Of course I am sure that a human being can get used to living anywhere, but it really is easy to get used to living in Japan. Of course it helps a lot to learn the language and I highly recommend working to do that before you come and after you arrive. But in general, Japan has become a very comfortable place to live for foreigners. Route maps at stations show both Japanese and English and the electronic signs announcing the next train switch between Japanese and English. On many trains such as the subway trains in Osaka, the stations are announced in English as well as Japanese.
But what is good about living and owning an English school in Japan? Well here are some things:
- Abundance of Convenient, Clean and On-time Public Transportation: After driving a car every day for 36 years, I have not had to drive a car for the past 14 months. It feels good and I am getting a lot of good exercise. (I lost 15 pounds and feel the best I have in 20 years!)
- Polite Customer Service
- No-charge Gift Wrapping
- Abundance of Convenient Stores: You can usually buy what you need in walking distance or a short bike ride!
- National Health Insurance: I have not had to call an insurance company to complain that they have not yet paid the bill once since I came to Japan. This was a perennial problem in the U.S.
- Tax is not too high: Of course the consumption tax which is now 5% may soon be raised but so far, it is very fair.
- Very nice and reasonably priced breakfast: most coffee shops have a “morning service” which provides an egg, bacon, a small salad and perfectly toasted toast for about 400 Yen. This includes a nice cup of good quality coffee or tea.
- DIY stores: recently the Japanese are getting into the do-it-yourself trend that started in the U.S. There are many stores that sell almost all that you need to do a home improvement or build something yourself. Some of those stores are: Coop Living, Konan and Tokyu Hands.
- A multitude of bakeries offering great baked goods such as cakes, pastries and pies.
- Great mega-stores for Electronics: Some of the biggest ones are Yodobashi Camera and Big Camera. They have multiple floors displaying all kinds of electronics. If you are into building your own PC, these stores have everything you need.
- Safety: Of course this is changing a little but, Japan is still a lot safer than the U.S. and most European countries.
- Excellent deli foods and complete meals. It makes it difficult to spend the time to prepare a meal. You have to buy too many different ingredients and in the end it is just much cheaper to buy the prepared meal at the supermarket, heat it up and eat it. But you can do it yourself too.
- Napkins that can easily be removed one at a time without touching the other napkins.
- Kind and courteous people: Although there is a small group of “Yankees” who like to imitate the worst behavior of American young people by being obnoxious and loud, most people are very kind and courteous and will make room for you to sit on the train or bus.
- Concern about appearance in Public: Nearly everyone tries to look good in public. Women wear makeup and dress well. Men also seem to try to look good.
- An abundance of bookstores. You can find almost any book you are looking for at KINOKUNIYA or JUNKUDO.
- Clean and comfortable theatres.
- Wonderful festivals all year round.
- Cherry blossoms in the Spring and bright red Japanese Maple (MOMIJI) leaves in the Autumn.
- TAKOYAKI and OKONOMIYAKI: Great Japanese snack foods that you have to experience for yourself to understand.
So I can assure you that living in Japan can be very very comfortable and enjoyable.
Al Bartle (Smith’s School of English – Okamoto)