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Pros and Cons: Life in Japan

26 Jul 2023

Pros and Cons: Life in Japan
Japan is the dream for many ambitious Brits searching for a culture that is entirely different to our own.

The language barrier is almost impenetrable, the cities are on 24 hours a day and it’s easy to feel lost in mega cities like Tokyo. But for those that take the time to adjust, there are countless things to enjoy about living in Japan. The bright streets, kind locals and exciting pastimes offer endless opportunities if you’re up for spending most of your waking life out and about. 

Before moving anywhere, let alone embarking on an international relocation, it’s crucial to get to know your destination. It is important to get to know a country, its culture and how well you’ll fit in there if you are to take the plunge. If you’re considering a move to Japan, you might be wondering about the upsides and downsides of living in Japan as a foreigner.

Pros of Living in Japan

Thousands of people make the move, either permanently or temporarily, to Japan on a yearly basis. There are many draws to this colourful and culturally rich country, so it’s no wonder that you are considering it as an option for your future. Find out the best locations for expats in Japan.


Board displaying train times in Osaka train station, Japan.

1. Quality Public Transport

Whether you’re hoping to get from one side of a city to another or between cities, Japanese transport is renowned for being some of the best in the world. Though rush hour can prove hectic, like in any other large city, the sheer number of buses and trains to get you around will astonish you. And despite the traffic and high volume of commuters, you’ll also be astounded at how punctual the timings are. If driving your own vehicle is not an option, Japan is certainly one of the best places to be. 

2. Everything’s Clean

If you’re used to big cities like London or New York, the cleanliness of Japan’s cities is another pleasant surprise. The Japanese believe in taking care of their community and their surroundings for the good of everyone. A common philosophy is that we are all sharing a space so we should all take responsibility for making it a pleasant place to be. That means you’ll benefit from incredibly clean and tidy public spaces, but make sure that you’re doing your bit in return.


Bright lights of Shibuya shopping district in Tokyo, Japan.

3. Unbelievable Shopping Experiences

You’ll find just about anything you wish for in Japan’s shopping centres. Malls are worlds of their own, with all the latest trends, technology, and even leisure activities you could dream of. You can get lost in them for hours, so shopaholics beware! Find cinemas, karaoke rooms, and arcades of all kinds if you’re looking for something to do, or simply browse the range of shops until you drop.

4. Healthcare

If you’re a foreigner living in Japan longer than 1 year, you’re allowed to benefit from their world-class healthcare system. Healthcare in Japan is known for being excellent and available to all residents should they need to use it. Costs are reasonable and upfront, meaning patients don’t have to wait an undisclosed amount of time before being presented with a huge bill. What’s more, children up to the age of 15 receive free healthcare from the government.


An indoor Japanese food market.


5. Delicious Food

Foodies will find everything they’re looking for in Japan. From fine dining to affordable street food, Japan has it all. Even the pickiest eaters are bound to find a cuisine and dish that they love. In fact, Tokyo is said to have enough dining options that you could eat at a different establishment every night for years before repeating one. And unlike much of the tasty food in the UK or the United States, you’ll also find that food in Japan is actually good for you! The healthy food available across the county is said to help the population live longer than most places around the world. 

Cons of Living in Japan

No destination on earth is perfect. While you shouldn’t let these discourage you from exploring the country yourself, there are just a few things to know about Japan that some expats find a difficult adjustment. 


Boats on Chidorigafuchi moat in Tokyo, Japan.

1. A Foreigner in Japan

Japanese people, after a while of course, are very welcoming and warm. However, culturally it can be difficult when you first arrive. While you won’t at all feel excluded by society, bureaucracy may swing things against your favour in some circumstances. Things like purchasing a vehicle or property can be significantly more difficult than if you were a native.


2. Language Barrier

Even if you study hard, Japanese is a notoriously hard language to learn. With an alphabet so far from the one we’re used to, it’s virtually impossible to just pick up the language from living in Japan. You’ll have to put some serious effort into mastering the local language, which is the best way to properly assimilate here. Without it, making friends with colleagues and excelling socially will be difficult.


A narrow street with shop signs in Osaka, Japan.

3. High Cost of Living

One big downside to life in Japan is the sheer cost of living. Food, shopping, and rent will cost you more than you might expect, so it’s important to manage your expectations before making the move. While getting a job is fairly easy, even as a foreigner, you’ll need to ensure you have the funds available to live the life you want abroad.

4. Dense Crowds

It has probably not evaded your attention that Japan’s cities are incredibly densely populated. While this is exciting, it does mean that public spaces can get extremely crowded very quickly. Navigating streets at busy times can feel like a real battle, so if you’re overwhelmed easily this might not be the best change of life for you.


Crowds walking over a crossing in the centre of Tokyo, Japan.

5. Work-Life Balance

One of the most common things you’ll likely hear about Japan is the rather extreme work-life balance. While this is improving a lot in modern times, you might find that some employers still hold old-fashioned views about taking annual leave and not being the last one in the office at the end of each day. The most important thing to note here is to ensure you’re careful in selecting where you work in Japan.

The best way to decide if an international location is right for you is to experience it for yourself! And once you’ve decided, get in touch with our expert moving consultants for a free moving survey to get the ball rolling.