Why Japan?

17 Dec

I’m an American and I like America. I’d visit there more often if it wasn’t so expensive (especially for five people) to take such a long trip…but I have been living in Japan since 1990. Most of my life now.
So the few occasions that I have been able to visit America, it has felt more like a foreign country to me. It’s fun to visit and experience the culture…but it feels nice to return home—to Tokyo.

Every once in a while someone will ask me why I decided to live in Japan permanently.

Well…it’s not easy to explain why you love your city. Especially to someone whose never seen it.

I live in Tokyo rather than anywhere else in the world because

☆ it’s very convenient;
– With few exceptions, anything you want to buy, to eat, to drink or to do can be found in Tokyo.
– The public transportation system has bus stops, train stations and subway stations everywhere and the buses, subways and trains run often and on time. Precisely on time.

☆ the service is top-notch;
– No matter where you go–a high-end department store, a “mom and pop” store, a five-star restaurant, a fast-food joint–the place will surely be clean, the staff will be courteous, and whatever you buy will be of the highest quality.

☆ everything’s on time;
T.V. shows in Japan are scheduled to start at precise times such 5:57PM rather than at general times such as 6PM. And they start exactly on time.
– The bus, subway and trains have time tables…and they’re also exactly on time. Everyday, I catch the 7:11AM train to work…it’s scheduled at 7:11 and that’s when it arrives at my station. Not 7:10 or 7:12…but at 7:11 everyday.

☆ people are polite and think of others;
– Not only with words such as ‘excuse me’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, but people here are considerate others with actions:
no one talks on their cell-phone while they’re indoors; everyone cleans up after themselves at movie theaters, ball games, parks, etc.
– If you misplace your property, it’s quite likely to be returned to you.

☆ there’s so much to do;
– museums, zoo, amusement parks, festivals, and other events – even after over twenty-two years here, I still enjoy going out.

☆ the city is beautiful;


But the recent shootings in America at a movie theater, a shopping mall, a hospital and most shocking – an elementary school have reminded me of the main reason that I decided to raise my children in Japan rather than in America:

All of those shootings in America were tragic and make me wonder why so many Americans think it’s important or necessary for anyone to own a gun.
I recently read online that Florida (the U.S. state that I grew up in) recently issued the state’s one-millionth gun license. It’s unbelievable!
Also unbelievable was when I read that many states in America have decided to legalize marijuana.

In Japan, drugs are very illegal and gun licenses are extremely rare and difficult to get.
Basically, only the police, the military* (* “self-defense force”) and hunters can legally own a gun. For a hunter to get a gun license, he must attend shooting and safety classes, pass an exam, pass a mental-health evaluation, and pass a criminal history background check. The police also must inspect the gun locker that the applicant intends to keep the weapon.
Also, the gun license is only valid for three years…the whole process must be repeated every three years.
Needless to say, almost no one even bothers to apply for a gun license in Japan.


The crime rate in Japan in very low…especially violent crime. But when a murder or robbery does occur, a knife is the usual weapon of choice for violent criminals here—therefore the casualty rate is low.

Also, Japanese police aren’t so quick to draw their weapons as they are in America.  It’s a news story if a police unholsters his gun!

I can’t understand why guns are so popular in America.
They’re not very useful for home security. Most burglars break into a home when either the home-owner is out or asleep. An alarm and/or a guard dog would be much more useful in those situations.
A dog is loyal to it’s owner too…unlike a firearm. If an unarmed burglar finds a hidden gun in the house he’s broken into, suddenly he’s an armed burglar.
And how many accidental deaths result from mishandling of guns by children or drunk or careless owners? Many, it seems.

Americans say that it’s their “right to bear arms”. But, if no one else had one, would you really need a tool that’s sole purpose is to end life?

37 Responses to “Why Japan?”

  1. tokyo5 October 17, 2017 at 2:30 pm #

    Today (Oct 17th, 2017) is the 27th anniversary of the day I first arrived in Japan (Oct 17th, 1990)!


  2. travelsinwonderland July 21, 2016 at 10:46 pm #

    Great piece. I think there are a lot of good points and bad points with America and Japan.. As a single adult living on my own, I only have to worry about myself and think that it might be much different for me if I had to think about others like a family. I really think that as a single adult, for me, it was just safer like you mentioned to live in Tokyo. Their are so so so many trade offs but no one will understand until they have lived in both places.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tokyo5 July 21, 2016 at 11:31 pm #

      >Great piece.

      Thank you.

      >I think there are a lot of good points and bad points with America and Japan…

      That’s true. But, for me, I’ve been living in Japan longer than I lived in America … so I’m more used to Japan than America anymore.


  3. crimsonhighway January 26, 2016 at 9:45 am #

    great post, it answers a lot of questions i had. glad to see you didn’t get a bunch of “you’re a traitor, nothing wrong with owning guns” comments as a backlash to it. i was fully expecting a slew of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tokyo5 January 26, 2016 at 9:58 am #

      > i was fully expecting a slew of them.

      So was I, honestly.


  4. Boatzilla January 26, 2016 at 1:31 am #

    You had me until the marijuana bit. The laws are draconian, devoid of serious research and hyopocritcal, given the exhuberant acceptance of alcohol, perhaps the most dangerous drug on earth. There is also a large and growing legal prescription drug market for mood stabilizers and sleep aids. No doubt, Japan is very safe and the strict gun are a model for the world, but keeping pot illegal only adds to crime. Hence the dappo drug problem.


    • tokyo5 January 26, 2016 at 8:44 am #

      >(marijuana) laws are draconian, devoid of serious research and hyopocritcal, given the exhuberant acceptance of alcohol

      I don’t agree. They aren’t “draconian” (overly harsh punishment for a minor offense) since a democratic, free society’s laws are based on the will of the “people”. The majority of people here (in Japan) are against drug use.

      I also disagree that marijuana has recently become legal in America because of “serious research”, which I assume you’re implying has proven some kinds of benefits of recreational drug use.

      Years ago, doctors claimed some health benefits of smoking tobacco. Now, everyone knows how ridiculous that is.

      The majority of people there (in America), it seems, are in favor of it…so the law there has been adjusted accordingly.

      > (alcohol is) perhaps the most dangerous drug on earth.

      You’re not serious, right?

      >There is also a large and growing legal prescription drug market for mood stabilizers and sleep aids.

      In America?

      >keeping pot illegal only adds to crime. Hence the dappo drug problem.

      You think that if recreational drugs became legal in Japan, the already low crime-rate would go down further? Are you basing that assumption on America’s model? The “loophole herb drug” is only a thing because of the fact that it’s technically legal (in a legal loophole)…contrary to your opinion, it will be an even smaller concern once the legal loophole is closed* (*edit 2018/8/6: that loophole in the law has been closed for a while now, and those “herb drugs” are no longer a concern in Japan…thankfully.).

      Japan is an archipelago (country made up of a series of islands). It has no land borders with another country…so, drug smuggling isn’t as easy here as in other countries.


  5. Patrick Cassell January 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    Reblogged this on Kasseru-san's Slow Boat to Japan and commented:
    This is a good post about Why this man chose to live in Japan.


  6. Patrick Cassell January 18, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    Hello tokyo5. I am from Panama City, Florida. It is on the gulf coast. It is a small city with a county population of 169,856 in 2011. That is a lot less than in Tokyo with it’s millions.

    I want to live in Japan for those reasons you stated. I am also becoming familiar with the Japanese heart through some reading I am doing. I am reading a book about a man who went to Japan from the American state of Georgia several years ago. He explains things very well. It is not just about what happened to him. It is also about how the Japanese culture compares with the American culture.

    I personally don’t own any guns. My father owns at least one, so it is in our home. The only experience I have with guns is shooting a .22 rifle at targets far away from the city. This kind of rifle is designed for hunting small animals. It is not a military style weapon.

    I do not love guns. I agree with your points. I am not one of those gun hugging people you can find in America.

    I hope to make my way to Japan and see Tokyo like you did years ago.


    • tokyo5 January 18, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

      Are you from West Florida?
      I grew up in Pinellas County, Florida – in the west-central area of Florida.

      Do you have a plan to visit Japan soon?


      • Patrick Cassell January 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

        I am from Bay County, Florida. It is on the Gulf of Mexico.


      • tokyo5 January 18, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

        Pinellas County is between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay.

        These days there are often crazy news stories about weird crimes in Florida!


      • Patrick Cassell January 18, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

        I am not visiting Japan soon, out of necessity, but I am coming.


      • tokyo5 January 19, 2013 at 8:57 am #

        It is expensive to travel so far … that’s why I’ve only visited America three times since I came to Japan.


  7. Bryn December 27, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    I love the US as well, and am proud to be an American, but the #1 reason I’ll never live there again is the exact reason you described. America has gone INSANE. Shootings happen ALL the time, anywhere and everywhere. You literally can’t go anywhere w/out wondering if some lunatic is going to come in and shoot the place up. Elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, universities, even an AMISH school house, movie theaters, shopping malls, grocery stores, beauty salons, spas, churches, mosques, synagogues, libraries, gas stations, all have been sights of gun massacres in the US over the last decade. I won’t even get into the rapes, kidnappings and pedophile rates. As a parent, I can’t begin to imagine having to raise my kids there.

    In the Japanese military, not even the police carry weapons in their day-to-day, peacetime operations.

    While there are lots of small, mostly inconsequential things about Japanese society that frustrate and irritate me, they’re nothing compared to the atrocities of the US. I hope and pray ever day that my job will allow me to remain overseas at least until my children are grown. I don’t want to stay in Japan forever though, anywhere would suit me fine, as long as it’s not America.


    • tokyo5 December 27, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

      Yeah, the gun violence in America is a serious problem.
      Not only in the last decade either … when I was a high school student in Florida in the late ’80s, I witnessed my school’s vice-principal get shot in the head!

      But, I agree, it seems to have gotten much worse recently … I wonder why.

      What about Japanese culture irritates you?
      Why wouldn’t you want to live in Japan permanently?
      Which country would you choose to live in?

      If I didn’t live in Japan, I’m sure I’d live in America.
      But I’m very happy in Japan.


  8. Musings December 18, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    I agree with you completely about everything. We’ve been to Japan many times and know first hand, it is as you say. As for guns… it is a constant frustration. I wish the NRA would pack up their guns and go away… far, far away.


    • tokyo5 December 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

      > I wish the NRA would pack up their guns and go away

      If Americans must have guns, then the NRA ((American) National Rifle Association (全米ライフル協会)) seems good because their purpose is to teach and promote gun safety.
      But, as I personally don’t think guns are needed by almost anyone, the NRA also seem detrimental because they use their political influence to “protect the right to bear arms”.


  9. Amber December 18, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    I will be moving to Japan next month!
    People always ask me why I want to go to Japan and I can’t really explain it. I just love the way they do things. They put such care into everything, they’re so polite and helpful, the food is great (even though I don’t really like fish, haha), and it is such a beautiful place.
    I can’t wait to live there, but at the same time, it’s kinda scary because it is so different to England.


    • tokyo5 December 18, 2012 at 8:34 am #

      >I will be moving to Japan next month!

      What will you do in Japan? Teach English?
      Do you already have a job here?
      How long will you stay?

      >I just love the way they do things.

      Have you visited Japan before?

      >it is so different to England.

      What part of England are you from?
      What part of Japan are you going to?


      • Amber December 18, 2012 at 8:39 am #

        Yea, I’m teaching English.
        I have a job lined up, the contract is for one year, but I can renew it if I want.
        I’ve been to Japan twice on holiday and loved it.
        I’m from Wiltshire. I’m going to live in the Kansai region, which is where I hoped I would be. =)


      • tokyo5 December 18, 2012 at 9:39 am #

        Well, one year’s not so long.
        I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.


  10. Earnest Mercer December 18, 2012 at 3:52 am #

    I have lived in Japan twice, two years 1952-1953, and one year in 1975. I’ve been back to Japan numerous times. I also have a special affinity for the country and its people, though I’ve never considered living there permanantly. All the things you say are true vis a vis my experience. For some people, the highly regimented life there is undesirable and many find the cost of living daunting. I wrote a masters thesis on Japan in 1982 and in it I called attention to the difference in the ranking of the components of the two value systems and the role that that Wa plays in the Japanese priorities. I recently wrote a book in which the American male protagonist moved to Japan on a permanent basis. I invite readers to visit my web site for a synopsis of the book: “Skivvy Girl: The Love of a Post WWII Japanese Pleasure Girl”. Best regards to you and your family.


    • tokyo5 December 18, 2012 at 7:32 am #

      Japan has changed alot in the two decades that I’ve been here … so I’m sure it’s quite different from how it was in the ’50s!


  11. gigihawaii December 18, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    Yes, I was impressed by the people in Tokyo when I visited in 2008. However, don’t forget Japan’s militaristic past during WWII. Think of the millions who died because of it.


    • tokyo5 December 18, 2012 at 12:36 am #

      Not to excuse Japan, because it’s true that Japanese soldiers did some bad things during that war … but, unfortunately, many countries did.

      And it’s true that even today some of Japan’s neighboring countries haven’t forgiven Japan even yet … but did you know that there are some countries such as Taiwan that consider their occupation by Japan a highlight of their history because of the roads, banks, schools, farms, etc that Japan built for them?


  12. lovelycomplex22 December 17, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    You’ve enumerated all the reasons why I’m considering moving to Japan for about a year or so. It’s always reassuring to hear those reasons from someone who’s actually lived there.
    I especially liked your point on how to get a gun license in Japan. If only things were like that in America 😦


    • tokyo5 December 17, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

      You’ve already decided you’ll stay in Japan for a year?
      Have you visited here before?

      And I agree … America should adapt gun laws similar to Japan’s.


      • lovelycomplex22 December 17, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

        I’ve been to Tokyo once before a couple of years ago, and I’m also planning a trip with my friend this summer 😀 This time I plan to see more than just Tokyo!


      • tokyo5 December 17, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

        Personally I love Tokyo the most … but every part of Japan is unique!

        How long will your trip be for next summer?


      • lovelycomplex22 December 17, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

        About 2-3 weeks, hopefully 3 (if I can get all that time off of work).
        I absolutely loved Tokyo when I visited last time, and I think there’s still a lot more left for me to see there, as I only spent a really short time there. Have you got any recommendations?


      • tokyo5 December 17, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

        Of course I can give you recommendations. I know Tokyo very well.

        Why don’t you use my blog’s “Contact” page ( https://tokyo5.wordpress.com/contact-me/ )
        and tell me what you’ve already seen and what types of things you like … then I can tell you some recommendations.


  13. cocomino December 17, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    I’m glad to hear that as an Japanese I also don’t need guns everywhere
    We’re lucky to live in safe country.


    • tokyo5 December 17, 2012 at 9:06 pm #

      As a father, I’m sure you’re glad to raise your kids where there’s no danger of gun violence.


  14. blissflower1969 December 17, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    And of course, the rhetoric over here almost immediately began with “They’re gonna take teh guns away!” You make a valid counter point to the “if we have better gun control laws, only criminals will have guns” argument. And I say this as a wife of a hunter. I’m sure that if it meant preventing the types of massacres we saw on Friday, reasonable, rational hunters would have no problem completing their three year ritual.


    • tokyo5 December 17, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

      Thank you.
      I agree with you … hunters should have no qualms about strict training and background checks to get licensed for a deadly weapon.

      In Japan, no hunting licenses are issued in major cities like Tokyo. There’s no need for anyone to have one here.
      Almost every one (of the very few) hunting licenses in Japan are issued in the rural northern Japanese island of Hokkaido … they have wild bears, deer, foxes, etc there.


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