Recently I have been talking with a lot of the students at Smith’s School of English in Otsu about work-life balance. The discussion has ranged from the long hours many people work to total devotion to the workplace, to family commitments and personal pastimes. One interesting part of this discussion has been about new lifestyles that young people are creating for themselves.
Full time salary workers in Japan tend to work a lot more than their contemporaries in the U.S. or other western countries. However, recently a lot of young people have started looking for other forms of work, a trend that is only being encouraged by the low employment rate for fresh college graduates. More and more people are self employed, living and working on their own schedules, and a large number are moving to the countryside where the “half farming, half x” lifestyle has become very popular. Every weekend there are farmers markets and craft markets and local events where these new self employed youths gather to promote their small businesses, sell their wares and socialize.
This lifestyle is made all the more easy by the lower cost of living in the countryside here in Japan, where beautiful old Japanese farm houses can be rented for as little as US$100 equivalent a month, and the wonderful public health care system which is income based and made more affordable for the self employed. Also the shorter distances between the country and the city means that unlike in the U.S., for example, where a drive out into the country can take hours, remote mountain towns can be found here where the city is only a reasonable hour or so drive away and often has bus and train service.
In my humble opinion all of these things make Japan an ideal place for someone looking to enjoy the benefits of a rural lifestyle while not giving up all of the joys of city life. For me these facts, coupled with the ability to teach English, a high demand field over here, mean that possibilities abound.
Chris, Smith’s School of English Otsu