Living in Japan

Being a foreigner in Japan: the greats and not-so-greats

Japan is a wonderful country to live as a foreigner. However, like anywhere else, it has its advantages and disadvantages.

Leaving your country and living in a foreign country requires a truly spectacular adaptation process. Japan is a country with a unique system and way of life that are nothing like those of any other country. The advantages of living in Japan as a foreigner are wide, but it is also important to take into account the inconveniences that anyone from another country may face at some point during their stay in Japan.

Advantage # 1: You don’t need to fit within Japanese standards

Japanese society is ruled by strict social standards that all Japanese must follow. Due to its group mentality, it is a very homogeneous system that leaves little room for what is considered different and unique to each person. This often leads the Japanese to feel tremendous social pressure. Sometimes they are even forced to follow social norms and meet social expectations against their own preferences and convictions.

In this regard, foreigners who live in Japan, since they are people who already stand out in Japanese society and are seen as different people, the social standards to which they have to submit are much lighter and less demanding. If you make a mistake or do something that is considered “outside the Japanese social standards” as a foreigner, the Japanese are not going to be very strict with you and they are going to be much more understanding than if the same acts were done by a Japanese person.

Advantage # 2: There is always something new to discover

Japan is a country where there is such a large leisure and culture offer that it is very difficult for you to get bored. Often there are many events, festivals and activities that allow you to enjoy something different every day. From visiting traditional temples and summer festivals to contemplating cherry blossoms and singing at the karaoke, there are activities for all tastes and for all audiences at any time of the year. Do you like snorking? You can go to Okinawa. Do you like ski? You can go to Hokkaido. Are you a fan of manga and anime? Definitely Japan is your paradise. And what about amusement parks? In Japan there are many kinds of different theme parks too. In Japan there is no room for monotony. Even if you live in Japan for a long time, there is always something you can do and discover.

Advantage # 3: Japan is extremely convenient

Japan is one of the most practical countries in which you can live. Here you can find almost everything you need without much effort at any time of the day and night. Convenience stores sell all kinds of products and are usually open 24 hours a day. For those who travel a lot, Japan is wonderful because its public transports are not only just very efficient, but also extremely punctual. As for the food, its gastronomy is incredibly delicious and also really affordable. Its streets are very clean and orderly, and the crime rate is incredibly low. You can walk quietly through the streets without fear that something is going to happen to you and without worrying about finding yourself in garbage thrown on the street.

Disadvantage # 1: Cultural Barriers

Opening a bank account, renting a house or many other common situations in everyday life can be really difficult, especially if it is not easy for you to adapt to the Japanese culture and if you do not know the language. As a foreigner, you walk through the city and you know that at first glance you are different, and that no matter how hard you try to maintain the Japanese traditions and customs, you know that they are not the customs with which you have grown up in your country. Living in Japan is very comfortable, but it will not be easy for you to feel like home. One of the aspects that struck me the most when I first arrived in Japan was that, unlike in Spain, in Japan people talk very little (or almost nothing) about controversial issues such as politics, religion or taxes. While it is not at all impossible to make friends in Japan, it is not so easy to find people with whom you can have personal or social conversations.

Disadvantage # 2: High cost of living

Just as Japan offers good wages, safety and health, you will also be a bit overwhelmed by its exorbitant prices. Public health is excellent, but it is recommended that you take out basic health insurance if you do not want a medical consultation to destroy your savings. Likewise, you must plan your day-to-day errands very well to optimize time and save a little on transport, because you will need it. Also, Japanese houses, although they tend to be rather small, are unfortunately also expensive.

Disadvantage # 3: The weather

In spring and autumn, you can enjoy strolling through the streets and visiting beautiful sceneries. However, everything changes in summer, when the weather becomes unbearable due to the mixture of heat with humidity and is extremely uncomfortable. When summer is about to end, then strong storms (produced by hot and humid weather) start, during which typhoons can originate. Not to mention the large amount of meteorological and geographical phenomena that the country suffers throughout the year, like torrential rains, typhoons, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis. If you are not used to dealing with these types of events in your native country, this may surprise you and even scare you, especially at the beginning.

Each experience is different, and it depends a lot on each person, but it is important to consider all these points in order to enjoy your stay in Japan.

I was born in Malaga (Spain), and after spending a season in Paris and London, my great passion for comics and manga led me to move to Kyoto as a doctoral student in 2018. In my spare time I write short stories and, I am the author of the book Touching the Stars.

Contact Us

Tokyo Office
C/O Global Village Media
1-7-20-B2 Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
[email protected]