Pros And Cons Of Living In Japan

There are a bunch of factors triggering people to relocate in Japan: to follow job, education, family, or simply just to satisfy the interest of advanturing. No matter what the reason is, calling a new country home is a huge decision. Some may even spend a period of time trying to live in the target country to make sure everything is good before packing up. To help anyone else who has been thinking about moving to the Land of the Rising Sun, I’ve put together the pros and cons of living in Japan in today’s Location Guide.

A glance at pros and cons of living in Japan

Best things about living in Japan

Japan is high on the list of foreign countries to resettle. And it doesn’t become a phenomenon for expats for no reason.

1. Safety

First of all, Japan has been reported as one of the world’s safest countries for decades, with the crime rate being kept extremely low and the chances of anything bad happening being slim to none. Japan is also listed as the number one in people feeling safe walking alone at night and the second-lowest in assault rate after Canada. Among all the Japanese cities, a crowded place like Tokyo is surprisingly nominated as the top secured one.

Recently, a study examining the number of homicide cases over 221 countries and regions has pointed out that while the highest rate of homicide belongs to El Salvador (in Central America) with 108 cases per 100,000 people, Japan demonstrates an incredibly low rate with only 0.31 cases in total. Also, cases of theft dealing with travelers from foreign countries are relatively low. Japan has a record of 356.2 incidences per 100,000 people, compared to 1773.40 in the United States and 3494 in Denmark.

In Japan, a designated police box or what they call “Koban” is placed strategically in every corner and the police are trustable. Japan is surely safer than the countries most foreigners in Japan hail from.

pros and cons of living in japan

Police stations are easily spotted and guaranteed the police officers will help you no matter what

Despite that, visitors are still advised not to be too comfortable as a low crime rate doesn’t mean crime doesn’t exist. It’s better to learn some safety measures and take extra precaution to avoid becoming part of the small percentage of victims.

2. People with dignity

Japanese people are strictly educated to be well-mannered since they are in primary school. Many stress the value of learning the social ‘rules’ so that their child can avoid causing trouble for others in society. This has consequently created the standard behavior of the average group of Japanese people.

Courtesy is a representative feature of the Japanese that every foreigner admires. Living in an island country with nearly 130M residents, limited space but hardly do you hear a car honk on streets or see someone that jumps in the queue. Taxi drivers always dress in uniform and automatically open the door for you. Smoking as well as loud music are not allowed in the car. At clothing stores, including high-end ones, people won’t treat you differently if you come in but seem not to purchase anything.

The best thing is people generally don’t steal stuff. If it happens that you lost your luggages on a journey, don’t worry! Just check the Lost and Found places in the largest stations nearby and then you’ll get your luggage back. Expats can doze off on subways, buses, and other public transportation the Japanese commonly use without being disturbed or afraid of pickpocketing.

3. Education

Japan has long topped in terms of education system. It is home to some of the best universities as well as the most high-functined laboratories with excellent facilities in the world. Five Japanese universities are in the top 70 in the world ranking, with Tokyo University, Osaka University, and Kyoto University being in the top 20.

Research standards are rather strict and people here produce some of the best scientific papers. As such, studying in Japan brings you the chance to be exposed to a highly competitive and independent environment. You will have most of the control over your research as well.

pros and cons of living in japan

The country attempts to create a rich learning environment so that scholars have varied opportunities to enrich their knowledge and develop professional skills

It is not only about knowledge but also good manners and characters that Japanese educators aim to establish for learners. Children basically don’t take exams until they reach the age of 10. At school, they learn about respecting others and being kind to animals. Learners are also taught positive virtues like honesty and self-esteem. In spite of the top-notch quality, Japanese universities offer relatively low education fees, ranging from $5000 to $7000 per year.

4. Diet

Not only does Japanese food taste great, virtually attractive but also much healthier compared to an average American diet. The traditional Japanese diet is a whole-foods-based one that is rich in fish, seafood, and plant-based foods with minimal amounts of animal protein, added sugars, and fat. This eating pattern may provide numerous nutrients and significantly enhance digestion, longevity, and overall health.

is japan a good place to live

The traditional Japanese diet is naturally rich in various nutrients, including fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A, C, and E

Seasonal vegetables, often cooked in dashi and sea vegetable based stock, enhance food’s flavor and contribute to the nutrient density. A good amount of seaweed is used in daily cooking. As seaweed contains a great source of antioxidants, it protects your body against cellular damage and disease.

What’s more, Japanese people prefer fish to red meat. Thanks to the high level of long-chain omega-3 fats, fish-based dishes can promote brain, eye, and heart health. The last thing that is heavily incorporated into most daily meals as well as Japanese culture is green tea. It is served several times throughout the day, as the drink of choice first thing in the morning or after having a meal.

People also pay great attention to detailed information about food so that they can control the calories and better balance food amounts. Junk food is sold in smaller portions and harder to find compared to healthier options like fruits and vegetables. They also make a lot of healthy items affordable and abundantly stocked. In short, it is not genetics but a healthy diet, something that you can easily apply, to live a longer, better life.

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5. Cleanliness

Japan has always had a high standard of hygiene and cleanliness, which is deeply instilled in their culture. One of the first things visitors to Japan notice is how clean everywhere is – yet there are hardly any litter bins and street sweepers. In banks, shops and restaurants, money, which is considered to be covered with a high density of bacteria, is placed in little trays instead of directly handed to each other.

is japan a good place to live

Things are kept spic-and-span everywhere and trash is barely seen on any street

People here never blow their nose in public, always put trash in the right places and are well aware of keeping space clean and tidy. It was showcased during the World Cup football tournaments in Russia (2018), the national team’s fans staying behind to pick up rubbish from the stadium. The players also left their dressing room in immaculate condition

People consistently make use of hand sanitizers and wear surgical masks to avoid spreading the virus when they catch colds or flu, Even before this pandemic. At home, they learn to sort your household rubbish into 10 different types to facilitate recycling. If you live in Japan, you will soon find yourself adopting a clean lifestyle.

6. Transportation

As opposed to the US public transportation at least, the Japanese’s system is incredibly outstanding. Mass transit is probably pretty good in European countries as well, but the Japanese have really taken it to a new level. Their subway and train systems are clean, high speed, accurate and convenient enough to become an ingrained part of life in Japan.

Japan’s main islands of Honshu, Kyushu and Hokkaido are served by a network of high speed train lines that connect Tokyo with most of the country’s major cities

Everything comes on time. You can check for the exact time the train will arrive and know for sure how long it will take you to a certain place. In big cities, there’s multiple trains and they’re all located in the important parts so getting around is so much easier. Such an integrated system of public transport makes travelling among cities fasst as a breeze and you may never feel the need of owning a private car.

7. Health insurance

Japan also has one of the world’s most advanced healthcare services. It’s listed in the top 10 best in the world. The US ranked 37th on the same list. Such a universal public healthcare system makes everyone who lives there automatically covered. In the private scheme, individuals are responsible for 30% of their own healthcare costs, while the government shoulders the remaining 70%. Many people get additional insurance so a lot of procedures and treatments can be subsidized. Furthermore, a majority of clinics and hospitals here have integrated equipment, whereas in other countries like France, patients would have to visit different places for different tests.

Worst things about living in Japan

Japan is home to some of the most diverse and cosmopolitan cities in the world. Images of the country typically include growing economic hubs, hustling and bustling streets and sleepless cities at night. While these are all true, there are some particular difficulties you may encounter when making the Land of the Rising Sun your new home.

1. Renting houses

Of course it varies based on the area that you’re planning to move to. Generally speaking, renting an apartment in Japan is not a comfortable experience. First, rent can be expensive, especially when it comes to big cities. If you are looking for a cushy place near a city center in Japan, prepare to shell out big bucks for rent. Reportedly, the average price for a “typical” Tokyo two-bedroom apartment is US$1,903 (¥203,730), while the average monthly salary is around ¥280,000 per month.

pros and cons of living in japan

Although the country has become more affordable in recent years, it’s still not a cheap place to call home

Second, the Japanese room size could be more modest than what you’re expecting, especially in the middle of crowded cities like Tokyo or Osaka. You may be lucky enough to find a place with standard size when heading to more rural areas, the price is also more reasonable.

Last, normally Japanese apartments are rented through brokers, but like many other Japanese, they don’t quite speak English. So you’re going nowhere if you do not have a Japanese friend or a good translator. Also, certain landlords don’t trust foreigners, so it can be hard to find a place on your own. Sometimes in a popular neighborhood with high demand, landlords will refuse to rent you if you either fail to prove that your monthly salary is at least three times higher than the renting price, or pay in advance one to two month’s rent.

2. Collectivism vs individualism

Japan is referred to as being “one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture and one race”. Its people are also very similar in culture, values, and manners. In a homogenous country like this, the ‘group’ is considered as more of a priority than the ‘individual’. It’s so important for foreigners to act similarly and avoid sticking out in any way. If you step out of line on any aspect,  you are highly likely to be persecuted as a result.

In fact, this may be a good point as some people really enjoy this sense of community. But for the average foreigners who come from America/ Western societies, the strict group mentality of Japan can be a bit jarring.

3. Working environment

Of course, it depends on where you work and what you’re working on, but overall the work-life in Japan is much more stressful than in the typical Western countries. People stay at work for upwards of 15 hours every day and they are expected to take as few vacation days as possible along the year.

As a result, they usually find themselves exhausted after work and almost have no time to relax or take care of their children.

4. Prejudice against foreigners

This one is controversial since it seriously depends on who you’re dealing with and the area in which you find yourself. The age of Japanese people you’re around is also a crucial factor as the younger crowd seems much more polite and tolerant of expats.

It is quite common in rural areas that older people click their tongues when they see Americans walk around in Japan. In less populous cities, some bars and restaurants will go so far as to deny service to foreigners. While xenophobia that extreme is getting less common in Japan, it does still exist in some places, and you may experience it while you’re there.

What’s more, you will never find yourself totally blended in the community there no matter how long you live. There are always chances that you feel isolated or left out and some avoid using English to communicate with you.

5. Language barrier

Language is the main barrier to foreigners intending to live in Japan. According to the EF English Proficiency Index, the Japanese proficiency index is only 35/72 countries. Many foreign visitors have to admit that the people here are not really good at English though the country is one of the world’s major economies. Additionally, 70% of foreigners residing in Japan find themselves struggling in communication with local guys.

One of the main reasons is that for Japanese people, being able to speak English is somehow unnecessary. They translate everything into Japanese, keep making new words in daily life and even at the research level. It’s nice if people speak English but if they don’t, that’s still fine.

Some may think that living in Japan is a great chance to practice Japanese but in reality, you’ll find no shortage of people willing to talk to you or practice their English skills with you. It’s certainly possible to survive in Japan without speaking Japanese, even manage to get a job, though your options will be limited. But you’d better learn some Japanese to avoid awkward situations and to make communication somehow smoother.

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FAQs

1. Is Japan a good place to live?

Well, while many people love Japan and have spent years living there, the country is not for everybody and some even cannot make it for a week. The causes are many, ranging from sensory overload, the taxes, language, crowds and noise. People who like it love it but it takes a while to get used to it.

Living expenses and taxation can be a burden. You have to pay city, prefectural, motor vehicle and even salary tax. If you are planning to retire, you’d better find a place with a lower cost of living to better enjoy life. If you are a student, it’s good to apply for a scholarship to reduce the financial pressure.

Native people are said to be awesome in general, hospitable and kind. But they are nowhere near “friendly” and won’t open up to you in the beginning. It might take a long time for them to observe and invest themselves in you. So be patient and honest! Other things also take you time to get familiar with. The food is pretty amazing though some could be really odd. You don’t need to eat Japanese food everyday. Go for some ramen or sushi and try some sake one day. What’s more, Japanese are strongly organized and they expect expats to be the same, also. You may have to learn to sort waste into burnable, non-burnable and sodai gomi (large trash).

On the whole, considering all the pros and cons of living in Japan, the country should deserve to give a try.

2. How to live in Japan with a shoestring budget?

The biggest money you have to spend is renting a house so if you are choosing a city to relocate, aim for the less crowded regions where rent is substantially cheaper than Tokyo. Also, it’s much friendlier on the budget if you are able to reside outside a city center. The second thing you  can do is to enjoy nature and free local events and festivals. Sure, Disneyland is fantastic but so is the snow, or parks, or hiking.

Shopping through home delivery services or Amazon Pantry is also a good way. They deliver stuff to your door weekly so it’s extremely convenient in the winter and you may get waived for the delivery cost. Also, moving by public transport is super convenient and not too expensive. The price depends on the distance, but you roughly pay 200 Yen wherever you want to go within Tokyo.

3. What are the disadvantages of living in Tokyo?

The city has a negative reputation for high cost of living, noise and air pollution and the lack of green areas. Life could be really stressful here as the space is limited, the trains get so crowded and working is so harsh.

4. What are the benefits of living in Tokyo?

The advantages of living in Tokyo are a lot. You can enjoy the modernist technology, which makes your lifestyle way more comfortable and safer. Job market is extraordinary and Tokyo is surprisingly clean compared to many other big cities in the world.

5. What is Japan’s biggest problem?

One possible answer is that the Japanese suffer from too many “social norms” so sometimes, they become stereotyped and harsh.

Overpopulation is becoming more visible and the impact of the population density are the issues that Japan is facing. It is not easily controllable and it leads to other issues such as water supply and housing shortages.

6. Things you need to prepare before moving to Japan

  1. Get the correct visa
  2. Natural tragedies are a real danger
  3. Carry your residence card with you all the times
  4. Speaking a bit of Japanese is good, though it can’t make conversation any smoothie.
  5. Prepare enough money

Conclusion

And there it is, the list of pros and cons of living in Japan. While some are easy to realize only after a short period of time traveling, some require more time to experience. Hope you find your answer after reading this blog and enjoy your time in Japan!

About Yuu Sato

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.