A lot of people like Japanese culture, especially anime and manga. Some of you out there may eventually want to take the plunge and travel to or live in this country. A lot of information exists out there to help you with that process, but I think it's important to also hear firsthand accounts of life in this country.
Hopefully this thread can help you with ANY questions you may have.
I'm Tom. I'm an American who's been living in Japan since 2006. I teach English and live in Nagoya, Aichi prefecture, which is pretty much smack dab in the middle of the main island of Japan. Nagoya is the third-largest city in Japan with a population of about 2.2 million people. I've been to many places in this country as well, ranging from Tokyo to the east and Hiroshima to the west.
Why Come to Japan?(AKA the 'basic' questions)
I get asked this question almost every day by my students, and, although the answer seems to shift somewhat over time, I keep finding myself coming back to this fundamental theme that runs across the years:
Exposure to cultures outside your own is one of the most enriching experiences you can ever have.
You will learn, you will grow and you will understand a whole lot more about yourself and how you fit in the world.
But, apart from that, let me get some of the basic questions out of the way:
1) Holy cow, how can I live in Japan?!
-Well, if you don't have Japanese relatives, the quickest and easiest way to live here is to get a Visa and start teaching English. The whole process is a bit time consuming, but no more difficult than your average job application. You'll need to have finished college with a 4-year degree (any major), get accepted to an English school in Japan (usually an 'Eikaiwa,' or conversation school), and pass a health check. The entire process takes a couple months.
2) Where do you work? How much money do you make?
-I can't divulge the exact place I work, but it is one of the aforementioned Eikaiwas. If you work for one of these companies, you will be a salaried employee who makes approximately 250,000 yen a month (About $3000 dollars based on current exchange rates). Not bad at all, but stuff here tends to be pretty expensive.
3) How much do things cost?
I'll just list some items here:
- Rent- Anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 yen or more , the size of which averages 25 sq meters (VERY small)
- Utilities- About 8000 yen on average a month (Includes Water, Gas, Electricity)
- Other bills- 6 to 10,000 yen (Cell phone, Internet, etc)
- Eating out- Average lunch is about 800 yen, Dinner runs between 1000 to 2000 yen.
- Groceries- 5000 or so a week. Fruit is particularly expensive, with a single apple costing 120 yen or so.
- Entertainment/Clubbing- A night on the town runs about 6000 to 10,000 yen and includes drinking, club fees, etc. You can definitely cut this down, but this is the range for a pretty awesome night out.
- Movie Ticket- 1800(!) yen... 1200 for late show.
- Parking- Don't bother. Cars are a ripoff here. But if you HAVE to, expect 10,000 to 20,000 or more a month.
- Hair Cut- 1000 yen for a basic trim, up to 10,000 or more for a stylist. Average is around 5,000.
- Private Japanese Lessons- 2500 yen an hour or 90 minutes is standard. They will come to your house at this price. 2000 yen if you want to meet up at a cafe or something. Cheaper prices are possible, but you take a real hit in quality there.
As you can see, if you're not careful, things add up quickly. How much you save depends on willpower in a lot of cases, but I easily manage 40,000 yen a month.
4) I saw this one Japanese show on TV and they were all wearing crazy costumes and screaming at the camera! What the heck is that?!
-Welcome to バラエティ TV (Variety television)! It dominates the television world in this country and topics range from quiz shows, to cooking shows, to humiliation game shows, to special interest topics to watching random celebrities walking into stores and shopping! Dominated by タレント (TV 'Talents') whose sole purposes are to... actually I have no idea. They just do things and people laugh along or nod their heads.
Sometimes, if you're lucky, you can find an out-of-place international celebrity on one of these shows (or a commercial). Here's a clip from 'Waratte Iitomo,' arguably the most famous show in Japan. Oh, Avril Lavigne... it's ok. Just do your best!
5) Are Japanese women easy?
Keep the testosterone in check, amigo. There's this stereotype that Asian women are 'loose' compared to Western women, but honestly, women here are the same as anywhere else. Treat them with respect and I'm sure you'll one day find the love of your life here, there or anywhere else in the world.
I believe this stereotype exists solely because Japan is not a Christian nation and, therefore, does not follow Christian norms on sexuality. But that doesn't make things easier if you're a weirdo.
6) Man, Japan is AWESOME! Why would you ever want to leave? (AKA: Let's take off the rose-tinted sunglasses for a moment)
- Women's rights (for Japanese citizens) are at least 20 years behind most of the world, if not more.
- No matter how hard you try, you can never be a 'true' Japanese citizen.
- The news media is inept and unable to properly inform the public (see Tsunami nuclear reactor crisis)
- Government / Business is hopelessly corrupt.
There's more, but that's just a taste.
7) Damn man. Why WOULD you stay in Japan?
- Freedom to do what I want and be left alone.
- A good job with good pay and benefits.
- Experiencing a new culture and learning so much about the world.
- Anime and Manga!
- The bustle of city life and the thrill of always finding something new.
- The food. GOD THE FOOD IS SO GOOD.
- People are extremely polite and customer service is incredible.
- It's incredibly safe here. I fear nothing walking home at 3 or 4 am.
Again, just a taste of the good.
With that, I'll leave things open to the general public. I look forward to answering your questions!
This post has been edited by TomTomBBQ: 17 September 2012 - 04:55 PM