Life Abroad
10 min

Pros and Cons of Living and Studying in Japan

In 2018, I entered the master's program in International Economic and Business Law at Kyushu University in Fukuoka.

Now I am studying for my doctoral degree and working on my dissertation titled "International legal and territorial mechanism with Japan as an example".

In this article, I will talk about the pros and cons of living in Japan that will help you decide whether to move here for work or study.

What’s Good About Living and Studying in Japan

Rich and interesting culture. Japan is a country with a vivid history, diverse climate, breathtaking nature, innovative cities, and numerous tourist attractions.

Japan boasts a desert (Tottori prefecture), its own Bali (Okinawa prefecture), active volcanoes (Kagoshima prefecture), hot springs, delicious food thanks to advanced agricultural technology, waterfalls, underwater rocks, beautiful golden autumn during the Momiji season, ski resorts, and even a snow festival in Sapporo.

Japan is so diverse and beautiful that a lifetime is not enough to see it.

High environmental consciousness. The Japanese take good care of nature, scrupulously observe the recycling regulations, and are disinclined to keep public places clean.

Legislation on recycling and emissions by large industries is very strict. Since the consumption is very high too, recycling requires a lot of effort.

Comfort and technologies. You can pay your bills using the QR code in an app or do it in any all-nighter nearby.

When entering a city hall, you immediately find brochures in English. Any institution has signs and pictures to help you navigate.

There is no problem with public toilets — everything is organized at the utmost level. The restrooms are free and clean. Besides, it’s not like only public places have restrooms: you can also find them in the most remote towns, villages, and even forests.

Safety. In Japan, you can go to a store at night wearing your pajamas and nothing will happen to you.

If you lose your wallet, you’ll find it in the same place where you left it. The same goes for your phone and other stuff.

In small towns, there are special communities you can join so that in case of emergency, elementary school kids can run into your house and ask for help. These houses usually have a yellow flag with the police phone number on it.

Relatively affordable education and scholarship programs. All public universities have the same tuition fee of about 550,000 yen per year. If you show good academic performance and are actively engaged in some social activities, you can apply for tuition reductions or get local scholarships that will cover some of the living costs.

Besides, you can work part-time. International students are allowed to work up to 28 hours a week at a rate of 1,000 yen (650 rubles) per hour, thus earning about 100,000 yen (65,000 rubles) per month. If you have savings, a scholarship, and a job, you’ll be able to afford a pretty comfortable life.

Facilitating international students’ adjustment. When a student gets enrolled into a Japanese university and comes to the country for the first time, they are picked up at the airport (that was the case for me) and get an English-speaking student for the initial period to help with the bureaucracy and daily errands, such as opening a bank account and buying a SIM card, renting an apartment, doing your first shopping, etc. You also get detailed guidelines on what to do and where to go. Plus, every university has an international department, where they are really willing to help you figure out every little thing to make you feel comfortable.

What’s Not So Good About Living and Studying in Japan

The Japanese are pretty reserved. In most cases, they seem reserved simply because they don’t speak English very well. Being afraid to be misunderstood, ridiculed, or find themselves in an awkward situation makes them reluctant to talk. I guess anyone in their position would act the same way.

However, just like everywhere else, things are gradually changing. In this respect, young people are very forward-looking. Many are seeking to improve their foreign language skills, visit other countries, and make friends abroad.

Making friends with the Japanese will indeed be a little more difficult than with the Russians, for example. However, just like in any relationship, you need to invest time, spend it together, and look for common hobbies. Actually, people in Japan are big fans of partying hard.

Tokyo is an expensive city. You need at least 200,000 yen per month to live comfortably in Tokyo. Rent starts at 50,000 yen. For that amount, you will live somewhere on the outskirts, and commuting will take hours.

Groceries are a little more expensive than in other cities, but shopping at small local markets will save you money. Lunch at a restaurant costs an average of 1,000 to 1,500 yen.

In any other city, you can rent a decent apartment for 40,000 - 50,000 yen. I live in Fukuoka, the capital of the southern island of Kyushu. I spend around 30,000 yen a month on groceries. Lunch at a restaurant costs 700-1000 yen. You can get udon or ramen for approximately 300-500 yen.

You can save a lot on transportation if you use a card. This way, you will spend about 10,000 - 15,000 yen per month. Taxes (VAT, property, insurance) cost an average of 15,000-20,000 yen.

Natural hazards. Japan is a very active seismic area and is frequently affected by earthquakes, floods, and typhoons. You have to be prepared for occasional shaking. When a typhoon, glass windows and roofs can be blown away.

Exotic food. There are very few groats here. The most popular type of meat is pork while beef is not so common. Fruits and berries are really expensive. Those who are used to eating these foods may find it hard to live here.

Finding clothes to fit. It is difficult for people who are tall and have large feet to find clothes that fit here because everything is designed for the average Japanese who are 5-5.7 feet tall. You will hardly find anything if you’re just a little bit taller. The same applies to the buildings. Ceilings are low, apartments are small, and hallways are narrow, so you may have trouble finding an apartment that “fits” too.

Renting an apartment without speaking Japanese is a challenge. The Japanese are not very fond of renting apartments to foreigners. I believe this is because many of them neglect Japanese rules and traditions, which the Japanese find extremely annoying. In the end, they get the impression that all foreigners are the same, which results in discrimination against people from abroad when it comes to renting.

By Dinara Garaeva