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What are the Pros and Cons of Living and Working In Japan?

Discussion in 'Japan Practical' started by thejapanguy, Jan 23, 2011.

  1. thejapanguy

    thejapanguy 先輩

    Nov 12, 2010
    I realized that this month makes three years for me here in Japan. Sometimes it's hard to believe how fast the time goes. Anyhow, I've been taking some time to reflect on life in Japan up to this point, thinking about what's been good, what hasn't been so good, etc.. And for me, the pros far outweigh the cons, but I know this isn't the case for everybody. So I thought I'd ask you:

    What do you think are the pros and cons of living and working in Japan?
    Is living in Japan more good than bad for you? Or more bad than good?
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2011
  2. Glenski

    Glenski Just me

    Aug 20, 2003
    When people ask questions like this, I always feel they should state their own pros and cons first.

    Living and working in Japan is a mixed bag, just like anywhere else, and for us foreigners it can also differ widely based on the type of job we have.

    My pros
    1. Gives me a chance to see what another culture is like. (Some may not want to adapt. Some go overboard and over-adapt.)
    2. Gives me a different perspective on my homeland and other countries. (Some people do too much comparing in a negative way. One has to remain objective.)
    3. Gives me a chance to change my career fairly easily. (Yes, it doesn't take much to be a teacher here, but to remain one and to do more than get by certainly does!)
    4. Gives me a chance to learn how to drive differently (on the left). I had problems with this on vacation before. Also, with crosswalks wider than in the US, and the pause between lights longer, it is safer as a driver.
    5. Gives me more of a chance to experience more than one country's coworkers and their attitudes about life and working.
    6. Good food, perhaps healthier.
    7. Early on, I walked far more than I had ever done, so I ended up losing weight.
    8. Good public transportation, which doesn't necessarily defeat the purpose of #7, but rather just makes life easier in terms of stress during commuting behind the wheel. Also, it obviates the need to own a car.
    9. Learn a new language.
    10. Be physically closer to some of the rest of the world. The US is just too far away sometimes to be practical for visits.
    11. I suppose cell phone technology should be a pro, but I have never owned one in Japan or the US, so I'll just go with the flow on what people say about the technology being better here.
    12. Deep bath tubs at home, and the prevalence of onsens and sentos.
    13. Tatami mats. Cool in summer, warm in winter.
    14. 100-yen shops. Yes, there are dollar shops back home, but it seems that 100-yen shops are far more prevalent here.
    15. Being able to pay utility and credit card bills by bank transfer or going to 7-Eleven.
    16. Amazon.co.jp shipping costs are zero with purchases over 1500 yen.
    17. Postal delivery, even on weekends and at night.
    18. Group mentality for some things.

    My cons
    1. Not always as accepted into society as one might want. (This is where adapting and keeping one's eyes opens helps.)
    2. Learning the language is not that easy.
    3. There is a strong attitude of not rocking the boat here (the nail that sticks up...), which not only runs contrary to the individualism and independent mind of the American, but which sometimes just hinders progress.
    4. The ingrained use of loan words and many bastardized English expressions make it difficult to teach people real English sometimes.
    5. Too many options for certain things. Phone and internet hookup, for one. (But better than having too few, I guess.)
    6. Lack of central heating (but it makes one close off rooms and be more energy conscious, so this is a trade-off).
    7. Fewer options for clothing sizes or clothing fit (sleeve length, shoulder width, inseam).
    8. Lack of some western foods (and for some, even Costco or the Foreign Buyers' Club or foreign import stores like Jupiter is not an easy option).
    9. Having to deal with the language barrier when one is not completely fluent. This applies to a huge number of situations -- not just dealing with coworkers and staff, but in people in stores, train stations, and elsewhere. The biggest stumbling block is their use of keigo, which is just one more level of a new language that one has to learn even if only to listen for it, not speak it oneself.
    10. Price of gas and parking. The latter may be equivalent to bigger cities in other countries, but it's still a pain here. And tight parking spaces are really bad!
    11. Overall education. Not just students getting past entrance exams and their inherent problems, but the overall rote memorization of most topics.
    12. Group mentality for some things.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. sburm

    sburm sweeeet

    Feb 20, 2011
    i don't understand?
    are you looking for others' pros and cons to help you decide something?
  4. Davey

    Davey 先輩

    Feb 5, 2005
    Well I agree, that it would be nice to see the OP's pros and cons as well... (You wrote a lot of stuff about Japan and it's culture on your website, so I'm sure you have some interesting stuff to share with us about it)

    I think Glenski already wrote a lot of stuff that I and other would agree with, but anyway I will try to write some of my pros and cons down.

    * to learn from another culture and it's differences
    * to eat delicious food (I wouldn't want to go back to my home country to eat potatoes every day)
    * The wonderful transportation system here. It's convenient, on time, and fast (although you do have to stand up if you want to take the super rapid in the morning).
    * Onsen, speaks for itself.
    * Technology (although it's a bit too much sometimes)

    * The language. Although it's a beautiful language, it's indeed very hard to learn and it makes you very dependable if you aren't able to read it.
    * Japanese managers. I have had 4 different managers within the last 5 years and all of them were worse than the worst manager I had in Holland.
    * the cultural differences. Back in Holland someone would just tell you why you can't do this, or why you he doesn't like you etc. Here in Japan you are just supposed to read it from their faces, and the way they behave.
    * Space. You need to have a very good job, if you want to have a nice house with a garden in a city or suburb.
    * Closing hours of the banks, post offices, immigration offices, etc. A lot of them are closed after either 3 or 4 O'clock... I work until 5.00, which means I have to take a half day off if I want to go there.

    There are more things that I could come up with, but maybe I will post them later.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Revenant

    Revenant Active Member

    Mar 7, 2005
    - Life's comfortable enough
    - Enjoy peeling back the layers of a different culture even if I'll probably never completely understand it
    - Money's easy enough to get here, I've never had to apply at a lot of places to get a job as I did at times in Canada.
    - Other parts of the world are just a hop, skip, and a jump away.
    - Japan really is a unique country in that it's been an isolated, unconquered, island country for most of it's history.
    - Japanese history is fascinating.

    - 'wa' or the negative sides of 'harmony'. People don't like going against the norm here, and you're asking for social difficulties if you decide to do so.
    - 'wa' impedes progress. People would rather just follow norm than risk confrontations.
    - Lots of people here are really sheltered from the rest of the world here, what is usual in other places gets frowned on or snickered at.
    - Medicine is about ten years behind the western world.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Rube

    Rube Banned

    Apr 19, 2011
    Sorry but I got to chime in on this. That is complete nonsense. Japanese medicine is up to par and many times better than the west. I think that many westerners just assume that their country has the best medicine but if you look at the facts it's just not always the case. Some of the leading doctors in their fields are now Japanese and doctors from America line up to learn from them.

    As far as the pros and cons of living in Japan, well it's up to the person. Personally I have no cons, love it.
  7. Glenn

    Glenn 一切皆苦

    Jan 8, 2004
    I know I'm late here, but I just saw this and was curious to know what you meant by "over-adapt".
  8. Rube

    Rube Banned

    Apr 19, 2011
    over-adapt would be a white guy in a kiminono speaking keigo all day long.
  9. Pachipro

    Pachipro JREF Resident Alien

    Jan 19, 2005
    Like Dave Spector?
  10. Rube

    Rube Banned

    Apr 19, 2011
    lol, I actually like Dave, he has an odd sense of humor. I was thinking more of Robert Cambell.

    That being said Dave should for the rest of his life get a kick in the shin every once in a while for that collection of black jokes that he released in a book.
  11. Pachipro

    Pachipro JREF Resident Alien

    Jan 19, 2005
    I agree. However, I once saw an interview with him here in the states where he said he would do anything or say anything with or against Japan or the Japanese as long as they were paying him. I lost all respect for him after that as his only concern is cash.
  12. Revenant

    Revenant Active Member

    Mar 7, 2005
    I teach a breast cancer researcher that regularly goes to some of the top conferences in the world to make presentations on his own findings and personally knows the leading figures in breast cancer from around the world, and while he is up to date with most of the latest research, on average the doctors here ARE ten years behind western medicine, the reason being that most doctors don't know how to communicate in or even read a medical paper written in English, and the latest research takes time to be translated into Japanese, then for that info to be put into textbooks, published, and taught to medical students, and so on average, the Japanese medical world IS ten years behind the western world, and we're not even going to delve much into a lot of the older doctors here, to which I've had a couple tell me info that a google search told me was twenty years outdated and incorrect.

    You also won't find any of the latest tech in hospitals here due to trying to keep most hospitals standardized, meaning if they can't put that tech into most hospitals, they won't put that tech into any.
  13. Rube

    Rube Banned

    Apr 19, 2011
    So you're saying that Japanese doctors have to learn from English speaking doctors more or less. I don't agree with that, western doctors are learning from Japanese doctors these days.

    Japan's infant mortality rate is about 3 per 1000 compared to about 6 in the States.

    According to WHO Japan is ranked 10th in the world where America is 37th.

    I'm just not seeing this claim that Japan is somehow behind when all the facts speak otherwise.

    Sure America and it's health care system encourage cutting edge machines but the reality is that most Americans can't afford cutting edge treatment anyway so it's kind of a moot point.

    You're story proves my point though, the one doc you know is up to date. By the way my wife had cancer and was treated in a top hospital here and I can tell you first hand that the care was awesome, treatment was the same as America but much much cheaper and the after care is awesome as well. I did learn though that there is some variation as to how many courses of chemo hospitals give but for all I know that could be said for any country.
  14. Chidoriashi

    Chidoriashi In imagination land

    Feb 2, 2007
    I think that has more to do with the poverty rate in America, than the quality of the health care.
  15. Rube

    Rube Banned

    Apr 19, 2011
    I'm sure some of it is but I think a lot also has to do with prenatal care and time in the hopsital after birth. The fact is that Japan is ranked higher than many western countries as far as all around health care.

    If I was sick I would never think of going to America to recieve care, I doubt many of us would.

  16. orochi

    orochi 窶「テ問?藩懌?ーツョ

    May 1, 2004
    Cheese-filled tonkatsu

    Cheese-filled tonkatsu
  17. Steve Red

    Steve Red 先輩

    Mar 25, 2011
    One of the Cons
    建前 (in my opinion, in my experience, compared to elsewhere: a relatively higher prevalence of Lying.)

    One of the Pros
    平和 (in my opinion, in my experience, compared to elsewhere: a relatively higher prevalence of Peace.)

    In the West, truth is valued higher than peace.
    Here in Japan, peace is valued higher than truth.
    Personally, I'd rather be lied to than to be assaulted.
    A major factor why I made Japan my home: the Peace. :)
  18. Rube

    Rube Banned

    Apr 19, 2011
    I just thought of a con, and this can be a big one. Because of the closeness of houses and roads there is a lot of noise in the cities and noises that you wouldn't think of.

    I'm in Tokyo and the old guy who lives behind me owns a freaking rooster, he might have a hen for all I know, but it's the rooster I hear every morning at day break.

    Then you have the paper route guys on their mopeds taking shortcuts behind buildinds and such.

    I would love to leave my window open at night but unless I want to wake up 20 times there's no way.
  19. Revenant

    Revenant Active Member

    Mar 7, 2005
    Interesting Steve Red, I'd prefer honesty to being lied to. Not sure how assault fits in there though.

    Rube, affordable healthcare and decent tech do make Japan pretty decent, but you wouldn't want to be trying to find info on relatively rare conditions here (like I'd have to do were I Japanese, I find more info on the net in regards to my more rare condition than any doc I've visited here). Western docs do learn some from Japanese researchers, but by and large, English is the crossroads of info, so new findings in say Italy will make it's way to English first and then finally and quite a while later to non English speaking docs going through medical school here.
  20. Steve Red

    Steve Red 先輩

    Mar 25, 2011
    Hi Revenant :)

    IME, IMO, other countries have more violent-crimes per-capita.
    IME, IMO, Japanese culture safely prioritizes 「和」 above "Truth".

    I hate being lied to, by family, friends, co-workers, or strangers.
    But I love the fact that the chances of assault here are: VERY low.

    The physical violence seen elsewhere often begins with arguments.
    Arguments often begin with people "honestly" saying, "You're wrong!"
    Arguments are wisely prevented here, by people using tatemae/lies.

    Which is more important: debating opinions, or simply getting along?
    Fighting about "the Truth", or simply saying "Sou desu ne, Kangaetoku."

    Look how much blood is shed in wars over arguments about the Truth.
    Notice how much energy is wasted by us westerners debating opinions.
    If you were a child, would you rather your parents debate or be quiet?

    Life is not black and white, nothing is absolute, rather: shades of grey.
    Humans: would you rather fight about ugly truths, or quietly be happy?

    Of course Japan's low-crime is also thanks to relative financial equality.
    Still, tatemae (which I put in my Con category) helps prevent violence.
    Knowing when to simply hold one's tongue, or tell a lie, prevents fights.

    In summary, a lie to one's face is much better than a punch to one's face. :)
    I close this honest, western-style, opinionated-post, with the letters: IMO. ;-)

    PS - The Art of Lying http://avhs-xserve.district196.org/...i/25f0c/On_the_Decay_of_the_Art_of_Lying.html :D
  21. Rube

    Rube Banned

    Apr 19, 2011
    I agree, if you have a million in one rare condition you would have a better chance getting treated in America. You'd lose your home, savings, and probably go bankrupt, but you might be treated in America. For the rest of us though Japan will do very well.
  22. Glenski

    Glenski Just me

    Aug 20, 2003
    Rube cited an example that's nearly what I've seen (although I don't know the Cambell he mentioned).

    Some people over-adapt to the point of never wanting to have any contact with fellow foreigners, or they try to use mannerisms of the Japanese that are just not all that appropriate (to me). Example: A woman I know has few if any foreign friends here despite living here for many years. She only talks about studying kanji in her free time. Whenever we went out with other coworkers, she would only speak Japanese at the table (no problem) and titter like a Japanese woman (problem, IMO) and hide her mouth when she smiled (way overboard in her case) and speak so much like a Japanese that she gave the impression she was one (again, overboard).

    Is it lying or a matter of honne vs. tatemae? Seems like you just don't like the tatemae way of doing things.
  23. Steve Red

    Steve Red 先輩

    Mar 25, 2011
    建前 sometimes manifests as holding one's tongue: saying nothing, remaining quiet.
    建前 sometimes manifests as intentionally giving a false impression: not lying per-se.
    建前 sometimes manifests as politely lying about you think: saying "A" while thinking "B".
    建前 sometimes manifests as bold-faced lying about what you did or didn't do: serious lying.

    Sometimes it is done for the benefit of others, sometimes it is done for the benefit of oneself.
    Altruistic lies for the sake of 「和」 are more forgivable than selfish lies for personal gain, of course.
    Sometimes folks pretend that is is for the benefit of others when actually it is for selfish personal gain.

    Glenski :) please do notice that I clearly pointed out that Japan's 建前 "minus" has a big "plus": Peace.
    But now I'm repeating myself. I'll re-post my original reply to the OP, and leave it at that, thank you:

    On to the NEXT person's opinion, about what they think are the PROS and CONS of living in Japan. :)
  24. Glenski

    Glenski Just me

    Aug 20, 2003
    Yes, certain lying may have the effect of peace. However, the general public in Japan is often frustrated with the bigger effect of lying. When the government or companies lie, it is frustrating and leads to mistrust. Peaceful, yes. But what would you rather have -- trust or mistrust?

    Essentially, it seems you might not have fully gotten used to the tatemae attitude here. Either that or you have, and it shows in the shoganai manner of "Well, peace is better than the alternative."
  25. Steve Red

    Steve Red 先輩

    Mar 25, 2011
    Surprised you keep commenting like that Glenski :). How would you like it if someone wrote about you, "Gee Glenski, it seems like you just don't like, or you essentially have not fully gotten used to, the following 12 cons of living in Japan:"

    "Either that, or you have, and it shows in the shoganai manner of 'Well, those 12 cons of living in Japan are better than the alternative.'"

    Folks, no matter what pros & cons we list, the fact that we choose to live here proves that: to all of us here, the PROS OUTWEIGH THE CONS, and to all of us here, living in Japan IS better than the alternative. :)

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