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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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Smoking has been banned from some places around the country and Kanagawa prefecture's ban on indoor smoking. Hopefully other prefectures will follow. No more black vans spreading hatred in public areas.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

For the better: Convenience stores (there weren't any when I came in the early 1980s). More subway lines and train stations. More imported foods, especially steak. We used to bring steak from Australia in specially approved vacuum packs.

For the worse: The end of the lifetime employment system. It gets a lot of criticism now but it worked. I worked for a big company and they really looked after staff with all sorts of benefits, sports facilities, inns, etc. The breakdown of the family structure is another trend for the worse; too many people are falling through the cracks.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

For the better: Agree with Brainiac on conbinis and imported foods, especially pasta, through I think a lot of the stuff - veggies - I like are now grown domestically and therefore a lot cheaper than when they were imported. More no-smoking areas (indeed, the very idea of no-smoking). Fewer dogs tied up outside 24/7 and fed nowt but scraps. More restaurants are understanding of vegetarians. Schools having Saturdays off.

For the worse: All those d@mn eating programmes on telly. TV in general. The poor employment market for youngsters. Too many people having dogs just because they're cute, and not training them properly or picking up after them when they foul the street. The summers are way hotter than they used to be or need to be.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Even more pointless noise, announcements and "greetings", recorded or "human", treating everyone like first-timers, idiots or children. The danger is that people become more and more the way they are treated.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

First came in 1992 for a couple of years - Tokyo. Have now been here in Kansai since 1998.

Better: Foreigners are very slowly, and a little more accepted by some Japanese people; English is very slowly, and a little better taught in schools; more Japanese people are getting tattoos which makes it slightly more acceptable for us foreigners with them too; foreign foods are much more easily available making life a little easier for those of us who want it.

Worse: Manners - way worse. Japanese people in general have gotten so paranoid, especially in the bigger cities, that they stay well away from each other, avoiding even apologizing for doing something worthy of an apology. So many people will not even say Excuse me when moving past, opting to just push their way through or even elbow their way through (Osaka); train seats for the elderly etc. - young people sit on them, middle-aged etc. ignoring the fact that they shouldn't be on them - showing a total lack of consideration or care for those who need them; aggression - way back I hardly saw aggression in public, but in recent years, I see it often, Japanese people openly arguing or shouting at each other in public; in the past couple of years, especially after the problems with the island disputes - a growing animosity toward foreigners by many Japanese people - open, anti-foreigner sentiment which I have experienced three times in the past year - 'This is our country, you leave, you go to hell foreigner'.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Better: More and more great foreign food restaurants. Haneda opened to overseas flights. More foreign channels on satellite. Worse. No smoking areas and more no smoking vigilantes. People's attitudes and behaviour, especuially in crowded places. Japanese TV - mindless pap for the most part.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

The better.

Less smoking! A big win for my quality of life here. Real Estate people no longer flee the office if a foreigner enters. No one has run away from me in several years. This often happened in shops and such when I first got here. And I look completely harmless.

The same.

I still feel like a zoo animal a lot of the time with how people stare. Tokyo is still just as unfriendly as ever. Being foreign still freaks a lot of people out. The place is still crawling with people who do not know how to hold their alcohol. Shameful for anyone over 18 and living in a frat house or anyone not living under a bridge thanks to an alcohol addiction. Boneheaded politics continues unabated. Shoganai is still acceptable over "lets find a solution" which is at the root of Japan's failure to compete.

The worst.

Agree manners have gone to hell here. Rude, obnoxious people in public places. Sometimes aggressive. The right wing seems to be on the rise here. Not the Hashimoto type, but the Abe type that are a real threat to the future of Japan. Increasing numbers of people who seem only able to relate to online relationships, often with software rather than other people. This is a social illness that will sincerely harm this country in the future. People need to learn to have meaningful social ties. Kawai culture has become so terrible. It was always here, but recently it dominates everything. Sexualization of children - this was always here, but with AKB48 and other products it is getting worst. Quality of life. I see more and more people struggling. Maybe this is why so many are rude and aggressive these days. Poverty is on the rise, wages stagnant, prices rising and more and more people finding it hard to get by. Defeatism. This is the worst of the worst. Where is that Japanese spirit that had protesters in the streets in the 1960s and 1970s fighting to make the country better. Now it seems everyone is content to just retreat to alcohol or anime and ignore reality. Especially post 3/11 this has been a problem. While there were some people speaking out, the vast majority of people just sat by silently.

And 8. I am also sad to say that I have had a lot more overt anti-foreigner BS over the past couple years. Not the "I am afraid of foreigners" reaction from a decade ago. Now it is more of the nationalistic, go home we don't want you here thing. And it is often in the form of salarymen who purposefully crash into you on the platform despite my trying to avoid them when I see it coming. People trying to start something on the train with me. Or right wingers handing me a strong anti-foreigner flier.

I think if it continues as it is, more of us will say "ok right wingers, have it all we are out of here." And we step out before the real circling of the drain begins for Japan.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Better: AKB 48 Worse: Growing anti smoking sentiment.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

I have lived in Japan for the past 25 years. When the economy was good, people lived well. Now, everyone except for the lucky few are absolutely struggling. Minimum wage is a disgrace, no decent welfare system for old people, not enough decent paying jobs so there are many ex skilled workers who are forced to take non permanent part time jobs at the miserable rate of 850 yen an hour or even less.

The government introduced the consumption tax which is a good type of tax, but they have also kept many other taxes in place which should have been removed. The system of collecting pension money is a useless system. Many people have trouble paying their bills let alone the pension payments. Other countries make the pension part of the total tax system and no one has to worry about finding the money as an extra payment.

Yes, Japan is worse in the things that really matter. The only things that seem to be better are the items that are cheaper to buy than before. But, that is only an indication that people now have less money to spend and companies are reducing the prices. Some good things are that people can still smoke and that the cigs are not over priced. Special smoking rooms are made for the public which is a very sensible idea. However, I myself do not smoke.

Less cars on the road now which is only an indication that people can't afford to keep them. Highway tolls in Osaka nearly double the price they used to be. I always used to be in defence of Japan, but no more. Unless the government does more to address the problems of living standards here, the only place is down.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

AKBfan. Funny your two are opposite those changes seen by most of us.

AKB48 is the peak of sugar saturated cuteness and would be border line kiddie porn. Something many here mentioned as a negative development in Japan.

Anti-smoking laws have kept you smokers safe from the rest of us taking more direct action to end your threats against our health in public. If you want to slowly kill yourself with cigarettes, please have at it. But do so away from people who value their health more. Or expect us to defend our right to breathe free of smoke.

In any case we are winning the war on smoking in nearly every developed country. That tide is unlikely to change. If anything smoking will become more and more impossible in the future.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

For me the best thing is that now I don't have to hide from bloodthirsty, sword-wielding guys with topknots who would cut you down for imagined slights.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Bank teller machines have improved VASTLY! Used to be open during banking hours (9-3?) only and closed on weekends and holidays. Remember forgetting to get money before a long weekend once in '92 and lived on 300 yen for 3 days!

As for manners and trains, used to be back in the '80s when an elderly person boarded a train, people stood up. Was warned at 16 that I shouldn't even be sitting. And there was no need for the "seats for the elderly." The need for such signs is NOT a good thing. And you see so many people ignore them anyway. This is sad.

Prices on more or less everything have come down -- a lot! There were no 100 yen shops or the such back in the day. Of course the flip side to this is that wages have also come down. But if purchasing power is still the same, is that such a problem? (That's a real question, FYI.)

Lastly, I have to agree with others, I think that I am more or less accepted in many aspects of society in Japan regardless of my nationality. I think this has changed for the better. If there is an issue of growing animosity towards NJs, I don't think it is any different than in the past.

And like everyone has said, the issue of smoking has improved. There is more room for improvement, but it is much better than it used to be.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Good: Credit cards are accepted everywhere.

Bad: No more 'bodycon'

Good: Foreigners can own real estate

Bad/Good/Bad again: Fingerprinting was there, then gone, than back with a vengeance.

Great: Romaji on most if not all major road signs. I remember riding my motorcycle 20+ years ago and wondering which was Toyota, Toyokawa, Toyoake and Toyohashi (I knew the first kanji but not the second).

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Great points everyone, many quite natsukashii.

Manners are definitely worse, as is service. Omotenashi has been eroded by deflation.

7-11's ATMs are a great development, though sad to note less progressive banks' audacity to still charge for using own-branch ATMs 'out of hours' despite those hours being limited!

The gap between public and private sectors has widened with IT. For example, what justification can there be for still, in the internet era, requiring a hard copy JAF translation of a driving licence to obtain a Japanese one? And the inkanshoumeisho is positively archaic in an age of advanced biometrics and chip-and-PIN.

Food quality seems to have suffered from years and years of deflation, with ever-growing lists of scarier ingredients. Wine is more affordable, though : )

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Lots more no-smoking places.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I think people are having a harder time making money. I used to make more money. I lost my job and went to a university to work. I work more yet make less money.

I remember when more people would get rid of decent stuff. These days, people go to recycle shops. I never heard motainai back in 2000.

Credit cards can be used more, such as at supermarkets.

I think things are getting worse so I plan on leaving next year.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

For the worse... More nuclear issues to worry about, weaker yen, higher taxes, increasingly stupid government officials (I'm looking at you Hashimoto n Co.). On the plus side, finally managed to get a credit card. Hooray for Rakuten!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Good: Foreigners can own real estate

I am not aware of any changes in this department. Furthermore I got a loan from a Japanese bank to buy property back in the 1970s.

Some political correctness has certainly taken root here, smokers have been banned from lots of public places (I remember when they smoked on the platforms of subway stations) and adoption of flex time has taken some of the pain out of the morning commutes. Taxi drivers are not as wild as they used to be. Multi-use re-entry permits were a great thing in their time. Back in the day, one had to surrender one's gaijin card at the airport upon departure (and pick it up at the city office within two weeks of returning).

On the down side, personal music players, portable games and cell phones have turned the Japanese into a race of self-centered zombies. Their entire raison d'etre seems to be finding new ways to ignore each other's existence. No wonder their birth rate is plummeting.

4 ( +5 / -1 )


I do not mean to ask personal questions and I am sorry for being nosy but were you able to get a mortgage without a hoshonin in the 70s? Great if you were, really. I know a lot of people who have been here a long time and they are still trying to get a property loan without a hoshonin. Even with a guarantor, it is sometimes difficult for some.

I was pretty lucky, I had no problem in that respect, and got the loan without any outside help but I speak Japanese and can read most of the contracts they put in front of me so I thought that was why I was able to do so.

Anyway, the point is that it is now easier for most to own something without a guarantor, in my opinion, at least in the area I live in.

Cheers and sorry again for being uncomfortably nosy.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

On the improvement side of things...

Mature women in Japan have got much sexier!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

More cats still have their tails than cats did a long time ago.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Wow, where do I begin. Been here since 1991, when there was no Internet, it took 1-2 years for the Japanese versions of Mac operating systems to be released in Japan, and things were generally closed, no new ideas or even Doritos coming into the country from the outside. Things have gotten WAY better, smoking is nearly gone, the economy is good even with all the troubles, new ideas come in and work their magic inside Japan. All in all I'm very happy to see all the improvements, though I hope for more that help the Japanese people economically (more wage growth for a start).

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

tkoind2: AKB are not borderline kiddie porn. Mayeb a bit dodgy and a bit too kawaii and totally brainless for the most part, but there is way worse than them around Japan that is really kiddie porn. Ant genuine pervs will not get their rocks off on AKB. More just saddos. So I should be glad of anti-smoking laws otherwise you would take "direct action"? Of what sort? Attack me in my own home? On the street? Truth is I am slowly dying already. So you mean if I want to accelerate the process by having the odd cigarette, you are fine with that? That's sweet of you. I like your use of the "war on smoking". Is that like the "war on drugs" or the "war on terror"? Sure to end in total victory, isn't it? Whatever happened to live and let live (even if for a little shorter in the case of smokers)?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I came in 1980, 7-11s were everywhere, and foreigners could own real estate, just to correct those.

Good - less smoking, more escalators, more highways roads not as crowded, more train lines, ATMs are better (still not like Thailand), great food!, easy to live healthy, some more things, but that'll do for now.

Bad - more divorce (better than America, but increased), school bullying, general bullying, $ has about died (my first 4 years here, averaged ¥250 per $), still too controlling in parks, etc. a few more, but that's enough.

All in all, Japan is a good place to live I think. Been here so long, I know the good, bad, and ugly and still love Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@slumdog - re. the old saw about people docking cats' tails -

I used to think that's what happened too, until I got my present cat when she was very young, and she had a stubby tail. When I touched it, I realised it's natural, not amputated. The bobtail is curly, like a pig's or rabbit's tail (so I'm told), hard to the touch, (cartilage?), and my cat really doesn't like anyone messing with it.


The Japanese bobtail is a breed of cat, usually calico in colour, but mine's all-black.

2 ( +3 / -1 )


Thanks for that. But, it was intended to be a bit of a joke intended to put out that in recent years I see less of that breed and more of the ones with long tails. I do understand the misunderstanding my poorly worded joke caused though.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Bit of both, but things seemed much more promising and exciting when I first arrived here at the end of the 90's; now it's a lot more gloomy and I'm not just projecting myself on to this either, my life has just got better and better living here.

Maybe, I was more naive when I first came here and didn't notice all the negatives of this country; backwardness in business, banking, human rights, democracy and TV that is just for kids and/or the intellectually challenged.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Income inequality is taking its toll. In Japan the middle class is getting squeezed thanks to the winner dog loser dog strategy of the LDP Koizumi-learned from his buddy Bush. Stress in increasing in society and many are not making it, especially the young who cannot find full-time jobs. 100 yen shop use to not exist here but now they are everywhere.

Smoking is considered to be only for fools now and most of the time non-smokers do not have to be forced to risk cancer so a selfish addicted junkie can get his or her fix. Still more work to be done on this problem however. Taxes on tobacco need to go way up like over developed countries to capture costs of the damage smokers force on society.

Japanese women have curves now, that is a huge plus.

As stated above in another post, the worse thing is that Japanese people have given up on Japan. Not all but too many. Hence the LDP being in power again and the birth rate tanking. I see no way out of this one for the country. Japan needs an FDR/Obama type but it is electing a Hoover/Bush type. The move to the right will hasten the decline of the country but others will be blamed for it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Better - Loose socks.

Worse - No more loose socks.

Seriously, though,

Better - More no-smoking places

Worse - unagi is too expensive!

Wakarimasen: "Worse - no smoking areas"

By golly, you're right, how inconvenient for smokers to have no-smoking areas, lol

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I came to japan in 2008 when iphone is still just starting. the clam (gara keitai) shell phone are gradually being phased out. too bad since it is one of the unique thing in japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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