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Have you ever wondered about the pros and cons of living in Japan?
The island nation is filled with natural beauty (especially in the cherry blossom season), a rich history, and plenty of activities, whether you are looking for snow sports, sumo wrestling, or anime, there is something for everyone.
The Japanese are some of the kindest people in the world, the food is amazing and there is so much culture no matter where you look.
Having lived in over 12 countries in the last 10 years I know what is important to look at before moving to a new country.
So, let’s talk about what it is like moving to Japan, from the healthcare system to personal safety, and everything in between to help you make an informed decision.
Ready? Let’s jump in.
🛫 Wanna move to Japan this year? You can find affordable flights here.
1. Pro: Public Transport
One of the biggest perks of living in Japan is the outstanding public transport system.
No matter the form of public transport you can guarantee it will be punctual, clean and will take you almost anywhere you want to go.
The public transport system is so reliable and convenient that there is no need to drive in Japan.
2. Con: Language Barrier
Probably the biggest disadvantage of living in Japan is the language – unless you already speak Japanese.
Japanese is very hard to master, from reading the characters to understanding the spoken language, it takes a lot of time and effort to master.
Without being able to speak the language, immersion into the country can be hard and cause you to feel isolated.
It can also make job opportunities limited.
🗣 Wanna learn how to speak Japanese? Try out this application!
3. Pro: Great options for keeping in touch
When living abroad it is important to be able to keep in touch with people back home. Japan’s communication systems make this very easy.
There is plenty of access to smartphones (almost everyone in Japan has one) and the internet is available practically everywhere thanks to the high-speed fiber optic network.
Unlike many other countries, the connection is always good.
You are able to get a message out even after a natural disaster!
4. Con: Cost of living is high
Cost of living is an important factor in whether or not you move to a country.
This is a con of living in Japan as the cost of living is very high.
The closer you live to the big cities, such as Tokyo, the higher the cost of living will be due to rent.
Although Japan has made steps toward affordability in recent times it is still not a cheap place to live.
A single person can expect to pay $1,085 – $1,326 in a one bedroom apartment in Tokyo. Families will spend $1116-$1364 for rent alone in a city like Tokyo.
Groceries are also expensive:
- A gallon of milk – $4.50-$5.50
- A dozen eggs – $1.62-$1.98
- One pound of beef costs USD $7.20-$8.80
5. Pro: Japanese food is outstanding
The biggest perk of living in Japan is the food. The food is delicious, healthy, and has a wide variety of options.
Perhaps this is why the Japanese are said to have a long life expectancy.
There are many Michelin-star restaurants, casual eateries and street vendors where you will have an outstanding meal.
6. Con: Time zone
Adjusting to the time zone can be hard as there is a time difference of 8 – 11 hours with the United States.
Due to the large time difference organizing video calls with people in the United States will be challenging.
7. Pro: Endless amounts of activities
The number of different activities is one of the best pros of living in Japan. No matter what your interests are, there is always something to do.
Soaking in traditional Onsen to hiking epic trails to eating in a local izakaya are fantastic cultural experiences.
Some of the best activities in Japan are:
- Taking a cooking class
- Hopping on a bullet train
- Visiting shrines and temples
- Dining at a themed restaurant (pokemon restaurant anyone?)
- Diving into the history of Japan
- Taking part in real life Mario Kart
8. Con: Crowded cities
The word “crowded” takes on a whole new meaning in Japanese cities. The streets are so densely populated that it is like walking through a river!
During peak hour the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo has 1,000 – 2,500 crossing every two minutes.
Everything comes with a queue, from lining up at the bakery for breakfast to catching the bus to waiting for the slide at the playground.
As you can imagine, the weekends are much busier than a weekday. You need to decide on what you want to see, where you want to go, and how long you are willing to wait.
Wherever you go in the city centers you will need to allow time to deal with the crowds.
9. Pro: Natural beauty
Japan is a beautiful country with plenty of opportunities for you to learn, grow and prosper.
The cherry blossoms in the spring and Mount Fuji receive a lot of international attention.
The magic of Yakushima and Kamikōchi’s high river valley cannot be overlooked.
The natural wonders of Japan offer a welcome break from the city with a place to enjoy some peace and somewhere to gain some perspective on life.
10. Con: Work pressures
Finding a good work-life balance can be difficult in Japan as there are a lot of pressures to continue working.
The word Karoshi is used to describe the work culture in Japan and it translates to “death from overwork”.
Overworking is considered normal, even honorable, as workers are worried about not meeting expectations and completing the enormous workload placed on them.
When you are sick you will most likely have to use vacation time rather than sick leave. But using vacation time can also be frowned upon which makes it hard to take personal time.
11. Pro: Job options
There are numerous job opportunities in Japan with high-paying salaries.
One of the most common jobs in Japan for expats is teaching English. You can do this in a local school or privately.
These jobs can often be lined up for you before you leave home, you will also be provided with living quarters, job security, and a good salary.
Other jobs that are common with expats are:
- English tutor
- IT professional
- Sales staff
👩🏻💻 Looking for a job in Japan? Check out this search engine and find your dream job.
12. Con: Paperwork
This one probably seems like an odd addition to the list but believe it or not, there is paperwork for everything in Japan.
When you apply for a visa, a rental property or a driver’s license be prepared to fill out a mountain of paperwork.
You will need to ask for some help filling out the paperwork if it is in Japanese.
13. Pro: Robots
Who doesn’t love a good robot? Robots are very popular in Japan. Get ready to be served by a robot at dinner or order a drink at the bar.
The robot age is in full swing in Japan. You will find animal bots, androids, and social robots.
You will find plenty of job opportunities in the robotics industry as they continue to develop more robots.
14. Con: Natural disasters
Japan is “famous” for typhoons, tsunamis, and earthquakes. And they are not just small occurrences.
In 2022, Japan experienced 8 earthquakes with a magnitude of 5 or more.
Japan sees many natural disasters each year due to its proximity to the “Pacific Ring of Fire”.
This region is known to have the most earthquakes in the world. These earthquakes can trigger tsunamis, and both of these are devastating to the country.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do but be prepared and educate yourself on what to do when a natural disaster occurs.
15. Pro: Shopping and convenience stores
The shopping malls in Japan are amazing.
You will find all of the latest fashions trends, high-quality home appliances and technology. ‘
Some shopping centers even have karaoke rooms and very comfortable cinemas.
Not only are shopping malls something to see, but there are convenience stores and vending machines on almost every corner.
These stores and vending machines will sell you all the essentials that you need.
Fancy a hot meal? You can grab one of these from a vending machine or the local convenience store at a great price.
16. Con: Small living quarters
When living in big cities such as Toyko your apartment will be small, especially for the price that you will be paying.
If you are living in rural areas you will have more space but apartments and houses are much smaller in Japan than in places such as America.
17. Pro: Personal safety
I consider this to be one of the biggest advantages of living in Japan. It is considered a very safe place to live.
Japan ranks number 10 in the world on the Global Peace Index.
Whether you are out exploring during the day or going out for food at night time, as a woman you can feel confident that you will be safe.
Most convenience stores are open 24/7 which can help you feel more secure knowing there are people around all of the time.
People in Japan follow the rules and laws of the country. Even the traffic rules are taken very seriously.
Continue to exercise caution and common sense but overall Japan is very safe.
18. Con: Sense of belonging
You will not fully belong in Japan. If you have a good grasp of the language, and the Japanese culture or you’re married to a Japanese person you will not be fully assimilated in Japan.
This is not something about Japan to be bitter about, it is just something to accept and decide if it is for you or not.
19. Pro: Equitable healthcare
Japan has very good and relatively inexpensive healthcare. Medical professionals are required to undergo extensive training and medical providers provide a wide range of services.
Everyone is treated fairly in the health system. Only some treatments require payment and even then, it is very affordable.
Anybody who lives in Japan is automatically covered by the healthcare system.
The Japanese government is constantly working to keep its healthcare system accessible to everybody.
It would be rare in Japan for a medical episode to cause financial hardship to an individual. Health insurance for children is very convenient as young children usually receive a 100% subsidy.
20. Con: Lots of snow
This one may be a pro and a con of living in Japan depending on whether you like snow or not.
Japan gets very cold in the winter and there is a lot of snow. This depends on where you live.
Kyoto will not see as much snow as somewhere like Hokkaido where it snows a lot.
21. Pro: Very clean
Japan has to be one of the cleanest countries in the world.
From the public transportation system to hospitals to office buildings, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a mess. There is a large value placed on cleanliness that is passed down from generation to generation.
Wrap-Up: Pros and Cons of Living in Japan
Living in Japan as an expat will be a rewarding experience. From living in the busy cities of Tokyo or Kyoto to exploring the natural beauty that the land of the rising sun has to offer you will find many things to fall in love with.
As a foreigner, it will be hard to feel a sense of belonging and the language can be quite a challenge to grasp.
There are many challenges but the benefits of living in Japan far outweigh the disadvantages.
Are you looking for new job opportunities, a sense of adventure or to explore a completely new culture? Japan will be the perfect country to make your new home.
🛫 Wanna move to Japan this year? You can find an affordable flight here.
Read More About Living in Asia
- Living Taiwan Pros and Cons
- Pros and Cons of Living in Singapore
- Pros and Cons of Living in Vietnam
- Pros and Cons of Living in the Philippines
- Pros and Cons of Living in Turkey as a Foreign Woman
- Pros and Cons of Living in Japan
Living Abroad Travel Planning Guide
🚑 Should I buy expat travel insurance?
100% YES! — With basic coverage averaging just $5-10 USD per day, enjoy peace of mind with a plan from Safety Wing!
🌎 What is the best country to live in as an expat?
It depends – the best country to live in as an expat will depend on your unique needs. I developed this free quiz to help you figure out where is right for you!
📍 How do I pick a country to live abroad?
It depends – picking a country to live in is hard. That’s why I developed this $7 course to share all of the steps I’ve taken when deciding to move to 20+ different countries, and how I handle homesickness when I get there.
Ultimately, making the choice of where to move is going to be hard. But the hardest thing is deciding to move abroad at all!
💼 How do I get a job as an expat?
You can find work abroad via local job boards or temp agencies. My favourite way to work is remotely, so I always look for jobs on FlexJobs.com when I live abroad. They hire for 100% remote roles only.
If you’re looking to teach English abroad, Premier TEFL has the best online course to get you great work!
💰 How do I open a bank account abroad?
Wise.com offers free global accounts, and the cheapest money transfers. Since it can be a headache to open bank accounts in different countries (it took me 2 months in the UK!), Wise.com is a great solution.
I actually use it as my primary bank now worldwide due to the multi-currency debit card. (Read more)
👯♀️ How do you make friends abroad?
Meetup.com – Meet likeminded people who share a similar hobby with Meetup! It’s free to join, but some activities may cost money, like if you go to a cafe and get a coffee.
🙀 I don’t speak the language. Can I still live abroad?
Learn languages in no time with iTalki! Moving abroad is an opportunity to learn the language. You don’t need to know it before you leave home.
💻 Do I need a VPN?
Yes! – VPNs allow you to access more of the internet. From US Netflix in the UK to social media sites banned in Asia. It’s a really helpful and cheap thing to ensure your online activities aren’t restricted.
🧳 What’s the best luggage for living abroad?
🏡 How do I tell my friends and family I want to live abroad?
Take this $7 course and learn the exact script I used to tell my family I was moving abroad … and then when I did it again. I even include tips for prepping your family, and for how to handle family who aren’t supportive.
✈️ What’s the best site to buy cheap flights?
🏨 What’s the best site to find cheap hotels?
Or stay for free with Trusted Housesitters!
🚗 What’s the best site to rent cars abroad?
To find cheap rental cars, I recommend Discover Cars.
🚗 What’s the best site to find tours?
To find epic tours, I recommend Viator.