Poppy has been living in Japan for over six years. She likes to read novels, write, and play video games.
Pros and Cons of Moving to Japan
Japan is a great place to live. It’s safe, clean, convenient, and has plenty of culture and history to explore, not to mention popular culture like anime and manga comics. Though Japan is a great place to settle, there are still many downsides to living here. Here are a few downsides to living in Japan by someone who has lived here for more than six years.
1. It’s Far From Home (and Expensive)
If you’re from Taiwan or South Korea, getting to Japan is a short trip. However, most English-speaking settlers are from Australia, the United States, or Europe, all of which are a 12+ journey to Japan. It’s also expensive, making it difficult to visit home or have family and friends come to visit.
2. The Language Is Challenging
Though there are many easy aspects to the Japanese language, learning the alphabet takes years, even if you study a lot. If you have a job where you only speak your native language (such as language teaching) and don’t have many Japanese friends, the most immersion you’ll get is saying “thank you” at the local convenience store.
Jobs are limited if you don’t speak Japanese, and it’s a lot of hours out of your life if you want to commit to studying it.
3. The Culture Is Entirely Different
Though it’s exciting to come to Japan and experience how different everything is, it can make settling here difficult. You may often be rude without meaning to be, make many faux pas because you used the wrong verb form, or fail to read between the lines. It can take a long time to get used to, and more than not end in embarrassing situations or even lost friends.
Many people will forgive you for making a mistake, especially when it’s obvious you didn’t mean to. However, you might find your culture shock lasts a long time when you come here, especially if you haven’t been here before.
4. You May Encounter Body Image Issues
If you’re on the curvy side like me, you’re probably considered attractive in your home country (especially if you’re from the west). However, here I constantly feel overweight. Even my husband has made comments. The Japanese have insane standards when it comes to weight. It’s one downside of being here.
5. Gender Equality Is Still a Real Issue
Whereas labelling someone for their race is nothing short of offensive in many countries, in Japan, if you’re not Japanese, you’re always a foreigner or “gaikokujin” (more rudely, a “gaijin,” literally meaning “outsider.”) This is especially true if you live in a rural area.
You won’t necessarily be met with violence or overt racism, but things like getting an apartment or a car can be tricky, and you’ll always be a foreigner in your community. People may ask questions about your hair or your skin. As a largely homogenous country, the concept of “Japanese” still seemingly only applies to “pure-blooded” Japanese people. Even half-Japanese people have labels (“hafu”).
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7. You Might Have Difficulty Finding Your Favorite Foods
Craving Gatorade or a Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut? You won’t find many of your favourite snacks or foods in local convenience stores or supermarkets (though inexplicably, they all have Snickers bars). Often you can find certain things in Costco or international supermarkets, but you often have to pay a lot or travel long distances to get what you need.
Be sure to stock up before you go or get a friend or family member to send care packages if there are certain snacks, treats, or canned foods you can’t live without!
8. There Are Natural Disasters
Depending on where you’re from, you might not have to worry about earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis, or volcanoes. Japan, unfortunately, has all of these, and there are natural disaster-related deaths every year. Living here, you’re expected to have emergency supplies and attend drills to know what to do in the case of a disaster.
9. There’s a Lot of Paperwork
Pension payments, taxes, insurance, this form, that slip—all the paperwork can be confusing. The good news is that many companies, especially those that hire a lot of foreigners (like English language schools) can help you out with it.
There are also many forms of ID you need, like your residence card, medical insurance, and My Number card. Though they aren’t difficult to sort out, they can be a pain.
10. The Suicide Rate is High
Though Japan isn’t in the top ten for suicide rates, the rate is still high. According to the World Population Review, “Suicide is the leading cause of death in men between the ages of 20–44 and women between the ages of 15–34.” This may be because of work pressures, academic pressures, stress, financial worries, and the burden of not “fitting in.”
It's Not All Bad!
Though there are a few downsides to living here, in my opinion, the positives vastly outweigh them! Don’t let these deter you from visiting this wonderful country. It’s just good to be prepared.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 Poppy