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How has Japan changed for the better since you have been here and how has it changed for the worse?


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I imagine that every person has their own personal experience here in Japan, and the answers are going to vary greatly as well as opinions. Here is mine.

Nothing has changed for the better. Its all gotten worse. People are far more racist to foreigners and hostile not only to foreigners but also to each other. There is (in my personal opinion) much less trust among the general public then there was before- I believe that social media has played a part in that.

I remember over 20 years ago, when I'd ask friends to go out drinking the answer was usually "I have another plan." Years later up until the pandemic the response I got was "I have no money." People's salaries seem to have decreased, taxes are going up, and on and

I apologize for being a negative nancy, but the truth is I yearn for the Japan of 2-3 decades ago. I don't like what I'm seeing now and I am very pessimistic about the future. For the world in general, and for Japan in particular.

7 ( +26 / -19 )

For the better-there are clothes and shoes in my size and a lot better access to foreign foods,ie. Indian,Vietnamese and a pretty good Ethiopian restaurant.

for the worse-the stores are open over the new year…I used to love how quiet it was for 2 or 3 days. People really spending time with their families (before smart phones). It was lovely!

9 ( +14 / -5 )

Better, cleaner environment here in Tokyo and better infrastructure. Much more food choices with lower prices than before.

Bad: rules, rules, rules. They keep making new ones without rescinding the old ones. Rigid attitudes and thinking seem more entrenched than before.

11 ( +16 / -5 )

Honestly, I don't see any improvements. Japan seems to be regressing, especially since the pandemic hit. As other posters have already stated, the people here are just increasingly unhappy and having nowhere else to channel that unhappiness, expats and foreigners have become their target. Xenophobia and discrimination is on the rise. Taxes keep going up while salaries remain stagnant. Pointless, needless, useless rules continue to govern Japanese society, exacerbating the already stressed out, unhappy folk and if things continue the way they are...well, things are going to get ugly down the road. It's like bottling up a volcano on the precipice of exploding...all of that stress and pressure is going to emerge in many terrible ways.

-4 ( +10 / -14 )

after more than 2 decades in Japan i may say that Japan have changed a lot and not always in good way.

people are making approximate same amount of JPY but can afford less,there is no social life,no overseas trips for large part of population.vat went up few times when i came was 3% now 10%.

japanese debt grew a lot as well during that period.

in terms of life of foreigner here things did not change at all or did not improved as well.country is not good for everyone to come,live,work here.there are ongoing issues that never get solved for decades like dual citizenships etc.

in terms of taxes we are oaying more taxes every year from anything-income,property,inheritance etc.dont need to mention scam look like outdated pension system.

in terms of economy there is no some breakthrough as Japan still walking on own line while neigbours grew a lot both politically and economically so japanese products are less competitive in terms of prices and variety as well.

in terms of society Japan came under influence of liberal thinking as LGBT etc is going to be considered as "new normal" even it goes against opinion of vast majority of population.society basemenet and foundations are going to be rotten from inside step by step.

good thing is that people here use to listen government,dont complain abt hard days too much publicly so here we live in country without virtual social unrest,without demonstrations etc.

at the end Japan still makes nice look for visitors from outside and cares about own clean image for foreigners but reality is somehow different.

country where fax and hanko is still most important and when some decision even abt small thing takes ages and countless meetings-this is Japan.overtaxed country with ovestressed lifestyle.

-3 ( +11 / -14 )

There have been some improvements at the surface level (in the cities) like some posters have already mentioned (food, services, online/cashless options) and as a 20+ year resident, the steady decrease in smoking areas has been very welcome.

But go deeper. Cities increasingly look like each other- and not in a good way, lots of concrete and towers, the decline of the countryside has only picked up in pace, people are more tense, more stressed out, more worried. People's buying power continues to drop and disconnected, incompetent legacy politicians continue to get re-elected. I remember a friend once saying (about Tokyo) "you don't live in this city, you endure it". Unfortunately, it feels like other major cities are following the Tokyo model. Every opportunity to improve or reform education, governance, work culture, women's position in society, etc. etc. has been wasted. Working with young people at universities gives hope- they are not nearly as vacuous or unambitious as the press / grumpy old types like to say but the system they need to challenge is a pretty big obstacle.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

First came to Tokyo in 1986 and changes for the better include:

Much better regulations of smoking in public--MUCH better.

Many more choices for food at affordable prices. Tokyo is truly a foodie's paradise. Still needs a true kosher deli, but other than that it's hard to complain.

No more need to pay 300 yen a minute for international phone calls. Yeah, that really hurt back in the day.

Much easier to buy shoes and clothes that fit a man who wears a size 12 and is 186 cm tall.

I love seeing more and more non-Japanese integrate into society here, run their own business, and become successful. And I am happy to have mentored and supported more than a few of these people over the years.

And last but not least? Costco.

The bad? Have to agree with the other comments about the cutting down of trees. A park in my hood was more or less destroyed for the Olympics (sigh) as were trees here and there being cut down for the sake of "development."

On a related note though, the hay fever from cedar trees in western Tokyo is a definite change for the worse. The use of masks, goggles, hay fever meds, etc...was never so prevalent back in the day. But air quality year-round is much improved from the 80s, IMHO.

Comments about the racism? I think it was much worse back in the day and it has improved a lot. Guess it is all relative depending on when you arrived here and what you have encountered.

My two yen.

19 ( +23 / -4 )

Since I first came here about 25 years ago:


The quality of housing, especially owner-occupier dwellings. Also, affordability in Japan compared to Australia has been good. On the flip side, resale value isn't great unless you're very close to a station.

Much better availability of food from overseas. Prices still range from high to extortionate, but at least it's much easier to get hold of.

The built environment. This is relative, but more thought is going into building design and there's more greenery in new developments. It's far from perfect, but noticeably better than before.

Cinemas. Most of them were flea-houses with zero legroom and even smoking sections.

Visa process. So much simpler than before (for me)

Non-smoking. Used to come out of just about any eating establishment reeking of smoke, and places that had a non-smoking section just had a couple of tables in the back corner for appearance's sake. So much better now.


As others have said, people seem to be getting more irritable than before, to each other and not just to foreigners.

Japanese TV. Say no more.

Masks everywhere.

5 ( +12 / -7 )

Been here since 1999, things that have gotten better:

More choice of deodorants available - there were literally none for men back then.

Better housing quality - a lot more western style housing compared to the old Japanese styles.

More job opportunities for foreigners, albeit with an air of inequality.

Less smokers around meaning me and my kids are not breathing in second hand smoke.

Things that have gotten worse:

Salaries - remained stagnant for the most part - while inflation and taxes have risen, salaries have not.

Price rises, everything got a lot more expensive.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

The poverty is more obvious now -- even in central Tokyo. The sad truth is that Japan is becoming a poor country.

5 ( +14 / -9 )

Inflation up, fewer people out because they're getting older, Western woke propaganda infiltrating culture...

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Japan is locked in a demographic death spiral. I can handle that because my time is almost up -- I just feel sorry for the next generation. It upsets me to see young people working their butts off for 1,000 yen an hour - that was the minimum wage in the US over 30 years ago.

2 ( +12 / -10 )

Japan has become much more international, but lost its own culture along the way.

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

better than decades ago when I came here, for sure.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

JGov seems to try picking up the slack of Japan Inc. jobs gone overseas with tax-and-spend policies giving little real return to Mr. and Mrs. Watanabe. A nation's wellbeing cannot be measured in cement trucks. We have more than enough roads, railways (we certainly don't need Maglev in the Zoom era) and concrete coasts.

A visit to glitzy areas of Tokyo projects very real wealth of the planet's third biggest economy, but concentrated in fewer hands, as we've read above. Upper middle class life is sweet. If you're lower middle class, keeping up with the Suzukis' Bubble-era lifestyle ain't possible on your 1980s salary. Working class? Forget holidaying abroad or even retiring. The middle class nation died long ago.

Improvements are that digitalisation has made things more convenient. I no longer need to traipse down to Shinjuku to buy a week-old newspaper for a king's ransom, and can invoice clients around the world in their own currencies in bank accounts local to them. However these are in spite of JGov's best endeavours.

What we've seen with Covid is a miniature Sakoku. Our Japanese colleagues were free to leave and return while we foreign residents and taxpayers, for what felt like an eternity, weren't. That the people were cool with this augurs badly for a country already struggling to care for its elderly. Despite a median age fast approaching 50, its labour market is atrociously ageist and inept at eliciting people's value.

The real revolution Japan needs is value for money: understanding it, and demanding it. Cut out the middlemen; see politicians for the self-serving rogues they are; give consumers proper rights and spending power. And bring people in, Japan, lots of them.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

Well said, Mickelisious. You have eloquently expressed my feelings about a country that I am still in love with despite its many faults. Japan is dying, but no-one with any power is willing to admit it publicly.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

Food has gotten better all around - I can buy anything I need. Bread used to be almost entirely an awful shokupan that could serve as ceiling tiles. Now I can get better bread here more easily that I can in the US. Thai food, Indian food are everywhere - they were exotic and expensive before.

No longer costs 70,000 yen to install a phone land line. Animals are treated much better than they were - still room for improvement though. There are nice cafes and such in the countryside. There have always been nice ryoukans, but good like getting a decent cup of coffee in the mountains 25 years ago. There is also more appreciation for the beaches.

The biggest negative by far is the economy crushing the working class and young, and sacrificing the future. Also, the over-policing and excessive new laws and regulations. And the lack of progress and innovation in education and many business fields.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Thanks to the Internet, cable tv, International news, young Japanese studying abroad and so on, most of Japanese, when they see (a) foreigner(s), they don’t act like they just saw an alien anymore...

Don’t have much to say but I’m sure we all agree on that one...

2 ( +4 / -2 )

For the worse?

No idea. If you don’t have any expectations, you’ll never be disappointed.

For the better?

Everyhting. Well, except for their TV shows.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Been here since the late 90s. I echo the comments about losing so many trees, which is alarming given how few there were in urban spaces even when I got here.

Contemporary residential architecture has also somehow managed to get even more depressing to look at than it was then, something I wouldn’t have even thought humanly possible, yet somehow It happenned.

A lot of the improvements aren’t really specific to Japan but rather just global technological changes - being able to connect with people and society back home is way easier than it was being the biggest.

Old men don’t seem to openly pee on the street in broad daylight as much as they used to, I suspect that is a result of that generation having mostly passed away.

OH WAIT, I almost forgot the big Japan specific improvement - Western style toilets becoming the standard in public washrooms. It used to be hell trying to find one 20 years ago but they are pretty common place now, which is great.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Better now: internet access replaced English news primarily being available from 18-hour old Japan Times (in Kansai), AEON shopping malls replaced much of the sea of small, often outdoor-adjacent mom and pop shops, Universal Studios Japan brought world-class amusement to Kansai, Skype and Zoom replaced 10,000 yen phone card calls from International public phones, most railway signs are now available in English, Starbucks replaced many of the tiny smoke-filled coffee shops, new structures are far more earthquake resistant, larger clothes are more commonly available, Google maps lessened the strain of finding locations in Japan's address system, the gap or lag in health care between Japan and the US has decreased. In general, it is far easier to live here now than in 1990.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

So many people complaining about Japanese people based on anecdotal evidence. I think the Japanese have gotten nicer over the past ten years, while in the US (especially LA), the youth have gotten more loud and obnoxious. But hey, that’s just from my experience.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

As a positive side. People have been getting more and more liberal for doing something new or something different. Thanks to the Internet, especially social networking community, people have opportunities to expose themselves to new ideas from those in foreign country. Before 2000s, people tend to be more conservative to protect Japanese tradition or proud, which should not be criticized though, therefore this attitude prevent Japan from being globalized. However, Japan gets open to the world outside of our country, so the mixture between good side of Japan and one of other countries, making new trends or cultures.

A negative side, on the other hand, is that young adults have been more and more immature, and they tend not to be responsible to what they do. As we see the recent news such as criminal cases, young adults carelessly do what people with sensible minds do not do. Although not every younger generations are like that, but it seems to be the case recently.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Positives: Cost of making international phone calls has dropped, although I tend to use apps if possible because they're free. More people are aware of veganism and more vegan foods/restaurants are available, but Japan will always be about 20 years behind. More places becoming non-smoker-friendly.

Negatives: Music has gone downhill and has become even more immature - pure dross.


in terms of society Japan came under influence of liberal thinking as LGBT etc is going to be considered as "new normal" even it goes against opinion of vast majority of population

In the latest polls by Asahi Shimbun and Ipsos, the majority support same sex marriage. Cry about it.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

For the better:

No more smokers in the shopping mall and MacDonald's and many more places.

There are now debit cards in Japan and you could pay with them at more places more often. Plus most banks won't close their ATM services during the end of the year holidays.

Free Wi-Fi at more places.

For the worse, I don't know. Maybe that salaries are stagnant compared to how general costs, taxes and insurance have gone up. Plus the hakensha-in remains a thing, keeping many people insecure about their jobs. But that hasn't changed.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

When I first came there was no sales tax now 10% goes to the man.

Instead of consumption tax at a fixed rate (3%-5%-8%/10%) there was commodity tax, at rates that varied from 5% for coffee to 30% for yachts and golf clubs.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Yes, it has. Japan became more westernized county, and started to loose it's authentic culture and lifestyle. Damn you Perry!

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

The good: craft beers are starting to get popular and many breweries are starting to make delicious beer

The bad: haven't found a good burrito joint

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

I notice many more parents of both sexes playing and engaging with their children.

Im currently in Osaka and I see this most days at local parks.

People have mostly been friendly and kind to me ....havent noticed any racism etc or even rudeness.

Have to say, Japan as a worker and Japan as a retiree are two different things.

Never liked the over done work ethic , crowded trains etc.

Now loving freedom of life and hopefully convince MIL to return with me and wife to my coastal idyll,

,.... a long way from city life.

I cant complain about Japan as I left Australia to get away from Tony Abbott PM and the increasing shallowness of the people who voted for him.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

People used to get rid of things and just throw them away. There was an obsession with brand names. People used to not care for Uniqlo since it was judged too cheap.

Now we have recycle shops, Mercali, Jimoto, etc. Motainai rules.

People had more money. Now there is too much inequality.

5 ( +5 / -0 )


zichiFeb. 15  10:55 am JST

be sure to let us know where and when please.....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

When i first came to Japan in 1990 I was amazed at how dynamic it was.

The country seemed destined to overtake the US and become the biggest economy in the world.

Fast forward 32 years and it is like chalk and cheese.

The dynamism has completely gone being replaced by inevitable decline.

Tons of poor people nowadays and a much more hostile environment.

Back then......everyone was rolling in cash.....even people doing mundane jobs were wearing real Rolexes.

Back then hostess bars everywhere with cash being liberally spent.

Now.......everyone is out to buy whatever is the cheapest of the cheap.

Thank goodness for FaceTime,Line,Apple,the Internet for making the world not only cheaper but smaller.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

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