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Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/13 23:07
Hi All,

After being a member of this forum for a reasonable amount of time, one of the things which has really interested me is the strong pull that living in Japan has for many people outside Japan.

I guess my question is why does Japan hold such a strong hold on a large number of individuals which you don't really see for other countries (specifically in Asia)?

This question comes mainly from an understanding of ignorance and from a person who has lived outside of their country of residence for a decade (including 3 years in Japan). I've never yearned to live in another specific country and would be interested to hear peoples opinions. Specifically, I find it amazing the number of people who MUST live in Japan and have either visited for a week or never visited the country.

I've got my own opinions on the topic - but I'm expecting them to be wrong with further discussion.
by mfedley  

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/14 11:12
by Goober (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/14 14:49
Definitely anime (which is not necessarily an accurate depiction of life in Japan)
by Gregalor rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/14 20:10
Not anime for me.

I am a gconverth to wanting to live in Japan AFTER having had the experience.

I think for me itfs the unique combination of an exotic country (seen from an EU perspective) but totally safe to experiment with.

I first came to Japan during me university years, by pure chance. I was given the possibility of a semester abroad and it was going to be either Basel in Switzerland or Wakoshi in Saitama. From a perspective of a German, Switzerland (no offense intended) just isnft a foreign exchange country. So I choose Japan.

At that time (early 1990fs) I was studying in Berlin and I was convinced that itfs the best city on the planet. Coming back after 6 months in Japan, I had put that in perspective. I still liked Berlin, but learnt that there were other great place outside.

I spent the following many years between Italy and (mainly) Spain, but 20 years later the opportunity to live again in Tokyo came around and I made sure that we take it.

This time I got fixed. Unfortunately we could live in Japan only 3 years (now back in EU, in the Netherlands).

I think for me itfs this special combination of exoticism but safety. I liked living in Spain and there are many thing I prefer about JSpain (weather, food, language...) but at some point it was just daily living (well, after 15 yrs thatfs probably expected) so Japan was a great challenge, but not too much of a challenge.

New (and complicated) language, new daily life experiences, new job, new people, new country ...

For me itfs like discovering every day something new. I know that in a lot of other countries I could also discover something new every day, but except probably the south of France, I canft think of anywhere Ifd actually would like to like to try. Other Asian countries seem too unsafe/unclean/exotic to me, US , Australia etc just not interesting enough and Latin America and Africa not safe enough. I know these are prejudices and I am sure that one can have a perfect experience eg in Argentina, but I right now would love to continue my Japan experience.

Itfs a country where while many experiences are new they are never menacing, because everything is well organized. Eg rush hour on Tokyo subway might not seem like a good experience but itfs a safe one.

There is also more to being a exotic country , it also means that I am exotic. Which for me is a nice feeling.

I often travel alone in Japan and probably in about 50 % of cases meet people who want to strike a conversation with me. I canft count the times I have been enjoying my onsen soak and getting into a conversation with a Japanese lady. Or being in an izakaya and having an alcohol fueled conversation with some Japanese ojiisan. But it always feels completely safe, not intrusive, no hidden thoughts... a feeling I appreciate as a (mostly) solo female traveler.

I know from your posts that you also lived in Japan. Why? And why did you decide to move on? (And doesnft Singapore feel a bit small?) (I have never been, but it sounds so small...). Really wonder what is the attraction of living in Singapore as to a certain extent it seems to fit my grequirements g of exotic but not too much.

by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/14 22:29
Hi Likebike,

I'm a teacher at international schools which means I move to countries where there is a position and wish to live. I lived in Japan for 3 years (2011-2014) and loved the travel, but my introverted personality in a country like Japan where being reserved in more of the norm made it not the best fit. I could however see myself living in the Japanese countryside during retirement but I know that will never happen.

Singapore is small - but I can also travel a significant amount. For example this year I have already visited: Kyushu, Penang, KL, Vietnam and Bali. On living in Singapore, it is a little boring and even though it's leafy it really lacks a large amount of nature which I could find in most of the countries I've lived in. In general, Taiwan was the closest fit for me. It has a strong Japanese flavor, is a bit more chaotic, is reasonably western but still has traditional chinese cultural roots which have been lost on mainland China.

My expectation of people wanting to live in Japan without never visiting is also around the pervasiveness of 'otaku' culture which has been mentioned above. To me I find why people become obsessed with living with a culture just as fascinating as the strange Japanese cultural oddities (or any other country) such as visiting Koyasan and seeing advertisements on tombstones.....
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/14 22:31
Going to go with PPs and anime. I know many who moved to Japan because of anime or some other hobby related to Japan. (I know an Australian who moved to Japan to work for the premier Japanese Ball Jointed Doll company, but ended up getting let go because Japanese working culture is so different from Australian.) But.. I'm going to say for the ones who stayed more longer term, (and are successful) there usually became other draws as well. Most of the people who just go for a single hobby eventually end up coming back to their home countries.

I'd also say it has a really low bar for entry for foreigners from English speaking countries if they are willing to work in an eikawa. Eikawa do not require any actual teaching experience, so if you're a recent college graduate and have no job prospects in the US and got rejected from JET or only want to live in a major city, you're there.

I do know a few other people who live/have lived in Japan for several years who have no interest in anime or other Japanese related hobbies, though two got those while in Japan. Most of them now have or had a Japanese spouse. I think for them it was that sense of adventure that @LikeBike was talking about. But many also now have a Japanese family and more connections in Japan than they have in their home countries. Moving your Japanese family out of Japan can be problematic. My one friend who did that ended up divorcing her husband when he couldn't adjust to life in France at all.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/15 05:57
Hi, I'd also say that anime and generally Japanese pop culture is a big part of people wanting to live there (I've also noticed there are more and more people wanting to go to South Korea because of K-pop too).

I myself came to know about Japan through anime when I was a kid, and during my middle school years I was convinced that life in Japan must be so great just like in anime and that I would live there forever when I would become an adult. Fortunately I figured that wasn't the case while growing up but I still wanted to visit the country when I learned more about life there aside from what we see in anime, I still thought it was a really interesting country.
I finally went and these were really the shortest two weeks of my life, I definitely want to stay for a longer period next time but I don't plan on living there like I did in middle school though (it's not like you can decide that you want to live permanently in a country that you only visited as a tourist for two weeks).
I think one of the most appealing thing about Japan is the fact that's it's a modern and wealthy country that kept a strong cultural identity. It may be a cliché thing to say about Japan but in the end I think it's what makes this country so appealing to foreigners. When you're a westerner visiting other western countries you may not feel as much change, and as LikeBike said other oriental countries may not feel as safe to tourists.
So that's my personal experience but I think it applies for a lot of people. Especially teenagers, a lot of them see anime and then completely idealize Japan and see it as a paradise where they want to spend their whole life.

Also, mfedley, you said "but my introverted personality in a country like Japan where being reserved in more of the norm made it not the best fit". I'm wondering why being an introvert in a country where being reserved is the norm not a good match ? I thought it was usually extraverted foreigners who had a bad time adapting there.
by Miharuie rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/15 06:45
anime and JAV
by kms (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/15 07:13
Let me give you perspective of an Indian. Have lived in Japan for 10 years but later moved to the US 5 years ago. Over the years I have seen Japanese companies opening up hiring of white collar positions to foreigners especially in IT, Mostly through outsourcing to Indian IT companies or even direct hiring out of colleges in India. For someone from India which still struggles with low quality of life, poor infrastructure and low income, Japan is pretty solid opportunity. Earlier only US or Europe were the options.

Having said that few things that Indian look out for are 1) community of similar people 2) kids education 3) food. International school are way too expensive but with the mushrooming of Indian international schools in recent past it has taken care of this issue. Still you will find many Indian parents of college age kids moving out to US or Europe. For food as well there are many options available these days in terms of Indian groceries and vegetarian options.

With US and Europe closing their doors to white collar workers and Japanese companies struggling with aging workforce the trend of foreigners influx into Japan is just going to go upwards purely for financial and better quality of life it offers.
by ..... (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/15 10:44
I have noticed an increase in people from the subcontinent along with eastern europe as well. It's interesting to hear another perspective. I'm also acutely aware of the indian schools and the normal price of international schools which is cripplingly expensive.....
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/15 12:51
A different perspective - because I made a business in Japan and the commute is shorter living in Tokyo than my home country. It's a place to live/work and while I wasn't specifically looking to move somewhere, I had the opportunity and to make it work. Also, I happened to meet some good people on my early visits and travels.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/15 13:16
My wife is Japanese and I have a daughter of 12.

When I met my wife 15 years ago, was during a business trip.
She moved to Europe and we have lived in the Netherlands for 7 years.

After that we moved back to Japan, and now we are living here for 8 years.
My daughter goes to a Japanese junior high school now and this is the main reason we are not moving a lot.
My work involves a lot of travel but so far all goes well.

We will see what the future brings.

I never had any attraction to Japan, because to be honest there are so much other countries which are much better to live and work compared with Japan, but I am really grateful that Japan has given me the hospitality and the change to work here.

Now I do love Japan but still I miss somethings which Japan cannot really give me. But that I think is with every other country. There is a saying; The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
by justmyday rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/15 13:47
Would it be fair to say that the people who stay in Japan for a prolonged period of time are more focussed on the family/work/opportunities reason??
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/15 19:45
I know someone who had a lengthy stay in Japan as a Christian missionary. Apparently he loves Japan, yet wants to convert them all..... That's like marrying someone with the intention of changing them.
by . (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/15 20:31
in my case, electronics of the early 90s did it. when i was a kid, one night my father came home with an aiwa sound system. i helped him to unpack it and set it up, and there was one thing in there that forever changed my life: the user manual.

there was a section written in japanese, and the kanji was stuck so much in my head, that i used to spend days copying whatever was written there into a notebook. a couple of years later, an otaku in my class happened to bring a japanese dictionary, with a page containing the hiragana and katakana scripts, and that blew my mind - I could finally make some sense out of those scribbles. around that time i also had my first internet connection at home and was able to research more about japan. i think that at that time, without the reach of globalization as it is today, everything seemed much more exotic and mysterious.

in my teenager days i became a fan of sony. I liked the quality of their products and their industrial design, so I decided to enroll in university as an industrial designer hoping that one day I'd make my way to japan and be hired by them. but i actually ended up graduating and working in the automotive industry, and after having built some good experience in my own and other countries, finally a company in japan brought me here.
by bz (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/16 16:31
So animes everyone? Noone comes to Japan for Onsen?
I think it is an absolute wonderful country - for holidays (but would not so much like to work there permanently)
by Glimpigumpi rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/16 19:47
Well, as I am not in the anime fraction anyway, yes, onsen is a great pull to come to Japan and I try to go at least once a week (mostly sento / super-sento though...). But wanting to live in Japan only for onsen, is probably putting too much emphasis on the soak. Maybe 20% of my attraction to Japan is onsen though.

I should probably find out something about "this famous anime thing" that everyone talks about. Never progressed beyond Asterix & Obelix and never watched Disney productions either... A very foreign world to me.

Any suggestions for a pure ignorant? (I recently watched Totoro though... nice... but well, not breathtaking for me)
by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/16 20:01
As for recommendations for the anime beginner, it totally depends on your taste, but, if you like music and a decent story line, you can't go wrong with a late 1990s classic....Cowboy Bebop.
by John B digs Japan rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/16 20:33
My friend who has permanent residence first looked into moving to Japan almost 2 decades ago for anime and video games (and currently works for a well known video game company doing localization) but she certainly enjoys onsen (as well as hanami and koyo.) So it's not as if people who start in Japan for one reason can't grow to appreciate other reasons.

In terms of anime, it really depends on what you like in a story what makes sense for you. Personally, if you're going to do Miyazaki, I would argue Sen to Chihiro is a better movie than Totoro. (And coincidentally features a bath house.)

I grew up loving cartoons and for me, anime was fascinating because characters could actually die, even main characters. It was so different from US cartoons.

I'm personally looking forward to the new Fruits Basket anime though I enjoyed the original despite its flaws. For "romance" I might try Princess Tutu or if you want something a little more trippy Utena. I still love original CardCaptor Sakura though it's really long, so does suffer a bit from the repetitiveness that sometimes plagues magical girl anime. One popular genre in Japan is the sports anime and one of the best of the bunch still is Hikaru no Go, about a Jr. High School (and later high school) young man and his journey into the world of competitive Go. I've seen the live action movies based on the young man who plays competitive shougi and the young woman who plays competitive karuta, because they showed both on various flights to Japan.

A lot of people like Death Note. I prefer the manga. My 8 year old is currently watching Pretear.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Living in Japan - why the pull? 2019/4/17 03:02
I lived in Japan for 12 years and I wish I did not have to leave.

What I miss the most about Japan is its people - they are very considerate of others and rule abiding, which lead to a very orderly society (compared to other countries I've lived).
Sometimes they go overboard with being considerate and abiding to rules (there are so many unwritten rules), which can feel restrictive. But compared to a society where people only think about themselves and people think rules only apply to the others, Japan seems like an Utopia (relatively speaking, of course, I do know there is no such place).

by 3sen (guest) rate this post as useful

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