afford to live in the palatial mansions that people envision when they assume all Americans are from Beverly Hills! ;) Also, I have only been to a McDonald’s twice in the year I have lived here…and once was at the airport when I was seeing a friend off, and I needed the comfort, okay??!! :)
    Still, great article. Agree with most. I read a lot about the racism, and it definitely exists to the extent that you cannot easily forget that you are a foreigner, but then again, I never wanted to. :)
    Finally, I leave on this note: Anyplace is just what you make of it.

  • KittyRa

    I don’t know about Japan in general, but where I lived in Shizuoka, they got rid of public trash cans because the amount of litter actually increased after the trash cans were in put place. Weird.

  • Mao Mao

    Agree on the overwork part.

    Asked a senior (she’s a foreigner too) about this, and she said that don’t let them take advantage over yourself just because you are a foreigner. Stand up for yourself, and just go home when the office hour is over, if you have nothing else to do.

    But don’t make this as if it is a cold war between Foreigner vs. Japanese situation. Just chill she said hahahah.

    Also, of course unless you are really passionate about doing your work, that’s another different story though. Especially the ones in academic institutions like universities.

  • Mao Mao

    1) The convenience store. It really lives up to its name. You can pay bills there, like internet, phone bills. bring the bill notice which have bar codes on them, to the nearest convenience store, and they will scan it, you tap on the cashier’s touch screen to confirm the payment, pay the bill and that’s it. Lots of good from can even be paid at the convenience stores. Also, you could send letters, documents, things with the delivery service (e.g. kuroneko yamato) through them.

    Once, i was so lost on how much for a stamp should I pay to get my report delivered (yes, you can buy postage stamps there too), the staff said why not send it with the delivery service? No stamp needed, just need to fill in a form to describe our things, documents or big stuffs etc, then pay at the cashier, that’s it. I was also having the trouble of sticking the address on the envelope, the staff said he will helped me stick it, and so he did in front of me LOL.

    You can copy & print documents and the printing machine. Bring your own usb pendrive, & just connect it to the machine. Some even have English language option for the process guide, but its function is usually limited while operating in English interface. You can even fax with it.

    2) There should be used good shops operating near to your location. I bought stuff like fridge, rice cooker, water heater there. There are even pianos, guitars, baby strolls, jackets, used video games, cupboards, laundry machine, sometimes books too. I even say a pair of inline skate. Also chairs, etc etc etc but they will not always be there, so, if you really need something, better to grab it while it is there. The goods being sold will always change, so it’s kinda exciting to expect what will you see inside when you drop by at one.

    3) Most of the tap water is drinkable as it is, but in case you really doubt that, you can ask around whether the tap water is drinkable or not. Especially now, where the radioactive scare is still lingering around, so you might wanna really confirm it.

    4) As most of what most said in previous comments, it is true that it’s hard to find rubbish bins. You can’t just simply throw your thrash anywhere. The thrash separating practice usually divides the thrash to burnable, recyclable, plastic, can, glasses and PET bottles. Most of the bottled drinks here, as written on the labelling, are PET bottles. At my dormitory, we even scrap of the labeling from the PET bottle & throw it into separate bins, & remove the bottle caps too. So, what’s in the PET bottle bin are just the bottles. It’s really annoying for me at first, but I got used to it now~ Oh, and we unfold the boxes too.

    But what confuses me now is how to throw the big things, like a desktop pc, no longer in use printer, or the fridge. But anyway I will ask the head dorm on this matter anyway. Expected I need to pay some fees to throw them away though—:

    5) The police officers are really friendly so far, at least to me. As what been usually infamously running around the net, about stories the officers kinda approach you in a very unfriendly manner and ask for your identification, or what you are doing here in Japan etc etc…. I never experienced that. BUT my friend did, twice.

    I experienced asking 2 police officers, each at different police stands, for directions. They immediately took out a big map book of the area, and guided me to the location. I was lost looking for the location for TOEFL exam location anyway at that time.

    6) The people here is (are? lol) generally friendly. I could randomly say konnichiwa, or ohayo to random grandmas, a teacher at a kindergarten even greeted me ohayo from inside the kindergarten gate when I was just passing by. But really, it depends. You know, not all is so bright and anime-like. You know your human instinct. Some, I feel like I can just bow to, like rowdy looking & smoking ojiisan. Hahaha. But most of the time, they will at least nod back to you.

    And my parents said that a man running to them to lend them an umbrella when they were walking around searching for my school, when suddenly, it rained. Needless to say, both of them were really impressed and touched.

    Of course, like any other place around the world, people outside the cities tend to be more friendlier. I’m now frequently conducting my fieldwork at rice fields outside Tokyo, the people there are the friendliest I had ever met in the entire world. I was there during summer to with a labmate, and an obasan approached us and gave us ice cream. Then came back again with a juice can and a banana. A soba shop owner even forced us to promise her that we will visit her house the next time we come. She said she & her husband will bring us around =..=

    People in the cities just like to mind their own business. The train life basically explains it.

    7) The public transport. Ah, how they make my life easier. Even the buses. But fees might gonna deal quite a blow to your wallet, especially if you come here as a tourist and travel with the train a lot in Tokyo, especially the Yamanote Line. Of course, it goes without saying, the taxi is hella expensive. The fee starts from 720 yen. Even for a Japanese, taking the taxi is a no no if they could ride the trains & subways. & if you missed the last train, your option is might to just spend the night at the nearest internet cafe, which also have showers & your own cubicle. Some even have drink bar, with all you can drink soft drinks & teas, sometime ice creams, and also read as many manga tankobons as you can at the manga section if you can read Japanese.

    During New Year’s night, the trains and subways in Tokyo and surrounding cities like Yokohama operates for 24 hours. I’m not sure about others though. Also, if you plan to stay here for a long time, like more than 6 months for work/study, it’s better to apply for the train pass, as it is cheaper than keeping on buy tickets everyday to go to work. And just keep your faith & wait at the bus stands for the bus. They will arrive on time.

    And also, having Google Maps app in your smartphone (if you are using one) is very, very, very helpful. It even guide you on which bus to take, which train or subway line to change to at which station, complete with the arriving & departing schedule. And the big transit map they plastered on the wall might confuse you, so it will better to get an English pamphlet about the train transit system/map at any train station, and it’s free.

    8) Beware of accumulating lots of 5 yen & 1 yen coins. Unless if you have a Japanese bank account, where according to Milkjamjuice at Youtube, you can deposit the coins back at the ATMs at the bank during bank hours, which usually ended at 3pm. I don’t know how it works though, maybe like putting coins into vending machines? never tried it, but will definitely give it a go, already have a pouch and a mug filled with them. すげーむかつく!

    9) Lots of ooloong teas and green teas brands………

    10) Plastic bags at some (maybe all?) supermarkets (not convenience stores) aren’t free. You might have to pay somewhere around 6 yen for a piece. Convenience stores are alright.

    11) Shirakawa-go is a must place to visit.

    12) Universities here, at least the one I’m attending to, is really friendly to public. Outside nursery staffs even bring the kawaii babies & toddlers for morning strolls inside, & play with them at the spacious grass beds inside.

    13) Earthquake is normal for everyone, but it’s not like they doesn’t feel scare at all.

    14) The weather forecast is accurate, & rarely miss.

    15) Hard to find English newspapers at convenience stores, but usually they are being sold at newspapers stands in the train station. Like Japan Times & Mainichi Daily News.

    16) Streets, though complicated, usually have clear signs.

    17) Getting a cellphone, on the other hand, is very hard to deal with especially if you are a foreigner. Bought one from Softbank, but had to completely pay the phone price as my current visa is shorter than the contract’s term. And most of the staff, especially if you go to buy it at the big gadget malls, aren’t really familiar with foreigner customers, so it might be better to straight away go to the telcom outlet themselves. I don’t wanna go through it again arghhh…..

    18) I don’t have much sayings bout the racism issue, but knowing that even back in my own country, people are saying stuffs at foreigners from behind, I expect that much. Don’t sit if you are too sensitive with them doesn’t want to sit next to you, even though the train is crowded inside. I often offer my seat, though some, even though old people, do say “daijoubu” somtimes, & put down my offers. But usually it will followed by “arigatou”. :D But there were also times when people makes weird faces & said nothing back & just shook their head, maybe due to because it is really rare to have someone offering their seat in a train, even with all those numerous “be kind & give up your seat to who needs it” notices inside the trains.

    They will stare you of course, like how might you unconsciously sometimes stare at foreigners while in your home country, & trying to guess which country they came from. Normal for me though.

    Maybe because I’m still a student, and not working at here yet. My working senior once said that, even though your co-workers know that you are very knowledgeable about Japan, & speaks Japanese like a Japanese, they will still tend to see you as a foreigner. But duhh, again, I think it is just the same everywhere, not just in Japan.

    19) in some elevators, if you accidentally pressed the wrong floor button, you can press it back to cancel it,

    20) A taxi I ride once, got written the taxi’s driver name, age, complete with his hobby. it was snow boarding LOL maybe to help ignite friendly conversations. But usually when I strike any conversation, it will always be an enjoyable one. One driver even gave me an energy drink & i got 50 yen discount LOL. Passenger door at the back is automatic, dunno bout the front.

    21) Don’t bother to not look so like a tourist & try to fit in so much, even them are tourists in their own country. Like even though only one tree turns red in the mid of the city, people will gathers for pictures, self caption etc etc~~~

    22) Escalators in Tokyo stand at the left, but at the right for Osaka.

    23) If train delayed for a long time, you can claim the ticket fees, especially shinkansen.

    24) If you kill yourself on the train track, & causes massive crowd at the station & long train delay, your family & relatives are responsible to cover the loses caused by you.

    25) Also, another option if you missed the last train, you can hit the nearest karaoke lounge, and stays until the next morning. They usually offer a fix cheaper price for 11pm~5am slot time. Including unlimited soft drink bars.

    26) Not all read manga everyday. Some doesn’t even know one piece that much, though everyone know Chopper. But I say One Piece is BIGGGGGGGGGGGG here, especially with the recent One Piece Z movie released. BUT, at least they are definitely familiar with animes, not to mention the kawaii characters you could found everywhere. I’m satisfied enough with that :D And though Evangelion is insanely famous for quite some years now, with even collaboration with ANA etc etc , but not all like it because of the bloody contents etc. I love the story though. And my Prof. said he can’t stands Luffy extended arms and legs LOL!

    On whether japan is really like what they depict in the anime or not, I would say they definitely do in terms of the cultural events and landscape arts. Aside from that, like how the characters act, it depends. Some are completely normal, some are acting like they are manga characters.

    But most of the time… the atmosphere as what I’m experiencing, is not that mangaish, but it’s not that bad.

    And quite contrary to my expectation, I rarely see any obvious otakus walking around. Only saw them when around places like Akihabara though… but didn’t saw one around my neighbourhood until now. Not that I’m on a witch hunt though LOL

    Not all wears the Harajuku fashion everywhere. The name itself is Harajuku so you would only mostly found them there, & around areas like Shibuya & Shinjuku. They will stare you if you wear all frilly, maid , heavily visual keis whatever. But hey, if you can ignore it than it’s okay, unless if you are really sensitive to ppl stares and the likes.

    Even some office workers still in their suits plays psp, 3ds, read Shonen JUMP while commuting in the train. Even some grandpas. And some office ladies. But it’s kinda rare to meet one because they usually put on a tired face, whether it is during the morning or the evening rush hour.

    27) Book books books. A lot read books in the train. Healthy reading environment here. BUT, it’s really hard to get book that you like in English edition, at bookstores. Even the English language section is mehhhh to me, like it doesn’t even exist. Ironic when most of them want to learn English so much. Really, after being here for more than half a year now, I can’t blame them. So, I really have to help my Japanese friend with ways to get him familiar with English & how to expose himself more to it.

    Not helping when English lessons are expensive, that it might be better to spend a month or two at English speaking countries instead for more effective result.

    28) Beware of entering maid cafes. They will sap your money away~ for you may not only have to pay for your own portion, but your “maids” as well.

    29) They are very responsible when taking their dog out for walking. They pick up the stools the dog let out, and keep in a waste box. They pour plain water on the urinated spot.

    30) Cats here really mind their business only.

    31) The Enoshima dragon legend as depicted in Tsuritama anime do exists there. Even the lighthouse & the flower garden is the same.

    32) Don’t belittle Mount Fuji. Some Icicles formed at the peak even right in the mid of summer. It’s windy, & the wind will carry with it the dusts & sands too. You will have a runny nose, causing the area under your nose to be wet, & it was extremely painful when the cold strong wind hit it. Bring water, some food like bread, as you will get hungry. Bring some money too in case you wanna buy more at the peak or at the checkpoints hahahah There are toilets so don’t worry about that.

    But the stars, the sunrise. Indescribably beautiful.

    33) Bicycles have their own locks here. So don’t even bother thinking about. “I’m sorry I’m just gonna silently borrow it today cause I’m late for class”. I did once, all the bicycles I tried to “borrow” at the dorm, no matter how dusty they are, were locked. Causing me to waste my time & made me a lot more late. Demn.

    34) You can even ask for direction at the toll gate guy, when entering the highway. They will alert you if your tires picked up some plastic bags and got stucked, & picked it out for you.

    35) If you don’t know anything, just ask. If you don’t know what the meaning of the word a person is using, just ask. They will explain it in simpler Japanese. Even while riding taxi, or paying at a cashier.

    36) Don’t hope that staying here will automatically turns you into a Japanese speaking machine. Know a person who already stayed here for 4 years, but didn’t really grasp the beginner speaking level. But it will help tremendously if you are here. You will definitely speak Japanese everyday.

    37) Television signals are now all digital. I was told that analog television doesn’t receive any signal anymore.

    38) There is/are phone app(s) that can warn about earthquakes for you. Maybe through live online warning, not really detecting the incoming earthquake. My friend’s cellphone suddenly gave out a repeating alarming sound when we were out at fieldwork, & suddenly our parked car wobbled. We were right in the middle of wide open rice field area so i was not that worried. Unless a fissure comes & swallow us LOL -..-

    Okay, I should stop here. I can’t stop typing LOL -..-

  • Alice Jay Wisler

    I was born and raised in Japan and then went back to teach English in the ’80s. So I lived there for a total of 20 years (I live in Durham, NC, USA now). Even after all my years there and my ability to speak Japanese (I learned the language at the same time I learned English), I’m usually made to feel like a foreigner. “Sensei, can you use chopsticks?” is probably one of the most condescending questions I was constantly asked while there. Yet, regardless of how I am looked upon, a part of me will always consider Japan as home.

  • Jo Somebody

    Why is it that eating roe/caviar is no issue but sperm is…?

  • Peter Payne

    I always found 90% or so of the “discrimination” to be in our favor, e.g. people giving us stuff we don’t deserve, girls sleeping with us then cleaning our apartments before they leave, despite that we’ll never see them again. I’ve led a charm’ed life no doubt, but I almost never found any kind of true discrimination that was more than a sneer from a chinpira in the sauna.

  • aura

    “girls sleeping with us” Really? I thought japanese girls were very shy and puritanical aka sex till marriage.

  • Peter Payne

    There are all kinds, but most will have sex if that’s what they want to do. Everyone has a lot less of it, of course, than they used to.

  • Yoshiko

    They removed the majority of public trash can right after the Sarin attack on the subway in Tokyo in the mid-90’s especially from the metropolitan area. Over the years, they’ve increased the amount of trash can in the public but the amount seems still less than what it used to be.

  • Nataly

    You always can put the trash out the night before you go to sleep.

  • Clara Villa

    habbit… plz shut up… -___-‘ you make all Americans look bad.. seriously just… stop…

  • The Man

    An American from New York would be shocked at the smaller apartments right? American food.. what is that exactly? Mexican restaurants– no, there are zero good ones in my experience. But it’s not a big deal. Brazilian joints are in abundance. Japanese are nowhere near similar to Europeans in their demeanor. Newbie I take it?

    Source — 10 years in Japan and fluent in Japanese.


    Lack of aircon to save on energy whilst Yamada denki is allowed to blast out screens from every available wall surface in and outside of the shop! Madness!

  • taylah

    hi i’m doing a project on japan any boady got any info

  • taylah


  • taylah

    brandon is gay

  • japan chick

    I love this list you posted! Recently I have been deciding if I should leave for japan once I finish college and this web page helped me a ton! Overall I feel like this pushed me in the direction of going and I sincerly thank you ^^
    Hpoe you go too!

  • Renmi

    A strange thing happened to me when I was in Japan. I was ignored almost entirely. There were no funny looks, no tisks from the elderly, and I was played almost no mind even when I was clearly lost.

    Do I just not stand out (a 5’3 white girl with dark hair/eyes) or is it some form of discrimination? Or does Tokyo just not care?

  • truth

    I wouldn’t say all European are fake but definitely brits are only polite till you are in the same room, they never say what they really think and think of themselves as privilige nation. They are unable to do a simple house work employ others to clean their tiny flats justifying that they give job to people when in fact they are the dirtiest nation I have ever had a chance to meet. DISGUSTING. No wonder they probably find it difficult to work when they are so lazy and sloppy. I’m European and had chance to live in 5 places in world and UK (London) was a real nightmare, I was sent to by my company in pervious place but I couldn’t stand so much that I had to leave. No regrets expect for ever moving there. So yes, Brits, before judgements about Americans and other nations which are far more open and honest about EVERYTHING, think of yourselves first.

  • Stephanie Buck

    Finally, a post about Japan living that includes intelligence.
    My boyfriend and I have been talking about moving there possibly. He was an exchange student there about 12 years ago. I’ve asked a lot of questions. He said Japanese people love westerners but I think it depends a lot on age and looks.. oh and manners. The majority of asain cultures like white people in my experience. My boyfriend said they will probably stare at me and really like me.. because I’m tall and pretty ._. Which in a way is flattering but messed up because not all americans will get the same respect. Its strange because I notice the attention I get from women especially in asian cultures who say how pretty I am or ask questions about me.
    Jobwise I want to go for my dream as a professional mermaid performer / model, and also bring awareness. The chances I land gigs in Japan could either be huge or none. I’m hoping it becomes an attraction.
    I love everything about Japan and the lifestyle, I hope it gives me a home that America couldn’t give me. That’s why I want to move, so I can have success in a future family. I didn’t get the parenting or education I needed and it really messed up my confidence and mental health. My parents were selfish and turned me into a black sheep early on which made it hard to care about school.
    I would like to believe Japan has more to offer as far as education, dicipline, and safety. But I would hope my kid wounldnt be picked on for being the only white kid.
    What do you think??

  • Stephanie Buck

    Oh one more thing, I’ve read and also noticed myself that Japanese people tend to be shy.. I think American culture has an advantage with this. Not to exclude any other cultures, I just don’t know what they’re like.. so this applies to me alone I guess.
    I would think that confidence is an advantage in getting along with people, finding a job, or a place to live. Because I think foreigners come off a little weird or even disrespectful to more diciplined cultures. Which I’ve experienced personally..
    Japanese people like funny, happy, polite foreigners who come off confident.. I think its because when we are quiet or serious it puts an awkward tension between you that comes off like you don’t want to make friends with people like them.. sadly I think if you aren’t confident, you may come off as racist or annoyed with their precence.
    But too much confidence is ugly to them, they see respect in shy people, its humble to them. I guess just smile and say thankyou a lot but don be afraid to look people in the eye when you smile, it makes a more personal connection that I think could break the awkward feelings.
    I also think they dislike foreigners who make themselves obvious, like being loud or disorganized. Its weird to say but grace is attractive in Japan.
    I think for men its different or especially older people, to find a nice spot in the social circle. Young people have an advantage especially if they have manners and are good looking. Sorry to say :/ but in Japan, looks get you attention and respect because its so rare to see such features there, its almost shocking to them to see a very tall, athletic, model looking person ever in real life.
    So I hate to admit it but I hope that it helps my mermaid career. And I’m naturally shy but polite and smiley so I’m crossing my fingers that Its not like my life in America.

  • Stephanie Buck

    I hate negative generalizations against societies as a whole. Japanese people are not generally all discriminators or sexist and racist. Older people in almost every country are often the ones with those problems. And the women of Japan like their places in their society.
    The younger generation is more shy and accepting than the older generation, and if you’ve seen anything young people are into there, you would see that they are dreamers and lovers and part of the society too.
    Japanese people respect people who respect them. If you scowl at their stares or comments, you are just giving them good reason to keep hating. But not all japanese adults dislike foriegn people. And with comments being made like how you think Japan is a very racist and sexist society is exactly why you should close your mouth before you claim cultures hate you for no reason.
    America and every other country has people who make their country look bad. Does that make every person in the world a nasty image of their country? No it doesn’t, duh. Personally I dislike the culture I grew up in and id rather live in Japan where people respect intelligence and have dicipline. I don’t want to live in a high crime, lazy, selfish society like America. My kids won’t have a neglectful, druggie, stripper mom like I did. They won’t get molested like I did. They will have resourceful education unlike me. They won’t feel rejected like me. They won’t miss a cheer team at every sport performance and art performance like I did. And much much more if I go to Japan.
    I’m not sticking around with the poor teaching and dicipline and badly behaved kids to influence my kids in the future.
    I can’t control the thoughts that haunt their heads, if they hate me they hate me. That’s their problem but I’m going to smile because they have no idea how awesome I am. Its unfortunate that people hold anger and generalizations against any race or sex, cause those people are very very unhappy.

    About the teaching thing, maybe its not that great but when do you get the chance to teach a coopriative and diciplined group of people who also are of another background and will laugh easily at your cartoony foreign voices or silly faces?
    Otherwise.. why the hell are you in Japan if you didn’t set up a career choice that was exactly what you wanted? Cause youre never gonna be happy unless you suck it up and make Japan into a door opener and not a door closer on your smiley new japan life face.

    This is why people who have a short list of pros naming why some place is awesome, who move to that country, end up unhappy with the results. The only way to make it through the first steps is if you love the country as a whole. What idiot moves from for example the US to Japan if they can’t give up the life they loved less enough to make such a huge decision. If you want to complain about it then go home to your less loved country and complain about your own country for not being better than Japan.

    We can talk all day about each thing we dislike about each country, but there’s not a place where you get everything you had at home plus a job you love and a culture that’s perfect. If people want it easy they can head back home. Its rediculous how many people write about another Country like they were born there after a year or less and after failure to make it work. Not every person who reads these things can smell the b s people spew out before thinking. People who fail to accept the differences in what they change, are the ones who accept no change in differences.

    The mean things you say don’t go unseen by Japanese people. And the lack of nice things said by Americans in general is why people have hate for eachother. If you had a personal experience with someone who was disrespectful then name it, but you are so wrong to involve innocent and good people in your judgment. Its hypocritcal to expect out of people before expecting the same for yourself. That’s why you could never understand, cause you never tried.

  • Satoru

    This is simply not true. Just last week I was browsing a real estate window in Shinjuku where tatami mats were used as measurement.

  • james

    You’re right, and Im from America…..but not all of us

  • Robin

    So you’re saying that Japan is a country that doesn’t want foreigners? Funny, I’m hearing everywhere that Japan as a whole is trying its hardest to to become more international. My guess is that you came to Japan, hoping to become Japanese and to blend in perfectly with the culture, and were then crushingly disappointed by reality. The reality that one’s culture is with them forever, and one cannot change that. I, however, refuse to believe that it is impossible to grow your roots into society. I think that you mistook the disappointment you felt due to your foolish dreams as an indication that Japan does not want ANY foreigners in any way. I’m sorry that you took it so badly, maybe next time you move to a new country, you should go with an open mind and a free spirit.

  • Platonic_Finger

    “And the women of Japan like their places in their society.”

    They enjoy being subservient? I don’t really think you are know what you are talking about in this case.

    There are huge barriers for women attempting to make careers and become independent in Japan. Many of them leave the work force, after having a child, and live a relatively unfulfilled life at home. Some may like it but I can guarantee the majority do not, and there has been agitation, just Japanese culture has been rather Conservative about it all.

    less than 10% of management positions in Japan are filled by women, and almost all Offices employee women, or “Office Ladies”, for the most menial of tasks. Some companies openly discriminate often remarking the job is not for a woman. In other cases sexual harassment and abuse are not dealt with appropriately, it’s quite a problem in fact, resulting in workplace intimidation. The society as a whole is rather defeatist, especially since the Bubble, and there has been a relative despair among Japanese women that often dream of traveling and living abroad.

  • Somename

    NOOOO Im mexican why is there no tacos in japan!!!!

  • mark

    Strange, I’m a Black man and I have been to Japan many times When I was in the Navy and After I got out of the Military, and I found very few racist comments.For the Most part,folks were very respectful and gracious towards me and I got along well with folks.Not to say that there weren’t any, there was one Man that did not like Darker skined americans, But after meeting me and getting to know me as a Person, he later had a change of heart. In fact…he had invited me into his Home and I stayed for the rest of my trip. I don’t think that i said anything special to him, maybe it was the way I presented myself to him or being well dressed, Can’t say for certain. Anyway, Japanese people are very gracious and Helpful.And Yes, there is some hate or nasty comments thrown at americans but that is from a Individual point of view. My last visit to japan was in 2005,and had not experience any form of racial slur.But to live in Japan,way to expensive.

  • Meikia

    First japan is great Am currently learning japanese, and my boyfriend is asian….Ahhh so hot! Every country has something bad about it. Secondly America is great and has had many successful women plus men that has made this country great. I would also like to remind you that a lot of foreigners come to America for better opportunities, so that they can go back to their country with something new or if they decide to stay and make a living here. Thirdly, your reply to this seems more like a deep personal issue. I think you should go see a psychiatrist! I agree with you on something’s you said, but you went so far off the topic.

  • Michael .

    She seems overly hostile, eh? I *love* japan, and while you read negative things about it there are always pros and cons for every country and society. The Japanese culture isnt big on confrontation. …loved some of your thoughts, you dont think there are drugs in japan, how naive, you dont think your kids are going to be molested? How incredibly stupid and ignorant!

    As far as discrimination, thats in every country you will ever go to, its just a matter of how much and wether or not you will put up with it. Im VERY forward when it comes to being intentionally offended and have NO PROBLEM addressing the problem verbally, legally or even addressing the persons family or employer to cure the problem. I always give everyone respect until they prove they are unworthy, my grandparents prejudices have been thrown in the trash as far as Im concerned!

    Curiously nobody mentioned having to bribe the landlady while trying to rent an apartment, hehe.

  • Athena

    JAPANESE WOMEN LIKE THEIR PLACES IN SOCIETY? YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT LOL. Why the hell do you think Japanese girls aren’t getting married and popping out babies, because in fucking Japan once a woman gets pregnant she’s pressured to quit a job. Women want to be independent in Japan so they’re finally realizing how luxurious the single and free life is.

    Why do so many people have negative shit to say about Japan? Because it’s not perfect, ever heard of the phrase “it’s not greener on the other side?”. Because it’s not. Japan is overhyped and overglorified on the internet and people who worship the dirt of that country are delusional. Japan has a lot problems, you can’t deny that or basically one of those delusional people that will support and defend that country because you simply *~*::*~*love*~*::*~* Japan no matter what.

    Obviously not everyone is racist in Japan, but as a society there’s a lot problems