5 Great Things About Japan
Last week, my friend *Lisa mentioned that my blog posts about Japan sounded really sad. I lived in Shibuya for a brief period(almost three years) around 8 years ago. This was a pivotal time in my life as it was the first time I left my family home, I had a stressful life in the entertainment industry and I still had some emotional development needed. But — I don’t want those factors to cloud how I feel about Japan, so here are key reasons why it’s a great country!
1. Elevated Aestheticism
Japan is to design what America is to burgers. There’s a theory that both France and Japan value aesthetics (and art) because they are older cultures. Juvenile cultures like America or other newer societies don’t put much value on aesthetics.
Tokyo itself is not an architecturally beautiful city compared to somewhere like San Francisco. Kyoto would be a good comparison to San Francisco because of its older, beautiful architecture and limits on building tall buildings.
Yet Tokyo’s “ugliness” doesn’t stop the city and it’s people from taking pride in their surroundings.
This elevated aestheticism also bleeds over into general day-to-day fashion. Yes, Japanese beauty standards are pretty harsh. When I lived in Tokyo, I quickly got laser hair removal and fillers at the wee age of 19 because it was so normalized. It sucks. With that said, it’s nice being a society where people take pride in their physical appearance. I don’t expect people to dress in a way that I personally like but what I like is that most people make an effort to dress in a way that empowers them.
While living cramped in a mega city of almost 29 million people is intimidating it also offers plenty of room for growth. Even if you don’t like Tokyo, smaller cities such as Osaka or Kyoto are still on the larger size when it comes to population. This density allows for a sense of togetherness, even if you don’t have many friends. Both Tokyo and Osaka are filled with tiny neighborhood bars—some with a mere four seats. These serve as community centers where you can come for drinks and conversation with other regulars.
Beyond bars, this density allows for communities to be born and accessible services. Why is it that in Osaka, Japan it was quicker(and easier) for me to get a hair appointment than in San Francisco? I’m a Black woman which makes this question even more interesting. The answer is — the sheer density that major Japanese cities allow for also allow citizens to create & consume services at an efficient rate.
This density also allows for housing to be affordable. The average rent for a large-ish 2bedroom apartment in Tokyo is ¥181,996 ($1,657 USD). The average monthly household income is ¥730,000($5,558). For a small studio apartment in Tokyo the average rent is a mere ¥70,000($638). The average individual income is roughly ¥515,000($4,680). Tokyo is affordable for the average person. When compared to somewhere like San Francisco or New York, where rent for a studio apartment starts around $2,500 Tokyo seems like a great option.
Beyond Tokyo, in places like Osaka rent is sometimes halved.
3. High Standard of living
Despite what you’ve probably heard, Japan isn’t really that expensive. The standard of living is also incredibly high. Especially outside of Tokyo. When I first mentioned moving to Japan, many of my relatives were concerned with the high cost. My Nana mentioned an friend of hers who went to Japan on a business trip and paid $8 USD for a Big Mac. An important thing to note is that this was the 1980’s, the height of Japanese inflation. This is also why so many people have the perception of Japan being an expensive country. In reality, Japan has the highest standard of living for any industrialized country I’ve ever visited. Canada is close to this. For reference, I’ve been to pretty much every country in Northern / Western Europe, the US, Canada and Japan.
Japan’s constitution actually promises citizens a UBI. Although most people don’t utilize this, it is totally a thing. Yes, there’s homeless in Japan. But most average people don’t have to worry about healthcare costs or housing. This already places it far higher than most industrialized places.
For neurodivergent people, somewhere like Tokyo may seem like hell. It’s loud, people never say what they mean and there’s way too many rules. In reality — the convenience and predictability of most things in Japan make it ideal.
Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. This speaks volumes due to it’s large population of roughly 130 million people. As a woman, I can attest that some elements of its safety are overstated. I’ve had numerous friends deal with less than ideal to downright scary situations with police not doing more than sighing at them.
With that said, I feel incredibly safe in Japan.
Would I ever move back to Japan?
When I left in 2017, I had over three years left on my newly granted visa. I’m sure if I had finished school there I could’ve found a job in a corporate setting. Yet I knew that the lifestyle I had there wasn’t sustainable. I made a lot of mistakes but overall I’m happy that I left when I did.
Now that I am privileged in a steady income and personal support, I think living in Japan would be far better than when I was younger.