Living in Japan: Utopia compared with the UK

Living in Japan - Utopia compared with the UKWith our poem about Leaving Japan, we had quite a few comments from readers who previously lived – or currently live – in Japan, and what they love or hated about the place. In fact, some of the comments were longer than the article as many people expressed reasons for their deep attachments with Japan and its residents, even while they are aware of the fact that they will never melt in to their surrounds, remaining eternally gaijin. Just what is it that keeps us here? Why do we find living here so convenient, despite the logarithmic learning curve of the language and the awkward culture clashes. Could it be a simple matter of that many things in Japan just work? The lack of Western egos, and the suffocating Western business ethos that suffocates the more important things in life? A friend of mine from the UK thought exactly that. He shared the reason why he fell in love with Japan, and why it is now his home. Here is his account of why Living in Japan is utopia (it should ring a couple of bells for many of you reading this I expect):

Start QuoteSetting foot upon Japanese soil for the first time was an unforgettable experience for me. Traveling from the UK, I was used to dreary cold gray days by this time of year, with the prospect of months more of it growing only darker and colder still. I remember the embracing heat that enveloped me as I alighted from the plane. I buzzed with excitement at the prospect of spending 2 weeks with my girlfriend in the late September heat of Japan.

We spent a week on the Izu peninsula, where I, the crazed, ocean starved foreigner, was a source of amusement to the local surfers, charging headlong into the 23 degrees C ocean water in my undies! I spent every day in the ocean, and temporarily lost the need for shoes. I felt real freedom for the first time in years and was glad to share this with my future wife.

Typical London Day - The Big Fog
Typical London Day – The Big Fog

I had grown accustomed to living in “The Big Smoke” of London, striving to manage a business through the onslaught of crooked utility service providers (who were, and still are privatized, fragmented, outsourcing messes), busy trying to extort money for previous tenants’ bills that were left unpaid. I would battle with the property management company to get leaks fixed and windows repaired, claiming insurance for yet another break in, tending to the wounds about my head inflicted by the butt of a revolver. As if I hadn’t experienced enough violence and stress, as if I wanted to devote 50% of my time to making phone calls and writing letters to nullify my company from liability to pay bills that weren’t even ours, bills that damaged our ability to take out a loan, to expand when we needed to.

I wasn’t the only one in this boat either, many others were also suffering, and some a great deal more than me. Many even collapsed under the pressure, some even paid money they didn’t owe. Some just ran away leaving their debts behind, but I’m sure they still suffered bouts of paranoia, constantly looking over their shoulder. Potholes in London Streets Constantly Cause Fatal CrashesIn the city’s never ending struggle with crime, constantly looking over your shoulder is a part of life in London, no matter where you are in the city, you just can’t shrug off the fear of getting mugged, or the fear of racial or bipartisan hatred, or just drunken stupidity.

Despite all that, I still loved many aspects of the multicultural city. I just despised the shortsighted system, riddled with holes, akin to a rusty old sieve succeeding in only separating the classes and races, while letting any history and culture fall through the holes of it’s substandard education system.

It was Japan that rebuilt itself so efficiently after America defeated and began occupying it six decades ago. It was through team spirit and great education that Japan succeeded in being one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Other nations secretly envied its strength.

Even through it’s economic slumps, Japan still retains a standard of and quality of life that America and the U.K. would find hard to maintain in times of crises. I really felt those differences when I decided to settle with my girlfriend, get married and have children with her. I didn’t want my children to be brought up in a country that had forgotten it’s ancestors, that favored individualism, that could only offer quality education to those that could afford it.

I know Japan’s system is not perfect, but it’s in a different league to that of UK or America. Things work in Japan, transport runs on time and is highly maintained, education is of a high standard, one of the highest in the world, even in the state sector.
The countries culture and tradition is still a great part of everyone’s life. People still look up to their elders and have roots deep in their ancestry. This is something that I find endearing, and I only hope Japan can keep a tight grip on itself, and not let these important aspects slip away with the scourge of foreign companies and influences coming into it’s bubble.

England fans moved by Japanese Hospitality during the World Cup in JapanMy friends thought I was crazy to go and live in a country where I could not yet read or speak the language, to settle in a city commonly misconceived to be among the most expensive to live in the world. They still don’t believe me when I tell them that the cost of living is actually roughly half of that in the UK and that the boundaries of class are significantly blurred. Violence and crime rates are among the worlds’ lowest and I think this is largely to do with the fact that people have a relatively high base standard of living, education and health care, and abide by group ethos. It was pleasing however to notice during the World Cup (when it was hosted in Japan and Korea) that a newfound respect for Japan went home with many of the England fans. I remember watching touching stories on TV of fans crying when Englands time was up, not only for their team and country, but about leaving Japan. The hospitality that they had been starved of back home, had been applied liberally during their stay by the Japanese, and obviously made its mark on them.

While growing up in Japan, I like the fact that my children will have an equal chance in their education and that they will be taught how to work as part of a team, devoid of egotism. To me that is essential if you want to succeed in life, work, and remain happy at the same time. To me, egotism only causes pain and breeds contempt. That I’ve learnt through experience… the hard way!

When I made the decision to come here and settle with my wife to have our first child, I was not sure about what options I would have career wise. Because of the language barrier, my skills in audio engineering and multi-media could not be transferred. I felt as though my days as a musician, composer and engineer were over and my only option was teaching English.

It was easy enough to get a job, yet I found the English language market in Japan to be riddled with people who’s command of the language was sub-standard, and a lot of positions on offer only paid by the day or hour and offered no securities such as health and employment insurance. However, the Job I got was well remunerated compared with teaching positions in the UK and the state income tax was 75% less than that of the UK. In fact, my salary was comparable to an entry level job in a law firm, but my tax wasn’t as high and teaching work was both engaging and rewarding for me, plus my cost of living was roughly 50% of that in London. This combined with the well organized infrastructure of the city, it’s convenience, and it’s clean landscaped park land was already enough to make me feel as though there was a future for me living in Japan. It’s definitely, easier, safer and cleaner than living in the UK.

However, one thing I had been somewhat apprehensive about was the Japanese diet. Initially, I was inclined to shrink away from eating many of the seafood dishes that were offered. I had read that in Japan, refusing food is deemed as rude, if at first you don’t even try it.

Hang in there - Japan is not so bad
A Sign about 3/4 the way up Mt. Fuji

So with that in mind, and out of respect for my hosts, I tried all that was offered and much to my surprise I found 90% of it to be thoroughly delicious and very healthy; yet another reason why I love Japan!

I also love Japan’s geography, its spine of mountains and its craggy, densely vegetated peninsulas projecting out into the pacific on its eastern coast. I love the fact that one can travel only an hour on the train from Tokyo and reach the mountains or just two and a half hours on the plane to the tropical delights of Okinawa. Everything is so accessible.

I often feel as though Japan is close to Utopia, (even though I know its system is tainted with corruption and various other problems), and this is a feeling I cannot imagine having about America or the UK. Since coming here I have not wanted to turn back. As a matter of fact, when I visited family in London last year, it just served as a reminder of how inconvenient and stressful life is there. I stayed in a hotel who’s service was poor, where the elevator didn’t work, where the lock on our room door was broken and the window wouldn’t shut properly…. and all this pandemonium on Queensway – Unbelievable! And what’s more, the hotel manager only pointed the finger of blame elsewhere and didn’t even offer an apology for these inconveniences. Traditional English hospitality – no. Typical – yes!

In the short space of time that I had single handedly lugged heavy suitcases up two flights of stairs, (because the elevator was broken), I had incurred a 75 pound parking fine! That just wouldn’t happen in Tokyo. The elevator in the Queensway hotel was not Swiss or Japanese made – it was British of course!

Be sure to let us know if there are other things that keep you in Japan in the comment section below!

26 thoughts on “Living in Japan: Utopia compared with the UK”

  1. I wonder why the writer keeps lumping the US and the UK together as if they were the same. His description of living and doing business in London sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard of or experienced in the US and he gives no evidence of having ever even been to the US. So he likes Japan better than England. It’s nice he’s found someplace that’s made him happy.
    I disagree with his take on the Japanese education system and on his assumption that the US and the UK are the same culturally.

  2. Green, tell us about how it is in the US? The story above is pretty much true for me also, and I am from Australia. Every time I go back there, more people seem to have been hit by the wanker stick. These sort of people seem to be getting more of a hold on the Australia that used to be, and turning it into the crap it is:

    1. People who think violence or threatening violence is a great way to act tough.
    2. Racially intolerant Australians.
    3. Racially intolerant non-Australians (knife cuts both ways here)
    4. People who think littering is ok, especially the my-cigarette-butt-in-the-gutter-is-none-of-your-business smokers!
    5. People who will tell just about anyone to f*ck off, or give anyone the finger when some inconvenience arises.
    6. People who care more about their car looking good than the welfare of their kids, or the environment.
    7. QANTAS and Telstra.

    I’m not saying these elements do not exist in Japanese society. It is just that the occurrence of them is rising rapidly in Australia, while remaining steady in the last 10 years I have been in Japan.

    Where did the Australia that I knew go? Where did the Aussie spirit of “I’d do anything for a mate” go? Is this all John Howard’s fault, or does it run deeper?

  3. This is to green. Hi & thank you for your comment.

    I can see why you assume that I “lumped” the US & UK together. That is my error for not explaining my situation properly….
    I am a dual national, my father being American & my Mother being British.
    I have visited America many times, although, admittedly it has only been the N.E coast & the longest stretch was 3 months.
    I actually found that in that region at least, there was definitely more organization than the UK, & things DID work properly most of the time! In addition to that the cost of living was also less.
    However, through learning about my father’s experience as a professor of Native American history, & hearing his frustrations & difficulties within the education system there & also watching my step brother & his friends suffer through their years at school, I felt that they expressed similar plights to those found in the UK.
    Government subsidies to state schools were thinning & as a result good teachers were leaving & being replaced with less experienced & less qualified ones whilst all the private sector schools were getting the cream of the crop. Only privileged families could send their children to them.
    I’m not saying it’s like that through out the entire & vast US; I understand that some states have more collateral than others, prioritize their budget differently & even differ greatly in their laws. In many ways other states can seem like a different country.

    My main worry about living in the US is the gun law. Even in my family we grieve because a rifle was licensed over the counter, to a seventeen year old boy who was going through a “rough patch”. We know of children who have been injured because they were “trespassing” on someone else’s back yard…..really they were just out playing & had got plain lost! Who in hell would want to shoot at an 8 year old kid for goodness sakes?!!
    I have friends who have been jumped in NYC & attacked with knives. Having been mugged myself, bludgeoned with the butt of a revolver, in the UK, I dread to think how much more likely that is to happen in the US, where firearms are easily accessible & bullets can be purchased in the friggin’ super market! That’s nuts!
    Moreover, it seems that in the US & increasingly in the UK, if people want to get a gun, there are relatively easy ways & means…….& also there are more people with that kind of mentality, who fall through the gaps, who are deprived of equal opportunities, who lack education, love & respect. The way children are educated is definitely the key to changing societies for the better, & I just feel that in the UK, education is going backwards! & from what I hear, it is also the case in the US, in a number of states at least.
    A happy medium would be ideal, in Japan children are schooled into group mentality very early on & in the west, it is the opposite, much focus is on individual merit & competition is the name of the game (which can be very damaging to a child), there is little group activity. Isn’t that backward, when we need to eventually work with other people to survive?
    There are pro’s & cons to both ways; I know Japan’s system puts huge pressure on children to pass their junior high entry exams at 11 to secure a place at a private sector school, or respectively at 17 the have to pass their exam to secure their enrollment in university.
    I do think Japanese students have it a bit too tough, but academically they are 3 or 4 years ahead of their western counterparts & most of their hardest work is done by the time they enter university. After that the majority can secure a decent job or pursue a career successfully. Japanese students also tend to lack the ability to break out of the group spirit & state their own opinions. To find that balance of the merits of western & Japanese education would be great.

    Another reason I opt not to live in the US is because of it’s government, I just plain don’t like the way the big blue chips run the country, I do not like it’s attitude to global warming & I certainly don’t like the evangelical strains of Christianity that permeate the media. It is plain bizarre.

    I’d be interested to know where you were living in the US & for how long, & how you feel it compares to Japan, where you feel the US culture is now, & many many other things that you care to impart. I think that would even make a great Stippy article, no suggestion intended ;)

    Well, pardon me, I appear to have driveled an essay!..

    But sincerely, thanks for your comment…next time I’ll endeavor to write a more balanced & “fair”article.

  4. Japan’s education system does have it’s problems (lack of creativity, group think, text books) but I honestly think it is fabulous that it is open to everybody. Unlike the rest of the world, students strive to get into public (ie government run) schools and universities. It is the private universities that are expensive. There is always room for someone with the ability and the desire to work hard. Public school fees are constantly on the rise in the West andd it will be to their detriment in the long-run. Green, is it any different in the US?
    I also love the health system in Japan. Gaijin who have been in Japan too long bitch about it being filled with witch doctors but that is because they have forgotten what it is like back home (unless they are from other parts of Asia where it is probably quite advanced).
    In the UK and Australia you are lucky to get a bed and when you do you have to be even luckier to get a Doctor to see to you.
    If you are in the US then you better have a generous employer who is willing to pay your insurance. The US is so expensive that travellers who get sick can’t afford to pay their hospitals because obviously they aren’t employeed by rich US companies who will pay for their insurance. I have a wonderful insurance plan at work but it doesn’t cover the US. My relatives are travelling to the US this week and they were told that they had to increase their travel insurance to the highest available rank simply because they were spending more than 72 hours on US soil. But then again, I’m sure US politicians don’t care about terrorists like me and my relatives as we don’t have a green card.
    In Japan health care is cheap and you can always get a bed. Sure the Hospitals are going bust but the government would prefer the hospitals to lose money than for their citizens (and even gaijin) to lose out. Hell, I even remember when I was a student in Japan that I got a special “gaijin ryugakusei” refund of 95% of my medical bill. How generous is that.
    Sure it’s great to have a cheap steak and the statue of liberty waving down at you each morning on the ferry to work – but I would take a cheap, high quality education and health system any day.

  5. Yes the lack of hospital beds in the UK is much the same. Because the health system is not centralized, one affluent borough (district) may have decent health care & enough beds but the neighboring borough may lack collateral & as a result may have a huge waiting list for treatment & beds.
    My friend once lasserated his wrist down to the bone & lost the use of his hand. He had to wait two weeks before he could have an operation. It was a low priority injury!
    I agree that the health system in Japan is generous. We get 70% of all our medical fees back & our kids get free healthcare up to six years old. We’ve been to hospital with minor injuries, yet got treatment within 24 hours in Tokyo, & it doesn’t matter what ward you’re from, you can go to the nearest hospital in an emergency.
    In the UK you had to go through all manner of red tape if you have to be transferred to a hospital outside of your borough of residence. Perhaps that is changing now….for the taxes UK citizens pay, it bloody well should change & become completely centralized. It may be free, but it IS sub-standard.
    I know how extortionate health insurance is in the US. My father pays $450 pcm for his immediate family……compared to Japan’s state insurance of about $150 for a three member family, which insures you’ll get 70% of all your fees back. If you’re below a certain income bracket you get a subsidy paid into your account every month. Japan does take care of it’s citizens & it seems that the Japanese are happy to give back to the system in their twighlight years…..I always see so many senior voluntary community workers keeping the place clean & safe.
    However, one thing I don’t like in the Japanese health system is that a lot of G.Ps are pill pushers, much like they are in the US.
    My brother got prescribed tranquilizers in the US because he was diagnosed with ADD when he was eight. He grew depressed & withdrawn on that medication…..nobody gave a crap as long as his parents paid the medical bill…..but hell yeah, I like a good hearty steak from time to time, & Maine clam chowder is the business!
    There are some good things to say about Uncle Sam.

  6. I wish I lived in the Japan that this article described, and I’m glad I’ve never been to the London mentioned above, although I have visited the UK several times and enjoyed my time in the real London a great deal. Starry-eyed foreigners who set up shop here and go on endlessly about how much better Japan is than their homes are only slightly less annoying than the bitter long-termer who hates everything about the place, but won’t go home.

    I would love to see some data on Japanese students’ performance in relation to their western counterparts. “3-4 years ahead”? That is utter rubbish. In addition, Japanese universities are famous for coddling their students, which may be the reason why ambitious Japanese parents with the means to do so often opt to send their children to elite western schools. To my knowledge, academically gifted westerners are not busting down the gates at ToDai, Kyoto, Waseda or any of the prestigious Japanese universities. I work in a Japanese company where most of the employees have advanced level degrees. I can tell you from my daily interactions with colleagues that the Japanese education system systematically sucks any creativity, individuality and desire to take risks out of students. And that is in direct comparison with similarly educated westerners.

    While the streets of major Japanese cities are relatively safe, it is still a good idea to exercise caution. I’ve heard of several people, both Japanese and non-Japanese, who have experienced trouble ranging from swarmings to perverts exposing themselves, to gropers and straight-up theft.

    The undercurrent of racism and xenophobia which still pervades Japan as well as the standard of living (long hours, small living quarters – often poorly insulated, lack of vacation time) are just two more things that I would suggest should prevent it from being labelled “Utopia”. The truth is that no such place exists. Japan is just like everywhere else. It does some things very well, and others not so. I think that article may have been a little bit hard on the US and UK – and/or too easy on Japan.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have lived in Japan for several years and I enjoy it very much. In fact, the list of things that I like about the place, would be much longer than my list of grievances. However to discuss it in such glowing terms while turning a complete blind eye to it’s failings is somewhat disingenuous. For example, no matter how bad hotels in the UK might be, a Japanese tourist will never be turned away simply because they are not British.

  7. Mmm well compared to France I don’t know…

    We have free schools and university which teach you how to think, and not 4 years of nomikai with MCQ validated tests, a social welfare system (that cost a lost, I admit) but which is accessible to everyone, a quite multicultural societey (no uyoku back bus every week in front of my office shouting after Chinese) at least in big cities…
    So well, taxes are higher in France, I must admit. And contact with other people maybe much more agressive, specially in paris.

    But I’m really not sure that I would chose Japan to raise my children (specially if they’re half, I still have ijime stories wandering in my head- even if everyone tells me that now its different).

  8. That “typical London day” pic is simply BS playing on the stereotype of London been covered in fog. It very rarely gets foggy there (but still is rather grey).

    Also, I think the guy who has just moved to Japan is still in the “honeymoon” phase – reality will sink in that Japan is just as messed up as any other country, only in different ways :P

  9. RMK, Can you remind me what the youth unemployment levels are back in France?

    J-Rock, I completely agree with you there. Both the starry eyed gaijin and those who hate everything about Japan (but continue to live there) drive me crazy. But I must say I have a real respect for the gaijin who have lived in Japan for 5+ years and still only have wonderful things to say about the place – to me they are in a different league to the starry eyed new chums just off the boat. (To be honest you sound like one of those guys but you don’t wanna admit it!??)

  10. Hi Blue,
    Thanks for the expanded explanation.
    I live in one of the New England states in a town of about 30,000. I lived in Japan for a total of 12 years (1987-1992 and 1996-2003) and have been back here in the US since 2003.
    I was very glad to get my daughter out of Japanese school and into public school here. Although she only attended kindergarten and first grade in Japan, from what I saw it was all about rote memorization and doing things the same as everyone else. Kokugo homework was usually something along the lines of: read the essay out loud to your parents 10 times and have them grade your performance. She was also given an assignment to “make friends with a tree” in the school yard. wtf? There wasn’t even a glimmer of anything like critical thinking being taught, as far as I could see. When she got to the US and started second grade at the end of the school year here, her class was learning about process writing, something I had to teach my univ students in Japan. Also, she was sometimes teased and ostracized by classmates in Japan because she is “half” but in the US it’s not really an issue, except for when people tell they envy her bilingual abilities.
    I find the Japanese educational system very competitive and it seems you can start to see the haves and the have-nots splitting ways around the end of elementary school when parents start sending kids to juku to study for junior high school exams.
    I don’t really feel qualified to comment on US culture as a whole because I’m not a pundit. I’m a mother, a teacher, a New Englander and a resident of a small-ish town. I can’t claim to see the entire big picture.
    Politically, it seems like the pendulum is about to swing back, as it always does eventually. Even the Republicans are turning their backs on the President as they gear up to run for re-election. Some national issues are too vast for me to wrap my mind around, but I do email my congressional representatives and senators about issues I care about and they write back. Unlike Japan, government is not so centralized here and state and local governments decide many issues. It’s easy to be involved as a citizen participant in matters of local interest and I feel a much greater sense of community here than I did in Japan. Community input plays a big part in the way towns are developed here. The guys with the big money can’t just waltz in and build whatever they want. There are planning board meetings and town meetings and people can ask questions about the details of how certain issues will be handled and they expect answers.
    Maybe for me it boils down to the fact that it’s not considered rude here to ask questions to people in positions of authority. I felt stifled a lot in Japan. I kept quiet too often because to do otherwise was inappropriate. I couldn’t ask the teacher why he assigned the same reading passage every night for three weeks straight. I couldn’t ask why naming a tree in the school yard and learning how to do a jump rope double back cross jump rope was such an important part of the curriculum. (I’d rather let my kid climb trees and jump rope because it’s fun, not because it’s homework.) I couldn’t ask about a lot of things that puzzled me. I spent most of my early adulthood in Japan and it’s taken several years for me to get back to being comfortable questioning things. There is no critical thought without questions. I may just be too “rikutsuppoi” for Japan.

  11. Ha, I sound just like a typical Japanese student (uncreative, no individuality, no urge to take any risks, etc…) I’ve never been to Japan, and I’ll probably never move there, but I can say the US is nice. Sure, we’ve got faults, but the fact that we thrive on conveniances is enough to keep me here.

  12. Richmond > Mmm you got me on this one. But at least eduaction is (almost) free and teaches you how to think, which doesn’t seems to be so right here in Japan.

  13. It seems this article suffers from balance issues and too much generalization, particularly of the negative aspects of the U.S. (and possibly the U.K. – I’ve never been there so I can’t say).

    One mistake everyone makes about the U.S. is seeing it as one country represented by its popular culture, politics, and more outspoken speakers. The U.S. is not culturally unified in any way. It’s a huge place and different areas have very different ways of life and styles of thinking. It’s more like 5 countries in one (7 if you consider Alaska and Hawaii are also vastly different from the mainland) with a lot of sub-divisions within each “country”. On top of that, rural living is vastly different from urban living and there are more people living in rural areas than urban ones.

    Life is not nearly as mercenary in the U.S. as is indicated by the author of this post and people aren’t all running around killing each other or waving guns around. I never experienced any type of crime in the U.S., not even a petty theft. In Japan, I’ve had things stolen (a large bag and 2 bikes). That doesn’t mean the U.S. is safe and Japan is dangerous but it does illustrate that you can’t draw conclusions about entire cultures based on anecdotal experiences.

    While I’m deeply troubled by the political situation in the U.S., this is a very unusual time there because the 9/11 attacks caused the political pendulum to swing so far to the right. People were very reactionary after the first terrorist attack by a foreign national on U.S. soil and foolishly surrendered certain rights in the name of security. This is extremely unfortunate but also understandable. The situation will normalize (hopefully) over the next decade. Perspective must be applied to any analysis of any country’s politics and culture. If I’ve learned anything from living in Japan, it’s to look at all sides of a situation and not just one. This is something that Japan does which often is not done in other cultures.

    I think J-Rock and Blue hit the nail on the head in terms of the counterbalancing negative points to Blue’s positive points about life in Japan.

    The bottom line is there is no “utopia” anywhere. Every country and culture has good points and bad points. If you really want to take something of value away from living in a foreign culture, it’s to learn that it is useless to elevate one culture over another. To see Japan or any place as perfect is to set yourself up for a big fall into disillusionment later.

  14. Blue, J-Rock, Shari,

    thanks for your well-balanced consideration.

    I’m German, living for four years now in Japan. I came here with a “elevated” opinion about Japanese culture, technical development, society etc. This caused finally the “disillusionment” Shari is talking about.

    My little daughter visits 2nd grade of primary school now, while my elder (Japanese step-) daughter finishes (private) senior high school. She was visiting a German grammar school before (3 years), so we definately have a direct comparison of both educational systems. J-Rock, your statement ““3-4 years ahead”? That is utter rubbish” is absolutely correct, also from the point of view of my (elder) daughter. She loved the Western style of challenge and critical consideration at an European school.

    Also let me tell you that I work in a German engineering company – the only non-engineer amoung Japanese engineer colleagues. Once creativity is required, they’re totally helpless, leaving the path of what they have learned “by heart”.

    Maybe the problem is mainly caused by the Japanese government in a sense of presenting themselves towards the rest of the world. The way they do makes people believe that everything in this country is perfect. At least to me it had this impact. Since I was a boy I’ve been a Japan-fan.

    I also want to emphasize here that my intention is NOT to draw a “good – bad” picture (although they stole my motorbike and my navigation out of my car here). All we should learn is to respect each other within a healthy!!! national pride (please don’t mistake with “Nationalism”!).

  15. This guy obviously had it rough in expensive, inefficient London (been there, done that) and so Japan appears to be Utopia in comparison.

    But then he replies to say that in Japan its great because people are educated in a group mentality.

    No way.

    Japan is NOT the solution. Huge suicide rate, rising taxes, couples cant afford to have kids, so low birth rate, wierd murders of women (British, Filipinas dismembered and their body parts flushed down the toilet).

    Try some country in Europe for a solution. Sweden, or Switzerland maybe.

    Big, huge, populations lead to high costs and taxes, and then mental problems and crime explode. Sure, Tokyo is better than London, in some ways. Not in others.

    Some days I actually think tokyo is getting more like London…

  16. 15 years I spent in Japan before coming back to the States a few years ago …. the worldview of the author is a bit juvenile (“devoid of egotism,” “the scourge of foreign companies,” “favored individualism”) and this article would be suitable in a high school newspaper but certainly there are great benefits to living in Japan that one has to weight against the drawbacks. Maybe some of you have had a similar experience: after years in Japan one begins to shrink from and avoid gaijin whose conversations focus on comparisons between Japan and wherever they came from.

  17. 15 years I spent in Japan before coming back to the States a few years ago …. the worldview of the author is a bit juvenile (\”devoid of egotism,\” \”the scourge of foreign companies,\” \”favored individualism\”) and this article would be suitable in a high school newspaper but certainly there are great benefits to living in Japan that one has to weight against the drawbacks. Maybe some of you have had a similar experience: after years in Japan one begins to shrink from and avoid gaijin whose conversations focus on comparisons between Japan and wherever they came from.

  18. Hi i just want to say thank you so much for this article you know i have lived in japan for 5 years and have just moved back to london and i feel exactly the same as what you have describe above my family and friends are all angry with me as they think i am showing off whenever i say something good about japan. I am just in the process of moving back and not coming back to live again EVER.

    I grew up in England and have always felt unwanted and alien being from an asian backround but in japan imade so mny friends and i never felt that i am not the same s any other japanese person in fact iwas more of a celebrit So thanks as all this has convinced me even more to move back.

    San

  19. San, power to you but be careful. You say your treated as a celebrity, but I think it might bemore appropriate to say “novelty”.

    and novelty wears off. On both sides.

    However, with 200 000 people leaving the Uk every year (www.sodbritain.com) I cant say I blame you.

    I just think Japan has a difficult, anal retentive culture that masquerades as Confucianism, and the deeper you go the more you ll chafe and the rules (and taxes after one year if you dont keep moving house).

    Cheers
    J

  20. To the author:

    I am so elated to read this article. I am so happy that you have found a happy place to live. Everything you wrote echoed true with me. While I have not lived in Japan, I can easily see what you mean by a contrast in lifestyle, absence or minimal ego and decent way of living. I had my first experience living abroad in London. Before leaving London from the US, I, unfortunately, only visualized it as a small island with little to offer. How mistaken I was!

    While some view London as a dirty city wrought with corruption, etc, I couldn’t get enough of it. In fact, my credit card supplied the NEXT shop there for some time. The people were so nice and I couldn’t believe how so many beautiful women there were. AND they were hitting on ME. I was amazed!

    In Chicago, the pretty girl would never do this. She is usually contemplating her next leaf-based diet and hanging around her abusive boyfriend. In London and the rest of Europe, they are more open-minded but that doesn’t stop the usual xenophobic person/group from instigating trouble. I will say, “cons” do exist everywhere. There is corruption at the highest levels in all cities, countries. Chicago is the birthplace of racketeering and a lot more crime! Trust me, Chicago is the place where you cannot and must not stop looking over your shoulder. Trouble can find you very fast there.

    I have always wanted to live in Japan. I was also offered a teaching position there but looked elsewhere instead. At that time, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Though, my students from Japan always tell me to visit them there.

    I wish I had the chance to live in another country and the chance to experience other cultures. I hope more travels and learning about more cultures is on the horizon.

    Best wishes in Japan!

  21. Interesting that there are people like the above. Problems happen everywhere, such as nasty people ruining things for the rest. You know.

    Maybe you should try living in Japan. This website was one person’s view of things and those that followed it. Not necessarily for you to jump in. I applaud the author and try to look past the child-like behaviour you have just exhibited.

    This is a bad time for someone to make any comments or insinuations towards Japan “Mr. Bose”

    Maybe you should try a site best suited for someone with intelligence like yours. Namely, Fox news. There’s plenty of trash to keep you company.Check it out and as we say in England, piss off!

  22. I cant argue with many of the points you made, but I can argue that you have concentrated on the good of Japan and the Bad of England/the West.

    The NHS may be seen as poor but that most likely because of English people complaining, it is ranked as one of the worlds best. Japans system is akin to the US system; you get what you pay for, and when you do see a Dr they usually just fob you off with anti-biotics.
    Lets not use age because much of it is changed by small areas, i.e. Okinawa vS Glasgow.
    The whole waiting issue, I havent had to wait longer in the UK than in Japan, citywise or countrysidewise.

    The schools may be very good, I cant vouch for them, but the Universities are appalling. The level of work is so low compared to that of the UK, and attendance is more important than grades.

    Again the London fog thing, this is a major flaw is your article, you say Japan is better than England but you only talk about London.

    Agreed petty crime is worse in London, social cohersion Perhaps, but atleast England can boast higher levels of equality before the law. I would be interested to see a “white english only” pub in England. Taking of your fingerprints and face photo everytime you enter the country – because you are not Japanese.

    Back to the weather. London may be foggy, I couldnt say, but there are nicer areas. The UK is a temperate climate, unlike Japan it doesnt get intensely hot or cold.
    And lets not try to hide how much it rains in Japan, statistically on average, over twice as much.

    Ive never been a great fan of London or Tokyo. Tokyo a sprawl of grey modern concrete buildings. London broken clumps of historical architecture. Londons grey/foggy weather, vs Tokyos intense heat/heavy rains.
    But I find English towns to be much nicer than Japanese towns.

    I love Japan and England, but I feel if one has to present an argument to TRY and compare two vastly different countries, focusing on the positive of one and the negative of the other is a bad start.

  23. i would be interested to hear all your thoughts on why then there seem to be so very many japanese tourists in the uk, hugely so in London? based on your idealist japan (which, dont get me wrong I’m in awe of and feel the pull) but what then brings so many of them to our UK, what is it they think is so appealing bout our country and keeps them coming throughout the seasons and in all regions? genuinely interested. thanks.

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