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How to deal with your Japanese neighbors

27 Comments
By Imtya Rahmi Lazuardini

Moving to Japan can be an exciting adventure. One thing that many foreigners don’t realize, however, is how important it is to get along with their Japanese neighbors. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a big city or a quiet town; understanding the local customs and how to build good relationships with your neighbors can help make your move easier and more enjoyable.

This article will give you some insights on how to introduce yourself and how to handle any issues or complaints that may come up in this unique cultural context.

Meeting Your Japanese Neighbors

iStock-1222236834.jpg
Start off on the right foot. Photo: iStock/ Kayoko Hayashi

When you move to a new place in Japan, it’s good to introduce yourself to your neighbors, especially in small cities.

Remember these helpful tips if you want to introduce yourself to your Japanese neighbors:

  • Timing: The best times to meet are during weekends or weekday evenings. Ideally, aim for mid-morning on a weekend.
  • Gifts: It’s thoughtful to bring a small gift, like sweets or snacks. An omiyage (souvenirs) from your home country is also a great idea. The main idea is to show goodwill.
  • Demeanor: When offering your gift, present it using both hands, as this is seen as a mark of respect. Similarly, if you receive something, accept it with both hands in return.
  • Speaking: If you’re familiar with Japanese, don’t hesitate to use it. Even a basic “hajimemashite” (nice to meet you) can leave a positive impression. If not, a warm smile and polite behavior can say a lot.

It’s important to keep in mind that while introducing yourself to your neighbors is a friendly gesture, in large cities like Tokyo or Osaka, people tend to value their privacy and may not be as receptive to a full introduction with gifts.

However, a simple greeting like “konnichiwa” (hello/good afternoon) when meeting your neighbors can still be appreciated and show respect to those around you.

Dealing with Complaints from Neighbors

Click here to read more.

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27 Comments
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Reminds me of that Small Faces song Lazy Sunday, lol

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Japanese neighbors can be very nice but I'd also recommend keeping them somewhat at arms length. You can bet they'll have their eyes on you, especially if it's a traditional neighborhood where there have not been many foreign residents. It's been known in the past for the police to encourage Japanese residents to spy on their foreign neighbors, and to report them if there's any illegal activity going on. In addition, be prepared to be patronized endlessly on your understanding of Japanese culture, and never to be seen as an equal. So, by all means, have nice friendly relations with your neighbors… I certainly do… But be aware that you're always gonna be a foreigner wherever you live in Japan.

5 ( +16 / -11 )

Excellent post ukguyjp.

I have lived in Japan near 30 years at four different locations and have introduced myself or greeted my closet neighbors when moving in wherever possible but new Japanese neighbors have NEVER done what the article says when they've arrived in the neighborhood.

7 ( +13 / -6 )

in large cities like Tokyo or Osaka, people tend to value their privacy

Thus refuting the idea that Osaka people are so friendly (and funny). They are not. But it's also good you can maintain anonymity (the good side of alienation).

I second ukguyjp. And sometimes in more traditional neighbourhoods, friendliness is actually nosiness and intrusiveness, so be careful what you tell the neighbours because it will be all round the neighbourhood quickly.

8 ( +14 / -6 )

Stop writing those silly guidelines "articles". Why everything has to be so complicated? In Tokyo, the neighbours won't even salute you, unless you salute first, and their kids even more, they don't even respond. And sometimes they even don't salute back, just a small nod without even looking at you.

And you forgot about the garbage police neighbor, who will leave you a notice for not removing the cap on the plastic bottles or the brand cover. Yes, they are always following you, ninja style, to see what garbage you dump, when you leave, and whom do you bring at your home.

-2 ( +10 / -12 )

The Gomi baba’s in Adachi are a real thing. They will spot you and admonish you. Even accused me of not being on their list (wrong- wife’s Japanese name was there) Yes all these points advised by the article are advisable, but in reality you may not experience it. We did have new construction gifts dropped off once and one new neighbor dropped off a gift because she heard my daughter had gone to the same school. It’s kind of hit and miss. By all means carry in the tradition because it’d be a shame to loose it altogether.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I have formed good community relationships with my neighbors and joined in community activities. Better to have good neighbors than bad ones. We live in a fishing and farming community. We receive many gifts of vegetables from the local people and farmers. We exchange greetings and when on the streets stop and chat. I have not experienced any negative expressions from anyone. There are some grumpy old men but they are grumpy with everyone. I was the only English foreigner but this year another one moved in.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

I've been living in the same small apartment building for 9+ years. I have always said "konnichiwa" when passing a neighbor at the door or at the mailboxes. In 9+ years, someone has responded to me twice.

5 ( +13 / -8 )

You've got questions? "Imtya Rahmi Lazuardini" has answers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Oh,be still my beating heart.

The title of the article tells us all we need to know.

I have lived here since '97.

Chiba,Gifu,Aichi,Mie, Kagoshima.

Did the textbook JET thing first off,boxes of washing powder for all neighbours.

No reciprocal gratitude,or basic etiquette.

Ever since,had to tidy up the stairs, rubbish area,general vicinity.

I adhere to common sense ideas of politeness,for example,no noise after 9p.m,no use of washing machines during night or early morning.

Did,or do any of the Japanese neighbours apply any sense of self-awareness to their goings on within the paper-thin confines of their apartments?

No,sirree!

Best next door neighbours I ever had?

Bosozoku and chinpira dudes.

Always cleaning their cars,always a friendly chat.

There you go.

3 ( +11 / -8 )

There are some grumpy old men but they are grumpy with everyone.

Yes. I have come across them too. They tend to like the sound of their own voices. And want to get the final word in on everything.

Best to stand back and let them get on with it as they can get quite childish when they have run out of things to say.!.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

I found it beneficial to live in locations where there were no other foreigners. Half of my time here has been like that. 15 years. Locals tend to be less judgemental when a foreigner does appear.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Elvis is here

There are some grumpy old men but they are grumpy with everyone.

> Yes. I have come across them too. They tend to like the sound of their own voices. And want to get the final word in on everything.

> Best to stand back and let them get on with it as they can get quite childish when they have run out of things to say.!.

Another off-topic comment. Do you have a personal answer to the question "How to deal with your Japanese neighbors".

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

The house next to the hose we live in and own is rented to a family of 4 with two teenage boys.

The father smokes heavily and because of his "shyness" would smoke in the corner of the garden. This meant he smoked by our front door and under a bedroom window whilst leaving his overflowing ashtray on our garden wall. Despite our protests he persisted until I pointed out to his wife that his smoking is probably bothering other neighbours too.

Some neighbours can be quite selfish.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Do you have a personal answer to the question "How to deal with your Japanese neighbors".

I did. Read the second paragraph.

Thank you.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I adhere to common sense ideas of politeness,for example,no noise after 9p.m,no use of washing machines during night or early morning.

Did,or do any of the Japanese neighbours apply any sense of self-awareness to their goings on within the paper-thin confines of their apartments?

No,sirree!

I had the same experience before moving into our house.

One noticeable episode; a party above in my 1LDK... I went upstairs and knocked the door. A patrol car with flashing blue lights appeared and a few Bobby's on bikes. They came as quick as they could and it was quite scary. I think 110 was called.

Once I explained the situation calmly, they saluted and went away. That was the end of early morning parties above me.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I'm the man in my weekday mansion. I out-Japanese them.

I make sure the neighbours park right and gomi right. If not they dump everything in the car park; mattresses, bikes, fish tanks, you name it. Lazier than stoned sloths they are.

And in winter when their pipes freeze I shut off their cascading water and put them in touch with a plumber.

Oddly, the 4 chinese lads living at the end of the building are superstars. Impeccable manners and rigid aderence to the rules. And 4 sets of eyes.

Between us we keep the unruly locals from becoming feral and our landlord rewards us.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

I found it beneficial to live in locations where there were no other foreigners. 

That's an interesting way to deal with neighbours.

How do you know no other foreigners live in the location you chose before moving there?

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Elvis is here

I found it beneficial to live in locations where there were no other foreigners. 

That's an interesting way to deal with neighbours.

How do you know no other foreigners live in the location you chose before moving there?

I didn't choose it, just turned out that way. Moved into the Alps, high up, and lived for 10 years in a village. The only other foreigner was the JET at the local school.

Moved to my current location and then discovered I was the only foreigner until this year. Nice having another though.

In between spent 10 years in Kobe with lots of foreigners but also enjoyed many good relationships with Japanese people.

Both times, the local people didn't have preconceived ideas about foreigners. Worked to my advantage in making relationships.

I enjoy living in a close-knit Japanese community. Many others on JT also do.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

@Elvis is here

The 'shyness" excuse never gets old,does it?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

They haven't released the juicy data,on this site,obvs.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

When I lived in sticks people didn’t talk to me much until I adopted a rescue dog. It was very friendly and the local children loved her and played with her when I went out. Led to me interacting with their parents and made some friends.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Yes. I have come across them too. They tend to like the sound of their own voices. And want to get the final word in on everything. 

Oh, absolutely those are a pain.

Best to stand back and let them get on with it as they can get quite childish when they have run out of things to say.!.

Yes, although the gibberish can be both entertaining and cringing.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

From dawn to dusk, my cool neighbors just meet and greet - the end. Works for me!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This info is reasonably useful, but as some others have said, lots of Japanese these days don' t follow the customs themselves. In our building most of the people are fine, ranging from a nod to a quick chat. Many of the women tend to gush over our tot, which helps to break the ice a bit.

There's one serial complainer though who lives directly below us. He seems to hate children in particular and other people in general, and has a history of arguing with the family we bought our place from and the first owners as well. He complains to the building manager but never directly, and won't ever make eye contact when we pass him.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I'd be very willing to build relationships with the other people in my apartment building, but it takes two to tango. None of them seems to have the slightest interest in knowing me. Some even ignore my greetings.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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