Why I don’t want to stay in Japan long-term
※ This article discusses the question Do I want to stay longterm in Japan?.
In my experience, if you study abroad, very soon you will be posed the following question: "Do you want to stay there forever? Do you want to live there?". It is an obvious question. Living there for a short-term means getting to know the culture better. The next step is staying there longterm. But what is my personal stance towards staying in Japan?
I asked myself this question very soon. In fact, after 3 weeks of staying I was able to answer the Yes/No question definitely. Over the time, I was able to specify the main reasons. I want to present them now:
I had to learn that this is a quite prominent difference between Northern America and Europe on the one side and the rest of the world on the other side. Especially in Asia, gender equality is not given and mostly not desired by the majority of the people. A friend of mine from the Republic of Cambodia described it with "I guess that’s how it works in Asia". Is Japan sexist? Yes, I think so. The kawaii-culture emphasizes that women must look cute. The working-late culture prevents that men participate in family life. Politics is conservative and a high percentage of men think women don’t need proper education, because it’s not necessary for child bearing and maintaining a household. At the same time, I have met wonderful and brilliant women with high potential but low ranks here in Japan. japantimes recently put it this way: To empower women, Japan’s cultural mindset must be changed. Martina recently taught me about an article by thedailybeast: Does Japan Ever Convict Men for Rape?. One quote is very interesting, I think:
The council also noted, shockingly (for Japan) that male victims of rape should also be acknowledged, because under current law only women can be victims of rape.
If this statement holds true, I think there is no doubt that there is a huge gap between the rights of men and women. In the Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum, Japan performs very bad. Austria, by the way, performs better; but not great either. And because this is discussed controversially, I have make a disclaimer: Yes, it is about both genders. Not about one of them.
I think there are people who know better about this than students, but Japan has a problem with overworking in businesses. Because dedication and loyalty towards your boos is such a big deal, overworking is problem. Since Matsuri Takahashi’s suicide, Abe’s administration acknowledges the problem and began to introduce legisation to prevent karoshi, death by overwork. Karoshi, to the best of my understanding, is a result of employees giving their best for the company rejecting social and family life at the same time. This leads to depression and potentially to suicide. Japan has a different culture towards suicide than Western countries, but considering the government’s actions, I think we cannot deny overworking is an acknowledged problem in Japan.
- Environmental issues
If you visit a supermarket, you get plenty of plastics. Everything is wrapped in plastics and every customer gets a bunch of plastic shopping bags, when leaving. Japan keeps overfishing the seas and whaling, even though international resolutions exist condemning these actions. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster itself is a huge mess. I acknowledge that the size of the tsunami was difficult to predict. But if Japan keeps leaking nuclear waste to the sea, 6 years later, I think it is safe to say that solving the environmental issues is not a top priority.
My answer is "No" and these are the three major reasons, why I personally decided not to live in Japan for the majority of my life. This is not a complete list of issues, I have with Japan. But I think it provides 3 arguments, which are reasonable and justified. You can, of course, declare these topics as cultural difference. "Japanese people look different at these issues", "are these issues really so important?", "aren’t you sure, these will be solved soon and won’t affect you in a long-term?". But if you go into a supermarket and behave differently than Japanese people, you begin to feel "different" and not integrated in society in the long term. Hence, I have a problem with these issues in the country and don’t see a bright future. And that’s why I don’t want to stay in Japan long-term.