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."
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