The Pros and Cons of Living in Tokyo Japan

Have you recently relocated to Japan, or are you deciding on a big move and wondering whether this country will suit you? Well, we must say, we love this country with all its excitement and quirks, but like any foreign land, some things are a little challenging to get acclimated to. In our honest opinion, the hard stuff indeed is minor, and most Expats you meet here will tell you the same. Most of us Expats came to Japan with a 1-3 year plan but have kept extending it as long as possible. Of course, no country is perfect, and some things mayl irritate you, but you learn to accept it and see only the beauty.


So here is our compilation of Pros & Cons. Let’s start with the positives. No one wants to hear the bad news before the good news, am I right?!



Where else in the world is it….



Yes, we know every country has some crime, and Japan has its share, but it is incredibly safe most of the time. Japan is considered a low crime rate country.

Where else will you find school kids taking trains by themself to school each day?

Where else will you have lost your wallet with wads of cash in it only to be found where you left it without anything taken? 

Where else will you be able to leave your belongings as table holders without worrying?

There is no pocket theft, no guns (or stringent laws enforced), just a society that works together and places the needs of others above their own. WOW, now this is why Expats find it so hard to leave Japan!


As you walk the streets of downtown, you might notice there is NO LITTER! If you walk the streets of any other major city in the world, it leaves you feeling dirty. NOT TOKYO. The surprising thing is you won’t find a trash can anywhere! Everyone is responsible for their waste and carries it with them until they get home. Streets are clean, and buildings are being rebuilt, keeping up to earthquake and safety standards. Outward appearance is essential in Japan, and the city doesn’t fall short of keeping itself clean and presentable.


Oh, the seasons are utterly breathtaking, and Japan does an incredible job showcasing each season. From Cherry Blossom trees in Spring to Fall Foliage in Autumn, Snow Monkeys in the Winter, and even the unbearable HOT summers are made manageable with nearby beaches and frozen desserts and drinks. There are so many world heritage spots in Japan, and with a few hours’ bullet train ride away, you are surrounded by breathtaking views of waterfalls or world-class ski mountains. 


Japan is a very art-driven society and takes pride in its craft. Food has become that craft to so many, spending years of dedication and study to perfect their one thing. Whether it’s their piping hot bowl of pork broth ramen, the sizzling and perfect crunch to their tempura, or the art of sushi and sashimi, they have mastered it. You have a wide selection of some of the best, most divine, and healthiest foods in the world. 


Healthcare benefits in this country are exceptional. Need to call an Ambulance? No worries, it won’t cost a yen. Even a stay in the ICU is a fraction of what it would cost you in the States. Children’s doctor visits, dentist visits, and even surgeries are free under national healthcare until high school. Those needing constant medical check-ups can rest assured they won’t be in debt by getting the care they need.


Those are just a few of the stand-out things Japan has to offer, but there must be some downfall to any excellence, right? Well, yes, Japan also has its challenging parts, but is it really all that bad? We will let you be the judge on whether it is just a tiny bump in the road or a full-on U-turn. 


The Things We Wish Were Different…



It can be a huge hassle to find the right home. Tokyo’s rental properties are much smaller in size, unfurnished, and without built-in amenities such as dishwashers and ovens. Finding a place to rent as a `foreigner/gaikokujin` in Japan is near to impossible. When landlords often find out you are a `foreigner` (we prefer the term Expat but unfortunately, the term foreigners are what we are called here), and deny you the place solely based on that. THANKFULLY that is why we,, exist. We search and find the perfect apartment for you that is Expat friendly, better in size, although still small, and doesn’t judge you based on nationality. A side benefit to the smaller-sized apartments here is smaller-sized rental fees. For being such a massive city, the rental cost is affordable.


Although Japan has gotten much more International over the years, Tokyo is still predominantly Japanese, leaving you standing out as an Expat. You will become known as the `egojin`, the one who speaks English (even if you don’t) and known as someone who does things differently. THANKFULLY You slowly get used to it, and over time will find the other Expats in the city. Plus, Japan has come a long way, and with many of the younger generation traveling overseas, they have accepted and loved a more diverse Tokyo. There used to be a day where you couldn’t even find a good cup of coffee, now BIG named coffee places from all over the world have stores here. The future of Tokyo is becoming more globalized, and we are excited about it!


It will be a shock when you realize there is no true 9-5, well there is, on paper, but in reality, most employees cannot leave until the boss goes home. Long work hours, heavy loads of work, and unrealistic deadlines are standard here and play a defining part in its culture. Japanese people are very loyal and taught to honor and respect their elders. There is even a formal vocabulary for talking to someone older than you, called Keigo. It is rooted in their DNA to be hard workers, contributing to why Japan is so safe, clean, and does well globally. But, it can drive people to the ground when it comes to working. THANKFULLY there are now businesses out there who want to change that! You can find a `gaishkei’ (an overseas-owned company) such as an American company in Japan that operates with western-style business culture. Also, a few years back, the government finally acknowledged the overtime problem and has, by law, demanded companies reduce the amount of overtime.


We cannot change this one, but it makes it so painful to learn the language. Imagine walking the streets of somewhere such as Spain, you see a sign that says `el cafe,` and you can take a pretty good guess at what it means. Here you see pictures of lines and strokes, making it almost impossible to guess the meaning. You instantly have become illiterate in this country. Mix it with hiragana and katakana, and you now have three written languages you have to learn just to read a menu at a restaurant. THANKFULLY there are great translating apps you can download, and in the city, English is more present. Also, Japanese people are very generous and typically are more than happy to help you out!


We are warning you now, prepare yourself for needing loads of papers and documents when changing any little thing in your life. Moving, requiring a new visa, registering a bicycle, getting a driver’s license, having a child, changing jobs, going to the doctors, the list goes on. There is no such thing as being overly prepared in this country. After a decade of living here, you still find yourself forgetting or missing papers and get asked to come again with all the correct paperwork. THANKFULLY, well… to be honest, not much has changed in this area. But maybe we can be thankful that they are trying and have been a bit more forgiving than in past years. Or grateful that they now accept credit cards at most places instead of ‘paper’ money.

Well, there you have it, our list of Pros and Cons of living in Japan. As you can see, the pros surely outweigh the cons, and even though there are some more challenging things to accept, they aren’t unbearable. Yes, navigating through them might take some time to get used to, but that is why we are here. Not only does help you find a place to call home, but we go beyond that and want to support your life even after you have moved in. We are just a phone call away, so let us help you make this monumental move across the ocean. We think you won’t regret it!