The New Japanese Etiquette

Even ten years ago, the world seemed bigger. Japan still had a bit of that “Oriental” mystique, and visitors to its shores sent reports home of an exotic land populated by simple, if slightly daft, inhabitants:

“The Japanese are so friendly and polite!” (Actually, the folks who just gave you directions were Taiwanese tourists)

“Japan’s so safe and clean.” (Lots of countries are. Okay, maybe not the U.S.)

“The Japanese value harmony.” (Yeah, fear of authority will do that to people)

And visitors asked quaint, naive questions about cultural practices, such as:

“When and how should I bow?” (Not very often, and not very much)

“How should I eat sushi?” (Insert it in your mouth and chew)

“What’s a good gift for a Japanese host family?” (Buy a small, super-expensive cake from a Japanese department store, then take whatever horrible thing you carried from your home country and chuck it in the dumpster)

Minding Your Manners in Japan

Until now, I’d always maintained that visitors to Japan didn’t need some book on Japanese etiquette—oh my, you picked your nose with the wrong finger, how culturally insensitive—but instead could get by just observing others and using a modicum of common sense.

Apparently I was wrong.

I mean, well, Ken Seeroi’s never really wrong—simply overly magnanimous in this case. So that’s a good thing, right? Okay, let’s just say a bit mistaken, and leave it at that.

Because right now, there’s a tsunami overwhelming Japan’s shores, washing away all those minor niceties and subtleties of social conduct like so many matchstick houses. And I doubt there’s a seawall high enough to stop it.

The Unstoppable Wave of Screw Everybody Else

So maybe a month ago, I was in CoCo Ichibanya spooning down this massive breakfast of vegetable and grease curry. Nothing like a spice-level 4 to really chase away the blues. And by blues, I mean hangover, of course. Granted, the laminated menu and plastic pitcher of water on your table don’t exactly qualify CoCo Ichi as a fine-dining experience, but still they serve up a steaming plate of deliciousness that’ll make your heart stop, literally. I’d highly recommend it for anyone on a budget, suffering from anorexia, or training for the Tour de France. If you’ve got ten bucks and need a quick 2000 calories of saturated fat, it’s the place to go.

And at the counter was a young, black guy, sitting there eating curry.

I couldn’t believe it. None of the other customers could believe it either. The staff didn’t know what to do. Because he was eating and watching a video on his phone. And we were all listening to the same video. For some unfathomable reason, the guy wasn’t using earphones.

Honestly, I was stunned. Everyone in the place was looking at each other. I felt like, I don’t know, maybe I should say something? Like what’s the protocol here? White guy talks to black guy about etiquette of yellow guy? Or is it better for white guy to leave yellow guy to deal with black guy, and go back to eating brown guy food?

Finally, I just finished my carrots and potatoes and left. Ken Seeroi’s already got his hands full dealing with Japanese folks. I don’t need to add foreigners to the mix.

But two days later, it happened again.

Dining Out in Japan

I was in a rather fancy restaurant. Okay, I was on a date. Don’t tell my other girlfriends. We’d ordered a second bottle of pinot grigio and were eating this delightful fettuccine with langostinos in a garlic wine sauce, plus a black olive and anchovy pizza. And an arugula salad topped with avocado and ripe tomatoes. And an assorted cheese plate. And some salmon carapaccio with capers. She’s actually kind of a big girl, I guess. Healthy appetite and all. Hey, I don’t mind; Ken Seeroi’ll take anything. Whatever, that’s not the point.

So suddenly, in the middle of a mouthful of wine and fettuccine, the soft conversational buzz of the restaurant was torn to shreds by a blaring speaker. On the other side of the room, three middle-aged white women were huddled around a phone, guffawing at a video playing out loud like everyone else was invisible. I was like, Holy crap, when did this become okay?

The tide just keeps rising and rising. Next, a white guy in Starbucks, having a Skype conversation with his girlfriend, sans earphones. Who needs to hear this? And by the way, No, the two of you should not take a trip to Spain and put it on your credit cards. Jeez, save up already; it’s called delayed gratification. Google it. Apparently, the smart of the phone doesn’t rub off onto its user.

Then later, outside at Starbucks, a white woman sitting at a table, listening to music. Again, no earphones. Lady, I know your phone came with them, and you can hear music better if you use them, so why are you doing this? Not everybody freaking likes smooth jazz.

Japanese Etiquette, Indoors and Out

But okay, I figured I’d take some time out and go for a run down by the river. There, I can get away from the crowds and breathe some fresh air. Or at least new yellow particulates drifting over from China. Very relaxing, plus it burns off a bit of that curry and pizza. Running, that is, not the horrible yellow dust. And as I’m gliding along like a gazelle, suddenly I hear the sounds of a festival. And I’m like cool, because I love festivals, and plus then I’d be obliged to stop and have a beer. So that’s a win-win. But as the festival gets closer, it turns into a short blonde girl with the loudest phone in the universe strapped to her arm. Like a fit version of Radio Raheem in a jog bra.

So I’m trying to picture this. Before you go running, you’re like, Let’s see, what would make this exercise experience even better? Drinking some Gatorade? Nah, that’s not it. Putting on a fluorescent top and some Oakley’s? Well, that’s a good start but…I know! What if I attached a speaker that’s loud as fuck to my arm so everybody around me could enjoy my workout too? Yeah, that’d do the trick.

Tourists in Japan

Now, I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess these folks weren’t Japanese. And that’s great—Japan loves tourists. Bring us your Yankee dollars. I’m sure you’re from some wonderful if terribly cacophonous country. Hey, it’s all good. When I visit your house, I’ll be sure to pack a a bag of tin cans and a broom handle. But if you choose to travel in Japan, you might give a moment’s thought to the nation you’re visiting. Screw worrying about using chopsticks or how to take a bath. That’s minor stuff. If you don’t have enough common sense to realize you’re bothering the shit out of everyone within earshot, maybe you should go back to whatever barn you escaped from and sit on your hay bale until you can figure it out.

The Japanese Viewpoint

Then, a couple of weeks after we’d had dinner, I met my lady friend again. She didn’t seem to have lost much weight. But, in for a penny, in for a pound I always say, so I suggested we go round the corner to this quiet little bar for some snacks and cocktails.

It was a still night, and a light rain was falling as we walked under a row of trees with branches lit from below, and I asked her in Japanese, “Remember the other night?”

“At the restaurant?” she answered.

“Yeah, you know, with the three ladies, watching the video. Do you think I should’ve said something?”

“Maybe,” she said softly.

“Like, what would you say?”

And for the first time in a long time, she spoke English.

“I’d say,” she replied in a thick voice, “Bitches, turn off the phone and be quiet!”

I was like Whoa, somebody’s been listening to Tupac again. This definitely calls for a couple Hennessey shots.

“Yeah, I guess that’d suffice,” I said.

“Leave it to me,” she said.

So there you have it. I don’t know what the rules of etiquette are in whatever obnoxious place you come from, but here in Japan, you might want to try turning off your speakerphone. This is not a small woman you’re messing with, trust me.

100 Replies to “The New Japanese Etiquette”

  1. Loud speaking music imposed on others is becoming a global trend… maybe it’s the new way people use to express how they want to be perceived by others… I liked it better when they would just wear specific clothes to make sure everybody knew their affiliation to death metal, pokemon or whatever else…

    1. Yeah, it’s certainly not limited to Japan. The lines separating private and public space are being redrawn. Apparently, once you give everyone a boombox, you open up a whole new world.

  2. For all the build-up, I’ll admit I was expecting a little more than “lately minorities listen to music loudly,” especially given that I see Asians doing it too.

    The point about just using a little common sense is good, though.

    1. It wasn’t that long ago that everybody in Japan wore kimonos and drank green tea. When a few dudes showed up wearing blue jeans and drinking coffee, I’m sure nobody thought it was a big deal. Then McDonald’s, 7-Eleven, and Starbucks opened up, and no doubt they were just viewed as novelties. And today? Japan looks like L.A., only with fewer Asians.

      But okay, I digress. Back to the smartphone thing. Because it looks like if you build in a capability, people will use it. Put in music, and suddenly the entire population is walking around with earbuds. When phones became capable of taking decent photos, people started taking pictures of everything. And with the ability to upload pictures, suddenly millions of photos of everyone’s dinner turned up online. Now we’ve got powerful speakers in phones, and more and more they’re being used in public.

      It’s just funny, you know? Japanese folks make such a big deal about how to behave, and thousands of articles have been written about Japanese etiquette. Honestly, all of that’s obsolete. It’s not Japanese etiquette you have to worry about any more—it’s smartphone etiquette.

      1. Maybe it’s because the dang iPhone 7 doesn’t have a headphone jack. I think we can expect worse in the coming years.

  3. Big Japanese girlfriend listening 2pac, that’s a hell a combination you have there. But all in all, I guess tourists will always commit gaffe, of course they can use some common sense too. But, since we’re in the subject, in your good first days in Japan Ken, how much things outside of ” Japanese common sense” you did?

    1. Man, all kinds of stuff. You could read a hundred books on Japanese customs and etiquette and still you’d make a hundred blunders. You’ve just got to pay attention and really notice how others are acting.

      The single biggest mistake I see newcomers to Japan making is: Acting the way you want to. Doing what you want—rather than what everyone else is doing—will immediately cause your behavior to stand out.

      Here’s an example: I went to a rather formal dinner with 25 Japanese co-workers. We all got a menu. When the waiter came around, I ordered what I wanted. That’s what the menu’s for, right? Then all the Japanese people looked at each other, until finally the boss ordered something. Then 24 people all ordered the exact same thing. Now that’s a Japanese behavior.

      That aside, probably the most glaring social blunder I made was getting on the trains in Tokyo. When the train arrived, I just got on. That’s what the train’s for, right? I didn’t notice that people were lined up to the right and left of every train door, waiting in queues until most of the people getting off had done so. I just dove into the first opening I saw, completely oblivious of the lines. I don’t know how many days I did that for before I noticed the lines.

      Still, Japanese people make mistakes too—standing on the wrong side of the escalator, wearing the toilet slippers back to the table, eating on crowded trains…it’s only that, as someone who doesn’t look “Japanese,” you’ll be immediately branded as “one of those foreigners.”

      1. “I ordered what I wanted. … Then all the Japanese people looked at each other, until finally the boss ordered something. Then 24 people all ordered the exact same thing”

        He he. I’ve seen that film. 🙂

  4. I’d like to know where this kind of behaviour is acceptable. Unless everyone around have agreed that it’s ok, blasting audio on your phone should by definition fall four square in the category of things that disturb others. When strictly gauging the prevalence of blasting audio, living in Helsinki, however, personally can’t call this a common phenomenon, save for the occasional teen or foreign-language speaker on the commute. You’d expect more people to exploit the famous (likely imperfect) acquiescence of us Finns to “good” effect. My sampling could seriously use some more cafés and restaurants though, and more varied times of day. Guess I’ll just knock on some wood now.

    1. Same here, Ken Seeroi is implying that there are other places where obnoxiously disturbing others with your smartphone is acceptable behaviour. In my country too, you’d have to use earphones and someone will call you out on it if you aren’t.

  5. See? That was one of the various culture shocks I got after returning back home.
    Since when was it okay to be so loud on trains, listening to music and videos on your phone without earphones …. and since when is it okay to just enter a train, play your fu**ing instrument, annoy all the people and then demand money from them because they were just so lucky to be allowed to listen to your damn music? WTH? …..

    But as etiquette doesn’t exist in this country anymore, I wouldn’t even bother to say something.
    If I did, I’d probably be beaten up and kicked down the staris of the next station by some drunk teenagers for NO reason.

    So, I think, even if stuff like that SOMETIMES happens in Japan, I wouldn’t care about it at all.

    Comparing my previous life in Japan with what is going on here now, Japan seems like a fairy tale bubble where it’s already a crime to throw cotton pads at someone. 😉
    And I miss that! (Not the cotton pads … *g*)

    1. No doubt, Japan’s still better than a lot of places. Although “sometimes” has a way of becoming “all the time.” And given Japan’s propensity for following trends, I don’t see this as something likely to diminish in the future.

    2. “Since when was it okay to be so loud on trains, listening to music and videos on your phone without earphones”
      Children playing games on their phone with speakers turned up, and parents who don’t care. I hate them!
      One of the reasons why I prefer my car nowadays. Taking the train turns me into a bitter misanthrope. Almost.

  6. First things I noticed getting into Hong Kong’s airport from Japan: folks listening to music without headphones, bare feet on the chairs, unflushed toilets. Now we’re doing the same to them!?

    1. Yeah, maybe so. When I first moved here from the States, Japan felt like a more civilized country. And for the most part it still does, which is why it concerns me to see trends like this continuing.

      1. You need 6 consistent data points to indicate a trend Ken. Sorry it’s the inner nerd on me. I’ll just go back to what I was listening to. Where did I leave those Dr. Dre’s? Ah fuck it, no one will notice. Everyone loves Taylor Swift…..

        1. I literally don’t know who that is. Taylor who? You sure it’s a real name? Because it sounds a lot like “Flash Gordon.” Jeez, I left the States when Dre was still on the radio, and now I see videos of Snoop cooking with Martha Stewart. Your entire country’s gone mad, you know that? And I’m pretty sure we’ve now got the data points to prove it.

  7. First, I absolutely agree with you that people should consider their surroundings before letting the speakers be free, Ken. It’s smartphone smarts, eh? Tit for tat, though…If people want to be taken seriously when asking others to contain noise pollution (and I’m all for containing it!), then shouldn’t those same people be prepared to speak up at…say…sound truck noise? Even more so, smoking in a public place, a workplace or a restaurant? I’ve never played music on my smartphone in a restaurant, but now that I think of it – wouldn’t it be an (rather passive-aggressive, somewhat dick-ish) appropriate response to a group of middle-aged, I-can-smoke-here-and-you-can’t-stop-me types? At least I wouldn’t be having an impact on anyone’s health.

    1. Although I share your dislike of smoking, when we get to the point where we’re being passive-aggressive dicks just to get back at other people, well, we’ve just gone from one problem to two. If I thought playing loud music was going change a tobacco addict’s behavior, I’d try it, but it doesn’t seem very likely.

      Japanese sound pollution, on the other hand, is a whole different problem. It’s completely nonsensical. This country is so quiet and still much of the time. People speak in low tones, and playing a stereo in your apartment can result in a visit from the neighborhood association. And then, you walk into the supermarket and there’s a loop tape loudly playing “meat, meat, I love meat,” or you walk by the station and the sound trucks with their giant speakers are projecting their messages at incredible volumes, reverberating back off the surrounding buildings into a wall of noise. Not to mention the gangs of kids who ride around at night on motorbikes without mufflers. It’s a freaking weird country.

      1. Also, working in a typical open space office…
        I can’t stand Japanese clearing their throat loudly all the time! Probably a way to tell “Hey, I’m not feeling well but I still came to work, even I have 40 unspent holidays.”

  8. Awww man. Give it to me straighten Mister Seeroi sir – are the majority of these offenders my countrymen (Australian)?

    Love your articles my man.

    1. Not to worry. I’d say most were American. Chinese are probably second, although I didn’t cite them in the examples I mentioned. Where Australians really seem to shine is in walking down streets drinking beer. I’d say you’re still number one in that.

    2. I’ve encountered the odd bogan (ヤンキー?) playing music through phone speakers on the train, but it’s pretty rare. What’s not is a cacophony of Samsung whistle ringtones and iPhone ‘ding’ alerts on every journey. For all the talk of the efficiency of Japanese trains, the fact that everyone seems to obey the マナーモード rules is right up there when it comes to good things about their public transport system.

  9. I’m pretty sure I recently read an article about the return of boom boxes. I didn’t expect them to be so tiny. But yes, totally happening here in Europe as well.

  10. Coco Ichiban kicks my arse. I eat the spiciest curries, in fact my local Indian made a new category for me “super hot” and even the kitchen staff won’t touch it. But Coco Ichiban is different, I think it’s just tumeric and as much pepper as you want. A level 4 is a struggle for me.

    Speaking of my local Indian. I often listen to videos on my Android without headphones when I’m there. After 8, I’m the only customer and their “classic love songs” play-list is a crime against humanity.

    1. Hmmm…if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of…ah, nevermind.

      Yeah, a level-4 is just about right for me. Five and I start sweating from my hair. Although I’ve seen a dude eat a 6 like it was ice-cream.

  11. Just reminds me of the days before air conditioning in cars and people would have their windows open listening to music. Never bothered me.

    1. Somehow, that doesn’t bother me either. But maybe if I was sitting at a cafe and they parked in front for ten minutes, it would.

  12. That moment when the gaijin wishes the other gaijin would stop acting like… well, like gaijin. I know it so well.

    “And by the way, No, the two of you should not take a trip to Spain and put it on your credit cards. Jeez, save up already; it’s called delayed gratification. Google it. Apparently, the smart of the phone doesn’t rub off onto its user.”

    This is absolute gold!

    To be fair though, it is quite common among Japanese teenagers to play music on a loud-ass speaker phone as they ride bicycles in tandem around the neighborhood or gather outside konbinis. Also, they invented the Bosozoku.

    1. Heh, bosozoku. The Hell’s Angels of mopeds.

      The more disadvantaged they are, the more people want to feel significant.

  13. A propos of nothing and not to invalidate any of the comments above…

    It is hard for those who have not yet made the journey to Japan to understand the sudden communication isolation that those intrepid travellers (who haven’t studied Japanese) who make the journey to Japan suddenly find themselves in.

    For many newbies in Japan, written Japanese cannot easily be deciphered. Also, the little writing that exists in English letters in public Japanese is mostly brand names and slogans, so without useful meaning.This causes some stress for those people.

    Similarly, a newly-arrived foreigner in Japan trying to interact vocally with people, television and radio broadcasts around them is often trying to process a lot of what seem to be meaningless and stressful sounds. So more stress for the foreigner.

    In face of that, I can understand that some foreigners in Japan turn up the sound from their mobile device, either to create a comfort-wall around themselves of familiar sounds, or perhaps as a passive-aggressive barrier against the Japanese they hear around them.

    1. All of what you say about Japan being an overwhelmingly alien environment for newcomers is true. But earphones do a much better job of blocking that out. And maybe it’s just a matter of terminology, but I wouldn’t call playing a speakerphone passive-aggressive. I’d say it’s just being a dick. Guess that’s just a matter of semantics though.

      It might be instructive to consider how this behavior would be perceived elsewhere. I’m trying to picture a quiet restaurant in the U.S., where three Chinese guys show up and start playing Chinese music. Or a Mexican guy starts watching Telemundo out loud. Or a couple of Iranian women start watching an Iranian video.

      I kind of don’t think anybody’s gonna be okay with that. Japan’s the same.

      1. Apropo foreigners abroad and confusing signage, I learned Japanese at university and my first job after graduating was in… Hong Kong. Do’h! The first few weeks I would follow signs that appeared to say “railway station” and find I was at a tram stop.

  14. Hey Ken, big fan. You often mention having lots of girlfriends and stuff, but you always write as if you have no intentions on settling down. So I just have two questions:

    1) How do you structure your dating life? For me (in Yokohama), if I have a date come over, it really doesn’t take long for them to want to move in or make it a lot more serious. How do you handle that?

    2) Do you ever consider settling down with a Japanese woman (or any woman)?

    Thanks a lot man, keep on keepin’ on.

    1. Hey, thanks for the comment. Tough questions, really.

      So on #1…are you speaking Japanese or English? I find that by speaking only Japanese, it’s easier to leave things unsaid. Direct questions are less common in the language, and people seem okay with a higher degree of ambiguity. I’m certainly not trying to lie, but I also don’t want to create unnecessary problems.

      It’s also a matter of self-selection on the part of the women. If I say, “I can’t see you this weekend,” some ladies aren’t okay with that, and basically opt out of the relationship. I guess I just date women who aren’t super clingy.

      #2’s harder. It’s not easy to find one good Japanese woman. You know, I read a quote by Lucy Liu years ago—something to the effect of, “If I meet a guy and he’s really into ‘Asian’ things, I won’t go anywhere near him.” I feel the same way with the women here. Most of the gals who want me are interested because I’m white. They just want me because I’m beautiful, like—what’s the opposite of a porcelain doll?—a big, hairy white-guy doll? Well, whatever, that. I suspect women with large breasts know what I’m talking about.

      So I end up with a whole different group of women. More Japanese, less expressive, more controlling, less inclined to spend an evening discussing existentialism and more likely to debate the merits of chocolate cake versus strawberry.

      So it’s not that I want to date a lot of ladies, but rather I can’t find one who seems to fit the bill.

      Along the way though, I’ve come to realize the risks associated with being a man in Japan (and elsewhere too). Women say they want to settle down with a man who’s good-looking, charming, and wealthy. So yeah, right back at ya—if I can find those same qualities in a woman, bring it on. We call that Ken Seeroi’s retirement plan.

  15. Hey Ken! Longtime reader.

    This question isn’t really related to the article directly, though some themes were reflected, but something I’ve always been curious about as a person that works in technology and then goes home and tinkers with video games and computers all the time.

    Pretty much everything I’ve read seems to indicate that Japanese have a crazy work ethic and when they do have free time, it’s often spent sleeping or doing work around the house. So what has always perplexed me is why they have a video game industry? I’d of assumed it was to sell to Americans and to a lesser extent Europeans, but the existence of so many Japanese exclusive consoles and games seems to contradict this, something that has made me want to study Japanese for the sole purpose of playing the games that never get English ports, though any interest in moving there faded for me over a decade ago (and was dealt a further death kneel as soon as I found your site :p)

    I remember when I was in high school I had so many friends with dreams of moving to Japan to be closer to this stuff, something that I probably harbored myself at one point, but it seems like based on a lot of the stuff I’ve read from you, it probably wouldn’t of worked out the way they expected. The Famicom (Japanese NES for anyone not familiar) sold well enough it ended up over here, but who was playing it? Kids? I have a hard time imaging Japanese adults getting home from work and throwing on a video game and getting absorbed in it for a few hours like I’m doing at age 30.

    1. Thanks for commenting. Games are certainly popular in Japan.

      I don’t have a hard time imagining that at all. Perhaps your conception of Japan is a little off? Japanese people can be as lazy as anybody else. I can completely picture a salaryman coming home after a long day, tossing his clothes into a pile on the floor, microwaving a bowl of pasta, and sitting down to game into the early morning. He can relax while staying in his tiny apartment and having zero interpersonal contact. That seems very Japanese.

      Of course, I’m sure much of the gaming is done by children and teenagers. It goes without saying that they study a lot, but they still have free time. And what better way to avoid playing outside or meeting actual humans than by gaming?

      Actually, now that you mention it, I have a hard time picturing Westerners spending much time gaming. Guess I need to rethink that.

      1. Hello Ken,

        there are so many westeners gaming all the time that in Germany there are groups in hospitals specializing on treating gaming addiction – or perhaps you made a joke about westeners not gaming?

        1. No, I was being serious. I really have no idea of what’s going on outside of Japan, other than what Google News chooses to tell me.

          And what you’re saying—I mean, I believe you, but—it just seems incredible. For decades, people have been worried about being taken over by computers. And now apparently, we’ve made it happen of our own free will. Who knew we’d surrender ourselves so readily?

          1. Hello Ken,
            I have been thinking a lot about it since I wrote to you yesterday. I thought you might not be up to date with change in the societies outside Japan.
            I do not know about changes in Asia…

            I love the internet, I love computers, I even play pokemon go, but I have serious worries concerning internet security, people gaming, not looking around them or talking to each other, literally not looking outside the airplane window after landing in a new city because looking at the screen.
            I saw this in the USA for the first time two years ago and now I see it everywhere.

            There are many people in Germany who do not finish school or education because of gaming, it is in my line of work, so I know about this rising problem.

            It is normal, completely normal for young people to name gaming as their most important hobby, even for those who are not addicted or anything.

            I thought about Japan, and perhaps people in Japan are able to handle gaming better because of the strict work ethic: even if gaming after work, the Japanese would not skip work so easily or get to work late because of gaming??

            I do not know if we have surrendered to computers, but we have definitely bitten more than we can chew in my opinion. I am sure for example, one of the next big problem with atomic plants will be computer-related.

            They do not know what they are doing, so yes, perhaps you are right and we have surrendered:-).
            Many greetings,


    2. Hey Steve,

      I’m not sure if you’ll see this comment, but indeed, when I came to Japan and expected to get “closer” to the games I knew and loved as a kid, I was mostly disappointed, for several reasons:

      1) Most Japanese college students (my peers at the time) seem to not care much for video games, or it’s something that was in their distant past. You don’t see 20 year olds waiting with baited breath for the next Zelda or Final Fantasy release like many Americans do. Sure, those people exist, but it’s almost shameful to admit it among your friends, and it seems (to me) that many people choose to enjoy it privately rather than openly. Getting drunk and chasing girls are the only two acceptable hobbies for a typical Japanese guy in college.

      2) Conventions and other gaming events are not as fun or creative as they are in the west. Gaming seems to have a certain stigma in Japan, and people who attend conventions are overwhelmingly males of the same demographics. You don’t see quite the energy, passion, or creativity that you see in western cons. Japanese conventions feel even more “nerdy” and subculture-esque than western ones. (also a fair bit harder to make friends)

      3) Since Japanese people have way less free time than westerners, console games and MMORPGs are dying hard, and fast; instead, they are being replaced by crappy, mindless smartphone games that can be played anywhere, anytime (think Candy Crush). Grown Japanese salarymen are absolutely addicted to these games, and even major developers like Square Enix have admitted that moblie gaming competition is such a big issue that they’re not even sure how much longer traditional gaming will survive.

      Sorry to paint such a gloomy picture here, but I’ve lived in Japan for almost 4 years now, and trust me, if you want any kind of social aspect to your gaming experience, it’s much easier to get your fix by staying wherever you are now. Gaming culture in Japan seems past its glory days.

  16. …one more thought:

    Look at us.

    We have information on the internet, we communicate quickly between germany and Japan- and yet, the everyday changes in our respective societies we can not know or have a gut feeling about easily.

    I find this fascinating and I know it, so I travel to compensate a little, to know a little more, but many people think the world they see online is the real world. It is often said the world has become smaller because of computers, I do not really think so.

    Greetings to Japan:-)

  17. …and this is why I am so thankful for your blog, thank you for writing about the things you see, from the inside.

    Now I should stop thinking and writing:-)


  18. You are spot on. These people probably think they are serving as cultural ambassadors, spreading Western music across the world with their smart phones in Japan. Or at the very least that they are expressing themselves. I’m sorry to hear that this is happening in Japan as well. When I was a college student studying in the library, I would often hear students blaring their music or jabbering loudly into their smart phones while they record a Snapchat. It’s annoying here in the US where at least you have relatively more space to get away from them; I can’t imagine how much more annoying it is in Japan where there isn’t.

  19. i see by far more japanese people doing this than i see foreigners doing it…
    sure might be because i dont see many foreigners at all, but when i have to work at some more popular/touristy places i actually find that most foreigners go out of their way to be as calm and quiet as possible,except for the dudes under 30 and some early 20s girls, of course…
    but for speakers and such its like everywhere else, except for trains…

    1. I’ve seen some Japanese people doing the speakerphone thing, but it’s not that common in my experience. You sure your “Japanese” aren’t miscellaneous other Asian persons?

      1. pretty sure, yes… guess its just what young people do these days…
        what i also see (or better hear) quite often is people with the volume turned to 11, so that everybody else on the train can enjoy the latest jpop, or video game music, even though the peopleinquestion are wearing headphones…

  20. Ken,

    is there any way to contact you directly? Like an email adress?

    Anyway, here is a video from, in which two girls are explaining, why you should learn Japanese (in the first couple of minutes). One point I find interesting was them saying Japan has the 3rd largest economy in the world.


    1. My mom keeps asking the same thing. I mean, not about learning Japanese, but contacting me directly.

      I try to spend as little time online as possible. Doesn’t always work out so well, but still, I spend precious little time on email. So I try to do most of my correspondence through this site. Sorry about that, Mom.

      Deciding which a language to learn based upon economic size seems pretty specious to me. By that logic, why not Chinese or German (#2 and #4, economically)? It seems more reasonable to learn the language that will a) be of most use and b) not take the rest of your life. I don’t think Japanese is gonna rank too highly in either of those measures.

      Anybody who says Japanese is easy or won’t take you a really, really long time is peddling smoke. And trust me as someone who lives in Japan and speaks both languages, if you want a language that’s supremely useful here, you’re reading it right now.

    2. no real reason to learn japanese unless you are living in japan, or you got to deal with japanese customers/companies on a daily basis.
      but im more curious about why ken discourages everyone to move to japan, except for like two years and also discourages people to study japanese…
      i do get the humour, i do understand that things might be complicated (but i also think that there are enough other countries that dont get easy on you), but it often sounds like nobody is ever going to be happy in japan…

      1. Hi Gorden,

        Just my two cents, I’m guessing because he (like many of us) realize that life in Japan totally changes after the 1st year, aka the “honeymoon period.”

        And in my opinion, it’s not just coming to the realization that life in Japan is normal like it would be anywhere else in the world. No… it’s a very cold society over here, regardless of what the airlines and the Japanese themselves would have you believe.

        I don’t regret my decision to learn Japanese, but I’ll be damned if I continue to let it consume my life. That’s the thing about Japan… it will take over everything. You’ll go there thinking it’s just a short-term study abroad trip, then fast forward 6 years later, and you’re still there, now in a sexless marriage with a Japanese person and raising two “haafu” kids, with no prospects of moving back to your home country and most likely stuck in English teaching jobs. It works out for some people, but NO ONE sees it coming. Be careful about not compromising your true life goals should you choose to come here.

        1. I’d say that’s right. A year and a half is about enough for the honeymoon period to wear off. (Although I’ve met folks in international companies who’d been in Japan for years, yet knew absolutely nothing about the country or its people. But I digress.)

          One question that’s worth asking is: What do you dislike about the country you’re now in? Having grown up in the U.S., I can name 10 things I don’t like about it, lickety-split. Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the U.S.; I just understand some of the good and bad points, that’s all.

          Same thing with Japan. If you can’t immediately name 10 things you don’t like about this country—then you don’t know Japan. And after about a year and a half, assuming you don’t live in a Chinatown-like bubble, some of those things will likely start to dawn on you. Land of the rising sun, baby.

      2. I will also give my two cents, although I can’t answer for Ken. For every blog about the “harsher” side of living in Japan and learning Japanese, such as this one, there are other 10 blogs about how Japan is the magical land of manga and anime that everyone dreams about, how Japanese people are polite and considerate to everyone and “everything works” there, how Japanese women are the sexiest in the World and are exactly as in porn movies (not like the evil feminist women from ), and how you can learn Japanese in less than year using their method that costs less than US$ 200 and you will be completely “integrated” into Japanese society after that.

        So this blog doesn’t seem to be so much about “discouraging people” but rather, presenting an alternative point of view in a sea of unanimity. Of course there is a lot of sarcasm and exaggeration, but that’s what an entertaining blog should be about. I mean, when I need a neutral, balanced, boring source of information on something, I would read Wikipedia, the news, or try to get different opinions via talking to people or message boards. When I want to get myself entertained I read a blog.

    3. It is a quite silly argument I would say. Being the “3rd largest economy in the World” is pointless when you can’t leverage this fact on your advantage. Because most of the time, when companies need someone to do business with the Japanese, they hire a Japanese person, not a foreigner who speaks Japanese. If they hire a non-Japanese, it is probably because the person has special skill other than speaking Japanese, and it might be tricky for a person to develop any “special skill” when she spends almost all her free time learning Japanese.

      In other words, if a person already has a special skill, let’s say she is an exceptionally good architect, fashion designer, financial analyst, or software engineer, then perhaps that person will find additional opportunities learning Japanese. But if that is not the case, and she is expecting that learning Japanese will somehow “open doors” for her just because Japan has a “big economy”, then she will likely be disappointed. Because at best that person will become a translator, tour guide, or a receptionist at the nearby Japanese cultural association.

      1. i also think that is obvious… without any skill you cant expect much… on the other hand i met enough people who dont have any skill, no degree and dont speak japanese and are still able to manage… of course the jpartner cares for most…
        i also got one acquaintance who whis got a job outside any language related job, just because he learned japanese…

        1. I don’t disagree, but the point being discussed is whether the fact that Japan has “the 3rd largest economy in World” makes Japanese a language specially worthy to learn.

          In every country in the World, including those which are not the second, third, or even 10th largest economy in the World, there are expats who found success in many different ways.

  21. sure, i do understand those points, but i think that is obviously and i also think people shouldnt rule out the sexless marriage and teaching english (i dont see whats so bad about that, though) and whatnot…

    i also get the humour and even though my experiences in japan are very different from what most describe (in a nutshell, personal relations/housing/discrimination have never been a problem for me here, on the other hand i didnt date once and jobwise its also always a struggle…), i usually absolutely agree with seroi senseis point of view…

    but still i feel many comments come across as “leave after a year or two” and “please dont study japanese”… and i just wonder why, since for seroi sensei its all fine…

    thats also no personal offense, i enjoy that blog as everybody else!

  22. Yeah, “for seroi sensei it’s all fine”. He has married Japan.

    He accepts Japan as it is, faults and all, and knows it’s more interesting for not being perfect. He enjoys the quirks and the challenges. He knows that he’ll usually be on the back foot in terms of implicit cultural knowledge, and that’s part of why we read him so avidly.

    We can be voyeurs to his faux pas. (What’s the translation of the Japanese term for that? I bet there are many metaphors for social derps.) He helps us learn how we’re being accidental dumbfucks. He helps us find the edges of our cultural assumptions and shows us another way to see the world. He knows that he’ll always be an outsider in some respects, yet maybe that outside view lets him understand Japan in a way that Japanese people cannot.

    He criticises Japan like an old man jokes about his wife. There is love there. Hurts, too. I’m a little late for Valentine’s, but consider this a late-night drunk-dial, Sensei. I can see sheet lightning on the black horizon, too far away to hear. Please write more soon.

  23. Nice post, and thanks for the many interesting insights. I think we may have been here for about the same length of time, which seems to imply some coincidence of outlook on the place.
    I wonder how much of what you’re noticing here is due to the exponential increase in foreigners the government has been working to bring in. I’m not sure exactly what methods they’re using ( there was ‘Cool Japan’ there for a while, which supposedly provided free plane tickets to a lot of gaijin after 3/11, but the data on this looks snuffed out) – but there is no doubt that the fires of exponential growth are stoked, rather than natural.
    Of course, it would probably be cheaper just to start subsidizing Japanese families to have more children, an alternative to shipping in counties worth of foreigners to fill the labor gap, which was created in the first place by lowering wages and forcing both parents into the workforce.
    Anyways thanks for the nice blog, this is as close to ‘fair and balanced’ coverage of JP as I’ve seen.

    1. That’s a good observation. The rise of the speakerphone menace correlates pretty well with the steady increase in foreign visitors.

      Ten years ago, Japan seemed like an insular place. These days, if you ask someone on the street for directions, you have to preface the question with “Do you speak Japanese?”

    2. Brian, you sound like a Japanese speaking (of course, assuming that you aren’t one). For a developed country, Japan has an “unnaturally low”, not “unnaturally high” number of long-term immigrants (I am not talking about “guest workers” and tourists).

      A lot is spoken about how “extremely low” is Japan’s birth rate, but in reality it is similar to the European Union’s average (and thus higher than Germany’s or Italy’s, for instance), and higher than the birth rate of other highly urbanised places in Asia such as South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. Subsidising families to have more children is not “cheap” as you say – the only countries that had some measure of success on that are Norway and Sweden, and likely you wouldn’t like to pay the amount of tax they pay.

      But even if the Japanese were willing to pay Scandinavian amounts of taxes in order to increase the birth rate and reduce the influx of foreigners, I would ask… what is the point of doing so? It is not like the Earth has an excess of natural resources and we urgently need more people to inject more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Of course, there is the Japanese perspective that foreigners will “destroy” the foundations of Japan, leading it to become a poor and crime-ridden country. But considering how Singapore has almost 50% of its population being foreigner-born, and beats Japan in almost every economic or social indicator, including safety, it is increasingly harder to believe so.

      1. @Demo Gorgon
        If indeed the EU birthrate is similar to Japan (a claim for which you have not provided evidence), this is hardly surprising, as the EU has been implementing American neoliberal austerity for decades. Japan is now falling into line with this model, with QE (=free cash for banks) and other measures designed to squeeze the common man.

        Hand waving about statistics and taxes, while name dropping a couple of random countries, has as much validity as me talking about average global temperatures by checking the thermometer in my living room. So I’ll safely dismiss your claim that incredible taxes are required to provide basic support for children and families.

        Where does that leave us ? Singapore ? I haven’t been there, but I have enough experience with benchmarks of national economic ‘health’ to know they have low correlation with the experience of people actually living in those countries.

        If you think it’s great to homogenize the planet, fine, but the point here is that this wouldn’t be necessary if the government had the foresight to support families decades ago, rather than squeezing every dime out of them until they couldn’t afford to raise a family, and then shipping in boatloads of foreigners to fill the hole of missing taxes they dug themselves.

        1. I recommend you then to go to Singapore and see it with your own eyes. There are social problems in Singapore like in everywhere else. But at least, there you will nowhere see piles of homeless people as in Shinjuku station during the night.

          In fact, I would recommend you to overall visit more places. The world is not only USA, Japan and poor countries.

            1. Very interesting.

              You first tell me to prove what I said using statistics… and then immediately follows by saying that you don’t believe in any numbers or statistics. Basically, you are telling me that whether facts I show you, you will say outright they are lies or conspiracies. So why the heck I would waste my time arguing with you?

              As for the Worldwide fertility statistics, they come from the World Bank website:


              Unfortunately, they don’t come from any of your favourite alt-news websites.

  24. I had a thought. Maybe you should take the idea of a Japanese Seinfeld to someone. As the gaijin you could be the Kramer.

    1. Honestly, I love the idea of being Kramer. There’s no one on Seinfeld I’d rather be. I just gotta work on the hair.

  25. Hey ken, I was wondering, what’s apartment hunting like in japan? I heard from a friend it’s a lot more complicated in japan, plus you have to pay a huge deposit.
    is the rent cheap for cities like osaka and tokyo?

    1. Everything you said is true. The rent is cheap. You can live in a clean, safe place in Tokyo for the equivalent of $800 a month, possibly less. It will be small and probably have a view of a neon sign. Still, I can’t imagine that price in New York or San Francisco. I’m sure Osaka is less, and if you live out in the suburbs of a decent-sized city, you could pay $500 and have a pretty livable place.

      Getting an apartment is a major ass pain. Your best bet is to go to a real estate agent with a Japanese person. That’s like taking a mechanic along when car shopping. Remember that real estate agents are salespeople, and if they can charge you some mystery fee, they will.

      No matter what, expect to pay a fairly huge deposit, probably somewhere in the range of $1000-$2000 (in yen equivalent). Some of that you may get back. Or possibly not.

  26. That’s so true! Just saw yesterday some foreigners watching freaking soccer game without headphones in a quiet cafe full of children in Daikanyama!! Had that Ken Seeroi moment of “Should I do something”?

  27. I’m an American living in Austria–a country where they have a strong sense of how to properly do everything and that rules, written or unwritten, are meant to be obeyed and not broken. And man has the cell phone really messed with the domestic tranquility. Locals talk loudly on them, listen to calls on speaker mode, watch videos w/out earphones, let the ringer blare instead of being on vibrate mode, all in public and close quarters. It’s both annoying and shocking.

  28. Dear Ken, I left for Russia from Germany in 2005 and since then have never been back to home. Over the last ten years I have only two or three times met foreigners here and this is the first time in all the years that I wright in English. In one of your aricles you mentioned the “What the hell am I doing here”-question, which also more frequently comes into my mind the longer I live here. Well Russia is not Japan. Personal safety, good food and convenience is nothing with what Russia could really attract. You wrote about the “japanese white gap” in your curriculum. The same to me. After receiving two univerity degrees I decided to shift down and am farming here for the last 8 years. This is also a “big black hole” within my curriculum. And same as you have spent a lot of energy learning Russian, exploring the country and people, buying land, flat etc. so that going back to Germany will practically be very difficult. You mentioned the “military like school” system. Ken, be glad not to know the Russian school system, which is even today almost 100% the Soviet like military propaganda education. My children in school are often called Nazi…Racism is a top topic also for Russia…

    I really enjoy your style of writing, thank your for that. For a long time have not read such interesting and lively articles. Your are a talented writer.. I wish you all the best. Cristian

  29. Hello Ken!
    I wasn’t really sure if I should write to you or not, but after reading all of your entries in one go last month (literally sat my butt from 8pm to 6 in the morning to complete all of it) – I felt as if I could share some of my views with you as well. It’s fine if you don’t feel like reading it because it’s going to be a long wall of text… sorry for that.

    It seems really odd to me that most of your entries appear to be very negative, but then again, maybe that’s just me being autistic and I’m not capable of grasping your humour at times? (though I surely do laugh a lot whenever I visit japaneseruleof7)

    I thought about that for a while and I don’t want to believe that there’s nothing else you like about Japan with the exception of food, because from everything I’ve read here that’s the only thing you consistently ”rank” as good in Japan.

    Still, I can’t help but feel this has mostly to do with your background. Perhaps it is as you said, if you had something nice going your way in your home country, before you went to Japan, you’ll always have that nagging feeling of ”what if I went back?” “I wouldn’t have to deal with X/Y back home” and so on and on, specially considering how ”exclusive” Japanese society can be.

    Moving on – I have not been to Japan but I was able to live for some time in many developed countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland etc). Just so you know, I’m from Brazil and have lived most of my life here.

    There were many things I disagreed with and didn’t like about those countries (and that certainly is/will be the case if I ever go to Japan) – however – there were many things I realized I’d never have in my home country.

    I don’t want to sound condescending, specially because I do not know what kind of problems you’ve been through during your life – but I do feel like the source of your “misery” in Japan is that maybe you have had it too good from the get go? I mean, seeing as you come from the USA, one of the world’s most prosperous countries, all of the possibilities that are open to you, an already high standard of living etc.

    As for me, I’ve had to deal with Brazil’s problems for more than 27 years now and it has worn me down quite a lot.
    Here are some of the things I’ve dealt with during my time here:

    Police gunning down people in front of me in broad daylight when I was a child
    Police corruption for the smallest things (asking for 4 bucks as to not issue a parking ticket *something the police has nothing to do with to begin with*)
    Police literally accepting a bribe of 200 bucks in front of my parents to let go of a drunk driver who ran me over when I was 6 years old
    Being shot at twice (even though the guy missed and hit the wall)
    Had my house broken into thrice (guns pointed at my parents’ faces and all of that fun stuff)
    Robbed four times in broad daylight at gun and ”knife”point
    Death threats at work (bartender – job involves cleaning puke, piss and literal shit while keeping a smile on because Brazilians can’t deal with criticism)
    All of my friends have at least two or three horror stories of violence
    Infrastructure is horrible, cities are incredibly dirty and punctuality is laughed at

    I guess you can see where I’m trying to go with this, right?
    As much as I read about Japan’s bad sides, I still love it, traditional Japanese culture is something I’ve always been fond of.. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been there?

    Most of the bad things you talk about I think I can deal with, because quite honestly, living where I am at the moment is an incredible ordeal of trying not to commit suicide and being drunk 24/7 to be able to function properly (hey, at least I work at a bar so booze is cheap). This sounds a bit like Japan right? Except, a bit more dirty, loud, violent and with taller people. Oh, and with bigger asses too.

    Anyway, I had one last question for you if you feel like answering, and I’d like you to be brutally honest with me (I’d expect nothing else from you)
    I have 2 paths I can choose in my life at the moment:

    1st one has me going to University in Norway and most likely being employed right away after graduation (childhood friend who lives there and can legally hook me up with a job) – Now, I’ve never been to Norway, but I know the pay is good, even though the cost of living is very high, and it’s a stable and safe country, which is basically more than enough for me. Oh, and Norwegian chicks are supposedly pretty, or so google images told me.

    2nd one has me going to Japan…
    which is not nearly as stable because:

    a)I’m 27 years old and would be going to a different career path (not sure how Japanese employers would view me being this old, the only thing I have going for me is that I can speak German, English and Portuguese)
    b)Only know one person there and it’s not a person I can rely on
    c)My Japanese consists at the moment of 300 Kanji, Genki 1 and anime speak.

    My Japan plan consisted of studying at a MEXT approved Japanese Language Institute for 2 years (you know, the long courses that prepare you for higher education in Japan), in order to improve my Japanese and get accustomed to the country – in case I don’t like it or can’t adapt I could always move back to my shithole, but what I expect is hopefully to be accept to a Vocational School or Uni at the end.

    Do you think I’m shooting myself in the foot here? Believe me, your opinion does matter to me.
    A simple yes/no would suffice.

    Anyway, I hope that wherever you are right now, you find yourself in happiness.
    Please keep writing, japaneseruleof7 has been a real eye opener for me – a place I can have some fun and forget about my problems for a while.
    Maybe if you ever find yourself in Brazil (not that I wish this nightmare upon you) I’ll buy you a beer!

    Thanks for everything Senpai!

    1. Wow, that’s a heavy question, especially considering it’s 7 a.m. here and I’m only half-way through a can of coffee. Let me give it some thought and get back to you.

      1. Of course Ken, I actually didn’t expect to see you replying in such short notice.
        Take your time and enjoy your coffee!

        1. Okay, let me try and write a post about this. But give me a few days—I’ve got plans this weekend. Cheers.

    2. My guess at reply –
      – Japan is a great place to visit, and is set up to welcome visitors !
      – If you can afford to pay your own way in Japan as a student, and have an out at the end, go for it!
      – You will love many things about Japan
      – There are a few things that will annoy you about Japan. (eg. did you say Brazilians dont like criticism?… )
      – The things that you love and the things that annoy you may be very different from the typical image of Japan promoted by Japanese. Ken’s writing is spot on, you can consider it as bible.
      – If you are making not just a plan for next few years but for rest of life, consider carefully whether you really want to invest part of your youth learning a language in a place that is not really set up at all to admit foreigners for long term.
      Good luck, and Cheers,

    3. I’ve been in Japan for 20 years and everything Ken writes is spot on. If you are still considering settling in Japan you need to re-read everything. The attraction to Japan is understandable, I fell for it too.

      Come here for a long vacation, you’ll have a great time. As Ken most articulately summed up once “Japan is a great country to be the customer, you just never want to be the server.”

      I suggest you check out the 2017 World Happiness Report. Here a a few of the relevant rankings.
      1. Norway (number fucking 1 man!)
      7. Canada
      14. USA
      22. Brazil
      51. Japan

      1. Leaving aside the inherent flaws with the Happiness Report, It’s too bad then that the more ”difficult” something seems, the more I’m attracted to it.
        Still, it doesn’t need to be a permanent thing. As I said, the language institute has a preparatory course that lasts for 2 years.

        That’s probably enough to get an idea if I really want to continue in Japan or not.

      2. I think the happiness report needs to be taken with not a grain of salt, but buckets of salt. Brazil at 22 and Japan at 51? Please. Brazil is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. For example, of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world, ranked by homicides per 100,000 population, a full 18 of these 50 cities are in Brazil. Not a single one of these 50 dangerous cities are in Japan. I believe happiness has as much to do with individual circumstances and attitude as it does with where you live. The rating on Japan includes stressed-out salarymen working 18 hour days and sleeping in capsule hotels 5 nights per week, as well as their relatively happy housewives who stay at home raising their children. It includes underpaid American English teachers living in six-tatami flats next to the railroad tracks, and retired ex-pats living on comfortable pensions and plump 401Ks. Privileged private acadamy kids and public school students with single working moms. Just to cite a few hypothetical examples. But then this is all in line with Ken’s astute observation that it’s great to be a customer in Japan. Server, eh, not so much. But hey, at least a server in Japan is unlikely to be bumped off in the crossfire of gang warfare.

    4. Felipe,

      I am also Brazilian, tudo bom?

      It’s difficult to answer your question because Norway and Japan are completely different countries. Your particular circumstances do not seem particularly favourable towards Japan. Personally, I wouldn’t sacrifice two of the most productive years of my career just to learn a language, especially when you are already fluent in two or more languages, unless your career goal is to become a professional translator or you really love Japan. If the latter seems to be the case, it’s understandable.

      Leaving that aside, I would compare Norway and Japan as follows:

      Norway’s pros:
      – Much better work-life balance and “family-friend” environment (e.g. 12-months paternal leave)
      – Overall better education and healthcare
      – Better environment in terms of greenery, cycling paths, etc.
      – Closer to Brazil
      – You speak German already so you can easily learn Norwegian. Almost all Norwegians speak English
      – Better perspectives of having a “normal” career (i.e. not in function of language or your “foreigness”)

      Japan’s pros:
      – Much more convenience (shops, supermarkets open everyday and until late. In Norway everything closes in the evening and on Sundays)
      – Incomparably better eating out options
      – Easier to make friends in the short term (Norwegians, unlike Brazilians, prefer to hang out with people they know for a long time than making new friends. Japanese aren’t perhaps that different but some of them have interest / curiosity about foreigners, or just want to practice their English)
      – Likely, dating would be easier. Japanese women are shorter, some are interested/curious about foreigners
      – Slightly more safe (I say slightly because there are some dangerous neighbourhoods in Norwegian cities, but you will hardly pop up on them by accident)

      1. Tudo bem e você?

        First of all, thank you very much for the pros and cons list!

        I really do love Japan.
        I’ve loved it ever since I was a kid and also love the language like no other – spending the time to learn it would make me happy, no language I ever studied has made me happy like Japanese did, I actually looked forward to studying it, unlike, say, English or German. But make no mistake, I’m no ”weaboo”, I’m well aware of the bad sides of Japan (specially after reading japaneseruleof7), I know firsthand that no country is perfect, having had the pleasure of living in Switzerland for example.

        Anyway, here’s the thing.
        Norway is just a country to me. I mean I actually like it, but not like Japan… Sure it is safe, has better work-life balance than Japan (much better from what I’ve researched) and probably has better salaries too from what I’ve read. But that’s about it. I like the Fjords and, well… their history, but that’s the extent of it.

        I don’t care much about being treated like 外国人 in Japan. It seems no different from Germany or Switzerland in some regards, e.g:
        “Oh, your german is very good! Where are you from? Brazil? How come you have white skin and light eyes?” – Just one of the many things I dealt with frequently there, it never really bothered me.

        Also, I work a dead-end job with somewhat long and horrible hours (usually from 7pm to 5am and I also work on Saturday/Sundays, though at different hours), so that’s something I’m used to – oh, and with the ”added bonus” of being a very dangerous place in Brazil.

        Dating is not something I’m specifically looking for, though I’d not reject a Japanese qt3.14.

        Sure Japan poses many difficulties in my way, but what is life if not a struggle?
        The way I feel (at least now) is that if I failed my goals there, at least I’d have tried them. I’m not really sure if I’m able to convey what I actually mean, but you get the gist of it right?

        1. As a Japanese-Brazilian I know very well the feeling of being treated as a foreigner, both when I lived in Europe and in my own country.

          In Japan, however, it is a bit more complicated. In the USA, Brazil or even Norway, being foreigner is just a characteristic, perhaps a major one but a characteristic nonetheless. I heard offensive jokes or comments a couple of times (like a colleague who started to imitate a “ninja” whenever I had to discuss something important with him), but most of the time, people were able to look past my “foreignness” when I give a presentation or in a business meeting, for instance.

          Japanese, on the other hand, see a foreigner person as a “foreigner” first and everything else second. They cannot easily “look past” someone’s “foreignness”. That’s because they believe that there is a “Japanese way” for everything – not just for work ethics and human relationships, but even more technical stuff such as planning a project, organising meetings or presenting new ideas. And they believe most foreigners are unable to fully accept or understand their way of thinking and doing things.

          I am not by any means saying you shouldn’t go to Japan or you can’t cope with these things (as Ken said, perhaps you made your mind already, and that’s fine). But you should be prepared not just be “treated as a foreigner” (which is expected when you are, well, a foreigner), but also to be rather frequently reminded of your “foreignness”.

  30. So, Seeroi-先生..

    An over-running impression of you (based on your blog posts) is that of a rather modest person.

    If you were to summarize the good and the bad aspects of Japan, what would they be?

    Also, how would you instruct your past self of e.g. the year 2002 with respect to all things Japan and Japanese?

    1. Thanks for the nice comments. I’m actually planning to write up a list of good and bad for a post in the very near future. With “very near” being in like a month.

      As for advice to my past self—wow. Maybe in some way that’s what this whole site’s about.

  31. I’d also like to thank you for your splendid blog that’s clearly been put a lot of effort into!


  32. > “I’d say,” she replied in a thick voice, “Bitches, turn off the phone and be quiet!”

    I think you’ve got a keeper there bro.

    Anyway, here in the states I’ve definitely noticed this idiodic trend in people having conversations on their cell phones, using the speaker function. While driving? Check. Walking down the sidewalk? Check. In the Target? Check. Restaurant? Check.

    It’s like they forgot how a _phone_ works.

    It isn’t even just young people or milennials either. I see everyone but boomers doing it (they alone seem to remember how phones are supposed to be used).

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