Living in Japan

The upside/downsides of expat life in the land of the rising sun


I recently posted about the ups and downs of life in Tokyo. Due to popular demand, I’m gonna follow up with a sequel about living in Japan…

I arrived in Japan on a three-year overseas adventure before returning to start my next adventure, but “life happens” as they say… Herewith, (partial) lists of what I’ve found living in Japan for nigh-on 20 years.

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Nuclear Nightmares in Tokyo

 Ongoing updates from a Japan expat’s front-row seat of the end of the world

einsteinsminstersThe leaves have turned all Christmas-y red and orange and yellow in the mountains outside town, and white gauze masks have appeared like Santa beards on the faces of Tokyo commuters. Still, as the war of words continues — I wake to the news that Trump has a new nickname for Kim Jong-un: “Little Rocket Man … he is a sick puppy,” — and has put North Korea back on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, and that North Korea has launched yet another missile into the Sea of Japan, the question hangs in the air like background radiation: “Is it safe?”

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Tokyo through Expat Eyes 2.0

The joys and sorrows of daily life as an expat in The Big Sushi


I arrived in Japan almost 20 years ago (on what was meant to be a three-year overseas adventure, but that’s another story). After four years of living in the inaka countryside of northernmost Japan, Hokkaido, I moved to Tokyo and have been here ever since. The answers below are the most recent iteration of an ongoing, evolving answer to questions which have popped up in online forums such as Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree, Quora, and TripAdvisor: Why are you in Tokyo? What are the up- and downsides of living in The Big Mikan? Herewith, some provisional answers…

Since I wanna finish on a positive note, I’ll start with the downsides of life in Tokyo…

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Nuclear Nightmares in Tokyo: TNT (Trump in Tokyo) Edition

an expat’s view of the end of the world

0-Jl0_lDkKkiVjwAT2And so autumn colours, all Ivanka-kimono red and Donald-skintone orange, have settled over Japan as the Trumps pass in Tokyo like ships in the night: Ivanka on her way out; Donald on his way in.

Continue reading the full story here…

What I Don’t Like about Living in Japan

A companion piece to yesterday’s post, ‘What I Most Like about Living in Japan’


As for disadvantages, I suppose it depends on where you start from, on what you’re comparing it to (“disadvantages” is inherently a comparative term)

So, in the interests of context and point of view, I’ll say that I grew up and was educated in Canada, and came to Japan on a three-year adventure which 20 years later has turned into a way of life

Okay, offhand the following disadvantages come to mind:

  1. Urban sprawl: from the window of a train, it’s possible to travel for hours, for hundreds and hundreds of miles along Japan’s most populous corridor, aka the Taiheiyō Belt (太平洋ベルト) following the Pacific coast, one grey-concrete.and-tile city blending into the next

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Why I Like Living in Japan


Today the question came up on Quora, “What do you like most about Japan?” Maybe it’s the broadness of the question, or the fact that I have a tone of work to do these days, but the query launched me on an hour-long bout of creative procrastination, which has resulted in (lightly edited) following answer:

I left for a three-year overseas adventure before returning to start my next adventure, but “life happens” as they say… Herewith, a partial list of what has kept me in Japan for nigh-on 20 years:

  1. Tokyo. I’m not actually a big-city person, and decided a long ago I could never live in the constant over-stimulation of a place like Manhattan, but we’ve made Tokyo work, especially as the superlative public transit makes it possible to live in the rural suburbs (a term I have only seen application in Japan, and possibly Korea) and commute daily into the heart of the biggest city in the world. Actually, I find my commute and daily life in Tokyo so inspiring I frequently carry a camera and snap along the way…

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Kafunsho: Allergy Season in Tokyo – and the rest of Japan

I may well have a lot to say on this subject – later. For now, I just wanna let you know I found an interesting website,, a weather site which also has a page to map and grade pollen levels across Japan, and report on allergy conditions generally. I’m still deciphering what some of the pictographs mean, but the site looks quite useful.

And, FYI, Tokyo is still apparently in the red, still experiencing worst-case scenario conditions for another day…