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What makes people want to move to Japan?

By Scott R Dixon

Have you ever wondered what drives others to leave home and live in the land of the rising sun? It is a question that those of us who spent time working, studying or living in Japan can find a little repetitious and annoying and may cause us to forget why we chose to come to Japan.

That’s why we wanted to share some answers to that ubiquitous question that we found on the Internet messaging board Reddit, where netizens there gave some brutally honest responses.

To follow your heart (or your hormones)

Many answers were along the lines of “I fell in love with a Japanese person and moved there to be with them.” One netizen told a story about how she visited Japan at the age of 17 and stayed with a host family, where she completely fell for her host brother. After years of being pen-pals, the ended up getting married and she moved to Japan. Others had similar stories of either studying in Japan and meeting their future spouse or falling in love with their future Japanese spouse who was on a study abroad program.

While true love was a popular answer, less surprising was the large number of “true lust” stories, with many young Western (presumably) men coming to Japan with fire in their bellies and a passion for the opposite sex. One particularly “charming” answer was from someone who said Japanese women “reek of femininity, a dying art in the U.S.” While another blunt answer was from a netizen who said that they wanted to have access to authentic Japanese porn. Spoiler: it’s usually pretty awful.

To fully immerse in the world of Japanese nerd culture

Despite most foreigners in Japan (at least in my experience) claiming to want nothing to do with Japanese anime, a lot of Reddit users said that their initial interest in Japan came their love of all things manga, anime and video games. Several people were proud to say that they are an unabashed otaku that came to Japan just for the anime. However, a lot of netizens answered that although they were interested in anime culture when they first came to Japan, they quickly found other aspects of Japanese culture they now find much more interesting like film, art or history.

For your career

A few netizens said that their main reason for living in Japan was for their job, either relocating or to pursue a new one. One person explained that they wanted to work in the space industry, but wanted to avoid contributing to the militarization of space. It seemed like Japan was one of the few places where their space industry is not connected to the military.

Even though Japan’s economy now is mostly the subject of a “what went wrong” business column, one netizen remembered how he “believed the propaganda” during the high times of the Japanese economy in the 1980s and early 1990s. They moved to Japan, only the be surprised at the sudden collapse of the price asset bubble. But this netizen is still living in Japan 20 years later.

Better than home

Depending on the country from which you hail, Japan can be a much safer, healthier and even cheaper option than home. American netizens said that after hearing so many stories of mass shootings in their own lands, they decided that living in Japan was a much better option. And even though Japan has a reputation of being very expensive (like how US$50 melons are sold in speciality shops), some Western Europeans and even North Americans said that they find Japan to be much more affordable. Whether it’s the lower taxes or a better deal on rent, netizens said that they find themselves saving money in Japan.

And for some netizens, they just liked the fact that they were different from those around them. Unlike in their hometowns where they could blend in, they enjoyed their minority status in Japan and the attention it brings.


While many netizens had a specific reason they came to and remained in Japan, many could not come to a single answer. Instead, they said they felt like they just kind of ended up in Japan and continue to live there. One person described this as “inertia” and said that they ultimately want to leave Japan and imagine their experience will just be a line on their resume.

Board games, a music video and a missed flight

Some responses were hard to categorize, like one netizen who said they first became interested through the board game Shogun. Another said that the scenes of Tokyo cityscapes in the music video for Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Technolopois jump-started their fascination with Japan. We also wonder how many people saw Lost in Translation and decided to make Japan their next destination but didn’t feel like admitting it.

Ultimately, the best-rated answer was a netizen’s clever response to being asked the “why did you come to Japan” question too many times: "Wrong gate at LAX. I should be in Denver, but hey, I’m a pretty easy-going guy."

Source: Reddit

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Akihabara is actually “ugly and boring,” Chinese netizens say -- The importance of “aisatsu” -- Newly married man discovers his wife is working at a cabaret club

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While I met my Wife in N.Y.C. I think we'll retire to Japan as her family are all asking us to- And it's Japan where we'd like to live out our lives!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Has it occurred to you some people may actually like living here?

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Dunno 'bout other people, but I came intending to stay for a year or so just for the experience, liked it and stayed longer. And then fell in love and got married.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Met my j-wife and married in South-Africa, after that it was a question to move to Japan or my native country in Europe.

So far haven't regretted Japan.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

My parents lived here and returned home a few months before I was born. Our house was full of Japanese things growing up. Almost a salmon-like story. Came myself for a year on JET, still here 20 yrs later & married with crotch fruit. Simply is my home now.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I want to move to Japan partly for the Otaku culture, partly for Japan's fascinating history and culture, partly because I'm pursuing a dream job, partly because I'm confident it's better than my home country (UK) and partly for a reason a just can't put into words. Roll on summer 2014. That's when I aim to fly out for Japan and stay out there. I did get an invitation for a job interview today, but it was in Teaching, and that is one career path I'm not suited to, so I had to decline.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

For the girls. In my case. Chicks here are into casual dating a lot. I love it.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Fox Cloud, that's the first time I've ever heard anyone refer to their own kids that way....

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If you're a geek, this place will fit you perfectly. Love manga, Disneyland, cosplay, living in a fantasy world trying not to face reality? This is the place for you. That said, there are many interesting things to do and see here but most are overly expensive. When my pension is set, I leave and retire to drink margaritas in a warm tropical (cheap) country.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I've always thought the more important question is why do you stay.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

The Japanese mentality is unlike anywhere else in the world. It's mainly a non-ego mentality, something you cannot find in the occident. It's a very spiritual mentality, too, which us a good thing. Most westerners loose their spirituality thanks to the influence of loud mouthed atheists. Not so in Japan.

-13 ( +3 / -16 )

saving money in Japan? those guys must be living far away in inaka...

3 ( +7 / -4 )

It's mainly a non-ego mentality, something you cannot find in the occident. It's a very spiritual mentality

Can you expand on this please. I am not saying you are wrong but that is an incredible statement to make without back up.

Most westerners loose their spirituality thanks to the influence of loud mouthed atheists.

I don't mean to be funny but are you sure that you have enough insight to know what being spiritual means with such a judgmental attitude.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

@Himajin Don't see anything strange in Fox Cloud's post (besides his desire to embrace the loathed Otaku), but proud papa Meguroman and his "crotch fruit" (named Mikan, Banana and Durian?) disclosure came out of nowhere.

Gloating parent bumper stickers: Honor roll crotch fruit on board. My crotch fruit can beat up your honor roll student.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Since living here for a year, I can't think of living anywhere else now. I currently live in Tokyo and find it much better value than London. The healthcare is high quality and very cheap, the food is very quality and can be as cheap or expensive as you want to make it. You can get fruit and veggies for as little as 100 yen up to very expensive. The rent can be super cheap or super expensive, like with everything else. You can live in a decent place for around 75,000 yen which is like a standard rent amount in my opinion (I consider it not cheap but not expensive - average - possible to get cheaper). I find myself saving a lot of money and I'm not even trying. There are plenty of things to do, plenty of places to travel to and you always get to see new things. This is why I love Japan and I will definitely continue living here - the standard of life is great.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

TV series any country pretty much describes its citizens, just like US series describes USA, anime shows the mentality of Japan in a special way and I am not talking just about hentai. Thanks to anime I have learned to respect Japan and its people, even though they have some bad habits as well. I would do anything to live there, but that is just a dream.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

You can live in a decent place for around 75,000 yen

In Tokyo? You must have an interesting definition of decent.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

The Japanese mentality is unlike anywhere else in the world

I think you might be right ;-p

It's a very spiritual mentality, too

Have you lived in Japan long?

In Tokyo? You must have an interesting definition of decent.

I find Tokyo housing good value for money if space isn't your main concern. It's certainly easier to find somewhere 'decent' to live in Tokyo than London.

saving money in Japan? those guys must be living far away in inaka...

I also find that saving money is easy in Japan, due to the low taxes, affordable accommodation, lack of commuting costs etc. It's a shame a single parsnip costs $10, and 6 mushrooms cost the same as 100 in the UK, but one has to adapt :-)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Himajin Don't see anything strange in Fox Cloud's post (besides his desire to embrace the loathed Otaku), but proud papa Meguroman and his "crotch fruit" (named Mikan, Banana and Durian?) disclosure came out of nowhere.

You are absolutely right. I realized I had the wrong poster right away, but got stuck with that 'you cannot post two posts consecutively ' warning, I had to wait till someone else posted. That, and no editing tools, makes for a snafu every once in a while.

Apologies to Fox Cloud!!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Man, I wish I was here during the "Bubble".

One guy once told me that English teachers were making 1 million yen a month at that time. Can someone verify this?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

That's what I want to do mostly in my life....move to Japan as soon a s possible! Italy is a great country mosto for his history and landscape, but we don't eat bricks from the Colisseum and don't fill our glasses with beauty.....everything is going to hell here, education and respect are finished into trash can and immigration is going to be more brutal than ever to social equilibrium......

2 ( +2 / -0 )

taiko666NOV. 20, 2013 - 06:46PM JST The Japanese mentality is unlike anywhere else in the world I think you might be right ;-p It's a very spiritual mentality, too Have you lived in Japan long?

Almost 10 years now. long enough?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Mainly military work and martial arts. Got out a while back, stuck around for teaching. I once had a nice girlfriend. A lot went down and wasn't accepted in the family. but as i look around, i see many acquaintances of mine doing well, like a lot of other people on here living and enjoying their lives. i don't know why they treat me they way they do. its clearly discrimination and singling out... then again, i don't see any other gaijin like me. i am somewhat…different. maybe thats the problem. i thought it would be a place for me. hopefully they let that voodoo doll of me go, so i will never come back and find friends and a belonging for me elsewhere.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Can someone verify this?

No, sorry. I cannot verify that one guy told you that.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It's a shame a single parsnip costs $10

You found a parsnip??

I brought a packet of seeds back with me from the UK, not a single one sprouted.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I have never been to Japan, but if I go there, i'd like to see okinawa - World's healthiest place and a place in the world where oldest people are found living!

0 ( +3 / -3 )


You may have been able to put some money aside in your first year, but wait till the taxes hit (based on your previous year's salary). Kiss about 30% of your salary away - on top of everything else!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Love, conformism & safety.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

For me it was to be near my then-girlfriend, but visa regs put paid to that. So I just visit Japan every year (twice a year on some occasions) because I love the place, and it's better than the chanty-po that the UK is becoming.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

There are lots of reasons to want to live in Japan. It CAN be a beautiful culture, and it certainly has a lot of beautiful and historical sites. The health-care system and standard of living make it attractive to Westerners who want 'something different' while working. Job opportunities are quite welcoming depending on the field and salaries decent. History and culture, and language, of course, are extremely rich.

The better question would be, "What makes those who stay want to stay?" For those who choose to make this their home, where they will never truly be accepted, there has to be some glorious reason that goes beyond the racism and the subjectivity, and gives them the sense that this is truly home. THAT is interesting stuff. People coming here for a bit of easy nookie before going back home a year or so later, is much, much less so.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

None of the above apply to me, I have now lived here for 10 years but been working here since 1997, and I just LIKE LIVING HERE! I have lived in many places around the planet, Iceland, Sweden, England, India, Congo, USA and Japan is the best so far. I love the culture, the people, the food, the buzz of Tokyo, the coolness of Osaka, the Onsens, the mountains, the politeness of people, their attitudes of sacredness of all things, the temples and shrines and the list goes on and on.

I just love living here!

I am not saying that this is a perfect country, but then again, no country is, all places have their own problems! Japan just seems to have less then most places, at least the ones I have lived in and visited!


3 ( +5 / -2 )

It is a question that those of us who spent time working, studying or living in Japan can find a little repetitious and annoying and may cause us to forget why we chose to come to Japan.

For the first four years, I thought this was a reasonable question. But then I realized I never get the answer 'right'

My reasons are a chain of small things. 1. When I was young my family hosted a Japanese girl when she came to the U.S. (and we continued to correspond for the 20+ years since) 2. I got a scholarship to study Japanese on a whim (it provided a all-expenses paid trip to the country I wanted to visit, because of reason 1) 3. When on said study abroad, I had trouble learning Japanese, and at the same time met many Japanese people who were frustrated trying to learn English.... so a interest in linguistics and teaching was born. I actually came here because I CHOSE to be an English teacher. (my feelings about actually doing it are another story for another time).

So, I've told these reasons over 1000 times, and no one ever seemed to be happy with my answer. Can someone tell me the answer? I guess since I didn't go to cram school I did not learn the correct answer.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

smithinjapan: very relevant post.

In my case I was offered the opportunity for an expat stay with good benefits. However, this was not my place. I have been living in 4 continents for more than 4 years, including 2 countries in Asia, but I could not acclimate to Japan - or more precisely Tokyo - because of too much uniformity, conformity, rules and so on.

Last but not least, with a family of 3 children I was like an alien in a country where family life - in the modern Western sense - does not exist: females in one side, males in the other side. Making any social life impossible outside of karaoke and drinking sessions.

Great life experience, but no more, thanks!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Love how I got thumbed down for saying I wanted to be with my then-GF... Why is that so bad? Isn't love a good enough reason?

I DO love Japan - the culture (apart from the whale and dolphin killing), the scenery, the people... I fell in love with Japan. Just a pity I was too stupid to go to uni or I could be sitting there rather than here. That's life I suppose.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

After 30+years here, many people say I know more about Japan than many Japanese. But at the same time, while acting appropriately Japanese in most social circumstances, I still feel foreign and fresh and am treated differently. Perhaps THAT is what has kept me here. Fitting in and being different at the same time.

President of the JHS PTA and community leader but still asked if I can eat sashimi! LOL! It's fun.

I can throw my weight around and command respect due to my position, but still get away with many things a Japanese person in my position would be derided for.

I stay because life is good, interesting, and constantly an adventure. I am never bored and encounter frsh experiences all the time. Something I can't do back in the US. People are tense back there and can't trust anyone. Here, I am safe and don't have to worry about my kids or belongings, though my bike has been stolen a few times! LOL

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I came here because the company I work for had an opportunity. I didn't really have any particular interest in Japan at the time but my partner and I fancied something different. That was 14 years ago and we'll be going home next year with what will be mostly good memories. I have a lot of affection for Japan, more than my wife ( perhaps Japan is easier for a man to take ) and I'd recommend it to others.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I've found an incredible amount of success and positive energy here. Love my wife, love my kids, and have a great business. To the people who are negative (because this is JT), I can say only, "Your butthurt is delicious."

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

@Bogart Not sure what your definition of decent is but mine is a clean place, not too small, safe area, not too old. We have cleaners that come in everyday, and all my bills are included in my rent, so I always pay the same amount. I'm not fussy and I don't need an extravagant home (I don't like having many belongings), therefore I'm very happy with where I am at the moment as long as I can make the space mine, and I think 75,000 is enough to pay, I wouldn't pay more. I guess it also depends on a person's salary.

@sighclops Ah that's not too bad, the tax is about 20% - 30% depending on salary in the UK too and it can't be helped. Apart from the main salary there are always more ways to make extra cash here i.e freelance work, export, so I'm not worried at all. I guess it just depends on how much you spend. I don't spend a lot because I don't need a lot of things.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'd love to live in Japan because of Toho studios. I am 54 and still love all the kaizu. I'd run home from school as a boy to watch those monster movies. Japan is king of scifi. the anime is also number one. A creative and imaginative nation. I hope I can visit it again before I die.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I was going to comment on the confusing response to my post, but I saw it was a wrong reply, so I'll leave that. Sifting through the negative responses, I'm seeing some more compelling reason to move to Japan. Sounds like it'd be easier to find a decent, affordable place out there compared to the UK. My first home was a subsiding, dank heck hole surrounded by criminals. My second home was a pokey cardboard box in one of the roughest parts of town. Third times the charm? Nope, I got a hobbit hole in a region of Wales that is extremely Xenophobic, and in several cases outright racist. I doubt I'd have that trouble out in Japan. I've yet to hear a story along the line of "Man beaten by 6 Japanese Accountants and left for dead, for not speaking Japanese." Something similar to that happened in Wales last year. The punchline? The victim was Welsh. He just had a Brummie accent because he'd been working in Birmingham for a while. Anyway, I'm going off topic a little. It sounds like living expenses and groceries are less costly out in Japan, and as long as you know how to budget properly, could end up doing far better in Japan than you would on the equivelant wages in the US or UK. From what I understand, public transport in Japan is supposed to be one of the best systems in the world. All in all, the positives seem to far outweigh the negatives.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Again, I'm sorry, Fox Cloud LeLean.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Unless your country is still a developing country, then I think that most people have really naive ideas about moving to Japan. It's just not that good of a country to live in, especially if you're a foreigner, due to political reasons, or lack of it. Political discussions are non-existent therefore virtually no one is seriously involved or interested in politics. It's almost impossible to have any serious, logical and rational discussions due to its history of being intellectually suppressed by the militarist rulers. Most people are rather intellectually confused and vacuous. People take it for granted that in the "Western" and some other parts of the world, there is philosophical groundwork laid down and interwoven into its culture. In Japan, there is no such philosophy or beliefs. People naturally care for things like "objectivity", "logic" and "ideals", when in Japan everything is muddled and made vague and incoherent because that is more convenient for the authority when they don't have to take responsibility for anything by making everything so vague that nobody has any idea what anyone is doing. The "intellectuals" and leftists in Japan are ineffectual and a bit of a joke due to those very reasons.

Japan is one of the "most expensive places to live" because it has the highest tax rates that you have to indirectly pay. Everything is expensive and the places are also small. Again, this is due to a whole chunk of people not involved in politics, and therefore there is no political party that represents the middle class. People are deliberately made to work long hours, which is what Japan is so famous for, so that they have no time for leisure or politics.

When it comes to the rights of minorities like women and immigrants, Japan is still in the middle ages.

People in Japan are mostly unhappy because they feel that they have no control over their lives or their own country (bureaucratic dictatorship), made to work long hours, have to remain loyal to companies that they don't care for, and in fact abuse them, can't easily switch jobs, have to be cramped in tiny houses and apartments, rights of minorities are trampled, have to pay high taxes that are increasing yet again, can't "really" express their true thoughts and feelings due to its complex social structure ("politeness" and tatemae) and the "false reality" that the bureaucrats keep presenting to their own people through the media and institutions, etc, etc.

You might say that the same things are plaguing the rest of the world. Things may actually be getting worse in the US, for instance. Such is the consequence of having a country that is being ruled by bureaucratic dictatorship... Can these be changed? Possibly...

-7 ( +5 / -12 )

I had done lot's of travel before moving to Japan - a decent amount through Asia but also the sub-continent, Middle East, Europe and North America. I particularly liked the Asian cultures, spiritual beliefs, aesthetic etc and wanted to live somewhere in Asia for an extended period, and Japan was where I ended up.

I like living in Japan. I suppose people focus on certain aspects of their experience and that tends to dominate their view, and in my case I just enjoy it. I like the culture, sense of respect, sense of community and bond the Japanese have, the festivals, the seasons, the landscape, the energy of the big cities, the beautiful quiet places in the country. There is poetry in Japan.

The quirks of the experience never seriously bothered me. I dunno, it's just not that important to me. What some people cite as great examples of Japanese 'racism' or whatever never seem very overt, or intentional and for the most part people are very open and friendly. I see people absolutely blowing up about it and whinging like it's the greatest grievance in the world, but I just don't care that much about it, personally.

Like tigsea says, there is a sense of fitting in, but being different too. And seeing that I am different, and am not, and don't want to be Japanese, that doesn't bother me either.

It's the home of my wife, who comes from a great place and a great family. They aren't the most worldly of folk, some of them. Very typically Japanese at times in their outlook. But whatever, they are also stellar folk in other ways, so it be balances out.

I feel comfortable in Japan.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Safer, cleaner and more interesting than back home. I prefer the people here too.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This may sound weird to some, but I met the grandparent of the guy who supposedly married a girl he was going out with. He claimed "He joined the navy and married the girl he was going out with and moved to Japan." I don't know the truth in it, but I'm in the process of tying to find out where in Japan they are. The thing that irks me about it is the relationship that was under false pretenses (Unknown to the girl.)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Personally for me it is many things, Food, Culture, Beauty, even in the cities I see beauty all around. It's hard to describe, one day I hope to move to japan and retire there. Just so many good things about Japan, and it's people.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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