Life in Japan

About Leaving or Staying in Japan

It’s probably safe to assume that if you’re reading this, you’re interested in Japan. Maybe you even love this country of the rising sun.
So, now you wonder how would anyone who managed to come and live here want to ever leave again?

Well, I’m sure that anyone who has lived in Japan for a certain amount of time has had similar thoughts. I mean, it’s only natural, isn’t it?

Leaving or Staying in Japan

Living in Japan Forever?!

Think about it. Most of us didn’t come to Japan with the intention of living here forever, right?
And even those of us who did, might have changed their mind after living in Japan for several years.
There are several reasons to change your mind anyway.


My Personal Thoughts

I can only speak for myself here, but I assume that others might have similar feelings and thoughts.

I first came to Japan with the intention of only staying one year. After all, I only managed to obtain the “working holiday visa” which is valid for just a year. (Well, the German one is anyway.)
I had nothing to lose. I went on a short 3-weeks’ vacation and noticed that it’s not enough to explore Japan.
That’s when I decided to give it a try and live in Japan for a year.
If I would run out of money before the year is over, I’d just go back to my home country, Germany. Nothing to lose, a lot to win.

When that one year was over, it was crystal clear to me: This one year wasn’t enough!
There were still so many places I wanted to visit, still so many things to learn and explore.
Also, my interests had gradually changed after moving to Japan.

I obtained a “real work visa” and stayed for another year. And another. And then yet another.
Not that I’ve never thought about it before, but after all those years I finally began to seriously think about my future.
Do I want to stay in Japan forever?
If not, then how much longer?
Aren’t 4 years enough?
Wouldn’t it be difficult to find a job back home if I stay in Japan for too long?

I couldn’t make up my mind. I still felt that leaving Japan would be too early.
All I did was leaving my job and my old city to move to a different part of Japan … to explore … to learn even more!
Fast forward, 7 years and counting I’ve been living in Japan now.

Leaving or Staying in Japan


The longer you stay, the more difficult it is to leave.

A lot of people leave when their JET contract is over … or when their “adventure year after graduation” is over.
But for those of us who’ve been here for quite some time it’s getting more and more difficult.

Life back home has moved on without us. We’re not “part of the picture” anymore.
Maybe without us realizing it, our personalities have changed quite a bit, too.
At least I notice this every single time I visit my home country. We do behave quite “Japanese” in the eyes of a Western country.
We’re not doing it on purpose. We can slip back into our “old self”, but not completely. It’s awkward.

Thus, we wonder if we’re still “able to” live a proper life back home or if it’s “already too late”?
Do we even want to?


Why One Would Consider Leaving Japan

Even now, I still think that I don’t want to live in Japan forever.
At least not unless I get married and have my own family here. Other than that I just can’t see how … or why.
Yes, I love Japan. I’ve travelled to all 47 prefectures more than just once.
I’ve explored and learned so many things, but there’s always more to do and see.

BUT there are many other things to consider and I’m sure others have had similar thoughts.
For example, even if you have your own family here, but even more if you don’t, you’ll always stay an outsider. You’ll always be considered a foreigner.
You’ll never fit in completely.

While possible, it’s a lot harder to find real friends and a “real relationship” here in Japan. It takes some time to learn who’s really interested in you and not just in your “foreignness”.

Unless you put a LOT of effort into it, you’ll always struggle with the language especially when it comes to important things such as contracts, hospitals, bills etc.

Personally, if I can’t manage to have my own family here, I can only see myself as an old, sick grandmother who’s being treated nicely but yet is isolated as the “eternal foreigner“. That doesn’t sound like a desirable future to me at all.
At least, most of us still have family and friends back home. ;)

There might be a lot of other reasons why you wouldn’t want to stay in Japan forever, but I guess that really depends on the individual.
There are many things to consider such as career, family, friends, taxes, crime, natural disasters …. it’s really not an easy decision.
And for most of us, our home countries are quite different from Japan in many aspects: climate, culture, people’s mindset etc.

Leaving or Staying in Japan

Eventually nobody else can tell you what to do.
And after all, it’s not like you could never come back to Japan. ;)

What are your thoughts on this?

I think it would be very beneficial for others to read about YOUR story!
Are you currently living in Japan and thinking about moving back home or at least leaving Japan?
Have you previously lived in Japan? Did you move home?
Do you have any regrets?

Feel free to discuss and ask away!~emoticon


  • Hi Jasmine,

    I ran across your blog while looking for other people experience of leaving Japan.I came here 5 years back assuming that I would work for few years to develop my engineering skills.Have lived here I realized that being a foreigner employee in Japan is altogether a very different scenario for Japanese companies.Also,I think for foreigners it can be impossible/challenging to have progressive career or skills developments at Japanese companies.Meanwhile,I had applied for skilled worker program in Canada and got permanent residence status there actually without moving there.Now time has come for me to decide whether to permanently move to Canada or continue living in Japan with adjustment(most of which i have now used to with)…It is such a daunting task and anxious task to decide whether to continue living here or relocate to my home country India or Canada.
    I have made some pros and cons and would appreciate if you can share your experience.


    2.Incredibly clean
    3.Kind people at-least in society
    4.excellent service.
    5.Plenty of stable job opportunities for bilingual though no real careers
    6.Quality of goods are services are best..

    If you get used to life in other countries then do you really think above matters?


    1. Differential treatment
    2. No matter how much u live here it will be hard to be integrated at work and in society(off-course you can develop your own circle)
    3.Difficult to have feeling of belonging to this place if you don’t have a local partner/family
    4.Difficulty for your foreign partner and kid to live and settle.
    5.Buying house can be a challenge

    I think except for the fact that you don’t have assimilation issues in multi-racial country like
    Canada,Japan has more pros.

    There is a part of me which does not want me to disconnect myself Japan and there is other which makes feel that I will be able to have balanced work-life and can have more comfortable life for family and parents in Canada. Off course,relocating without any job in hand will be a big struggle.

    If you dont mind can you share your experience why you decided to leave Japan?
    How did you deal with decision making and blues of departing?

    Sorry for long post.


    • Hi manish,

      It’s a difficult decision to make. It was very tough for me as well.
      To be honest, I couldn’t make up my mind in the end and that’s exactly WHY I left.
      I thought just listing pros and cons wouldn’t help. I needed to step out of my comfort zone and just try.
      Once I left Japan, I could experience how life elsewhere truly is – even if it was my home country.
      And that really helps making the final decision.

      I’ve never been to Canada, but from all I know it sounds like a great country to live in! Much better than Germany, that’s for sure.
      And I guess, much better than India as well?
      Why not take that chance?
      You can always go back to Japan if you don’t like your life in Canada.
      But you will never truly know until you try.

      I’m not very content with my current life in Germany, but I don’t regret my decision of leaving Japan.
      It was certainly a necessary step.

      You can read in my recent posts about how I’m feeling after being away from Japan for 2 years now.
      Also, I wrote about my reasons for leaving Japan here. :)

  • I’ve went to Japan last month and it’s a very nice country! But I’ve only been there for just one week, so I’ll definitely go back there someday when I have the chance again! I have plans of living there in Japan permanently once I have graduated college here and worked here for a few months / years… but I have to learn and master using chopsticks and other advanced Japanese / Nihongo since I’m not good at it yet! The Japanese are really friendly people too! I’ve made friends with some Japanese students on a school I’ve visited before in Funabashi! I think they’re even more friendly than those people in my country… Sometimes, I wish I was born a Japanese because I’m not really proud of my country due to what is happening here nowadays… but oh well! Japan is just awesome! I want to try going to Germany too! :D

    • Really? I’m actually glad I wasn’t born in Japan and I think I wouldn’t want to be Japanese. :)
      I don’t know where you’re from, but I hope you get to live in Japan if that’s what you really want.

      I’m not sure if Germany is worth visiting, but if you do, I hope you’ll like it there. ^_^

  • Exactly in same shoes as the writer.I love Japan and its a fantastic place.But living entire life here a outsider is not a pleasing idea at all.

  • I stumbled on this blog tonight in a desperate attempt to answer a question I have been asking myself…why did I leave Japan. I lived there for 15 years with my husband. We had three of our four children there. They all attended Japanese elementary school. I was on the PTA, part of Kodomokai, one of the Judo moms at the police station for 7 years and an active community member. I paid my dues to the Yochien four times over, made more obento than I can count and cheered my children year after year at undokai. I was up with the sun to hang out the laundry and made sure it was taken in by 4pm. Shouji repairs were my specialty, I had the token tiny garden and kept my stoop swept. Every New Year the mochi was pounded, the house scoured and the trip to the temple was made. Not to boast. It all just gets lost in translation because none of that means anything to the average American who has never lived that life before. As a gaijin housewife and mother in Japan there were many challenges and hurdles. You hit the nail on the head with your reasons for wanting to leave. I identify with them. Yet, I still find my identity in my life there and all the accomplishments that I did. It’s so hard to explain that aspect to anyone. Few people I speak with have any concept of the energy, time, determination and strength it took to succeed and thrive and to also help my children thrive there too. Again, not looking for a pat on the back. But rather venting that after leaving Japan, I don’t know how to relate to people here who just don’t get it. And I feel like my identity has been lost in the move back to my home country. I was this amazing mother who could do it all over there…and here? Well, my family and I have been back here for 11 months now. It’s been so hard to adjust and I miss life there terribly. Most of all, I miss who I was and how I viewed myself. In the end, I just want to say that I appreciate this blog. It gave me a place to connect with others who experienced or are experiencing the same feelings. So thank you!

    • I’m so sorry to hear that!
      But I’m glad there are other people out there who’re feeling the same and get what I’m talking about.

      Thank you so much for honestly sharing your experience and feelings.

      All the best to you and your family! :)

  • old post I know. I am leaving …I think after 23 years. recently divorced. never found fulltime employment here, always did gig work, genba jobs, acting modeling, photo gigs, stay-at-home dad. I could never stand the depressing environment in the Japanese workplace and don’t make enough money to live the life I would need to live here tolerable. The constant stops by the police, few true Japanese friends, ageism, a social world that almost always involves drinking, always being asked the same questions and being praised for child-like skills as if you just got off the boat, not being able to ever do things your own way without the criticism openly and/ or nebulous disapproval of others, basically having to conform, rules, Japanese being obsessed with 2 things- garbage and laundry., if you have time to travel you don’t have money. If I was wealthy here that would be one thing but if you are not, you are existing and conbini life gets boring. If I had a choice I would live here part of the year. I have been here so long it is part of my fabric but after my divorce and having to compromise so much of who I am, I have to escape….long time livers here often feel this way.

    The thought of being a misunderstood, depressed, old man going to a job and speaking Japanese all day, teaching English, or trying to continuously stitch together gigs without any financial stability, is not appealing to me…In short, Japan has worn me out.

      • I know the feeling. But I feel stuck between safety here and high crime in other countries. I never wanted to teach English but now they are not even offering me jobs because of my age. The cost of living seems to be high all over the world. Drinking I find boring.

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