Hello! This is Jason.
I have lived in Tokyo for about four years now and I can confidently say now that I really enjoy living here. I have met a number of people living here from abroad and when asked the question on their thoughts of living here, it’s either they love it or hate it. I come from the U.S., so living here(and maybe vice versa for Japanese) is very much like living on an alien planet. So many things are so different culturally and etiquette wise that it’s the only way I can think of to describe it. I am not saying it’s good or bad, but it’s just very different. I had visited here many times before moving here so I had a rough idea as to what I was getting into, but visiting and living here are two different things.
This is where it gets complicated. Regardless of who you are, or where you come from Japan will send you on a roller-coaster of emotions for most of the first year of you living there. When you first arrive here everything is fun and new. Going out everyday making friends, discovering off the beaten tourist path places, etc. Then eventually the uglier parts set in. (Now this can happen in any country I am sure, but this is the first place for me to live abroad so I am basing it on here.) Sooner or later the language will get to you here. Japanese is unrelated to any other language around the world. It has it’s own set of rules, and somethings if you try to literally translate to English will make no sense at all. After all that you have the written language. Made up of Chinese Kanji and combined with Hiragana and Katakana. It can get overwhelming really fast. Combine that with most Japanese people not being as quick as westerners to really open up and be friends can leave you feeling a bit isolated. Luckily for me I already knew people here, but if I didn’t this would be a tough hurdle to get over.
After discovering this (and you will) now is where you decide how you handle it. Everyone will go through times where they are having a good time, but then some days it will really drag you down. This will go on for about a 8 months to a year for most people. Then where you end up is up to you. Some people stew in the things of the uglier side of it and it ends up making them hate here as well as the people. This is very easy to do.
For me I try to focus on the things I do like about living here. Living in the largest city in the world and not having to worry about crime really is almost enough to over come everything else. I can’t count the number of times I have forgot something at a cafe etc. and it is still there the next day or if I fall asleep on the train (which I often do) and my cameras are out, nobody is going to try and take it. When I tell people outside Japan about this, they find that hard to believe, but it’s actually true. Why is this? I really have no idea, but it’s very utopia like in that sense. One of the big things for me is the lack of the alpha male complex here. This is kind of hard to describe, but I don’t ever feel like I am being judged in a “you ain’t no manly man” kind of way. You can literally dress and be just about anything you want here and nobody will make you feel as if you shouldn’t.
Another thing that really stands out for me is the fact that I don’t have to drive hardly anywhere in this country. Take a train no matter how you cut it beats a car in every way. Sure the trains can be packed, and you often have to stand, but it allows you a form of down time that you don’t get when driving. Being able to read a book, play a game, study, or just read the internet in the middle of the day while going about your busy life makes your day all the better. Being trapped in a car and having to watch out for idiot drivers or sitting in traffic is enough to ruin anyone’s day.
I guess I could go on and on about things, but really to sum it up the most important thing (like anywhere else) is to surround yourself with people that you like and to push away the things that you don’t. For Japan I feel that’s far easier to do than in the U.S., like everywhere else it’s not the perfect utopia, but for myself I have found reasons that it comes as close for me as I think I could ever really get.