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7 Things You Need to Know Before Living in Japan

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UK-based Yuzu enjoys sharing knowledge about their home country: Japan.

These seven things about Japan just might surprise you if you've never been.

These seven things about Japan just might surprise you if you've never been.

What Do You Think of Japan?

What kind of image do you have of Japan? Perhaps you've visited the big city of Tokyo or the historical city of Kyoto and loved the charm. You may also like Japanese food, which is healthy and beautiful to look at. Maybe you have visited Japan on holiday and loved it so much that you would like to live there in the future.

Of course, not everything about Japan is perfect, and there are things you can't find on the internet or on TV. So, as a Japanese person, I would like to introduce you to some of the things that people from other countries should know and consider before they come to live in Japan.

1. There Are Natural Disasters (and Not Just Earthquakes)

The great East Japan earthquake of 2011 was widely reported in other countries. However, earthquakes are not the only natural disasters that occur in Japan. Every year, we have big typhoons and heavy rains. In summer, it can be unbelievably hot, and in winter, there can be so much snow that public transport has to be stopped. There are also serious problems with landslides and liquefaction in city centres.

Do you know what to do if an earthquake or a typhoon hits, and you feel it is not safe to stay at home? Do you know what will be provided in a shelter and what you will need to provide for yourself? If you don't have internet access, how will you know how to ask for help from the Japanese people around you?

I am sure that there are some natural disasters in your area. However, it would be best if you did not underestimate the natural disasters that occur in Japan. Many people die every year as a result.

2. Traffic Rules Are Different

This may come as a surprise to you, but in Japan, cars and motorbikes have to drive on the left side of the road like in the UK. You will need a car in the countryside, whereas in the cities, there are plenty of trains. Furthermore, there has been a recent increase in the number of "aggressive drivers" who drive dangerously and unnecessarily towards other vehicles on the road. It can be dangerous to think that all Japanese people are calm.

3. Crime Still Exists

Many people think that Japan is safe and that crime is low. I have heard that some people say that women can walk at night alone in Japan, which I don’t believe. It is true that there are few violent crimes (such as murder), but there are still many cases of molestation and stalking. Both women and men can be victims of these crimes. In the city, there are crowded trains, and in the countryside, there are few streetlights.

4. Japanese People Can Be Strict About Rubbish and Noise

Living in Japan means that you will be surrounded by Japanese people. It is very important to get to know your Japanese neighbours. Japanese people are often very cautious and do not interfere much with others, but this does not mean that they do not care. They are quietly curious about their neighbors, and foreigners are conspicuous.

The most common problems in many neighbourhoods are rubbish disposal and noise. In Japan, the rules for rubbish disposal are very detailed, and they are not the same everywhere—they vary from municipality to municipality. Therefore, when you move to a new place in Japan, you have to learn from scratch how to take out the rubbish according to the local rules.

Depending on the type of rubbish, there may be a specific place to dispose of it, or you may have to pay for it. Unfortunately, the Japanese are so used to these rules that they are very strict with those who do not follow them. If you do not take out the rubbish properly, your landlord and neighbours may become very angry with you.

5. English Signs and English Speakers Are Still Few and Far Between

English signs are becoming more common in large cities, such as Tokyo and Osaka, and in areas where many foreigners live. Some public places, such as airports, train stations and post offices, have English signs as well as Chinese and Korean signs. However, menus in restaurants are often only in Japanese, and nutritional information on food sold in supermarkets is often only in Japanese.

Although Japan is putting a lot of effort into English-language education, there are still very few people who can respond to an urgent question in English. There are also medical interpreters and court interpreters, but not many people want these jobs because the remuneration is too low for the heavy workload.

6. There Is an Atmosphere of Personal Responsibility

In Japan, there are welfare services and other public services to help people in financial difficulties. Of course, as long as you meet the necessary qualifications and conditions, you will be able to receive such assistance.

However, Japanese people are often reluctant to talk about their problems with others because they feel that they should be able to solve their problems by themselves and that it is embarrassing to rely on others. Unfortunately, there is also the view that negative situations and negative outcomes are caused by a lack of effort on your part.

7. Conformity and Style Over Substance May Still Be the Norm

Although this has gradually changed in recent years, many people in Japan still hold a fear of being different from the majority of people. The rights of sexual minorities are gradually being recognised. However, the idea that we should feel safe with everyone else still exists.

Furthermore, one of the things I noticed when I moved from Japan to the UK was that Japan tends to put more emphasis on appearance than substance. Of course, I'm not saying that this is the case throughout Japan. But for both men and women, there is a tendency to focus only on good looks and to neglect education. On TV, there are also "silly celebrities" who are very successful.

Enjoy Japan!

That's it! I hope I have shown you that Japan is not always as bright as it seems on the internet. Of course, I don't dislike Japan; in fact, I love it! I am proud of the country I was born in. That's why I hope that all foreigners will be able to live in Japan as comfortably as possible.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.