Explore the Land of the Rising Sun: 6 Reasons Why Expats Find Japan a Wonderful Place to Live – Modern Japan holds a wholly unique place in the hearts of many expats. The enigmatic archipelago in Northeast Asia is one of the few places in the world that can both conjure a romantic image and deliver on promises of the future. In the decades since the end of World War II, Japan has become a global powerhouse of innovation and industry, a bucket list tourist destination for adventurers across the world, and an incredible place for people to live, study and work.
Japan is often one of the most desirable places to move for expats around the world, including our founder, David McNeill. In 2014, David left the United States to start living abroad more permanently when he got a job in Tokyo, the capital of Japan and center of the largest metropolis in the world. David’s transition to life abroad went smoothly with some great assistance from a relocation company and insider tips from a fellow expat. Then, in 2016 he completed his two-year contract and moved to Berlin, Germany to start the next chapter of his international career. While in Berlin, David wrote the Passport to Working in Japan book to share about his experiences living in the Land of the Rising Sun and help others looking to live and work in the country. Though Japan is far away from his current home of Porto, Portugal, it remains a special place in his heart and a formative part of his adult life.
For David and other expats, Japan remains a high benchmark in quality of life and economic opportunities. With so much to offer, it’s no surprise that Japan continues to be on the minds of millions of people planning to move abroad at some point in their lives. Let’s take a look at some of the attractive qualities of moving to Japan.
Delicious, Accessible, and Healthy: Japan’s Amazing Food Scene
Ramen, curry, udon, soba, sushi, okonomiyaki… the list of incredible food in Japan goes on and on. Japan is known by foodies around the world for its unique delectable cuisines and innovative and masterful approaches to Western favorites.
It’s easy to find incredibly delicious food and regional specialities across Japan. The country is deceptively large, spanning almost 3,000km (2,000mi) from northeast to southwest. The wintry landscapes of the northernmost big island, Hokkaido, has inspired many dishes involving wheat noodles, pumpkin, stir-fry, and famous Sapporo ramen soups. All the way south in the Okinawa island chain, the cuisine is much more influenced by the tropical climate and its plethora of fruits and vegetables. The ensuing mixture of influences has made one of the most important national cuisines in world culture.
The restaurant scene in Japan’s biggest cities range from the highest levels of Michelin-starred dining to hot and fresh food from convenience stores in subway stations. Across the board, there is always a high level of quality. Some of the most sought-after sushi restaurants offer an Omakase experience without a menu, a phrase that tells the chef, “I’ll leave it up to you.” For a quick rejuvenation, you can find exquisitely delicious food delivered by conveyor belt while hunched next to businesspeople in a perfectly clean subway station. From the healthiest breakfasts to the gluttony of fried street food, there is always a way to happily get fed.
Offering a Helping Hand: The Enduring Hospitality of Locals
Anyone who has entered an authentic Japanese restaurant before knows about the level of joy and welcome upon crossing the threshold of the dining room. The open kitchen is usually staffed by some cooks that look up from diligently rolling sushi or slicing fish and vegetables to greet everyone with a boisterous Irasshaimase!, or “Welcome to the restaurant!” From that point onwards, the service is likely extremely polite and professional in order to let you enjoy the food and the ambience the best you can.
When first entering Japan, the polite demeanor of the general public will create a calm and alluring feel. From a doorman performing a simple bow as you enter a building or the ubiquitous gesture of someone either taking or offering something with both hands, Japanese society focuses on holding others in respect. As our founder David experienced, the average person on the street was more than willing to help in any way they could from pointing you in the right direction to even walking with you to where you need to go if you lost your way. While this politeness may not extend to fostering enduring personal connections, it will go a long way in making your experience in Japan more comfortable.
Orderly and On-Time: Unbelievable Efficiency of Public Transportation
Japan is known for having one of the most efficient and far-reaching systems of public transportation in the world. For a rugged archipelago that’s home to over 120 million people and land that’s 80% covered in mountains, it’s fairly easy to get from place to place. Between cities, the country is very well connected with trains, roads, flights, and ferries. All forms of public transportation in Japan are known for being precisely on-time, and train operators often provide refunds and apologies even if the train is one minute early or late.
All major islands in Japan are connected by the Shinkansen which can reach speeds of up to 320km/h (200mph) on their routes. Slower trains are used for smaller cities and towns, having a network of over 27,100km (16,800mi). Nine of Japan’s largest cities have extensive subway systems. Roads are always in great shape whether they’re a back alley in Tokyo, a major expressway in Osaka, or a tiny farm road in Kyushu. Air travel in Japan is cheap and frequent, with over 60 million passengers traveling from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to domestic destinations in 2019 alone.
Clean and Safe: Pristine Streets and Low Crime
As one travels around the country, they may notice that the city streets and rural roadsides of Japan are strikingly devoid of trash. This is due to a strong sense of public responsibility for the vast majority of citizens. Waste management is efficient and widespread, ensuring that trash pickup is largely concealed from public view. In Tokyo, for instance, there is a distinct lack of public trash cans. Instead, everyone carries their trash to their home, office, or their next destination.
According to official statistics, the occurrence of crime in Japan is exceptionally lower than most countries in the developed world. Countries with similar crime rates include Singapore and Luxembourg. The homicide rate in the United States, for instance, is nearly twenty times that of Japan. Germany’s rate is three times higher than Japan’s. The streets of major cities are known for being safe through all hours of the night, with very few exceptions.
Natural Paradise: The Limitless Amount of Outdoor Activities
6 Reasons Why Expats Find Japan a Wonderful Place to Live – The bounty of nature of the Japanese archipelago is one of the most memorable characteristics of the country. The cities are incredibly densely populated and much of the available flat land is used for agriculture, making up around forty per cent of the islands. The remaining sixty per cent of Japan is dense forests and mountains, ranging from glacial influences in the north to jungles in the south.
Many parks in urban areas help make the cities much more livable for residents and attractive to visitors. For getting out of the city, there are 31 National Parks of Japan and 56 Quasi-National Parks. The 31 National Parks alone make up 5.7% of Japan’s total land area and are spread throughout the country, ensuring that every major city is near to at least one of these beautiful parks. The hot springs around Japan are legendary for relaxing while taking in the scenic natural vistas. Even certain species of Macaques are known to enjoy warm water. Hokkaido is known for its outstanding skiing and snowboarding in winter and the Okinawa island chain has excellent beaches and scuba diving.
Comfortable Living: An Outstanding Quality of Life
As one of the most developed countries in the world, Japan has a great quality of life across the country. Ranking second in Asia, only after Singapore, in the Human Development Index and nineteenth in the entire world, Japan has proven itself to be a great place to live and work. The average salary in Japan as of 2021 was over $44,000, placing it right within the average of the European Union as a whole. For doing business, Japan also ranks high, placing sixth on the World Competitiveness Report in the most recent edition.
Japan’s two largest cities, Tokyo and Osaka, both rank in the top 10 of The Economist’s Most Livable Cities of 2021. They are joined by other cities in Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland. This ranking may be surprising, considering that Tokyo has the largest metro area in the world with 37.4 million people. Osaka’s conglomerate metro area is not far behind either, with 19.3 million.
Planning and More Planning: Expert Advice for Moving to Japan
No matter how much someone is versed in the Japanese language and culture, the cultural differences between Japan and other countries are simply too big to overcome without some prior research and assistance. Trying to go it alone may cause some frustrating circumstances that could otherwise be avoided or lead to feelings of cultural isolation that are common with such a move.
With our team’s personal experience in living and working in Japan, we have the expertise necessary to help you plan your move to this enchanting archipelago or another country. Our various consulting services include International Job Search, Timeline Planning, and 1-on-1 Coaching. We look forward to working with you!