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If I were a young Japanese and I could speak English, I would probably choose to emigrate.

44 Comments

Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, 89. He says Japan is on a "stroll into mediocrity" as the ranks of its elderly swell and due to its reluctance to open up to immigrants. (AFP)

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44 Comments
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I sometimes wonder what would happen if the populace were fluent and confident in English. Would people really leave in droves?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Almost all of the fluent English speakers I know are middle aged or retired, and almost all of them are reluctant to leave Japan for any reason unless required to do so on business.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The number of young Japanese studying abroad has decreased in recent years. Partly due to economy they grew up in, they lack the ambition of previous generations. Many would give their right arm for the mediocrity of a rank-and-file job with a decent company rather than joining the expanding ranks of the temporary workforce.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

As much as I love Japan, it does not have a history of dealing well with existential crises. Unless there is some magic population boom, the upside-down population pyramid will eventually force a change in policy. Or Japan will face be a sudden, systemic collapse on par with the end of the Shogunate.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Agreed. However vast majority of young Japanese prefer living in their comfortable " mum and dad will provide if things get a bit tough " bubble and lack the drive for something as drastic as emigrating. Not all ( there are some with the necessary drive and spirit ) but most.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

English skill itself doesn't mean jack. There are plenty of native English speaking fools in the U.S. with degrees in basket weaving and tons of debt that have no hope for the future.

I might amend his statement to say,

"If I were young, fluent in English AND had some internationally marketable skills, then I'd emigrate."

Fluency in English is one piece of the puzzle of having internationally marketable skills. If you want to get paid to just show up and speak English, check out the JET program.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I do agree with Lee, but can't say much about Singapore as well...they were one of them bottom in a recent happiness survey and many are over-worked and stressed out.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I will not. If I were, I would not emigrate to English speaking countries. I would rather love to stay home. If you are living in foreign countries, you will often face a lot of troubles/problems as cultural differences. If much elderly, everything would be really a big pain in ass there and would shorten your life than ever.

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

But aren't there already more Japanese living abroad than foreigners living in Japan? Not everybody, even if they speak English and have sought after skills, can live abroad. You need to be curious and a little brave and not so wimpy, or economically pressured. It's also currently the trend to not wanting to study abroad and to say you don't want to be transferred abroad, at least 99% of the working people I have met in last years have told me such things.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

If you want to get paid to just show up and speak English, check out the JET program.

I didn't think there were any young Japanese JET teachers except those born abroad, like in Hawaii, for instance. Are there?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If I were a young Japanese and I could speak English, I would probably choose to emigrate.

-Notice he does not say to where. Maybe he is saying that if he was Japanese and knew English he would leave the police state of Singapore.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

@kwatt In other words you are saying you are too afraid to step out of your comfort zone and truly learn how the rest of the world actually things and lives? And then people wonder why Japan is not the power it used to be, with this type of mentality it is pretty obvious I would think.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Notice he does not say to where. Maybe he is saying that if he was Japanese and knew English he would leave the police state of Singapore.

Many educated expat workers in SG get 6 digit salaries. Where else would you go? KL?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I meant thinks and not things, sorry for the typo.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I didn't think there were any young Japanese JET teachers except those born abroad, like in Hawaii, for instance. Are there?

I think that's correct, the reason being that Japanese students would not speak English to them. A colleague of mine, a non-Japanese born in Japan and fluent in Japanese, had to swear that she would not speak Japanese or reveal that she understood it as part of her contract. When on her day of departure she revealed her fluency there was much shock and embarrassment over the crude, nasty and petty things said about her that she obviously had understood all along.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Lee Kuan Yew is scarily always right.

I remember how people laughed at him for saying that China would take over the world by the end of the 20th century, and he was right.

I would take his words seriously in a way.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Lee sadly is BANG on, if I were young Japanese & could speak other language(s) I would certainly be looking at options outside of Japan.

Sadly the rot & breakdown of pensions & health "insurance" & infrastructure are already very likely beyond ever fixing & set for steep steep decline.

Thank goodness I am not young & have no kids here, for those that do be sure they learn more than just Japanese etc, the future is sadly just NOT happening, Japan is on its way to the lifestyle of the 3rd world & you know what I think there are many here that are hoping for just that, Japanese can be a rather fatalistic bunch.

Prepare your life rafts people you may well need them!

4 ( +9 / -5 )

But he isn't so his views are probably misguided.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Many educated expat workers in SG get 6 digit salaries. Where else would you go? KL?

kuala lumpur: is money the least of all evils you seek.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@kwatt, I've talked to many Japanese who migrated outside of Japan. Most would rather not come back, the girls especially, once they've tasted foreign cultures, not many look back.

Really, if you're a Japanese engineer even with a little English, you're highly sought-after internationally. You may not realize it, but Japanese engineers are highly regarded in the world. Sadly, most would rather rot at Sony or Toyota doing what their predecessors did and to just continue the tradition.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

My husband speaks good English, and we have just emigrated to the US (although Im not an American). His reaction to it all is fascinating to watch as an armchair psychologist to be honest!

First big shocker: US police actually enforce stuff (busted for not stopping at a stop line). He has also discovered that America has a higher unemployment rate at least partly because they dont have little men sitting in booths at the toll roads taking the money from you. And that even though Japan IS technologically advanced, so is America when it comes to cameras catching people driving through said toll booths without paying thinking they can get away with it because there is no little man taking the money. SEVEN bloody times! Sigh.....

Strangers being chatty freaks him out. Even more so when they do it to me. I have heard "That guy was hitting on you!" more times in the last 4 months than I heard in 11 years in Japan! He really didnt think J men would ever hit on me! He is also struggling to accept my less "conservative" dress sense, ("For Gods sake CC COVER yourself!!") although I notice he seems to have readily accepted and adjusted to all the other California Chicks style :) !

There is a lot he - we - miss about Japan. Its a beautiful place, with many wonderful things going for it. Sadly, the really big stuff - as Lee Kwan Yew rightly mentions, is a problem there. Hubby hangs out with Japanese on a daily basis, gets hold of free Japanese newspapers, and hangs in the "Japanese places" and has been married to me for over 10 years and yet is STILL really struggling to adapt to this new lifestyle.

I totally understand the emotions he is going through because I went through them myself moving to Japan years ago. Culture shock is so predictable you can almost set your watch by it! This isnt quite the dream we thought it would be - we have both of us had problems adapting and getting ourselves set up and we are both homesick for Tokyo. I can understand why many Japanese would never want to make the leap - there IS comfort in the familiar and for me it is even weirder right now because Tokyo IS familiar and America is the "foreign" place. Peoples confused faces when they hear my accent and ask where I am from and I automatically say "Tokyo" are quite funny!

But there are many Japanese he works with who have been here 2, 5, 10 years - and most of them are refusing to go back! It seems to me from my limited experience to date that most Japanese will never make the leap, but the ones that do generally dont regret it. There will always be the tie to "home" - even I feel it after 11 years in Japan. But especially in the last 2 1/2 years things seemed so much more stressful in Tokyo. It is something of a relief to be out of all that, even for hubby I think. I dont know if we will ever go back. I am more than happy to. It is easy to see all the great thigns when you no longer have access to them! I would like to see Japan succeed and be strong again as much as anyone but I think it is the inability to change and adapt, from grass roots right up to government level, that is killing it, sadly.

19 ( +21 / -2 )

"living in foreign countries, you will often face a lot of troubles/problems as cultural differences."

Understandable and largely true. But it ignores the immense satisfaction you get once you settle in and carve a new life for yourself far from home. You have to get off your high horse and demonstrate a little humility to do that though.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

ChibaChick, thanks for the update. I guess it all comes down to which country you are used to. It's not as black-and-white as "this place is better than that place" or whatever. I've lived in Japan for most of my adult life, and at this stage it doesn't look like I'll ever marry here! I have had several promising relationships go wrong because neither of us could decide where to live - the European and American gents disliked the Japanese way of doing things, and couldn't stomach the idea of living here permanently, and I on the other hand couldn't quite adjust to their countries and customs, although I really tried my hardest. To be honest, in light of the whole ridiculous Tepco/Fukushima debacle amongst other things, I wouldn't feel comfortable starting a family in this country or asking someone to join me here. I think you did the right thing by leaving. And in a few years time your husband will be wondering why he tolerated Japan for so long. I've seen it all before.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

If I were a young, English-speaking Japanese woman with skills to offer, I'd be out of here like a scalded cat. The young women I see at my place of work are wasting the best years of their lives in a company which wouldn't dream of having them do anything significant. My reasons for leaving wouldn't be warnings of impending doom ( many developed countries are facing similar dire warnings about falling birth rates, Islamification, encroaching socialism, ballooning debts etc. ) but on what I see around me.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

I guess it all comes down to which country you are used to. It's not as black-and-white as "this place is better than that place" or whatever.

Exactly. Plus the question of where your ties are. A person who has built up friendships, maybe family, in a new country is not going to be prepared to leave it all just to go back 'home'. There's a reason 'Home is where the heart is' is a cliché.

the European and American gents disliked the Japanese way of doing things, and couldn't stomach the idea of living here permanently, and I on the other hand couldn't quite adjust to their countries and customs, although I really tried my hardest.

The J-gents didn't get a look-in?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The J-gents didn't get a look-in?

All the good ones are taken!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

All the good ones are taken!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I have family in Japan (my dad listened to Lee's advice roughly 45 years ago), and sadly I see no hope in the new generations. My older uncles who'd lived through the war had guts, curiosity, personality in spades, with the younger generations I find myself shaking my head in disbelief at the level of apathy, cluelessness... If anything they don't speak English any better than the old geezers did.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

That's the thing, as human, one will always think they can find greener pastures at another person's land. it is easy to say if you knew English and still young, you will prefer to emigrate. The truth is, migration is not about simply moving a house from one place to another.

It is a lifetime commitment and certainly an impact to one's culture and lifestyle and the ability to adopt well.

I have moved from Malaysia to Australia, and I have worked and travelled in countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Macau, Taiwan, African and Japan...... The most important consideration is: It is not so much about how much the new country can benefit you and your family but more of how much you can contribute and benefit the country that welcomes you and your family! That is a big difference between the two ideologies for we are all only temporary residents in this beautiful but slowly deteriorating earth!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I doubt Japan needs a brain drain right now. I think the saddest thing about Japan and the world at large is that we tend to judge the success of a nation based on their GDP. There are many other things that make Japan a pleasant place to live and I think that in some ways the obsession for continual growth has done more harm than good in many areas. Singapore is hardly the best example of a successful society in terms of human values and Lee Yuan Kew's prejudice against the Japanese has been noted before now. I would say to young people in Japan- stay in your country and make it a batter place but not only in economic terms but in things that are important. Your quality of life really has little to do with all the toys you have in the cupboard but everything to do with how you treat one another.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

jpn will forever be obtusely ethnocentric

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Singapore’s

Funny who says that. If I lived in Singapore....

Maybe he is saying that if he was Japanese and knew English he would leave the police state of Singapore.

Something like that.

Understandable and largely true. But it ignores the immense satisfaction you get once you settle in and carve a new life for yourself far from home.

Most expats can't settle in most countries. They stay there as a guest, not all are even allowed to bring in their family, and that's as long as foreign labor is needed. Then they have to leave. Like the finance guys had to nearly all leave Tokyo a few years ago, not having a choice to stay. That's the situation of nearly all the expats, even those that seem to have so good jobs. I have seen when silicon valley collapses how in 3 month time all the Europeans were back on the old continent. But, for Europeans it's not so hard to come back after 5 to 10 years, as most of their buddies also change of employer after that time. There is a mercato for exec jobs where returnees can step in. Not so much in Japan.

You have to get off your high horse and demonstrate a little humility to do that though.

That's how it's called marrying a local ? And those already married should divorce then remarry to their greencard coupon ? That's not even a warranty of anything but the visa status as jobs where they hire foreigners can dry out suddenly too, when the spouse fails to be a breadwinner for the whole family.

The number of young Japanese studying abroad has decreased in recent years....they lack the ambition of previous generations

Also they saw that the previous generation that studied abroad has not got international work opportunities thanks to it.. Actually most they got less. Expats are usually chosen among people that never studied abroad. Companies abroad would hire fluent in the local language professionals, at the limit, if they had already a visa (from spouse, double nationality, investment...but if you own a big business you are not looking for a job). Many of my friends now in mid 30's to mid 40's say the ryugaku and/or the few years of work experience abroad have reduced, and often destroyed their chances of career. Many became self-employed because they never got a kaishain job, they don't do so bad, but the life of an entrepreneur in Japanese society is not easy. And the new generation won't have it easier.

if you're a Japanese engineer even with a little English, you're highly sought-after internationally.

No, even with perfect English. They are sought-after for jobs paid 10% to 1/2 what they get in Japan. For the good positions, only a tiny minority with rare expertise have good prospects. And to become such experts, they start at Sony and Toyota.

most would rather rot at Sony or Toyota

Yes. My acquaintances have gone to see what that was like to rot at as the director of a factory in China or India. They tell their kids -that they have not seen growing up- to apply for Sony and Toyota.

And in a few years time your husband will be wondering why he tolerated Japan for so long.

Unless he goes through some American experiences not so pleasant. Now they are living the expat honeymoon.

First big shocker: US police actually enforce stuff (busted for not stopping at a stop line).

The paper driver from Saitama would get fined 3 times a day in Kansai. We have had the automatic traffic cameras that directly mail the tickets for 15 yrs now. I'm sure Tokyo has them. And some places in Alabama don't.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

"Japan is on a stroll into mediocrity"

And what's Singapore on?

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

My home town in England used to be thronged with Japanese students. Now, they have declined to invisibility, and more than replaced with Chinese students. (2001 approx 1000 jp, 1000 cn; 2011 approx 500 jp, 8000 cn)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If I were young, Japanese and wealthy, I'd definitely stay in Japan but travel a bit overseas. But it's rather a stupid generalization for Lee to make. One could say the same about Singapore. 32 degrees and pretty sweaty most of the year round. And you aren't allowed to chew bubblegum there. I found it to be kind or sterile and almost too clean, if that makes sense. More importantly, their water supply is basically controlled by Malaysia. If they ever go to war, Malaysia can just turn the tap off. I'd take Japan any day.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

kind of sterile (sorry)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

decline population is a huge problem for japan but unfortunately Japanese Politicians as well as the media do not give the due attention which is needed. immigration is the only solution for this problem, some people blindly say the crimes will goes up with immigration, but i would argue i think if properly manged it will bring prosperity to the society, it will bring new ideas, new social and cultural values, intellectuals,skilled manpower and more importantly Japanese will also able to know about other nations and cultures, all these measures will bring down the rate of the suicide in japan which is extremely high as compare to other countries.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If I were young, Japanese and wealthy ...

The problem is, most Japanese are only one of these things.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

what is Islamification ?by the way

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I believe Lee Kuan Yew needs to read his (ie. he owns it) newspaper. The strong displeasure at Japanese and Western "talents" taking jobs that Singaporeans expect as their birth right is displayed there every day. Japan has its problems, but I would take living there in over Singapore, even for 50% less pay. Unfortunately, I don't think anyone from the Lee family could understand the concept that some things are more important than money.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@kibousha n @petetero

Everybody has some kind of own business. Some people can't. I have a cat and a dog home and I love them. How could I emigrate?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Ali Khan In the UK and France ( maybe others, I don't know ) some have warned that immigration and a higher birth rate among Muslims will lead to those countries becoming 'Islamified' with governments bending over backwards to accommodate them and Sharia becoming the norm. N

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If you are rich Singapore is probably one of the best metro areas in the World. However most people are not and in fact most of the people in the service industries of Singapore have their housing (high rises) subsidized (85%). Singapore has very good warm weather also.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_housing_in_Singapore

http://www.propertyguru.com.sg/new-homes-for-sale

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Lee used to be a big fan of Japan. In the 80s he held it out as a model for Singapore to follow. I guess like a lot us, he finally sees the "real Japan," warts and all. And those warts have grown bigger and bigger over the years.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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