Living in or traveling to Japan: which one is for you?

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In recent years, general interest for traveling to Japan has been growing steadily. And more and more people are considering moving there in the medium or long term. But visiting Japan for two weeks or living there for ten years will be experiences that will surely offer you two opposing visions of this multifaceted country.

Let’s look into those differences together and what you can expect if you venture into the Land of the Rising Sun!

Traveling to Japan

I think that coming as a tourist to Japan is guaranteed to leave you speechless! That’s because Japan is always enchanting, whether you visit once or several times. Cleanliness, politeness, and organization are certainly the Japanese qualities that most foreign visitors notice from the get-go. Let’s not forget of course the various cultural sites that you can visit. As a tourist, you will be considered an esteemed guest, who should be treated with utmost courtesy. The hospitality of the Japanese (お持て成し, omotenashi) is renowned throughout the world and you are sure to find Japanese people very kind and welcoming.

Read more (in French): Should you visit Japan on your own or with a tourist guide?

Working Holiday Visa, internships, student or cultural visa… For those wishing to develop a personal project in the land of the rising sun, there are now many options available in the medium term. Staying in Japan for several months is an excellent way to get an idea of what daily life in Japan is like.

Japanese outdoors onsen Traveling to Japan

Settling for the long term

Once settled in Japan, it’s time to get serious! Because living and traveling to Japan are two very different experiences. The image you will have of the country and its people changes little by little.

Living in Japan for the long term will inevitably lead you to discover new aspects of Japan. Integrate and develop your social life, work, and even start a family. It is also often after a few months that you become aware of the true cost of living there.

Read more (in French): The REAL cost of living in Japan

The experience of picking up your visa at the immigration office, for example, is always stressful. But it is an incredible relief once you get your own visa!

Whether you are expatriated or come to Japan with your own personal project, living in Japan for several years will in any case leave an indelible mark on your personality and change your way of seeing things. That’s because Japanese culture is complex and often very subtle. Japanese traditions are the opposite of our Western traditions and the impenetrability of this culture requires a certain amount of time to adapt. This is mainly due to the fact that the locals are very protective of their privacy.

Needless to say that speaking Japanese will obviously help you integrate more easily. It is an important step in the integration process and will make your daily life much easier.

Meeting people in Japanese bar Living or Traveling to Japan

The attitude of the Japanese

The attitude of Japanese people towards you will also change. You have to understand that even today it is still rather rare to see foreigners, especially Westerners, settling in the country on a long-term basis. The locals are therefore always very curious to meet you and will often ask you the same questions, like “What made you travel to Japan?” and “How long are you going to stay in Japan?” You may feel like a broken record at first, but once they understand that you are no longer a rookie, you will be treated like a veteran!

Read more (in French): The truth about immigration to Japan

Expectations VS Reality

It is important to assess one’s own expectations and, above all, to have a realistic idea of Japan and its people.

The main drawback to settling in the archipelago is that few people actually settle here in the long term. The positive point is that the number of foreigners traveling to Japan through various projects is growing every year.

Of course, I would advise you to come here and experience it for yourself. And also to find out beforehand what the reality of living in Japan is like. Being aware and well-informed is the best way to prepare efficiently for a long-term trip.

As far as I’m concerned, it hasn’t been easy to adapt to Japanese habits and traditions every day. Like everyone else, I’ve had my ups and downs and it was only once I had internalized the basic social rules that I was able to start appreciating life in Japan. Sometimes you have to compromise on your convictions, your way of thinking, and sometimes the food you used to eat at home.

Japanese countryside Living or Traveling to Japan


What we can take away from all this is that Japan is a country that requires a certain mindset and a good amount of preparation for those who want to spend part of their life there. Some people will prefer to enjoy the wonders of Japan on a trip. Others will never want to leave Japan after landing!

What about you? Which side do you fall under?

Living or Traveling to Japan kids school in Japan

Article and testimony written by Emmanuel.

His blog (in French) MyCrazyJapan: “an informative and humorous website about Japan”

All his videos on his Youtube channel.

Follow him: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

For many other articles and testimonials about Japan, visit our Go! Go! Nihon blog!

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