5 Reason to Live in Japan

After 15 years of living in this wonderful country, I sometimes take it for granted how many advantages there are to living here. And these advantages aren’t just tied into the city of Tokyo, where I have lived since 2012, but can also be found in many of the smaller, countryside cities. For what it is worth, my first 8 years I lived in Gunma prefecture, and while I was in the more suburban areas, I spent a large amount of time in the rural areas as well.

I greatly enjoy living in Japan, and I certainly think that everyone should come for a visit. Still, there are some perks that you really only notice once you start living here for a while. But, I’m also a bit of a contrarian, so I’m going to add how these things can be made a little better.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, 5 reasons you should live in Japan.

1. Health Insurance

This might not surprise you, especially once you remember I come from the USA. Healthcare here is much cheaper and straight forward. I’ve often visited the doctor either for myself or for my children, gotten checked out and received medicine and only had to pay a few thousand yen. (1000yen is roughly $10, so pretty cheap.) All the nightmare stories you hear about massive waits are scare tactics. Even here in Tokyo we’ve been able to get same day appointments even during holidays when necessary.

How it can be better:

As much as I love the health insurance here, some things do boggle my mind. Why isn’t preventative medicine covered for adults? Even for our kids, what vaccines get covered and which ones don’t remain a bit of a mystery, even being married to a nurse who is more familiar with the process. Also, and this is huge, pregnancy and childcare isn’t covered by insurance, but instead by an odd voucher system that varies by where you live. For a country that wants to encourage families to have more babies, that the brith process is so much more expensive than other procedures is kind of odd.

2. Rail Travel

I love being able to travel almost anywhere I need to go by train. This is super true in the larger cities, but still pretty accurate in much of Japan. Here in Tokyo I 100% do not need a car. And when I lived in Gunma I used a car for my first year, but soon found that for many places it what more convenient, and cheaper, to get around by train. Heck, even for just bopping around town it was better to just use a bicycle. Sure, there are plenty of areas where a car is still necessary, or even just useful, but you still can’t beat trains to get around most of Japan.

How it can be better:

I’ve mentioned on this here blog how “barrier free” as a concept can still be lacking, so that does deserve a mention here. Also, for a country that does love to push its curtesy and manners, the amount of people clogging up the priority seating on the trains and preventing those who actual meet the conditions of those seat is quite startling. Just figuring out a way to make those people, especially overly entitled acting salarymen, to be courteous and aware would be great.

3. Zero Tolerance for DUI

First off, its hard to think of a catchy, headliney way to write “not being able to drink any alcohol at all and still drive” but that is basically the rule here. Basically, if you plan to drive, you should’t even have a sip of alcohol. This may sound restrictive, but I think its pretty great. First, its just easy to remember. Eliminate the guesswork of how to calculate blood-alcohol count. Plus, another perk is that since the driver isn’t allowed alcohol at all, that means passengers can enjoy some drinks. Okay, that might not be a perk for the driver, but its still nice. And if you do drive somewhere and decide to have a drink, you can call a daiko service, which is basically a taxi that comes with two drivers. One to drive you and one to drive your car at roughly the same rate as a regular taxi.

How it can be better:

Hmmm. I’m trying to think. I’m generally good finding ways to improve things, but I really like this law.

4. Unsweetened Cold Beverages

I am a Southerner. That means that on some level I will always love a glass of southern style sweet tea. If you haven’t had a proper glass, then you must try it. Amazing stuff. Crap. now i want some. But, that isn’t the point. The point is the last few times I was visiting the States I found myself out and about and wanting to get something cold besides water to drink the only options available were all sweetened beverages. Even when tried to get teas and like everything was just overly sugary and sweet. Here in Japan I love having easy access to so many types of cold teas in a variety of flavors. Sure, there is also coffee, but my snobbery kicks in when it comes to coffee in a can.

How it can be better:

Okay, this is kind of splitting hairs, but the drinks are rarely cold enough for me. Especially in the summer. Sure, some vending machines come close, but many convenience stores just don’t chill drinks enough to be enjoyable. Another reason I tend to stick with tea. A room temperature tea can still be refreshing. Beer or soda at the same temperature does not make a tasty treat.

5. Arts Education

As I mentioned above, I’ve worked in education for a while now and one thing I had constantly noticed is the amount of time the students have for music and art education. Coming from the USA, I can’t help but feel that children here are given much more training in both the making and understanding of art and a lot of that had to do with how it is placed in the education system, even if there are of course parents who are able to provide extra. The baseline for what students receive seems to be so much higher than what I grew up with. While this is true for art, it might hold even truer when it comes to music. Some of you might wonder why this makes living in Japan better. Well, as a parent and just a guy that loves art, I certainly feel more art and expression always helps.

How it can be better:

This is coming mostly from my wife, who grew up in the Japanese educational system, but also from other friends. The main complaint I’ve heard is while the technical aspects of the education system were really strong, there can also be a great deal of pressure to sacrifice creativity for blending in. This is anecdotal, of course, but friends have told me that as they grew up the feeling from schools was often akin to “draw what you like, as long as it is one of the examples.” That said, the obvious improvement would be to allow more freedom of expression to really let a love of the arts flourish. And kudos to schools that are already taking those steps.

Wrap Up

There you have it. 5 areas where I think living in Japan is awesome, even if there is still some room for improvement. Just like anywhere.

Now, get ready for the flip side. Soon will come the 5 reasons why living in Japan gets old fast.

Until then.


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