10 Ways Living in Japan Changes You

Japanese umbrella

Living in Japan has had such a huge impact on my life for a number of reasons. Not only have I based my entire career around this country, but I’ve also questioned much of what I once thought to be true about what I wanted from traveling, and living abroad. Today I want to discuss how living in Japan has changed me.

From expectations about public transport to a sudden love for shopping and simple living, there are more than a few ways that living in Japan can change you as a person. Some of those may be for the better, some for the worse, but they’ll mostly end up being a selection of things you’ll forever associate with Japan and miss when you leave the country.

Here are the top 10 ways in which living in Japan has changed me, and how it might change you as well.

1. You’ll expect reliable public transport forever

Japanese fun train

Having previously lived in a small suburban town in the UK, I was lucky if my bus would turn up at all, let alone stick to its infrequent schedule of once per hour…

Here in Japan, things are completely different. No longer do I have to plan my outings based on public transport, but I have instead been able to explore more of Japan than I thought possible thanks to its reliability.

After a year of living this way, I’m honestly unsure how I’ll be able to cope with anything else. Living in Japan has changed my perception of what it means to have quick, reliable, and cheap transport wherever I want to go.

Plus, it’s also made me question why train companies don’t cover their trains in fun designs more often. I mean, who wouldn’t want to ride on this anpanman one?!

2. You’ll be far more interested in domestic travel

Japanese train station summer

Following on from the point above, reliable and cheap public transport has made me far more interested in domestic travel.

If getting halfway across the country is so easy (on my bank balance as well!) then there’s little reason for me not to do so. In turn, I’ve contributed far more to the Japanese economy through travel and tourism than I ever did in the UK.

Living in Japan has made me realize how common this opinion is with its citizens as well. You’ll find that domestic travel is incredibly popular, but getting a plane off to some other country isn’t done nearly as much.

3. You’ll become more self-aware

Japanese shop front sugamo

Living in Japan has made me become far more self-aware than I ever have been before. You start to realize very quickly that your actions don’t just affect you but have the potential to impact the community as a whole.

One of the most prominent examples of this is when you see how clean Japanese streets are. Despite the distinct lack of public trash cans, they stay incredibly clean.

It’s this mutual respect that, on the whole, everyone shows to one another that makes Japan one of the most pleasant countries to live in.

It’s worth mentioning that I’ve seen and heard about peer pressure and social pressure coming into this, and that’s not something I feel is needed, nor is it something I support. Unfortunately, a lot of people still feel obliged to go down that path.

4. You’ll value silence

Japanese temple peaceful sunlight

Another way you’ll notice that living in Japan has an effect on you is by how much you value silence. If you’ve just come to Japan for a holiday then you may not notice it, but after living here for a year, silence becomes a big part of your life.

The first way you’ll notice it is similar to the point above. Mutual respect for your fellow citizens shows itself in all forms, and one of the most notable is by keeping the noise level to a minimum.

I’ve been on trains at the height of rush hour, standing shoulder to shoulder, and I kid you not, it was complete silence on the train.

No screaming or shouting, just everyone silently browsing their phone, reading books, or asleep. It’s a very pleasant way to travel after a hard day’s work.

Of course, this can show itself in a somewhat worse form as well. I’ve heard stories of someone who was almost chucked out of their rented apartment because they were making too much noise.

And what was that noise? They were cutting an apple…

5. Cheap, Fast, and tasty food will be all you want

Japanese 7-Eleven

I honestly cannot count the number of times I’ve had midnight runs to 7-Eleven for jelly and/or ice cream. It’s the epitome of convenience, and it’s the way I want to live moving forward.

And what’s better? 95% of the food available to you in restaurants and konbinis is cheap, fast, and really flipping tasty.

I don’t have to wait hours for something to be prepared, and I don’t have to spend more than a few dollars for a really good meal. I can just pop into the closest place, order, eat, and be out within 15-20 minutes or less.

I’m not saying I want to do this all the time, but it’s great to have that option.

Just like public transport, this truly makes me want to go out for food and spend my money rather than complaining about it as I have done in other countries.

6. You’ll love shopping districts

nakano broadway

I rarely spend money when I don’t have to. Sometimes I treat myself to a couple of bits, but that’s very infrequently.

With the large amount of shopping malls and the shopping experience as a whole, I feel like I actually enjoy shopping now. I wouldn’t have dared to say that a year ago!

In fact, I would prefer to go out to the local town or city to buy something rather than order it from Amazon. If you’re not sure why online shopping has taken off in Japan yet, this is by far the biggest reason.

Unsure which travel camera you want? Head over to Yodobashi camera or BIC Camera and physically touch basically everything available on the market right now.

Interested in buying Japanese Pokemon cards? Head over to Akihabara, Ikebukuro, or Nakano Broadway and inspect their condition yourself.

7. Simple living will appeal to you

girl back in Kimono

One year after living in Japan, I still sleep on futons, sit on the floor to eat food, and get excited when seasonal festivals come about. Parks, trains, and simply buying the weekly shopping are all excellent experiences and they leave me wanting little, and generally feeling fulfilled.

I don’t have a lot, and I equally don’t want a lot. Living in Japan may change your materialistic views and make you realize how experiences are the most valuable way to spend your time and money.

…or perhaps you’ll go the other way, get really carried away by the amazing shopping experiences, and end up with more than you started with.

Either way, there’ll be some aspect of your life where you crave simplicity. For some, this may be by having quick access to Japan’s beautiful parks, and for others, it may be that the overt nature of Japan’s big cities has you craving a bit of peace and quiet that lands itself in the form of a full-on minimalism lifestyle.

8. You’ll value the deep connections you’ve made with friends

two people in japan in a kimono walking

One of the most impactful ways that Japan has changed me is how I view friendships. While I always valued close relationships, living in Japan has made that of paramount importance going forward in my life.

We’ve talked about it a little bit before, but making friends in Japan is sometimes a difficult process. I’m not talking about acquaintances that you get on with, I’m talking about really deep, impactful friendships that go further than the surface-level discussions.

It’s something I’ve failed to gain over the year I’ve lived in Japan, and so it’s made me all the more thankful for those friendships I already had. Is it something I want to persevere with in the future? Absolutely, but I know that it’s going to be far harder while living in Japan than I first thought.

9. Your confidence will skyrocket, or sink

Japanese summer festival dance night

Living in Japan will change your confidence.

Depending on your lifestyle and your willingness to integrate and change, that might be for the better or for the worse.

If you’re a natural introvert, moving to Japan lends itself extremely well to your personality and it could be quite possible to go the entire year without needing to properly talk to someone, especially if you live in Tokyo.

With restaurants and cafes catering to single diners, and the ability to use vending machine-style payment options (without seeing or speaking to another human), it’s not hard to see how easy it is to fall into a certain way of life.

If on the other hand, you’re naturally extroverted (or a willing introvert), you’ll have more than your fair share of opportunities to step out of your comfort zone and build your confidence. With more than a few events going on at any one time, there’s practically never an excuse not to be doing something.

10. You’ll wonder if you ever need to visit anywhere else

Traditional Japanese red umbrella

I LOVE to travel, and I’ve got a list of countries as long as my arm that I want to visit before I “settle down”. The problem is that living in Japan has changed how I feel about traveling.

It’s almost like I’m in some sort of bubble over here, a privileged bubble that I won’t have when I travel to other countries. Japan’s public transport is cheap, fast, and efficient, its food is convenient, and it’s also an extremely safe place to be – what other countries give me that?

Of course, there are countries that fit those criteria, but why travel to those places when I haven’t finished looking around Japan? In all seriousness, it probably won’t stop me from traveling to those places, but I wonder if I’ll be able to travel without comparing it to my time in Japan?

Wondering if moving to Japan is the right choice for you? Here’s a list of pros and cons of living in Japan, all of which I’ve experienced at one point or another!

Jonny Gleason

Jonny is the founder of A Day of Zen and has an unhealthy obsession with Japan. In 2022 he moved to Japan on a mission to give his audience the best possible information. He's helped over 300,000 plan their trip so far, and is eager to make that number much bigger!

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