Living in Japan

“A true hawk hides its talons”

Expat City Guides




As you might imagine, many non-Japanese seeking employment find work as English teachers. See Teaching English in Japan for more details. If you have absolutely no desire to go down this route, there are other options, even if your Japanese ability is low or nonexistent. Consider IT positions in Tokyo; if you have a science or engineering degree, look into technical proofreading jobs; seasonal jobs are available for ski resorts in Hokkaido and beach resorts on Okinawa; although it takes a lot of effort, there is still a call for foreign models and actors, especially outside of Tokyo (not that many willing to travel).



Knowing your rights


Final Reflections on Two Years in Japan

Additional Reading

  • Handbook for Immigrants to Japan, Arudou Debito and Akira Higuchi

  • The Blue-Eyed Salaryman, Niall Murtagh

    …Soon we have group of foreign companies and universities who want to join our project – IBM France, Cambridge University, the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart, and some Finnish, Swiss and North American companies. We didn’t get Siemens and Philips after all, and we just didn’t click with that Finnish outfit, Nokia, who think they’ll succeed in the communications business. Fat chance they’ll have against the big boys like us in Mitsubishi.

  • Fear and Trembling, Amelie Nothomb

    Anyone else in my situation would have quit. But not if they were Japanese. Fubuki thought she had found a way of forcing me to resign, and hence lose face. Cleaning bathrooms was not deemed honorable in the eyes of the Japanese, but it was less dishonorable than losing face.

  • The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan, Alan Booth

    …the woman at the ryokan door stood twisting her apron about in her fists.

    “Are there any rooms free?” I asked with an encouraging smile.

    “Well, yes, there are, but we haven’t got any beds. We sleep on mattresses on the floor.”

    “Yes, I know,” I said. “I’ve lived in Japan for seven years.”

    “And you won’t be able to eat the food.”

    “Why, what’s the matter with it?”

    “It’s fish.”

    “I like fish.”

    “But it’s raw fish.”

    “Look, I’ve lived in Japan for seven years. My wife’s Japanese. I like raw fish.”

    “But I don’t think we’ve got any knives or forks.”


    “And you can’t use chopsticks.”

    “Of course I can. I’ve lived in Japan for…”

    “But it’s a tatami-mat room and there aren’t any armchairs.”


    “And there’s no shower in the bathroom. It’s an o-furo.”

    “I use chopsticks at home. I sit on tatami. I eat raw fish. I use an o-furo. I’ve lived in Japan for seven years. That’s nearly a quarter of my life. My wife…”

    “Yes,” moaned the woman, “but we can’t speak English.”

    “I don’t suppose that will bother us,” I sighed. “We’ve been speaking Japanese for the last five minutes.”

  • Geisha of Gion, Mineko Iwasaki

  • The Story of Sushi, Trevor Corson

    The word omakase means ‘I leave it up to you.’ It’s what the sophisticated customer says to the chef when settling down at the sushi bar. Sushi connoisseurs seldom order off a menu. Traditionally, sushi bars in Japan didn’t even have menus. Omakase is an invitation to the chef – not just to serve what he thinks are the freshest ingredients of the day but also to show off his skills. And for any serious sushi chef, that includes cooking.

  • Dogs and Demons, Alex Kerr

    …Japan has become arguably the world’s ugliest country. To readers who know Japan from tourist brochures that feature Kyoto’s temples and Mount Fuji, that may seem a surprising, even preposterous assumption. But those who live or travel here see the reality: the native forest cover has been clear-cut and replaced by industrial cedar, rivers are dammed and the seashore lined with cement, hills have been leveled to provide gravel fill for bays and harbors, mountains are honeycombed with destructive and useless roads, and rural villages have been submerged in a sea of industrial waste.

    Similar observations can be made about many other modern nations, of course. But what is happening in Japan far surpasses anything attempted in the rest of the world. We are seeing something genuinely different here. The nation prospers, but the mountains and rivers are in mortal danger, and in their fate lies a story – one that heretofore has been almost entirely passed over by the foreign media.

  • Bar Flower, Lea Jacobson

    “At clubs like this I can unload my problems, and then absorb the youthful energy of the young women who listen to me. It’s another process of exchange, you see?”

    “I see,” I said.

    After seeing the Professor out, I couldn’t help wondering whether this process of “exchange” he spoke of was part of the reason why I was feeling so tired lately. After all, each night I was carrying the burdens of several men-children upon my back. Then, in exchange, they stole my energy. Or more accurately, they were buying it in a perfectly legal arrangement.

  • You Gotta Have Wa, Robert Whiting

    Many Japanese were horrified to hear this. To them, pregame practice was as much a part of playing baseball as the game itself. To some people, it was more important. A good hard workout every day was considered imperative in order to show the fans, the press, and the opposition that the team was full of fight and ready to play ball. Besides, constant practice was a must if you really wanted to become good. The more you worked the better you got. Everyone knew that.

  • Lost Japan, Alex Kerr

    Japan… with its social patterns designed to cocoon everyone and everything from harsh reality, is a much more comfortable country to live in. Well-established rhythms and politenesses shield you from most unpleasantness. Japan can be a kind of ‘lotus land’, where one floats blissfully away on the placid surface of things… it has become the land of social stasis, and the foreigners drawn to Japan tend to be those who find comfort in this.

  • Looking for the Lost, Alan Booth
  • I trampled out of picturesque Ogimachi unable to make up my mind for certain whether Japan’s signposted fossil culture disappointed and infuriated me or whether I should simply be grateful that the Noh and gasshozukuri villages had not vanished altogether. Was it better for an art to die and be decently buried or to die and be pickled in formaldehyde? The latter was definitely more profitable, I thought; the bin-zasara sold to tourists cost as much as five large dinners.

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