Foreigners often have the impression that Japan is safe and secure, and that living in a well-ordered society would be easy. On the other hand, some foreigners perceive Japan to be inconvenient in a variety of ways because of the strict order and rules that they many need to follow.

Without a doubt, different cultural backgrounds will find an alternative culture to be very distinct and sometimes hard to adapt. However, given that Japan will continue to welcome international tourists, workers, and businesses in the future, it is critical for Japan to find what foreigners find inconvenient so that we may all live comfortably. Here in this article, we will introduce seven things that foreigners find inconvenient in their daily lives while residing in Japan.

  1. 7 Inconvenient Facts about Japan as Perceived by Foreigner Nationals
  2. Summary

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1. 7 Inconvenient Facts about Japan as Perceived by Foreigner Nationals

Let’s take a look at the seven inconvenient facts that foreigners find inconvenient in Japan.

(1) Language

It is the obvious answer amongst them all, but Japan really does lag behind in this area. Many foreign nationals come to Japan seeking some form of social correspondence with locals, only to find that most if not all Japanese do not speak other languages other than Japanese. This is troublesome for foreign nationals who may seek assistance in trying to locate a trendy ramen shop they found on youtube. That is not to say Japan isn’t educated in the English language. Younger generations are taught English in schools while older generations are paying for tutoring to help them shift to global business practices. The sad truth is that the average English level still remains poor. In a 2019 English proficiency survey conducted by EF Education First, an international language education company, Japan scored 53rd out of 100 countries, the lowest amongst developed countries, whereas South Korea, China, Singapore, Malaysia, and other asian pacific countries ranked in the top 50. Japan is placed 53rd out of 100 countries.

As a result, many foreign nationals have a hard time communicating with their fellow Japanese peers. It is also extremely difficult for foreign nationals to learn Japanese. The Japanese language is made up of three writing systems: hiragana, katakana, and kanji, making it incredibly confusing for non-native speakers to be able to both read and write. Furthermore, there are numerous regulations that are unique to the Japanese language, such as pronunciation, word order, honorific and humble language, and so on. As a result, both business and leisure travelers have a hard time overcoming this language barrier.

(2) Transferring Trains

Trains and subways in Japan’s metropolitan centers are very well planned, making them quite easy to manage from a traffic controller’s perspective. However, due to the increased population and demand for easier accessibility, many locomotive companies have continued to increase train lines creating a spiral maze for both train routes and train stations. Many foreign nationals struggle to understand which train line to take when trying to reach their destination.

For example, many of our readers have gotten lost in Shinjuku Station, Japan’s busiest station, or in Tokyo Station, a massive terminal in the center of Tokyo with bullet train lines. Even those who live in Tokyo find it difficult to grasp the different routes in train stations, but tourists find it even more intimidating.

While it is true that most stations now have English notations above and below the original Japanese text, tourists voice concerns that even if they can read the inscriptions, they do not fully understand due to the pronunciation. If you say the station’s name in Japanese to a tourist as you try to guide them, they may not be able to fully comprehend. Many tourists would pronounce the English characters differently, making it harder for them to reach their destination.

(3) Difficulty in Leasing a Property

It is possible to stay in a hotel for short-term stays, but for longer stays, you would most likely want to rent an apartment or condominium in Japan. Renting a property, on the other hand, can be significantly more complicated for foreign nationals as compared to a Japanese citizen.

For starters, foreign nationals are not permitted to reside in certain residences. This is due to the fact that if an emergency were to occur, they would most likely not be able to respond quickly. Another issue may be that if you are a foreign national, you will be thoroughly questioned about your origins and current financial situation. This is to ensure that you will be able to meet your rent payments.

As you can see, foreign nationals have a tough time finding housing. As a result, many expatriates find it extremely difficult to secure housing when relocating.

(4) Business Culture

In Japan, people rarely express their ideas directly, as is frequently the case with phrases like “kuki wo yomu” or (to read your surrounding vibes) and “oburato ni tsutsumu” or (to avoid sparking a conflict towards your audience by expressing indirectly and talking in a roundabout way). People in Japan rarely express their ideas directly, preferring to use ambiguous language and gather information by profiling the other person’s facial expression and attitude to deduce the other person’s genuine intentions.

Of course even for Japanese people this can be challenging, but it is believed to be far more difficult for non-Japanese people. Many foreigners have had the experience of being informed when they first started working for a company that they are free to express their opinion, and when they do, the people around them give them the cold shoulder.

From an outsider’s perspective, they have no idea what Japanese people are actually thinking because they simply do not express themselves clearly.

Japanese people, on the other hand, perceive foreigners who talk bluntly lack compassion and are uncooperative. They are seen as being defiant and impolite. Therefore, even though both sides wish to practice business smoothly, both often take extra precautions as the gears do not align, and it becomes difficult to establish a positive working relationship between the two.

Furthermore, in Japan, drinking and reception parties “nomikai” are typical ways that both businesswomen and men create relationships within their company and with business partners. Many foreigners who are unfamiliar with this off-the-clock business culture or way of thinking may struggle to find a healthy working relationship with their colleagues or clients. Drinking parties and corporate events can be an unpleasant diversion from one’s private life, especially for those who want to spend their time with family and friends.

(5) Religion

In Japan, people celebrate Christmas at the end of the year, and visit temples and shrines at the start of the year for Hatsumode (New Year’s visit) and other religious festivities. However, the vast majority participating in these events are not exactly religious believers. For this reason, foreigners who attach religious significance and value to these occasions appear baffled.

Furthermore, there are very few religiously forbidden foods in Japan. The terms “halal certification” and “halal food” have recently gained popularity, but the fact is that there are still very few meals and restaurants that cater to religious beliefs, and foreigners may feel restricted in their food choices.

(6) Hot springs and Tattoos

Many tourists enjoy a nice dip in the hot springs. But those who have ink are not permitted to bathe in public bath houses such as “onsen” or “sento”. Tattoos and tattooing are considered anti-social in Japan, which may be viewed as distracting or discomforting for Japanese citizens when sharing public spaces.

Tattoos, on the other hand, are popular as a fashion statement in other countries. This can be a problem for those who wish to embark on a hot spring tour in Japan, but are not allowed entry. Hence why those who have ink may feel dissatisfied during their trip to Japan.

(7) Procedures at the Government Offices

When a foreign national visits a government office to apply for something, he or she may encounter a number of hurdles. When they try to ask for assistance, for example, oftentimes they will notice that there are no English-speaking professionals available, and they may have to wait for several hours. Furthermore, the paperwork is written in Japanese, which foreigners usually have trouble reading. There are occasions when someone writes their name in English and tries to submit the application, only to be asked to write it in Japanese.

It is even more difficult to obtain business paperwork than it is to obtain documents related to one’s everyday living. If you are a foreigner gathering business documents in Japan, please allow plenty of time and be well prepared.

2. Conclusion

In this article, we have introduced seven inconvenient facts about life as a foreigner in Japan. There are many things that Japanese people take for granted which foreigners find extremely inconvenient. If you are looking for support for foreigners or doing business with foreigners, please refer to these tips.

Our company provides total support for employment and visa matters for foreign nationals. If you have any questions regarding employment or visas for foreigners, please feel free to contact us.