On approaching the two-month mark (and the end of my time) of living in Japan (near Tokyo), I’ve experienced a full range of emotions here. But about a month in, I started having a “crisis of dislike” with the place. It inspired a train of thought about why I could never live in Japan.
Before I published this post, I ran the ideas below by some expat friends. I wanted them to tell me I was off my rocker, and to give me a different perspective. Instead they said “Nora, we would really like to tell you you’re wrong. But how on earth did you figure all this out in just a month?!”
That’s just what I do.
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This post was originally published in 2017, and has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
Before going further and risking a backlash from people in love with and/or living in Japan outside of Tokyo, it’s worth noting that I’ve spent the majority of my two Japanese months in and around Tokyo. I understand that Tokyo is not an accurate representation of Japan as a whole, and it may or may not be the best place to live in Japan. At the very least, Tokyo is not the only face of Japan.
Why didn’t I see other parts of Japan as well, then? Because I can’t conquer every country I visit. I’m not on an endless vacation. I have work to do every day (and a kitty cat to take care of – which is the reason I’m here to begin with). If I’d made time to see Kyoto as well, I’d have been berated for not also seeing the north. And if I’d done that as well, I’d have been berated for not seeing Okinawa. The rabbit hole of travel runs deep. So I just do what I can, where I am.
Although some might think two months is a long time to spend somewhere, it’s not. I suspect I could spend a lifetime discovering Tokyo alone, let alone Japan as a country. This is simply my impression of the place given my time here, and some of the “dealbreakers” that mean Japan is not a place I believe I’ll ever want to call “home”. I believe my observations below are not just isolated to Tokyo, either.
Reason #1 Why I Could Never Live in Japan: Girl Power (or Not)
In the West, we define Girl Power as that of a woman’s independence, empowerment, control of her life, and expression of femininity in a courageous and still flirtatious way. Although I would never have called myself a raging feminist, seeing the attitude towards women in Japan has made me reconsider my stance.
This picture above is a very prevalent ad on the subway. With this sort of slogan, you’d think it’s for something empowering to women. Instead, it’s for a hair removal product. Because Japanese women apparently like to embrace their “Girls Power” by ensuring their arms are hair-free. It’s part of a whole cultural movement encouraging Japanese women to be pretty, and “feminine” in the most delicate (and labourious) of ways.
After spotting the Girls Power ad, I started taking pictures of humourous (to me) mis-uses of the English language. This little ditty above (“Feeling happy and pretty thanks to my favourite makeup and my best little friend”) is on a pair of underwear. Never mind who – or what – her “best little friend” is supposed to be(!); she’s feeling happy because of her favourite makeup???
Then, I started to realize these slogans aren’t actually the unintentional mistakes I originally thought them to be. This, on the packaging for a whole line of makeup accessories: “Good make-up goods will make you happier and cute.”
I connected the dots and realized that “Girl Power” means something completely different in Japan. I learned that the Japanese translation for “girl power” is joshiryoku; which carries a very different connotation and definition of women’s empowerment than we in the West are used to. It has much more to do with being a good cook, acting demurely, looking and smelling good, etc.
Although I enjoy cooking, and I’d like to think I look and smell pretty good, I’m definitely not happy because of my favourite make-up.
Reason #2 Why Living in Japan Isn’t For Me: Exploitation of Women
In the article above about joshiryoku, it outlines the top five qualities that both Japanese women – and men – attribute to this definition. The men’s top five were Good looks, Good skin, Wearing make-up well, Fashionable and knowing the latest beauty trends, and Smells good. All physical characteristics, and pretty judgemental and superficial ones if you ask me.
In my vlog last week about visiting Akihabara, I had a rude awakening that ties in with this whole Japanese Girl Power ideology. Please do click through to read my harsh conclusions and watch my bewildering video (which you’ll find amusing if nothing else).
My rude awakening surrounded the graphic and at times vile exploitation of women (and let’s get it right – more like little girls) in anime and video games. Now, I’m all for some racy content in the right context, but this stuff was everywhere, for adults and children, women and men to see and use like it’s just another day. Exit any one of these stores and walk down the street and you’ll be approached by women in a slutty maid outfits trying to lure you into their “maid cafes” – a place where people (mostly men) go to be doted on by scantily clad women in an over-the-top cutesy-pie (dare I say “little girl”??) manner.
Even if this exploitation isn’t an accurate depiction of the overall attitude towards women in Japan, the fact that it exists to even this extent is horrifying to me. And in the article, I directly link this culture of exploitation to the outrageous number of assaults on women on trains, the current favourite tactics of men being to grab (or at least take pictures) underneath women’s skirts. (I read that 2/3 of women have been groped on trains in Japan). I could be wrong, but for me, it’s no coincidence.
“But Nora,” you might say, “there’s another neighbourhood in Tokyo that’s just for women, with butler cafes.” Yes there is, and I haven’t been there so I can’t speak to the matter directly. But I’ll bet there isn’t a whole anime culture showing young boys in tight bulging underwear, and women certainly are not being arrested every year by the thousands for grabbing men’s crotches on trains. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s not the same. At best, it’s a response to and rebellion against the rampant exploitation of women.
The #3 Reason Not to Live in Japan: Work Culture
Although even if I lived here it wouldn’t be with an intent to work in the traditional workforce, I balk at the working culture in Japan and its ramifications on society. Heck, I balk at the working culture in North America, which is nothing in comparison to Japan.
There is a uniquely Japanese term for working yourself to death. Overtime is expected, despite the fact that studies show working longer hours does not equate to more productivity, and Japan is in fact known for its gross inefficiency. Overtime is simply an expectation, and part of the Japanese business culture. Throw in a requirement to stay at your first job out of school for at least three years (so as not to brand yourself as an “unreliable” employee), and you get suicides. Literally. In 2016 there was a famous suicide attempt by a young woman who was overworked and felt trapped in her job, just two years out of school. In response to this event, Japan invoked “Premium Fridays”; a policy allowing people to leave work early….at 4:30. Apparently most people still continue to stay late. There’s another uniquely Japanese term about leaving work on time, and it’s likened to a miracle.
That isn’t it. It gets worse.
An expat friend of mine shared a story about an English student of hers (a Japanese fellow) who confessed that he was worried about how to hide his recent engagement from his boss. Because apparently, when an employer learns of anything in the employee’s life that might distract them from work, they’ll commonly transfer them to another part of the country, or another country entirely. Many a family have been broken up this way – or at least separated during the workweek.
Oh wait. There’s more.
Employers require annual health checks of their employees. That in itself doesn’t sound bad, right? Unfortunately what the employers do with the results of said health checks is a bit of a grey area. For example, if they discover that your health is questionable, you’ll likely get passed up for that promotion you’re due for in favour of somebody in better health. While I totally understand why an employer would want to ensure their top-level employees are in top-notch health, there’s still something about the concept that feels wrong to me. Like an invasion of privacy. Then again, North American employers often do health checks and/or apparently access employee health records without their permission; at least the Japanese are up front about it.
There are theories that this culture of overworking and being “owned” by employers is in part what has inspired the over-the-top and often seedy outlets for people to vent some steam; anime and manga, maid and butler cafes, slot machines and pachinko parlours, and the full range of kink subculture that I didn’t dare explore.
Considering I sold everything I owned to escape the “rat race” in the first place and embrace my lifestyle dreams, it would be all too ironic (and even hypocritical) if I chose to create a home base in Japan with a culture such as this.
It’s not just me. Add all the above three reasons not to move to Japan together, and you get this brilliant article on the Economist about sexism in Japan and how nobody is served by it.
Reason #4 Why Not to Live in Japan: Taboo Tattoos
I have tattoos, big ones, and I’m proud of them. They each mean something very dear to me, and (I think) they’re pretty to look at. But in Japanese culture tattoos are very much taboo, and still today are considered a sign of connection to the yakuza (Japanese gangsters).
I’ve been told that an essential traditional Japanese cultural experience is visiting the onsen (hot springs) and/or sento (public baths). Problem is, it’s hit or miss as to whether they’ll kick you out when you get naked to enter the baths and are found to have tattoos. More often than not, you’ll get kicked out, or at least you’ll offend the other bathers who will leave.
And quite frankly, I’m not interested in taking the risk.
Such a judgemental close-minded attitude is offensive to me. That’s all. And although the prevailing sentiment is that this attitude towards tattoos is changing, it depends on who you talk to as to whether it truly is.
Dear Japan: It’s Not You, It’s Me.
There are other things that irk me about Japan, which contribute to the overall sense of why I could never live in Japan. But to be honest, they’re either too subjective or not worth mentioning.
But I will say that this “crisis of dislike” I experienced with Japan is also part of a somewhat normal course of events for me – and I suspect for many – in visiting/living somewhere new.
When I arrive, I love the place. Everything is new! The food is great. The smells are different. The people are friendly. The scenery is majestic. It’s magic. I want to live there forever.
And then, as I settle into daily life and dig around a bit culturally, I often start to see the ugly underbelly of the place (and trust me, every place has one). It always happens; in some places it just takes a while longer for a variety of reasons, and in some cases it’s easier to take the bad with the good. But depending on how bad “the bad” is, I start to change my stance.
Eventually, it’s time to go, and this change in stance helps me to justify moving on. As I’m about to do from Japan very shortly. It’s almost like a defence mechanism.
But more than that, it’s about context. If I hadn’t have visited Akihabara and been so affected by the exploitation of women/girls, maybe I’d have continued to find these quaint little translated expressions about favourite makeup and hair removal cream to simply be funny or whimsical.
It’s why I’m always loath to answer the question what is your favourite place in the world. I should love Japan; I certainly thought I would. And I still do, in my own way. It’s just that I could never live here and not feel that I’m compromising some part of myself and my culture that, to me, is uncompromisable.
Where to Stay in Japan
Assuming I haven’t scared you off of visiting Japan, and assuming you don’t have a house-sitting gig lined up, you’ll need to find a place to stay! Make sure you’ve got some cash in the travel budget for this expense! When searching for accommodation deals, I turn to Booking.com. Check it out below! (I will receive a small commission on anything you book through them. It doesn’t affect your price, and I stand by my recommendations. Thanks in advance for your support!)
Things to Do in Tokyo
Two months in Tokyo was barely enough to scratch the surface of the place; much less the rest of the country! Browse below for inspiration:
142 thoughts on “Why I Could Never Live in Japan”
Interesting read on so many levels. Where are you going next?
Thanks, Rob! I’m off to Bali next, leaving in a few days!
Very interesting insight from an adult female traveler. Where I live, people generally love visiting Japan, and if not for the work culture, would jump at the opportunity of living there, men and women both. They dismiss the kink culture as uniquely Japan but no one has ever delved deeper into the background.
Do you have an opinion about South Korea? I assume the prevalence of “girl power” would apply there as well.
It’s interesting; my Mum was talking to a Japanese friend of hers about some of my “beefs” with Japan surrounding the exploitation of women, and her response was a simple and very dismissive “Japan is very sexual. We just ignore it. But how is Nora enjoying Japan?”
So apparently, both locals and tourists alike find it easier than I to simply dismiss this aspect of the culture as a quirk that is, as you say, uniquely Japan.
I don’t have an opinion about South Korea since I haven’t been there, but I will say that in chatting with an expat here in Japan who has also lived in South Korea, he says the two countries share many of the same traits.
“It’s why I’m always loath to answer the question what is your favourite place in the world.”
Had the same kind of experience as a diver. Inevitably, I would get the question “What is your favorite dive place?”.
My answer would work with your question as well: “The next one.”
John – LOL! So true. I may indeed use that line next time. 🙂
Did you notice the overt racism toward foreigners?
I still like the place. But yes I found the whole culture/woman thing very interesting. They certainly are well dressed and well made up wherever they go.
Indeed – one of my initial observations about Japan was how beautiful the women are, and how well most people dress. So I guess this cultural attention to beauty has contributed to a generally beautiful people.
I didn’t personally experience any racism, however I certainly was well aware that I was a visible minority. A friend of my mother’s is a Canadian fellow married to a Japanese woman, and they’ve lived both in Japan and Canada together. He said once you get out of the city (especially Tokyo), locals are quite curious about visitors/foreigners and try to be helpful.
So I guess it depends on where you go as to what form of racism you might experience.
And like you, despite my beefs, I still like the place!
Hi, I’m Japanese.
I’ve read your article and I actually agree with most of the parts.
I assume that people from other countries would find it difficult to adopt this culture and society.
But I would like to point out one thing that makes me upset.
Japan is in fact known for its gross inefficiency??
Are you serious about it?
I have been living in multiple countries for the last 10 years including North America.
But there is no way that Japan is known for gross inefficiency and I feel offended and I don’t know why you thought that way.
We work a lot, which doesn’t mean we are inefficient. We just have a lot of workloads and we take care of customers at the very last minute and sometimes It might lead to overtime. That’s all.
I’m really shocked by what you wrote here and pls never use Japan to make money with a video and a blog or whatever.
Did either of you talk to Japanese women about the situation? Did you feel safe there? Did you feel safer walking in Tokyo at night rather than walking in NYC at night? Japanese women may be more concerned about feeling safe and little crime than independence.
Japan fell off my list after I discovered a graphic novel “hero” who rapes and sexually humiliates women who have started to take the power in girl power too literally. It’s not you, Nora.
Oh my. I shudder at the thought of that graphic novel. Literally…I’m still shuddering.
You’re going to let one book put you off a country? One book? Oh well. Japan is a wonderful country, and if you base your judgment on it because of ONE BOOK, then it’s not Japan, it’s you.
Are you a man? Of course you are.
I’m a woman and he’s right.
You can put it this way: women are exploited at maid cafes but men are exploited in the workforce every day.
Also most women who end up housewives far outlive their male counterparts who drop dead at 40.
The reason both women AND men are suffering is the decisions of Japanese MEN. The whole culture of overwork, lack of labor rights, etc, is due to the men is power. So no, it’s not some kind of equal situation.
I agree with you Alice.
You are so ‘ right on’ with your comments probably including how some of it is your way of dealing with transition. I hope you had equally wonderful experiences and observations. And, as a world traveler I wonder if you encountered similar feelings , not necessarily the same, about other places you visited. I was much more upset in Jordan for instance.
After reading your post, I’m going to imagine myself visiting my own home of USA and what my impressions would be. Although clearly , for example, NYC and Texas are worlds apart. As are Tokyo and Fukuoka. When I visited Waco Texas I had another kind of disturbing experience. Then there is Time Square of the 70’s and now.
Loving your posts!
Funny you should mention the States – an American friend of mine wrote to me after reading this post, and suggested that in some parts of the States, treatment of women and/or work culture isn’t much better.
It is interesting, however, how we tend to view our home turf a bit differently after traveling the world extensively. I’ve had a few wake up calls about Canada myself (good and bad).
As for other places I’ve visited, I’ve certainly had different feelings. I answered a question on Quora the other day about cities I wouldn’t return to. Interestingly, despite this post, Tokyo wasn’t on that list. So yeah, I’ve had less than stellar experiences in other parts of the world.
But interestingly, I’ve probably not had a chance to dive as deep into cultural patterns and society as I have here in Tokyo, which makes this article a bit unique for me.
Total nonsense. Has this “friend” ever even BEEN to “the states”?
I agree with what her American (that should imply that they were born and/or raised in America) friend said because I live in Houston, Texas and some areas are not well off. I have friends who grew up in the ghettos who have other friends are still live there. There might be shady, poor areas where you live as well.
Thanks for this informational post, not totally but in some point, i agree with you like that taboo tattoos and in women exploitation, i also hate to visit Japan. I dont like the way they treat people.
I can’t actually say I hate Japan, nor have I hated visiting. In fact, I’d gladly return.
And I guess in response to the racism that some people above have also observed, it’s worth noting that Japan was a country with completely closed borders for several hundred years. Nobody was allowed in, or out, of the country. So in some ways, you can’t blame the Japanese for having a very strong, unique, and stubborn culture.
Your expressions in the opening seconds of your ‘Visiting Akihabara’ video says it all. It’s like you arrived on a friendly island and then found out they were cannibals.
I spent three months in Japan – stayed with 23 different families – a day or two with each – office workers, farmers, a member of parliament, teachers. My feeling was that the Japanese (with exceptions of course) put everything that is foreign into a ‘curiosity shop’ where they examine it and play it to the hilt. But it is never part of Japan. So I give house room to the thought that maybe the Japanese may not see what you or I see in those anime drawings.
Very interesting observation! Certainly worth considering. The cultural “sunglasses” we each wear provide a very different perspective on the world around us.
How did you stay with so many people?
Thanks for sharing your views on a country that more often than not only generates sugar coated reviews and platitudes. It’s refreshing to see someone write about the complex layers that for the Japanese society.
I’m currently reading the superb Alex Kerr’s Lost Japan, first published in 1993, that has shed some light on the culture of the country. For example, Kerr says that the Japanese are much more focused on the outside aspect than on actual intent. While this elevated the arts to another level, it has created the culture of inefficiency that you talk about.
The fruits at the supermarket look stunning and perfect but anyone of those massive apples is pretty damn tasteless. It feels that this also applies to the “happy in my makeup” scenario you talk about.
If you’re interested in reading more about the country, I definitely recommend this book. Safe travels 🙂
Thanks for the recommendation! Seems like the author and I share many similar observations. I’d not considered the whole concept of pretty-on-the-outside but without substance. It’s an interesting angle. I’ll have a peek at the book!
You described your frustrations with Japan very eloquently. I am American and spent a month in Japan as a tourist. I had a wonderful time and look forward to visiting again. Your post made me think about the differences between touring a country and living in one. I do think there is a distinction, even though we were both there for similar periods of time. I think as a tourist, it’s easier to keep the rose colored glasses on for a longer time and conveniently overlook the less palatable aspects of the country you are visiting. In addition, a tourist’s self-determined itinerary helps them avoid the aspects of a culture that repel them. I think that living and working in a country, especially with the establishment of a routine, you cast a more critical, comparative eye on your surroundings. Is this something you have experienced, having both toured and lived in multiple countries?
P.S.: I would love to read a post about what you ate in Japan. Tokyo is one of the best cities in the world for eating!
You bring up an excellent point! Indeed, it’s the circumstances of being anywhere that often dictate the experience. And if I’d simply played the tourist the whole time, and not met up with expats and asked probing questions, and read up on daily life and culture, etc, I might have had a different experience.
But since, for me, travel is all about understanding (or trying to understand) what it’s like to LIVE somewhere, I work hard on that agenda.
And as some commenters have already observed, these are some pretty harsh and one-sided observations. I’ll have to follow up with another article about some of the nicer aspects of what Japan has to offer.
Hi, you expressed some very real problems with Japanese culture, I would agree with you on some, such as the sexual representation/exploitation of women. I did not really like Japan when I first moved there, but I did change my mind over time. I am sorry you did not see some other aspects that eventually made me love and respect Japan and its people. The Japanese I came to know were extremely helpful, friendly, family oriented, and interested in other cultures. People were unbelievably honest, and crime was very rare. After the big earthquake there was NO crime, imagine that scenario happening in the US, or other places. Medical care was good, cheap, and fast. Service was amazing, and you could count on things being done on time, correctly and properly. Public transport was everywhere, on time, and frequent. I can not say the same for the last 3 things since I returned to the US. The love of arts, music, culture, was prevalent, and admired. Buddhism and Shintoism lent an air of the love of nature and doing good deeds. Streets were clean, and the countryside was beautiful.
I just wanted to share some positive thoughts about a country I was proud to call home for many years.
THANK YOU for sharing these very real and very positive characteristics about Japan! I’m literally about to leave Japan in a few hours, and have had some time to reflect on these positive characteristics of the place, which obviously weren’t showcased in this article.
My Japanese experience wasn’t all bad. FAR from it! And although I still stand by what I wrote here as being dealbreakers for me to want to call Japan home in any kind of “permanent” manner, I do expect that I’ll return, and before I cap off this Japanese chapter of my website, I’ll be writing about some of these lovely aspects that you mentioned here.
Thank you – again! Your suggestions and enthusiasm for Japan have been very helpful to me throughout my time here.
Sorry Deborah but I must totally disagree with you when you talk about a Japan quite “crime-less”. Simply, police is used to dismiss too complex cases, to quickly qualify strange deaths as “suicide”, while judges don’t take a case to its end if they consider they won’t be able to “prove” fast and easily that the suspect is guilty. Everyday (I mean it) you can read in newspapers things like “XX District Public Prosecutor’s Office announced the non-prosecution of XX. No reason for the non-prosecution was given.”. EVERY DAY !
As for the 2011 disasters, you said “there was NO crime” ! Oh, my ! That’s frankly the opposite ! There were bags… no… mountains of crimes committed during this time and even months and years later: rapes, lootings and scams of any sorts occurred on a daily basis. But strangely, foreign press did decide to ignore these numerous cases. Moreover the Japanese government has been found guilty of funding an “agency” to scan and erase “bad comments” and web pages that could “damage the Japan’s image”.
The dirt is under the carpet, just look at it if you dare.
Sounds like a rerun of the late 80s.
Saw a big ad for make up in David Jones (department store) Melbourne Australia which stated something like Know Your Power. Irksome values clashes are everywhere, home or abroad.
You’re absolutely right. Perhaps I just notice these culture/value clashes more when I travel, since my eyes are open to everything and I’m generally more observant.
That is just no comparable Ms Moyle ! A cosmetics commercial message is at its right place in a department store, while in Japan the injunction to be “pretty” and “young” and “sexy” and “submissive” is ubiquitous. Nora is plainly right to feel it wrong.
What’s the matter with being a raging feminist, or a feminist? I think any intelligent human, whatever their gender, is a feminist and should never apologize for calling themselves one.
Fair enough! I guess I’m combatting the stereotype of the militant feminist by suggesting that I’m not one “of those”. 😉
But in reality, you’re right, and I don’t apologize for standing up for women’s rights and equitable treatment.
I’m not opposed to porn but what you see in Japan often has a very non-consensual element. A lot of soft porn magazines are sold openly in convenience stores and you’ll have guys reading magazines overtly sexualising young girls right next to the magazines aimed at teens. It’s really creepy.
The whole ‘kawaii’ culture of Japan is so screwed, tbh. Westerners often see it as being all about cuteness and fun but really, it’s designed to infantilise and oppress women. Women who try to be strong or independent are told they aren’t cute — and cuteness is the ultimate goal for women!
Btw I think the medical exams and tattoo thing are related. I know someone who’s Japanese husband avoided the medicals because he knew his hidden tattoo would be reported to his workplace.
I lived in Tokyo for a year and often travel there but I could not live there full time for many of the reasons you say. Another big thing for me was how people have a huge gap between what they say and what they do. The outward friendliness is great for a short holiday but long-term it drives you nuts. I felt like my personal values just don’t mesh well with Japanese culture values.
Interesting that you shared similar observations and sentiments to me. It’s actually kind of a relief, because I caught some heat for this article! So it’s good to know that I wasn’t totally off-base with my observations. Thanks!
thanks for sharing this article. I am searching Japon to travel and my ideas get more clear after I read this. You mentioned different asoects of living there. You may be right about them. Since I love tatoos much, İt will be difficult for me.
It is certainly possible to live and travel in Japan with tattoos – I have a few friends who do it. It’s just not a fully accepting culture in my experience.
Amen. I have lived in Japan for close to a decade at this point, and I won’t pretend it isn’t hard sometimes. There are plenty of good things (public transport, food, safety, cheap medical care, lots of great hiking) but the attitudes toward work, women and people who are ‘different’ in any way can really wear down on you.
Thanks for the support. I guess since you’re still in Japan it remains worthwhile! (Though being married to a Japanese man probably plays a part in that….) 😉
Do you have any specific coping mechanisms when things are tough to swallow for you?
Hi! i know this post is a little “old” but i really felt like commenting it. Please don’t find my comment offensive, i’m kinda just expressing my opinion and worldview.
i’m a high school senior and an aspiring professional artist, most probably animator or illustrator so i really wish to study in Japan one day. I wanted to see what are the pros and cons of living there and i did some research and i came across this post.
But i’m from Poland. Even though we’re “western”, european union and pretty much a liberal, developed country in theory, reality is quite different – many people are obsessed with religion (i have nothing against religion, but i’m talking about obsessive religiousness) and this causes our society to be pretty conformist. If you stand out: have tattoos, different skin color, different faith, you will be given curious looks or you can be threatened or even attacked by racist or “conservative” people. Women are still discriminated sometimes, we earn less money, we are groped in trains and on streets, we are treated like dirt by men who believe they’re perfect catholics. So no, we’re not like America. maybe one day we will be. American freedom from discrimination is cool, but i think sometimess it messes minds a little. not dangerously, just people who are raised in such developed countries might have a bit of a different approach to other places. I sometimes have impressions that people from very liberal countries kind of expect every country to accept everything. Japan is very developed, but it’s disparate culturally. They have different norms. We can’t expect it to be fully “western”. And we can’t judge it like we judge western countries. I know it’s hard but sometimes we have to accept the world as it is. I guess Japanese women aren’t so bitter about the girl power thing, they would massively rebel if they did. Ok, there exists an akihabara or two somewhere, but are you forced to go there? are you forced to dress up as an anime childish girl to fit in? i’ve been to akihabara and i know what you’re talking about but, not that i’m totally indifferent, it just doesn’t bother me this much… there certainly are places like this in europe and america too. this con of living in japan is definitrly a good point for those, who can’t bear a dose of discrimination. i mean, the akihabara thing is probably not spread all across the japan, it’s limited only to this neighborhood and only to people who want to go there. existence of such places, in my opinion, is an important part of freedom. we’re free to go there. however, the groping in trains reason is pretty a good point. Yet it’s not only limited to Japan. It happens everywhere, i guess.
i dont know if my comment makes any sense, i just kind of felt like… all those reasons you posted seem to repulse only people from discrimination-free developed countries. All you said is reality where i live, even though i’m the same culture as you. Are there any more serious reasons not to live in Japan?
Thank you for sharing your viewpoint. Interesting news about what life in Poland is like! I didn’t realize life in Poland was so similar to that in Japan.
I’d also like to counter your comment – which feels like an attack on my viewpoint as a westerner “expecting everything to be fully western”. That is not at all the case at all! I am simply stating the reasons why I personally would never choose to live in Japan and make it my home.
I accept every culture and country for what it is and what it represents. I have been living around the world for 12 years now. Trust me – I have learned not to expect every country and culture to be western. How boring the world would be if that were the case!
You ask for “more serious” reasons not to live in Japan….if the reasons I listed here are totally fine with you, then please, be my guest. Go live there, and be happy. There are millions of people who live in Japan and accept these circumstances as normal. I just won’t be one of them. 🙂
Great post Nora. The reasons you gave as to why you wouldn’t live in Japan resonate with me also. For myself, I’d have a fair few more reasons to add to those that you mentioned.. (excessive and unnecessary use of plastic packaging, lack of space, no one smiling at each other in the streets, people living on top of one and other, NO space, dismal beaches to what i’m used to, lack of awareness of mental health, the constant sniffling, coughing on public transport in public places, discrimination of “gaijin”, the lack of discussion of mental health, domestic violence and other very important issues… I could go on… however I think the point you made about the way in which Japanese society looks at gender roles and work life balance is enough to turn most progressive, open minded people off. The anime thing also repulses me, and I cannot believe how socially acceptable it is particularly in Japan. I came here 12yrs ago when I was a teenager and was so blind to these things that are so obvious to me now following my second visit as a woman in my mid/late twenties. I put this change in perspective down to being educated, well travelled, and truly valuing the freedom and lifestyle I’m grateful enough to have in my home country.
Wow – thank you for sharing your perspective and support! Indeed, the plastic packaging matter is also a big problem for me, especially now that I have made a commitment to myself to reduce/eliminate my consumption of all single-use plastics. Not an easy task in Japan, for sure!
Yeah the garbage disposal here is a joke. Japan touts itself for being environmentally progressive but they just burn everything! (Moiru gomi)
@ Hana who said “i really wish to study in Japan one day”
—>>> So, did you come to Japan ? A lot of young people like you think Japan is their Avalon, but as soon as they can live in Japan – in the real Japan I mean – almost all of them go quickly distressed and go back to their home country, broken in many ways.
The anime and manga industries are professional liars who are used to describe a Japan as how they would love it to be. And the guys who work for them are usually heavy drugs consumers and basically slaves to an unbelievable extend. I’ve been living in Japan for almost 25 years and never ever heard about a westerner who “made it” in Japan in manga or anime fields.
“Japan is for Japanese” do think 99,99% of Japanese citizens, they don’t need you nor want you to get even an tiny share of their dear cake. At best, if you are incredibly good at what you do, they may give you an opportunity… to be exploited. Is that what you want ? Successful westerners are frankly speaking a rarity in Japan, but everyone can take ones chance, after all. Simply, just know you have more probability to win a lottery big prize. You will have been warned.
There was a famous voice actor who was a foreigner he spoke Japanese too, but most anime voice actors who are foreigners voice act in English.
Leaving Japan in the next several days with my wife who is Japanese but lived in Canada for 20 years. We came here with the best intentions, but the culture here is toxic and unhealthy and we witnessed firsthand several of my wife’s friends become hikikimori. We are escaping with our sanity and our marriage intact. She is also strongly considering revoking her Japanese citizenship and becoming Canadian
Wow! This is a very strong experience for you! Revoking citizenship is a big deal.
I’m sorry that you experienced such a negative side of Japan, but glad that you feel you are making a change for the better. On a selfish note, I’m glad that my observations in this article are not totally off-base. 😉
Your experience is not an exception, I’m glad you escaped to a better world together. Japanese-foreigner marriage (very) often break. They break because of “cultural gaps” as they say but as your wife seems to have a brain of her own: good for her, good for you, you saved you raison d’être on this planet !
My wife (who is Japanese too) had to open her eyes about her country. It was long and often painful but now she went out of her “mental cave” (cf. Plato’s allegory of the cave) and now we are both much, much happier than ever even if we’re still living in Japan.
For my part, I had several “little” accident in the japanese street or subway and never had the slightest help, even when I felt in the middle of a road with cars coming fast. Well, I know it now, Japanese people are unfaithful in daily life, in game and in business, I’m OK with that. I know how they are, and don’t need them to build my own little private paradise. C’est la vie !
I’ve been living here since 2002. It’s been a real struggle and still continues to be nearly 17 years on. The culture is difficult to digest with regards to group thinking, and Japanese tend to take group activities seriously…even too seriously coming from an American’s perspective. Actually one could classify it as annoyingly pretentious. One could appreciate the dedication to the cause, but it doesn’t really end there. Japanese feel that they are better than other cultures because of this pretentious behavior. There are comments about how lazy westerners are because they cannot get along as a group. The problem with that line of thinking is that many Japanese end up complaining about their own culture at the same time that they have pride in it. So what do i do to get by here? Love the life of an American and don’t try to be Japanese on any way. It’s ok to be American here and you don’t need to try to adopt their behaviors.
You make a very interesting point about not trying to “be Japanese” and instead to simply embrace your cultural differences. Perhaps that is the ticket to living in Japan as an expat, and is also a stumbling block for those who try to assimilate but find themselves forever marginalized.
I know its an old article but felt the need to comment as I have to agree on your points. I see myself as a pretty openminded traveller and Japan has always been a must see place for me. Then I visited in July 2018 and honestly after travelling many places in SEA It was a huge culture shock. Its funny how you have this view of a place but when you get there and feel it, it can be totally different! (Bit like online dating! Ha!) Everything just felt so big so beautiful on the outside yet so fake! and so many rules! At the pool I got told off on my jewelery managed to hide the tat but was still frustrating! I’m also quite an empath so Tokyo did me no favours as I seemed to feel everyones sadness and boy did I feel it! There were good moments though I am glad I got to see some of the countryside and spent some time hiking near Fuji and Kyoto but the big city life sure was’nt for me. For me it sure was a good place to visit and observe but not somewhere I see me living my best life!
I’m sorry you were disappointed by your city experiences in Japan. (At the same time, I also feel just a tiny bit good that it wasn’t just me)! 😉
You said it well when you wrote that it’s a good place to visit and observe but not somewhere you could live your best life. I agree!
Hi Nora, I wanted to thank you for putting all the uncomfortable feelings I’ve had over the years into actual words for me to really understand and process what have been bothering me so much living here in Japan. I’m actually a Japanese native, born and raised in Japan, but I spent 16 years in the US after high school and just moved back to Tokyo recently. I’ve been having a difficult time adjusting to the culture here and work and social life with locals… It’s a great place to visit, but oh boy, with so many rules and narrow minded (in my opinion) expectations and perspectives, living here makes me feel suffocated. As Sam above mentioned, I don’t feel great lively energy in the city, either… Anyway, I feel better knowing I wasn’t the only one feeling what’s expressed here 🙂
Well, if my observations reassured you, then let me tell you – your reassurance is quite the validation for me! For you to resonate with my outsider observations, especially as a native Japanese person, is BIG for me.
But also, bad for you! I’m sorry you’re uncomfortable in Japan. Do you think you’ll stay?
Hello Nora, a very interesting post about the negative side of Japan. Other travel bloggers (Broken Backpack, Just One Way Ticket etc) say only super-positive side of Jpn, so it’s very informative. I am a Japanese male and have two points.
– Anthropologically speaking, society’s gender discrimination is quite common among developing countries (even in West until recently), and Japan is just 200 years backward. However, I am furious about the glacial pace of cultural change here. You didn’t mention, but all TV and Radios are full of similar discrimination (ex., young female as “assistant”). I will cite your post when I write to Tokyo Metro Government to complain about the posters in the subway. They are working to change many things before the Olympic and they value opinion from outside (called Kurofune). I wish you live in Japan and express more opinions.
– On the other hand, I don’t agree with your opinion about Akihabara. Akihabara is known as the weirdest city of Otaku culture and sexual desire even by Japanese. Before the internet, it was a “hush hush” thing. Japanese think that “weirdness” is a relative thing and doesn’t ban it as long as it doesn’t pervade the public space (“cultural zoning”). Say, if I went to the Amsterdam’s red light district and generalized my disgusting feeling about sexual exploitation to the entire nation of Netherland, I don’t think it’s fair. Foreign people often cherry-pick the weirdest thing in a nation, but they shouldn’t judge the nation from it.
This may sound counter-intuitive to many people, but many social studies did not find a positive correlation between the porn and violence against women in a long term population study (Very short term yes, but it gets corrected from social cues). It’s partly because people distinguish fiction from reality. There is no peer-reviewed study that shows a correlation between the “sexualized big boob cartoon characters” and the frequency of groping per passenger per mile either. I am not saying that the sexualized content is a good thing (I myself feel DISGUSTED), but my disgusting feeling doesn’t authorize me to claim my sense of justice superior to other people. I abhor guns culture in media and shootings in the US, but I also try to understand the second amendment and its historical meaning, before saying I am disgusted and I hate the US.
I always wonder why Western individual assumes their own ideology is superior to the opposite side (Dem vs GOP, pro-life vs anti-abortion etc.). In Japan, the abortion debate is non-existence. This is the biggest difference to me.
Anyway, thank you for your very interesting posts. I wish you write the negative side of other countries too. (I know sponsor won’t like it though)
Thank you, Toru, for contributing your experience and viewpoint! I appreciate it, and it is very valuable.
I lived myself for 11 years in Japan as a white male, and I relate to most of what’s in this post, but I find your comment very valuable to put some of it into the right perspective.
I’ll also be thinking about thinking of contrasting ideologies in terms of superiority/inferiority, thanks.
Apparently Westerners need to complain about every culture or country they visit. As if they haven’t seen how much worse their own countries can be, can you stop poking your noses where it doesn’t belong? I guess not, probably that’s why most people in other parts of the world don’t want to put up with people like you. What’s next you’re gonna become a Westerner who is a self-proclaimed on Japan? You feel the need to throw dirt on others but not realize how messed up your own country is, do you know the amount of porn USA churns out every year, it’s a number most other countries can never match. Do you know the exploitation of women in the states? No you don’t apparently you’ll never bring that up because what you want most is attention, that would end up ruining your objective. We get it, you wanted attention and the best way you could do it was through negatively criticizing someone else’s culture or nation to seek validation or confirmation (even if it’s negative) on your low self-esteem needs without having to feel any repercussion so the best way was to criticize people of other culture, nationality or race. FFS, why did I even click this link and read the first two paragraphs, guess if you wanted to give a dose of cancer to others, well you succeeded. Don’t EVER claim to be an expert on other people’s countries as somethings are left to be dealt with the people who live there.
I am married to a Japanese woman and have visited three times. I am having a hard time deciding whether we should live in Japan or here. I have a very positive perception of the country and speak the language well but worry about how well I could adapt and survive socially and professionally in the country. Do you have any thoughts regarding the biggest differences that someone from the U.S. would need to consider before making a decision about relocating to Japan? I am not an expert on this matter and really just want as many perspectives as possible.
I don’t know if you’re asking Kazu above for their perspective (they obviously don’t appreciate mine – LOL), or if you want my perspective. But for lack of their response, I’ll weigh in. Take it for what you will.
I think it really depends on where in Japan you want to live and what your career is. My understanding is that the working culture in American/European-owned companies or companies that have a significant western clientele are easier to work for. The hours aren’t as long and demands aren’t as high; it’s much more in line with what you’re accustomed to. Also because you speak Japanese (and have a Japanese wife), you’ll be at an advantage socially.
You could try it out for a while and see what happens….
The topic here is Japan. Your comment is simply “whataboutism” and therefore misplaced and irrelevant.
You are free to write your own blog and vent about the US as much as you want.
I might have taken you seriously until that last paragraph. You went on rant about the US and Westerners (which is fine, whatever) and then concluded that the author should not criticize another country or people. To be consistent, and not come across as a clown, you should have just posted the last paragraph.
Dont feel hard up. What you write about is the reality. I feel in terms of Asia Japan has the best media influence in the world in *Asia.
I mean the U.K and America is the largest and most people would like to live in U.K but dont realise just how horrible that is.. they are ensnared by media sensationalism. Japan is the same!
The sensationalism of Japan through media outlets is pretty huge, giving a very misleading image of the country.
I have been Japan 6 times and attempted to live there 2 times. After the 2nd attempt i just bailed.. it is really horrible and backwards place. Personally i blame the westernatization of Japan as the main cause of why its so hell.. might even go as far as to say Americanization, as even most Euro countries (im from U.K) arent so well.. weird.
I now live in Korea and sure the work culture in Asia is alot of swallow, i mean i brush a 45 hour work week as a glancing normality.. but i can leave early on fridays without being mocked or looked down on, can take 7 weeks of vacation a year and the job comes with alot of perks. Sure it isn’t Japan, but Japan is hell to live among.
Whats wrong with the UK?
US has tons of problems:
– No good public transportation outside of maybe a few cities like NYC b/c car and oil companies in the past managed to subsidize pro-car laws; 70% of millenials said they would use light-rail if they could
– Unliveable suburbs where everything is far away and its hard to meet people
– A very high single parent rate and ~50% divorce rate, where divorces are expensive affairs that bankrupt all people
– Corporate lobbying that calls for war so that they can move the stock market with their insider knowledge and gain control of the world’s resources (90% of stock profits go to the top 5% of investors)
– Very few Americans can have passports since there are few countries nearby, and tend to know little about other countries
– Expensive colleges that are very little about learning and all about showing that you are willing to do anything to keep your teachers happy; degree inflation has been growing and growing and its been shown that people who dropout their Senior year have no advantages over people who dropout their Freshmen year meaning colleges its the peace of paper that counts
– Broken immigration system that binds workers to their job and is extremely arbitrary
– A relatively high rate of teenage pregnancy, high-school dropouts have 3 children vs 1 child for college graduates
– Rent & housing keeps going up and up because of regulations and zoning laws to keep housing prices soaring so that the people who own existing houses can sell them for higher
– Heroin and other drugs
– Suicide is very high among the non-religious
– Fundamentalist Religion
– Unhealthy food is cheap, healthy food is expensive thanks to farm subsidies and lobbying
– Healthcare is expensive for what you get, they even voted that we can’t import cheaper drugs from overseas
– 95% of court cases are solved by “Plea bargains” where Prosecutors threaten people with a 10 year sentence and people plead guilty to a 2 year sentence even if they aren’t Guilty
– The jail system is for profit and they use prisoners as modern slaves who work for minimum wage yet only get 75 cents per hour because the rest of the money goes for the jail
– Lots of people lack the ability to admit they are wrong and have a huge sense of entitlement, Dunning-Krueger effect means everybody thinks they above-average at everything even if they know nothing about something
– Fat feminazis (nuff said)
– Probably a lot more, but I can’t think of more than these
Interesting posts and comments. I just returned from my second trip to Tokyo and I am conflicted about my feelings.
On the one hand, the overt and public sensualization of underage females in places such as Akihabara and Kabukicho is repulsive from the perspective of most thoughtful Westerners. However, Tokyo is the largest metropolis in the world, so one would expect to see things there that would only exist on a much smaller scale in other cities. And repulsive areas do exist in many smaller Western cities, including the U.S.
It seems that a certain type of psychological perversion towards younger females is culturally accepted in Tokyo, but acting out on it is most certainly not accepted. It’s almost as if the attitude is “we know this is weird, but as long we are polite about the weirdness and not act out on it, then it’s better than keeping is completely undercover.”
On the surface and institutionally, the culture is conservative by Western standards, and Japan has one of the lowest crime rates (including rape) in the world: The rape rate is 1/100,000 whereas in the U.S. it is 27/100,000. So, if our rape rate is 27x that of Japan, perhaps there is more to comparing and contrasting the two cultures than meets the surface. We are, after all, talking about two entirely different cultures and ways of life, with different histories and languages. So, I find it hard to make an educated judgement unless I knew the Japanese language and was truly bi-cultural.
I no expert, but « rape rates » need to be taken with caution, as there are very strong barriers for victims to go to the police. You can expect that more victims go forward in the US than in Japan.
Just want to share my thoughts on your Reasons.
Before I say anything, do take note im a filipino and only lived in japan for 8 days but that included iwate, which is 578km away from the city.
My suggestion is this. Experience living in Japan in the provinces far from the developed cities. There you will have a taste of Japan’s true culture. There is a huge difference. What you are observing are a mix of Japan’s culture which has been changed due to foreign influences over the years including their Work culture. So, your really in no position to judge their culture because other countries have a huge contribution to its negative factors (like exploitation of women in comic books).
I dont like women with tatoos too does that mean your not gonna accept me as your guest? Its kind of closed minded don’t you think?
I also see a very common pattern with westerners saying the same thing as you because in Japan they can’t do what they are used to. Why even come to Japan if your not willing to change the way you live.
Yes the Philippines island is an ideal example of democracy and equality specially treatment of women.
I’ve just returned from a 2 week trip to Hokkaido. I hated the experience so much, I ended up strangely fascinated and have done loads of internet research on the foreigner experience in Japan and it’s culture. This was my second trip after 9 underwhelming days in Tokyo (+ Hakone and Fuji) last year so I’ve seen the metropolis and it’s “Frontier” side. My observations from British (Indian) living and travelling in Asia:
Hokkaido – the authorities genuinely seem like they want to be more open (as many comment), English signage, menus etc. Sapporo is distinctly pleasant. People are the closest to ‘friendly’ in Japanese terms. Note, Sapporo is an ‘un-Japanese’ city as it was designed by Westerners and distinctly feels Pacific North America.
Xenophobia & Racism – we had no bad direct experiences as such, yes everyone was “awfully polite.” Facade. Though we could *feel* the fear and loathing, and outright disdain for the foreigner. I actually had a couple of older women excitedly embrace me which I didn’t mind; mainly obvious invisibility was conspicuous tactic.
My white English husband had someone avoiding touching his hand; ‘sorry, full up’ in English when asking at an empty restaurant at 5pm; getting ignored or shoved a leaflet entirely in Japanese when making queries at the upmarket hotel we were staying at; panicking car park attendants waving glowsticks treating him like he was a criminal trying to get away (he was trying to park the car)…and the best:
A Japanese man asked my husband where he was from. Hubby responds ‘England.’ The man then bursts out laughing, points at another man and says ‘He’s Korean.’ Their entire group of 4-5 adult (40sish) men burst out laughing, including the ‘Korean’ man who was clearly embarrassed.
It was so juvenile we didn’t know where to look.
Growing up in 1980s Britain, I know racism when I see or feel it. I can call it out for what it is, without making historical or geographical excuses for why people think it’s acceptable to behave that way in 2019 – towards paying visitors. In all my years in Britain and travelling around the world, I have NEVER sensed that level of animosity towards foreigners at a collective societal level (95% of other tourists were Japanese). If Britain had been anything as severe as that, my family would never have stuck around (my birthplace is a not-that-poor tropical paradise).
I think Japan gets a free pass because most White people are too afraid or embarrassed to admit they’ve experienced racism or they think it’s a PC tit-for-tat white privilege thing. It’s not a white thing, Japanese hate Asians too – Koreans (ex-colony), Filipinos, Thai, Chinese (the most?). The Japanese are *intrinsically* Xenophobic. This xenophobic insularity is is a fundamental of Japanese culture and explains why Japan is different from the rest of the world (including remote societies), in every respect.
Which brings me on to ‘THE THREE GREAT JAPANESE ILLUSIONS’:
1. MODERN TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED – no credit/debit cards accepted (not working at the International airport); perpetually diverting to find a 7-11/Lawsons that even takes international cards. In Tokyo, supposedly a globalist city. The WiFi kept tripping out in Hokkaido, a Singaporean complained raised these issues at a hotel and got a blank response. In Tokyo, we had to used a portable modem (WTF???) and cafes with wifi, are like gold.
Here, in Singapore with super-fast connection, we pay by card, tap n go, one, transport cards etc. I top up my identity card to use the gym, parking is Epay with travelcards. Even the border tolls with/in Malaysia runs on cards purchased via machines. Yes, Malaysians do NOT pay cash at tolls! Even 70 yr old aunties watch Chinese movies on their iPhone whilst riding the wified MRT. India’s Northern Himalayas has better coverage as does almost anywhere in Instagram-crazy Indonesia (the poor unbanked use Gojek to catch rides) etc. These two developing countries alone have leap-frogged Japan in terms of digital advancement, nevermind China and Korea. Japan is totally pathetic in terms of futurism, the rest of Asia is leaving it behind.
2. BEAUTIFUL NATURAL JAPAN – reality: concreted, rundown, dilapidated and ugly as f**k. Yes, I’m talking about Hokkaido as well as Tokyo (and Honshu). Not a wilderness, not a frontier but apparently the best nature spots Japan has. Kind of like England’s Home Counties only the Chiltern Hills are far more beautiful (not outstanding locally). I don’t direct visitors to my average English hometown but maybe I should promote to the stupid Japanese who think Furano and Biei are like Provence (f**k yes!). The photo-shopping is incredible (e.g. Biei’s stripped flower fields consist of ONE field next to a carpark). The paintings of the seasons are mesmerising but not even real (they miss out the ubiquitous vending machines and mandatory etiquette instructions).
Sure, they can’t do much that the scenery doesn’t compare to NZ, Europe, USA, Canada, India or China. But the boxy rundown houses built on tarmac, the ghost towns, ‘mess-anic’ telephone lines, pointless ‘landmark’ bridges, Coffin-dodgers driving Coffin-boxes 30km/h on motorways; fucking carparks (yet hotels charge for parking and insist you park daily 10mins away) and public toilets everywhere (incontinent majority noted). I was shocked seeing Tokyo apartment blocks right underneath the motorway. Earthquakes??? Then there’s the inside of the crappy boxes, with the plastic attachment that’s supposed to be wash basin/kitchen? Even Hokkaido has tonnes of land yet they live in little rusting prefabs. I counted about 5 houses that had bothered with plants/making their patio presentable. Maybe the US Rustbelt is now a hot destination?
Coming on to … Ok no litter but plenty of weeds….oh the weeds…no grass just more concrete; over-rated Sakura in scrappy Ueno Park (better cherryblossom and parks London’s regular burbs); yet more carparks next to Hokkaido’s lakes; monstrous USSR-style hotels left abandoned…Animals mistreated in ‘Japan’s best zoo’ (they looked as hungry as I felt) which resembles a toilet in Grimsby for visitor appeal; brown bears in a UNSECO-listed Nat Park only you can’t see them as they’ve shut the electrified boardwalk as the bears were sighted (but hey ‘eat Hokkaido ice cream!’), even though that’s what you fucking went there for…..(I couldn’t face ‘Bear Mountain’ after the zoo).
Truth is the Japanese care about nature as much as they care about other people. Japanese TV: dogs and monkeys forcibly performing tricks (really as though it was the 1970s) and a woman clearly unwell or had disabilities (she couldn’t walked well, was v nervous and blinked erratically) being ridiculed for entertainment (that clip was played at least x4 to continuous giggling by women and men).
3. RACIAL PURITY AND SUPERIORITY – the biggest most ridiculous lie of them all for the reasons above – a backward geriatric farm that’s constructed the biggest urban disaster known as habitation, timewarped 50 years back and stuck. And anyways, everyone knows historically they come from China. Their Bhuddist deities are derived from India’s Hindu icons – via China.
The Japanese maintain their superiority by insularity – the modern equivalent of a child with eyes shut, sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending they can see (rather like their education system going by comments).
That didn’t even cover the bland utilitarian food (keeping someone 20% hungry is NOT Asian culture), nihilistic mentality and history, the disturbing schizophrenic mentality of pure demure’ women (I gasped at the women in long-skirts and bonnets who’d arrived from 1940s Kansas City), the really disturbing Child Pornography that’s brazenly embraced and celebrated as ‘weird and wonderful Japan’ or their patently ridiculous ‘etiquette’ system.
My conclusion is that Western men end up in Japan either because they dream of a trophy demure Japanese housewife or they have extreme porno/paedophilic tendencies (people really move for anime?). Women see it for what it is, disturbing and decrepit (and not somewhere you would raise kids even if you ‘loved’ it). After all, you can much higher quality of life in every other Western country – bigger houses, better cars and pay for a start.
If you really are fanatical about safety and transport (!), Singapore is your 21st century heaven. The education’s no1 globally and the multi-racial people are much happier, welcoming and worldly too. Japan WAS the future once.
White Canadian man 12 years in Japan, completely fluent in Japanese and currently applying for the citizenship. I 100% disagree with every single thing you said.
I grew up in Canada in the 80s and 90s (born in 87) and saw way more racism there in any given week than in a decade in Japan. Cashless payment has been promoted by the government since June 2019 so it’s extremely prevalent everywhere in Tokyo now (your comment is from August so you should know that?) I haven’t noticed and disagree with what you said regarding nature. Some hills are reinforced with concrete to prevent land-slides. So what? 99% of it is just georgous. lol @ people of South-East Asian origin calling Japanese food bland. Yours is just a spice dump, your palate is burnt out.
I think your recommendation regarding Singapore is laughable. I spent a month there for work and absolutely hated it. It’s disgustingly dirty when you go in non-touristic places, everybody is fake and trying to one-up eachother, the food is often overpriced garbage, people are mind-blowingly rude, prostitutes are absolutely everywhere in clubs and bars, etc.
I think the vast majority of your gripes with the country is due to the language and cultural barrier. Some people, including you, just don’t “get” Japan. Just thought I should give some perspective from the other side.
Lies. You must be a japanese disguising as a canadian cause I don’t think a canadian would immediately identified himself as a white canadian.There are no dirty areas in Singapore. It is one of the most strictest in the world regarding public cleanliness.
I doubt very much you are from Canada with that mouth. Furthermore you are a male and thus might not be as privy with sexual harassment as women are.not least but last if you miss on the amount of prostitutes in Japan then obviously you are probably yet another jap that only see what it only affect them.
Those foreigners who hate Japan don’t get it, and yet not only do you understand Japan you also understand Southeast Asia and Singapore. You don’t need to use any time to give any evidence because we Japan haters can’t understand it…
I’m English and used to live near the Edgware Road in London. I used to experience far more racism there on a daily basis in 1 year, in my own country, they I have in 11 years in Japan. And in Japan I kind of expect it because you get racist ignorance in every country. It’s always miserable people, usually poor, who are racist.
To be honest, many white, western males go to Japan and stay because they can have a lot of sexual partners with women who would be out of their league in their home country. Right or wrong? That’s subjective, but it’s certainly understandable.
Interesting. I am from London, which I am not particularly proud of. Certainly a city that is up in terms of being multicultural compared to racially homogenous Japan. I do laugh at comments like these. You are probably mad that Japanese women show more interest to White men than yourself. That’s too bad.
Racism from people and a racist system are too different things. Racism in the us is mostly from the poor and the affluent old timers but racism in Japan comes directly from a one political party of all traditional far right fascist old farts pass down to society through decades of brainwashing very similar to the Hitler youth during Germany’s infamous years. The USA and the UK both have racism but you can travel as an immigrant to either nation and become a member of the government in one generation! You can’t do that in Japan.
Ah! Another miserable Wokester, virtue-signaling by bashing their home culture. If the UK is so “racist”, why has it accepted so many immigrants per capita in comparison with Japan? Or does examining those metrics not help your toxic narrative?
Don’t forget Japan medical healthcare is a hit and miss and their mental health care industry doesn’t even exist. The police and their justice system is what scares me the most! If a foreigner gets arrested then good luck getting access to a council that speaks your native language and with a 97% conviction rate then you know for a fact that they torture you till you admit to a crime you don’t commit.
I told Japanese girls on twitcast if they wanted to go outside of Japan so I can save money being a remote worker and most think most places outside of Japan are 治安が悪い especially Vietnam, except maybe Malaysia. But in Malaysia girls cover their hair, so whats the point in going : (.
I just came back to Europe ( France ) after from several months spent in Tokyo and I found your observations very accurate and eloquent.
I have also been working with Japanese people for over a decade, so was exposed to their culture and mentality quite a lot. I think people who will have a different , more sugar coated view of Japan than yours, are those who are more of superficial visitors who don’t see beyond the cute surface, and they lack attention to details and critical thinking.
Yes there are nice aspects of Japan but sexism and xenophobia are real, as well as hypocrisy. You always need to read between the lines, and you can be almost sure that Japanese will never be honest and straightforward with you if you are a foreigner/ look as one. There is a huge amount of unnecessary pressure and repression in Japanese society, as a result people have a lot of anger and frustration in them , it also explains perversion and lack of empathy that I detected in many Japanese, in any case it’s way more prevalent than in westerns.
I have Japanese friends who left Japan to live in Europe and who label their native country as “ insane “ and are happy to live a more balanced life abroad. Having said that, it is certainly a fascinating country to visit, but I will definitely pass on a chance of living there.
I tried to become passive and demure when the stares I received while teaching in Tokyo became too much, but I learned that as a foreigner you will never be seen as part of the group.
Seeing my students terrified to voice ANY opinion in order to fit in was very depressing. My co-workers were a mess, sometimes ashamedly taking medical leave due to their depression. We had fences in certain areas of our school “to prevent student suicide”, which was very common. The expectations are inhumane.
And the passive aggressive comments you mentioned gave me so much anxiety! The comments about the food I ate (I am very athletic and am not into the 600 calorie/day diet my co-workers tried to have me eat), the length of my sleeves (May in Tokyo is very humid, apparently 3/4 sleeve in my casual school was not allowed until June), etc. etc.
In Buddhist temples I would feel calm, but Japan was a very stressful, repressive place for me. Most of the foreigners I know who didn’t experience these problems were men.
Japan … a country that has no problem with your underage girls wearing skirts to school (even in the winter) but then had a problem with them having ponytails in schools.
I do find this interesting as both countries despite having different views are both experiencing declining population. There are no feminists to blame for that in Japan though. In America, they’d say the liberated views are the cause of this but Japan is more conservative yet experiencing the same. Feminists or not, biological clock will still keep ticking so it is interesting seeing both sides of extremes but both having the same problem.
REAL GIRL EMPOWERMENT IN JAPAN … is women taking jobs and not becoming housewives and popping out babies as they are expected to .. while their husbands sleep around. Now their population is in a nosedive. That’s justice.
So true. Wow. I experienced similar in Japan, Tokyo… I mostly hated how women don’t do things for themselves but for men. Then if he pays the rent and you only have to cook, I don’t know, seems not so bad.
However that Akihabara part… well, I hate Akihabara and even the high-pitched female voices they always have on announcements made me really mad. Those are indeed things you have to avoid. It is less strong in the countryside but still there.
Globalization is a larger threat! Japanese a few decades ago could ensure only working for one employer their entire live and then retiring. Globalization has forced companies to be more efficient so nearly 40% of the population. I longer have careers but temporary jobs that don’t really pay a lot so they don’t have the economic platform to raise children.
To add pain to injury; the decline in population and the aging of the population has lead to employment shortages which forces companies to either forces employees to work over time or to hire temporary overseas laborers. Due to japans political
System (far right) with no left competition to balance democracy! Companies can get away with anything and government does nothing. That in combination with japans team oriented, rule following never questioning elders or challenging the status quote has lead to decades of mindless sheep working till they drop dead or committing suicide out of pure desperation. Other side effects are the prostitution and cheating spouses. Ultimately the problem is Japan governs T is shit! Runner by old fart traditionalist who have never used a computer and profit by being in bed with organized crime. The only lucky ones are the ones that leave the country bc they had the common sense to learn a foreign language or simply immigrate elsewhere.
“But I’ll bet there isn’t a whole anime culture showing young boys in tight bulging underwear”
Ehm. You didn’t do the research…
This entire article is 10000% feminist at its finest. First let me say this of course sexism and xenophobia are there “IF YOU GO LOOKING FOR IT”. Sexism (against females) is definitely a rare case by case basis in the job force. Xenophobia is there if you don’t follow the cultural and ethical laws. It’s very simple no one is telling you to not indulge yourself in individuality but if you’re going to do things to stand out (in the wrong ways) and on top of that you are a foreigner what more could you expect!! Japan is great if you are willing to accept and “become” the culture. If you are not willing to follow their very reasonable and ethical rules then Japan isn’t for you and the locals will make sure that you know that. Just do your research before you make that life changing decision to move to Japan.
Ethical laws? You mean like treating women and young underage girls like toys for men sexual gratification. Targeting foreigners as scapegoats for Japanese crimes! You are right! We don’t want to be part of your backwards society but you can’t stop us from speaking about how inbreed Japan really is. That the whole thing that bother you right! Not being able to bush up the voices of those foreigners.
I got banned from Quora for bad mouthing Japan, gave too many details. However, I seem to understand that at different ages Japan is great and bad for different people. Older foreigners that are men or women hate Japan because of the lack of good job opportunities. Young good looking foreigners like Japan because they are worshipped and don’t have to deal with the job culture. There are many foreigners in Japan in random areas and if you have those foreign friends and speak to them in Japanese and Japanese friends on the side to hang out with you then many of the problems of Japan are solved, along with working remotely or at a international company to avoid the Japanese work culture. A lot of the problems in Japan are also problems in China and Korea and Thailand so it helps to get perspective.
I’m so glad you wrote this.
I lived in Tokyo for a year as a teacher, and I came back to America a year and a half ago. I had a difficult time there, partially due to a long distance relationship, but lately I’ve been wondering if I should give it another go.
Then I think about why I was unhappy there. It wasn’t just the pain of an LDR, but also the exact reasons you mentioned above. Especially as a teacher of high schoolers, it was awful to see how they were expected to act, and to accept their sexual exploitation…as well as my own as a “foreign fetish” for most men I met.
There’s so much about Japan I love and miss, but the reality of my life there is that I was both excluded and stalked for being a foreign woman. That reality hurts me, but like you said, I couldn’t sacrifice my own morals to condone that behaviour.
PS. I have a small tattoo on my sternum. I know many hot springs let you cover them with Band-Aids, but the place I tried to bathe in flat out refused me. It was very upsetting. So I’m glad you didn’t try!
As someone who grew up in Japan, Japanese girls have no obsession over feminism at all and most girls just love being dominated by the male upto a certain extent.
I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with that because at the end of the day, it’s their country and what matters the most is the overall happiness of its permenant citizens.
Regarding the tattoo taboo.
Everyone is entitled to feeling uncomfortable, as long as they don’t attack you.
In their culture tats are viewed as a sign of Yakuza, and we cannot help that. I would respect their culture and people who grew up in it rather than labelling them narrow-minded.
Calling names just because they are uncomfortable with something is very very immature.
Because tatoo is a choice.
If it were about skin colour, most would never bother as it is something beyond our control.
In Onsen, they have a valid reason to kick you out if most of them are uncomfortable with tattoos, because Onsen is a place for relaxation and everyone deserves to be fully comfortable, not just you.
And Japan is one of the few countries where some of the individual freedom is expected to be compromised in order to ensure comfort for everyone involved, not just one. I think that’s true civilization.
I’m starting to feel that tattooed people can be much more judgemental than the conservatives.
I’m dark skinned, and if people feel uncomfortable with it, as long as they don’t attack me personally, I’m completely okay and would never call them narrow-minded for how they grew up.
So let’s be mature and respect different cultures rather than labelling them names.
Afterall, if you want to visit a country as a tourist, you have the obligation to act the way they want you to, to a certain extent of course, but never the otherway round.
Countries should NOT rent apartments and or homes rent to Japanese. WHY?
“This is something that happened when I went by myself to look for a rental property at a real estate agent’s office. First, when the agent found out that I am a foreigner, their attitude completely changed. Then when I told them my husband is also not Japanese, their attitude got even harsher. They said that the landlord would not rent the apartment to a foreigner. Then I went with my husband to another real estate agent, but we were told that if we didn’t have a Japanese guarantor, we wouldn’t be able to rent an apartment, we got one, Then I tried to tell them that my husband and I both have permanent resident status, but they still refused to help us. NO FOREIGNERS ALOUD.
“This is something that happened to a friend of mine when they tried to buy an apartment recently. After the price negotiation was settled, my friend heard from the agent that the owner would not sell the property to a foreigner. Even though my friend was prepared to pay the full amount in a lump sum, (the owner) wouldn’t do the deal.” NO FOREIGNERS
“I’ve had a lot of experiences where I was not treated sincerely by real estate agents once they found out that I was a foreigner. They suddenly became really cold towards me. I think a system and policies should be established so that people can rent an apartment as Japanese do when they go to other kind countries.
“I’ve had some unpleasant memories thinking that it’s really strange that even though I was born and raised in Japan, I can’t rent an apartment in this country because of my nationality. I was born and raised in Japan and I can Japanese, but I still experience a lot of discrimination and prejudice here.” Japanese are not kind, not shy, it is something they tell themselves to feel good about themselves but now the world knows. shame shame.
You say you’ve never been to an onsen but then you seem so sure that you’ll be kicked out of one. How can your speculation be turned into a reason to dismiss living in Japan? You haven’t even based your decision on how Japanese people have actually reacted to your tattoos.
Tattoos ! One of those taboos japans are so inflexible about! Also Japan has no anti discrimination laws in place so business owners can refuse service on any foreigner based on skin color, nationality or a simple tattoo. Weird country! If the world treated Japanese in the same manner they treat foreigners in Japan. Then you would really be isolated just like you like it.
This is my 20th year of living in Japan and everything you say is correct. I’m envious that you could leave. I grimace at the DMMM adverts on this page, they are one of the biggest female flesh parasites in Japan and have literally made a billion-dollar industry out of objectifying half the population (women) and desensitizing the other half (men) – a human rights disgrace!
I just decided to read this because a male Japanese gave reasons why you shouldn’t move to Japan.
I figure everyone is entitled to their opinion. This is her experience and she’s entitled to it.
I also noticed when people list here that they are not from the US there is mostly no negative comment. The assumption seems to be it’s only the people from the US who has an opinion on Japan. So now people stress that they are not US citizen. Once they do that I can almost hear crickets in the remarks although those who do not say where they are from are verbally attacked. I found it very curious that attack and defend is the common place here, instead of just accepting things as they are and not as we would see it.
This is her opinion. This is her observation. This is my opinion. This is my observation. She is entitled to her observation and where she would like to live. I am entitled to my observation. it doesn’t mean it has to be accepted it’s just one person’s opinion.
But I’ll bet there isn’t a whole anime culture showing young boys in tight bulging underwear
Oh, dear. You sweet, naive thing . . .
“and women certainly are not being arrested every year by the thousands for grabbing men’s crotches on trains.”
That’s actually kind of unfortunate as this reversal of roles would solve so many problems 🙂
Interesting post. However, Western main stream media continues to romanticize and to praise Japanese people and turns a blind eye on all the dark side of this place. Traveling in Japan is fun; living here is a totally different story. It will take a westerners to live in this country for a while to realize that Japanese are not as polite and honorable as they might think.
You’re totally right, “Japanese are not as polite and honorable as they might think” and you can discover that easily, at least as soon as when they feel you are not a threat or a benefit for them in any way. Then, they show you you mean nothing. How can one think it could be in another way, in a country where a part of the local population has been discriminated against so harshly and so long —>>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burakumin
Typical Western person not only criticizing but also patronizing a foreign culture.
Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai workers in Japan feel grateful about living and working there. No matter where Westeners go, they complain about the life style and how they would “improve it”. I have seen it in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, East Asia, Caribbean, Polynesia, etc.
First try to fix your corrupted and toxic society! Full on one hand with crazy people such as those of Qanon, and on the other with Cultural-Revolution like West Coast revolutionaries.
Actually you are Japanese, aren’t you ? Your comment is made of the same “stuff” than what is posted elsewhere on the web by Japanese propagandists paid to do so ! As for what you claim about how happy Asian immigrants are to be in Japan, here is another point of view about the matter —>>> https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/03/29/national/probe-reveals-759-cases-suspected-abuse-foreign-trainees-japan-171-deaths/ and that: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2018/11/21/japan-wakes-up-exploitation-foreign-workers-immigration-debate-rages/ and that: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/10/04/national/abuses-rampant-japan-foreign-intern-program/ and that: http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13389030
Foreign interns are actually the problems. They come from middle of no where near poverty from developing country with whose money? With the tax money of Japanese. Those that do not make it got to experience all of it and then some with the tax money with free scholarships, but unfortunately not all make it and not all are cut out and be smart enough to survive, just as not all will graduate from university in the US even if you could get in. Instead they end up doing illegal stuff like working too much while they were told not to work so much as they are a student. They know they shouldn’t have worked illegally like that. If they want to work and live in Japan they should have gotten a work visa, just like they do in the US. They deserve to be deported well before they got to that stage that they have no money to even survive to provide for themselves. Do you think the foreign students in the US and a country like Canada would let students work like that?? No freaking way! And now they have problems with immigrations and they play race card?? Lol yeah right.. And she is not Japanese.. The thing is if you don’t like Japan, you are more than welcome to leave, instead of projecting your distorted frustrations on some strangers on the internet. Get yourself together, for god sakes..
She is Japanese
Bullshit. Japan threats it’s chinese, vietnamese & thai techincal interns like dirt. They get harassed to the point of suicide. There are several good but disturbing videos on youtube about this horrible problem. Get your head out of your ass.
Well not all Thai think alike, a Thai guy I met in Twitcast said that the Japanese are extremely racist against Thai people, however, this guy had amazing Japanese I have to say.
Another westerner view and bs they spread all around the world about woman power. Woman are beautiful in Japan and yes they want to be more beautiful and we love them! Not those hairy stinky “super natural” armpits that you could see in insanely “free” Europe or US, keep your teachings to yourself. Just look at your “super democratical” elections, such a shame! And this countries and people still trying to teach everyone how we have to live. Do you know that Hirosima and Nagasaki was nuked by US army and all civilian people – kids, elder people, woman was burned alive ? Do you know that US still has occupational army in Japan and doesn’t want to move away? It’s time for Yankee to go home!
I liked your post so far, I think it was humorous, but all honesty, I think it is not realistic to understand a totally different culture in less than a few months, only based in Tokyo while you don’t even understand about the depth of culture and customs, as well as the way of life in Japan. I am Japanese living in Tokyo, but have lived in the US and Canada for over 20 years. I lived almost half and half in the West, and the East (Japan mostly in the East but have traveled and worked in other Eastern countries too). I have quite often seen some westerners say things like “I actually read a book about Japanese culture so I can understand how to deal with Japanese businesses”.. To this I always feel like wow, do you think you can understand completely about another culture just by reading a book? If so, everyone who comes to Japan and open businesses will magically be successful!! The reality of this is that I have seen so many, I mean more than 90% fail and I have seen only a handful of foreigners who actually can touch the surface of our culture, customs, old saying (idioms, as you actually need to understand historical context of events and the saying), and you are here for 2 months and you decided it’s not for you??
Sorry to be blunt, but you think you can go to a place like Akihabara or a few ads by a permanent laser hair removal company on a subway and judget us the Japanese women, and all of us???
It is like I go to NY for two months only staying in Manhattan and get culture shocked by how different things are and how dirty the trains and air can be and how loud everyone is and judge the entire America??
Ugh, nope, that is just not how it works! Lol
By the way, you totally didn’t get the “Joshiryoku”. Literal translation is Girl Power, but in our language in Japanese, the meaning is more close to Alluring rather than Women Power, and it is how to allure men by being beautiful, it has nothing to do with independence of women or power of women but it is how to allure and attract men physically. And of course most men think it is hot to be hairless than all natural hairy legs and arms. I mean there are so many of my girl friends in the US they go get waxing done or at least shave her legs before a hot date. You will be the minority of women around my circle of friends in the US and Japan that you don’t even shave your legs? Hmm.. Oh, in Japan permanent hair removal by laser is much more popular than shaving legs, because most women have fair skin and dark hair so laser hair removal works great. Why not? We don’t have to see unsightly hairs and be bothered by it and can better focus on our work or whatever other stuff that is more important!
Btw, even the Japanese who don’t even live in Tokyo don’t go to Akihabara and think Maid Cafe is the norm or somehow it is ok. This is why Akihabara is called Otaku place, and Otaku doesn’t have a very good meaning either, as you probabaly didn’t know. Why? Because of kinky places like maid cafes and weirdly dressed odd looking girl-like women walking around the place. But then it is a free country, so it is seen as the freedom of expression and they get to dress however they want. If you were to walk dressed in maid costume in some nice place in Marunouchi (financial district, like wall street of Tokyo), you will be sticking out like a sore thumb.
The problem is that you can’t experience or learn about another country or culture, as well as our customs and people in such a short time. You only barely scratched the surface of Japan and its people. I suggest you be patient with yourself, and try to spend more time getting to know people and be immersed in the culture to understand it.
Akihabara is NOT what represents Japan (you don’t think Times Square is what represents the entire US right?), nor Japanese women are not exploited. Do you know Japanese women hold a purse string in a household? Yes my mom has much more says than my dad on everything, she is powerful at home, she is the one who calls shots. So if I am good with mom, I am good with dad.
Really, it will be better for you to get to know Japan first instead of pretending to understand what you couldn’t comprehend..and, Tokyo is not Japan at all..
Thank you so much for sharing your opinions and experiences, Sarah! I appreciate it.
I agree – I barely scratched the surface of Japan, and I believe there are many nuances that could be discovered over many years. I also agree that Tokyo is not Japan at all – as I wrote at the beginning of the post.
…somoene here seems to think too highly of his own culture…its horrible how some people ignore the awful treatment of western women(from their own men) and think they are so much more free…its downright creepy…
Expecting women to be housewives just because they gives them a modicum of power is sexist and outdated. However you are right that this poster completely misunderstood the weird way Japanese can use eggo and mistranslated Girl Power in their initial article.
>I’ll bet there isn’t a whole anime culture showing young boys in tight bulging underwear
I think in the US our female empowerment can be very superficial too. We are constantly bombarded with ads for beauty products, procedures & that will make us sexier & attractive. Shows like the Real Housewives & The Kardashian’s.
They feature wealthy women who are running their own businesses which is great but then focus on the women’s clothes and plastic surgery’s. Selling a lifestyle of glamour and superficiality. I like the article. Just wanted to add that when it comes to the billion dollar beauty industry overwhelming us with ads & images of what a woman should be we are not immune in the US
EXCELLENT point, Sarah. Thank you! I concur.
I guess you live in a really nice country in many levels, but I can see your point of view regarding Japan is not really wide:
1) girl power: in my male beauty products I can read the same style of slogans also for men; Japan may seem kind of childish approach in advertisement and culture. The poster you show… I´ve seen worst than those in America and Europe where the rape and women killing rate is much higher than in Japan. Of course they are old fashion in many ways but here men are respectful with my wife, in Europe not so much.
3) working in Japan… I work in a Japanese company, I MAKe more money and work less hours than in Europe.
Again, I think you are lucky cause your country is amazing in many ways, but this thing of “reasons I couldn´t live in XXX country” I guess it´s a kind of content that works better but it´s just… it´s what everybody says about any country. I´ve lived in Spain, Italy, Chile, Peru, Australia, I have relatives in the States and France. I could tell you many reasons I could never live in those countries… Japan is not a perfect country and some of the things you say are out of discussion, but it´s the closest to perfection I´ve experienced.
BTW, thanks for your Takao article, going there tomorrow. 🙂
For those of us who appreciate traditional women, Japan sounds amazing.
It’s irrelevant if a misogynistic patriarch like you prefers misogyny over sanity. And I’m pretty sure you don’t even shave your face or know anything about personal hygiene, both of which will everyone in Japan be intolerant to. So, sounds like you and your beard and stink and misogyny will be sent right back to the poor country that has you as a citizen there.
I found your page because I googled the 「never live in Japan」.
「never live in Japan」is my regret after living here in Japan for 20 years.
And your reasons are all absolutely right and mine is much more deep.
I am from Japan’s neighbor country. I was questioned by my friend in my home country about a ❝famous ❞traditional Japanese sex service called ❝women body❞ Sushi(女體) which was embarrassing and disgusting. (the famous scene Samantha dressed up herself with sushi naked! from 『sex&city original version』)
The above sexuality incident is only a tip of iceberg. And the decisive dislike is its lacking of logic and emotion and common sense, incapability and reluctance of communication and poor language expression and etc.
To me who love conversation, this country is getting more and more miserable as days gone by.
“Girl Power” means something completely in different in Japan.
“Girl Power” means something completely different in Japan.
You absolutely nailed so many things so many people think they notice but discount because the polite and reserved nature of Japanese culture contrasts with this so. Its interesting how our attitudes towards sex and respect say so much about the way we really respect others. In Japan its rock bottom when you peel away their respectable skin. Its like a counter that’s been wiped down by a rag and looks spotless but is actually teeming with bacteria.
Japan is a godless culture, hence their huge use of abortion as a form of birth control which has devastating consequences on women who are conned into it, especially on the abortion anniversary each year when a lot of their suicides tend to occur. This is especially troubling as substance abuse in Japan is very low and we know in most of the world most people commit suicide when they are not thinking straight (drugs or alcohol).
The amount of social pressure people feel there is utterly crushing and many internalize this. With physical fitness not popular there there is no outlet for their frustrations so you get very morally unhealthy releases in the form of sexual exploitation: Not really surprising because they feel exploited at work, in the home, all around them. They lead empty lives but can’t talk about it to anyone. They may live in a relatively crime free, highly organized, highly efficient, high sterilized utopia, but inside they are aching to express their individuality, to release pent up frustrations and rage, to just open up to someone, anyone, that will listen. Instead its all focused inwards. This is the world Japan has evolved into over the last few decades. Its a sorry state of affairs. The “lie flat” rebellion in younger people in Japan, Korea and China is the first awakening I’ve seen in decades and its a great movement of common sense and logic. Though they are eschewing family and that is a huge mistake as 2 frugal people can live cheaper than 1 frugal person. The problem is rampant, comparative consumerism and when they ignore it their lives take on a whole new meaning. Also working online, independently from a tyrannical boss, is helping many live a mentally uncluttered life, free of crushing pressure from indifferent managers whose sole mission in life seems to be to extract the maximum output out of their employees at truly any cost conceivable. The internet may help many live a far more balanced life but thanks to the high cost of living in Japan (no culture in the world uses space more efficiently than the Japanese!), its very difficult to transition to online work as most of the time it takes a long time to get your online presence established and its very hard working part time in Japan. This is the barrier many face getting their work line online. Another problem is their lack of English in Japan but this also is improving as more and more are getting semi-fluent in the international language of the moment, allowing them to finally interface with the rest of the world. Something older Japanese are wary about as then their very flawed ways of living will be exposed, rather ruthless at times. But young Japanese still have ample respect for their elders so their criticism will be muted at best. And on it continues, another generation squandered and trapped.
As a Japanese studying in the U.S. I find this article very intriguing to read as I finally got to explore an honest and yet evaluative exposition of Japan. Japanese tend to ignore their problems and like to fantasize about what a wonderful country it is (especially the media) and there is no debate or protest occurring for tribulations facing the country, which I find very disturbing and unusual. I totally agree with all your explanations and reasons to not want to live in the country (I hated living in Japan) and would like to appreciate for all your research and a thoughtful article. I really hope the Japanese ideology and cultural interpellation changes in the courses of the future…
Well said. Glad to see more Japanese like you reevaluating your system and seeing the problems in Japan as they are. Personally too, I wouldn’t be able to live in Japan and Japan’s misgyny and sexualization of girls and women is the main reason why, with other reasons too. I’m from a country is west Asia that we too are still a traditional community BUT mine is much more dynamic and accepting of change so it does leave some room for progressive changes and for people to be living their lives in unorthodox ways and not following what traditions might have decided for society but I noticed too that Japan and how it seems like everyone in Japan follows tradition and they get mad if someone doesn’t, doesn’t leave that little margin either for changes to happen or for people to choose how they want to live. Hopefully more objective people like you will appear in Japan and that would help with such major problems Japan has such as misogyny to soon get resolved.
I’m German and totally happy to live here for more than 12 years. most foreigners in japan (sociable, non nerd type) would agree me. i’m sorry you are this close minded. tbh one of the problem japan has is these entitled white “expats” who unconsciously has massive superior complex toward asian culture. i think white people who enter japan should really watch the movie “Lost in translation”, then if they don’t find any political problem in the film, they should be banned to enter japan(or any asian country). this fad of political collect racism and clickbait will never stop. please treat local people like real human. i don’t think “nomad” can understand working culture but you should really understand working environment varies and japan officially isn’t even in top 30 for the working hours and suicide. and for most realise the stereotype you have, pathetic suicidal asian work for live, is politically correct racism and you are not treating them like real human being since you are such worst of “people”.
Tell us you haven’t read even a paragraph of this page without telling us those exact same words. Are you not ashamed of yourself and your lies and to attack knowledgable decent people only because of your own delusions and complexes?
Japan encourages workers to “clock out” before they work overtime. So a lot of the work hours of Japanese aren’t being counted. Also Women may work fewer hours which makes Men’s longer hours seem shorter.
would agree with me*
Great read and the GirlsPower bit was hilarious!
Western women generally do not really like Asia for more than a quick holiday. It’s full of highly feminine women and society does not put women on a pedestal for just existing like in the West. Aside from that Japan specifically is very uptight and people are on robot mode work wise. It’s almost a different world from SEA where people are generally laid back and pleasant to be around. Some might say soulless. The long-term expat is usually a man who would have left around the same time most women expats leave (1-2 years) if it wasn’t for hooking up with a Japanese woman.
If accepting misogyny and becoming slaves to mentally diseased narcissistic men is “being highly feminine” then being highly masculine is freeing such people from the hell that is patriarchy and misogyny and toxic masculinity and fully destroying patriarchy and misogyny and toxic masculinityand anyone who cause and promote those! C:
So you basically lack both of them “TruthintheBooth” (read “AlternativeTruthintheBoothFromtheDiseasedHeadofaBraindeadMisogynistSadManInHisBasement”).
MY 1st experience was okay.. the 2nd was horrible (right before pandemic!). I just don’t like how foreigners are treated there, and all their pretends.. This may be better in the country area. But this culture is a THE PITS AND A COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF NORMS, including their poor/lacking of responses to emails and communication
I could not mentally and physically see myself living within Japan for Marriage due to my disability.
Their type of Food would make me lose my appetite, vomit or roll back my eyes and faint.
An extremely well written and aware article refering to some of the major problems that are also world issues about Japan. I agree with all the things that you very intelligently observed and mentioned and personally can’t see myself finding it ok to live there too. Japan’s misogyny is also one of the most extreme in the world and definitely way more than any advanced country’s which is a shame and it runs apparently in a wider range than their marketing including in the form of sexual harassment in work space or elsewhere and even domestic abuse. Japan does really need to address and eradciate this major issue and they realize that too lately since a lot of their businesses now are trying to win over more customers and making their business seen as respectable and reputable by making it known that they will make changes to highlight and apply women’s rights and combative measures to the misogyny that is now present and seen in Japan. In Japan the number of how most women wish their husbands dead and cases of sexual assaults even in public transport are also extremely high. Some other movements like the LGBT movement are also contributing to changes happening to remove the massive misogyny that is plaguing Japan. Until then, personally I wouldn’t even consider living in Japan since misogyny and all kinds of injustice make me extremely angry and I do not wish to see any ladies who might or might not be close to me being exposed to misogyny or finding herself forced to fight for the application of the most basic rights to her. This has been the best article I’ve read so far that gave a very clear and just explanation to these serious issues in Japan. Well done! Bravo!
As a “Japanese-American” who was educated (yes, that’s what I call those 16 years) in America and now live in Japan, I am impressed by how quickly you picked up on these “situations” (I, too, have body art, and found it wildly odd that Golds Gym in Japan, a facility ostensibly created by folks who expressed themselves through body art as well, would not let me expose my tats). I am just glad that you got out before you discovered some of the other less desirable aspects of being here. The rampant passive aggression, the inability to express oneself honestly in public, the culture of “tatemae”all confuse me to a certain extent, but it now makes sense why my folks left Japan to create a life in the US. That being said, there are so many wonderful things here that, even though I have now been here 25 years, I still haven’t even scratched the surface of.
Anyway, thank you… your post was enjoyable reading!
This article was written in 2017? Hey buddy, you just blow in from stupid town? Anyways rampant consumerism should concern you more about akihabara and while anime like all media traps people in the matrix and possibly fuels sexism, the culture of chikan has more to do with power dynamics and other boring academic bullshit, if anything the otakus are outcasts from Japanese society and are actually more unlikely to do that in the first place: assuming otakus are mature and/or employed enough to know what sex is in the first place. There are obvious exceptions but yeah. People are just horny ie human in akihabara and it’s a seedy place but you have to apperciate the contrast because mature japanese society is far worse and people are more evil and “human” outside of akihabara. Societal repression and the desire to break patterns is what causes men to participate in chikan and somehow to let off steam from work, basically every person is a potetial serial killer unless you think you wouldn’t kill a jew in nazi germany to save yourself you sanctimonious piece of shit, it’s amazing that you mentioned the actual cause of chikan in the same article and still used smelly otakus as a scapegoat. Smelly otakus should still be executed by guillotine for farting in a crowded elevator but they’re completely innocent of what you’re accusing them of. Since they have an outlet(both male and female; surprise, literally every human is a horny beastial creature that should have been put down in the Showa era that knows how to use an abacus for some reason) for their human impulses and urges and salarymen DO NOT and they would fear looking like otaku which is what leads them to molest women as a convoluted but surprisingly common way to get back at their black company physically and emotionally abusive boss because they have no other outlet. Insane people like otakus tend to be less rude for some reason, this is just like konbeni ningen by that one autistic japanese novelist.
Otaku culture and also places like harajuku(which have almost nothing to do with otaku culture) are things that Japanese seek after university to escape the “work at the same company out of university until you die and get married before 30” societal/often parental expectation. Even (somewhat) celebrated novelist Haruki Murakami had his beginningins in his and his wife’s co-owned jazz bar/restaurant there. Actually I’m not sure if it was harujuku, I can’t remember, but it had a strong counterculture vibe.
Countercultures are flawed but they are always, even in the case of smelly virgin(both male and femcels, yes girls can smell really fucking bad too bigot)) otaku, a response to the society that spawned them. Consider it a band-aid solution but you’re exaggerating the flaws it might have. You should make an anime because hideaki anno did that and people still pretend Evangelion was good because they posthumously want to justify being scammed out of 26 episodes of their free time.
Anyways your article is just being a 2000s era Bushite Republican about a culture you only almost fully understood, just replace anime with drugs and you could become a sexually and physically violent and racist DEA agent and make mad stacks by stealing from the evidence locker instead of writing boring articles that feel like they were written by a 13 year old girl on tumblr who visited japan for the first time in 2005. Idiot. Moron.
O.K., you have failed adjusting into Japanese life. So what?
You would never understand the truth about Japan and Japanese people with your shallow observation anyways.
Go find somewhere perfect for you, and tell us about it.
I have lived in Japan over 20 years, many hells here I will leave soon Never understood the concept of saving face it gets weird, deeply weird. trying to stay sane and convulsion free!