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Old Jun 10th 2013, 6:06 am   #1
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Default Japan - From a long term resident's perspective

Seeing as this forum has been an enormous help to me. I figured I would give my input on Japan to repay some of the kind deeds that others have done.

I have lived in Japan for a total of 16 years. Throughout this time I have felt what it's like to be a new comer, what it's like to feel outcast, what it's like to picket (in my mind) about what changes need to be made to the country and finally what it's like to just give in and join the culture. I hope that my knowledge and experience goes some way to helping somebody on their trip to japan and possibly their life here.

The newcomer experience
Upon first arriving in Japan, I was greeted with awe at a completely different country to my own. I picked out all the great things about Japan and, being an enthusiastic 18 year old, I wrote home about them. The clean and new cars, the outrageously clean streets with seemingly no street sweepers, the ultra modernness of the apartment I was in (we had a remote controlled bath! you can't begin to imagine my young mind's reaction to being able to run a bath from the kitchen). I would call up my mother with super enthusiastic expressions of awe at things like "Everyone's car is brand new!". This was my time of discovery in Japan and my young mind couldn't find fault. At the time I was in to Anime (manga) in a big way, which is probably why I got so interested in the first place. I was not disappointed at all once I got here. Video rental shops with row upon row of Japanese Anime which I couldn't understand. One thing that got me was the complete lack of censorship, I remember quite clearly my shock at Uroutsukidouji, the original Japanese version. Wow! I had never seen pornography(literally) in animation form before. Yes Uroutsukidouji is very hot in the UK but we are missing most of the movie. It's pure pornography!.
I married at this age in Japan to a beautiful and kind Japanese lady, 3 years my senior. I found out at this time, to marry in Japan under 20 years of age you require your parents signature but I managed to get it anyway. Life seemed ideal and I was loving every moment of this new country.
I expect that most people will feel this way when they move to any country. More so Japan though. If you are only here on tourism then you will also go away with this feeling, which will complete your journey and leave the image you had of Japan being a technologically advanced, anime loving society in tact. When you decide to stay longer, is when things start to change...

The outcast stage
As time goes by on your stay, you will start to notice little things, little "quirks" if you like. For one thing the constant gaze at me by all people whom I passed by. I never noticed it before but after a couple of months it was becoming very obvious. I found it to be incredibly rude manners to stare at somebody purely based on their skin color. Perhaps this was my trigger for what was to become my mental state in Japan in regards to Japanese society.
After a while the staring becomes less of a problem as you begin to feel outcast or "put to the bottom of the pile" when you require services such as the police or ambulance services. People tended to treat me with an air or suspicion about everything I did. I felt the gaze of the shop security guards as a browsed the audio sections of my local Midori Denki. I felt utterly lost when I needed to be put in to an ambulance for heart problems (the authority figure in the ambulance said he's going to call the police and say he thinks I took drugs!, I've never touched an illegal substance in my life).
These were the beginnings of my mental picketing against society in Japan and my poor wife suffering my insufferable complaining about it.
My advice, looking back now on this, is to just go with the flow. You are foreign in a country that has very few foreigners, the people staring at your are doing it because they probably want to speak to you and learn about you and where you are from. The "being put to the bottom of the pile" will turn out to be a paranoid delusion on your own behalf. As for Japan's tendency to treat foreigners as prime suspects in any crime : We did that to ourselves. Perhaps not as Brits but Japan has experienced enormous crime increases with the opening of the doors to foreign countries. It's hard for them to tell where a particular foreigner is from, so we all tend to get labeled as "foreigners". If every man of Italian decent who came in to your store stole things, wouldn't you begin to treat all men of Italian decent as suspicious? Japan doesn't mean any harm here.

The mental picketing times
My main gripe in this period of time of my stay was equality of the sexes. Time after time I saw women objectified on posters and commercials and so on. Not only this part of the sexism but the sexism at home. That was the real killer for me. I saw my wife's mother being treated like a slave. My wife's step father didn't lift a finger to clean anything at all and my wife getting paid less than somebody with exactly the same role and job title.
You can complain about this as much as you want. You can write letters to parliament and express your disgust on a daily basis but the fact of the matter is: This is not the UK. Japan has it's ways and although they seem sexist to us, they are indeed far from it and far more in favor of the female in most cases. Take, for example, doing all the housework. A wife in Japan can easily stay at home all day, do a few hours of cleaning and have the rest of the time free to go shopping. With her husband's money. Her husband will never complain or say a word about it, he will go to work and come home and that's what he expects of his life. He doesn't see his salary go in or out of a bank as he never sees the bank book. The female controls it all. Even if it's for her own leisure time. She decides what does and doesn't happen with money in any way what-so-ever. Her husband wants a new car ? Not without her approval. New TV? ask the wife.
Women have it a lot better than perceived in Japan. In the UK we are all for equal rights and I totally agree, I agree than women should be free to follow a career path of their choosing but this is what UK women want, Japanese women, mostly, want to stay home and perhaps work a little in a small job and live off their husband's salary.

Join the culture
In the end you will give in. I don't care how much of a picketer you are, you will relent to the Japanese way of life. Nothing will bother you any more, you will understand that you have to work and support you wife without complaining, you will stop believing in things like crime and litter, you will become "Japanized". If you reach this in 5 years or 15 years depends on your outlook and personal opinion on Japan. If you hold too strong to stereotypes and get caught up on fighting futile fights, you will only drag out the inevitable and make your own life even more of a chore. Give in as early as you can and you will enjoy living here much more.
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Old Jul 29th 2013, 6:50 pm   #2
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Default Re: Japan - From a long term resident's perspective

Thank you so much for sharing. That was wonderful insight.
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Old Mar 11th 2014, 10:32 am   #3
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Default Re: Japan - From a long term resident's perspective

Wow that is very interesting. I spent some time in China - nowhere close to as long as you did - and were some similarities, though for different reasons. I certainly had a simialer newcomer experience, where everything is completely different - though in China in a very different way to Japan I think - and it is just fun and amazing every day. After a while one gets used to it though and then starts to realise that you are not really a part of that society, which can feel lonely or is when a lot of people look for other foreign friends.
The "racist" part in it sounds a bit scary though. I would not like to be looked at like a thief. In China - for white people at least - somehow most locals assume that we are all very cultured and respectable so there is racism too but the other way round: you often get treated better than the locals.
I have never seen a remote controled bath in China though
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Old Apr 22nd 2014, 8:26 am   #4
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Default Re: Japan - From a long term resident's perspective

That was so inspiring story. I lived in Japan when I was 17, and after 5 years, I think I'm really "Japanized" now
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Old May 31st 2014, 10:55 pm   #5
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Default Re: Japan - From a long term resident's perspective

I was in Japan 12 years. Just left a year ago. I agree pretty much with everything you say, but as a female, the perspective is somewhat different.

Yes, the women get to control the household finances, theoretically at least, but a lot of men keep back a portion of their income as secret from their wives, or syphon it into a separate account. Secondly, you haven`t mentioned the passive-aggressive nature of many J relationships - yes, she goes off and does what she wants with the money. He will go off and do whatever he wants with the newest OL. Dysfunctional? Well, from my female western eyes, yes, but I guess it depends on what you can live and be happy with.

Didn`t meet many truly happy J housewives during my time there though. Or many relaxed and happy salarymen either for that matter....
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Old Jun 10th 2014, 1:47 pm   #6
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Default Re: Japan - From a long term resident's perspective

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Originally Posted by Nicky2303 View Post
I was in Japan 12 years. Just left a year ago. I agree pretty much with everything you say, but as a female, the perspective is somewhat different.

Yes, the women get to control the household finances, theoretically at least, but a lot of men keep back a portion of their income as secret from their wives, or syphon it into a separate account. Secondly, you haven`t mentioned the passive-aggressive nature of many J relationships - yes, she goes off and does what she wants with the money. He will go off and do whatever he wants with the newest OL. Dysfunctional? Well, from my female western eyes, yes, but I guess it depends on what you can live and be happy with.

Didn`t meet many truly happy J housewives during my time there though. Or many relaxed and happy salarymen either for that matter....
For all the Zen, green tea and cherry blossom, I've never met some many neurotic people (especially women) in my life. I recognise and agree with pretty much everything said above. The Japanese social structure is a bit like a giant pyramid of baked bean tins in a supermarket, with each tin representing one element of the structure--you can remove and try to replace a few with western-type elements (which is what is happening, or at least happened during my 7-year tenure there), but eventually it will collapse.

Japan's still trying to find its place in the world after its "lost decade". I'm not sure they'll succeed.
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Old Jun 12th 2014, 1:32 pm   #7
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Default Re: Japan - From a long term resident's perspective

I have been living in Japan for 1 year and a half now and I really can't take it anymore. I started realising that I don't like this country after the first 6 months. Luckily I am going away when my husband's visa is ready.
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Old Jun 13th 2014, 10:00 am   #8
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Default Re: Japan - From a long term resident's perspective

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Originally Posted by Foffion View Post
I have been living in Japan for 1 year and a half now and I really can't take it anymore. I started realising that I don't like this country after the first 6 months. Luckily I am going away when my husband's visa is ready.
So what don't you like about it? Just curious really.
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Old Jun 13th 2014, 12:42 pm   #9
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So what don't you like about it? Just curious really.
Ok, I can answer this question but I don't want to be insulted from everybody because I am being honest. This is just my opinion and it is not supposed to be "The law".

I don't like Japan mostly because I think people are incredibly fake, cold and rude. When you come here as a tourist you think oh nice they are so kind but then when you actually move here you realise that it is all fake (the perfect example is how they drive, honking if you dare to do something wrong and/or they NEVER stop at the zebra crossing and this really disgusts me).

They say they love animals but I can't be part of a society that stabs dolphins, keep the dog chained outside all year round, eat animals when they are still moving on the plate. No thank you. All vets are so cold.

If you are a foreigner here forget about privacy. There is ALWAYS someone staring at you (and even worse if you don't live in a big city). I understand they might be interested in foreigners but it is really rude to stare at people, besides... don't you have a tv? Children look at you like if you are an alien and when their parents notice what's happening, they don't say anything.

There is almost no help for people with mental illnesses or disabilities.

The surgical masks... what the hell, is this an operating theatre? And if you care so much about not spreading your viruses to other people then why oh why don't you put your hand in front of your mouth when you sneeze or yawn?

They might be technologically advanced but oh boy if morally they are still living in the stone age! Everything is about how big and clean your car is and how expensive your clothes are. You NEVER see gay couples and I know there are many, they are scared to be judged by this bigoted society.

They are spoiled. Second hand things? Are you crazy????

There are no concerts, yes ok I like metal but metal is pretty popular in Europe. Here you are lucky if you get a couple of foreign metal bands per year.

The health system is not free. Cancer is not free, if you want it, you have to pay!

Everything is so effing expensive, especially food. They might as well wear a balaclava because that's how I feel every time I go shopping: robbed. Forget about organic or "different" food (like whole wheat flour, vegetarian products, baking products, any kind of beans that are not soy beans, grains, whole wheat pasta and/or rice) if you want it you have to ask for a loan. I don't like Japanese food, but I know many people who do.

Men work like slaves, 23 hours a day, they have no private life. Women at home are treated like waitresses, my husband tried to do that at the beginning, he only did it for 10 minutes then he realised it is not working with me.

There is something about Japanese women that makes me want to punch them so hard that their unborn children will feel it.

I could go on forever but for today that's it. This is not the country for me, I must leave as soon as possible. They say "If you can't adapt to the culture go away". Yes, I am going away, just give me the time to get my husband's visa.

Mind you, there are also good points, the postal service is bloody good, the ¥100 shops, the weather in spring and autumn, almost no crime, toilets everywhere, technology and yes... I LOVE earthquakes.

Ciao.

Last edited by Foffion; Jun 13th 2014 at 12:57 pm.
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Old Jun 16th 2014, 8:13 am   #10
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Default Re: Japan - From a long term resident's perspective

hope you feel better having got it off your chest. Guessing you won't be retiring there then!
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Old Jun 16th 2014, 8:47 am   #11
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Yes nonthaburi, it was actually self-therapy. I honestly felt better after writing it. Have a nice day!
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Old Jun 17th 2014, 4:31 pm   #12
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Default Re: Japan - From a long term resident's perspective

Hi Foffion

I can relate to everything you've said. I think most gaijin go through a honeymoon period where everything (well, most things) appear to be ok, but when you scratch the surface a bit you realise that not everything's so rosy.

In some ways its akin to the requirement of suspsension of disbelief when watching a film. It got to me from time-to-time: I found a really low railway bridge over a small road, and would go and stand under there and scream when a train went over. Cathartic.

I really enjoyed the first 6 of my 7 years there (in Kobe), but must admit I was tiring of it come the end. The 7th year (several years later) was pretty awful. I still like to visit, and would consider living there permanently provided I had enough money to insulate myself from as much of the madness as possible, but that would have to be a huge pile of dosh.

I think that if its got under your skin to the extent that it apparently has, then there's little possibility of turning things around. I knew many gaijin who shared your dislikes (and horrors), and lasted a year or less; on the other hand, many stayed a long time, but you need to be able to compartmentalise or desensitive yourself.

Saké helps, but not the hangovers it brought me.

I was going to say that deep-down the Japanese are no different from westerners, in that there’s a huge range of personalities. But I’m actually not so sure: so many do seem to be missing the empathy gene…
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Old Jun 17th 2014, 10:47 pm   #13
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I was going to say that deep-down the Japanese are no different from westerners, in that there’s a huge range of personalities. But I’m actually not so sure: so many do seem to be missing the empathy gene…
Honestly, now I understand why there are so many suicides in Japan.
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Old Jun 17th 2014, 11:43 pm   #14
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Ok, I can answer this question but I don't want to be insulted from everybody because I am being honest. This is just my opinion
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Hi Foffion

I can relate to everything you've said. I think most gaijin go through a honeymoon period where everything (well, most things) appear to be ok, but when you scratch the surface a bit you realise that not everything's so rosy.
Wow, sometimes I read a bit on this board because I lived in Japan for almost a decade twenty or so years ago, and I always wonder if things have changed there from what I remember....

This thread has really brought back what I strongly disliked about the country and the culture. Among the gaijin I knew while I was there, 75% of women and about half the men had significant trouble with aspects of Japanese life that you both have mentioned. I knew a fair number who couldn't take it and left before the first year was up. (More often it was the wife insisting.)

I still have people ask me in puzzlement why I don't recall that time fondly. Usually they've visited Japan or always wanted to visit, and are under the magic "spell" that Japan and the Japanese seem to inspire in outsiders....

Anyway, thanks for the honesty.
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Old Jun 18th 2014, 1:42 am   #15
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Default Re: Japan - From a long term resident's perspective

I forgot to say about the slurping sound when they eat. THAT alone is a good enough reason to leave Japan.
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