Jedi Master
I was born and brought up in the Philippines, took the path of the software engineer, had the opportunity to work for long periods in Japan and up to now I've been here in the US for almost 5 years working with a temporary work visa.

Many times I've changed my opinions on what I think about people a lot because of all those trips. Thanks to the (US) popular media, before I left the Philippines for my first Japan trip I grew up with the stereo-typical view of what a 'typical' Japanese person is like: unintelligible, dumb, and always bowing. (Well, that was how it was depicted in the movies in the past. Now, probably because of the Internet, even people who don't have the chance to get out of the country to 'experience' another culture can, to some degree, get an accurate picture of a foreign culture.)
What the movies don't tell you is that the Japanese are nothing like what I expected. Well, maybe except for the bowing part but even I came away from those trips with nodding more than usual because of being exposed to the culture.
The impression I got from the Japanese is that they are very polite to everyone. Well, not everyone is like that. Some are 'forced' to be polite because of a 'heirarchical' system that is integral to their culture.

(side note: the total cumulative time I've spent is Japan is around 2 years with the longest stretch of contiguous time being 6 months)

**On Language
Looking at their language, they basically have two modes of speech: one polite, refined and honorific while the other is more crude, rough and can sometimes be disrespectful. Between those two extremes are varying levels of politeness (or impoliteness if 'the glass is half empty').
When students learning the Japanese language are taught, they are usually taught the polite form of speech. When the student sees that his Japanese friend is looking at him funny, he soon finds out that his 'politeness level' of his speech is tuned too high.

So how polite should one be? It depends on the difference between your 'rank' and the 'rank' of the person you are speaking to. If you are a blue collar worker speaking to the emperor of Japan, you would use the most honorific speech you know. If you were talking to your boss, you'd be speaking less polite than if you were speaking to the emperor but you'd still be above average polite. If you were speaking to a drinking buddy, you'd be using casual speech, a bit rough but it's speech between equals. If you were speaking to a waitress, you can get away with being a bit cruder because in that 'relationship', the waitress is serving you.

Of course there are exceptions who, even if they were ranked 'higher' than the person they were talking to, would still be more polite than the 'bare minimum'.

The culture is still patriarchal though it is changing little by little; you can see it in the differences in what they can now get away with on t.v. or in the movies. This is much like how the slow progression of skimpier outfiits and more exposed skin is the trend on t.v. and the movies if you look at the progression from decades past when even the slightest hint of exposed skin in the ankle area was already daring.

For a foreigner like myself that did not learn the language (yes, I regret it to this day), the complexity of rankings in relationships is still a bit vague to me. But this I did notice though: most Japanese are by default polite and coutrteous to all foreigners (with exceptions of course; some are just really rude with everyone).

**On Transportation
Unlike in the US where if you want to get around you need a car, in Japan (at least in Tokyo) they have a train system and people walk a lot and bike if it will take them too long to walk to-from the train station. Even the business equivalent of CEOs back then took the train to and from work. I think it's because of the hassles (economically and spatially; the government makes it very expensive to own a car and space in Japan is very limited) of owning a car make taking the train a very sound choice.
(Going off a tangent again: I also like the idea of trains because of the 'communistic' quality of it, as opposed to the 'capitalistic' quality of owning a car for transportation; take for example the last Batman movie, Batman Begins, (MINOR SPOILER) where the train line that was built by Bruce's father was built as a means of communal transport for the people)

**On Work Ethic
I have never seen it depicted in the movies but the work ethic in Japan is 'the company is your emperor'. At least that was what I saw in my line of work. The employees of the company work hard, work long hours, but even with seemingly 'harsh' conditions, do not complain, or not as much as you would expect.
On the one hand, it could seem that the company is similar to a US (capitalistic) company and is an entity itself and is sucking the life out of its peons and the peons have 'learned to like their servitude' but it seemed different in the company I worked for. I could not put my finger on it but working overtime in Japan has a much different flavor from working overtime in the US.
If I would venture a guess, I worked long and hard while in Japan because everyone else did it. There I learned to get the job done and get it done right and working as perfectly as possible. Here in the US, I still carry that work ethic with me but then I am the rare worker 'who wants to get the job done right' working with the rest of the people who've grown up here 'who just want to get the job done' or 'who works only until 5pm'.
Probably that's why the Dilbert comic strip took off like a rocket when it came out.

Actually, the working so long got so bad in Japan that the government stepped in and created 'holidays' to force the people to take a vacation. The 'holidays' are a week long and there is one for each season if I remember correctly.

**On Other Stuff I'll Lump Together As Miscellaneous
The other things I like about Japan are:
- 'Hana-mi' which translates to 'watching the flowers', which is the practice of sitting under the cherry blossom (sakura) trees when they are in bloom. The philosophy behind the practice is a reminder of the fleeting-ness of life. The sakura blossom blooms for only a week or so before the flowers fall off in a shower of pink petals.
The other side of the coin is that this practice has become a sort of 'commercial' enterprise where if you don't personally reserve a space the night before, people can do that for you for a price. Also alcohol (beer, sake) shoot up during this week and a lot of Japanese enjoy getting wasted under the trees.

- 'Hana-bi' which is the term for 'watching fireworks' (I think the direct translation is 'flower of fire'; fireworks in Japan are so beautiful and sometimes can look like beautiful flowers). I don't know the philosophy behind the practice but the fireworks I have watched there are unrivaled. But then again, I only have the Philippines and the US to comapre to. Maybe China has some good fireworks too.
The fireworks show there is not just a random firing of rockets but is an orchestrated event, not unlike the shooting water fountains of the Bellagio.

- The food. Though most countries do have their upscale restaurants featuring cuisine from around the world, I have yet to taste Japanese food not prepared in Japan that is as good as what I have tasted in even the modest restaurants in Japan. But then again, the same goes for Filipino food, the only other cultural cuisine I am very familiar with.

- The little conveniences like a 24-hour mini-mart that carries almost everything you might need (from socks, to underwear to makeup, CDs, needle and thread, bobby pins, quick meals) around almost every corner, vending machines that dispense drinks, cigarettes, beer, vending machines for train tickets (and can accept all paper and coin currency in Japan). I can go on for another two or three paragraphs but this post is already too long and I may have already lost most people who started reading this post.

Sadly, I am unable to comment about other cultural aspects or even politics in Japan because of the language barrier. I'm sure Japan also has its share of political controversies and scandals, pre-occupation with young girls, big boobs, prostitution (which is legal), quirky and weird but eclectic television shows, showbiz gossip, but all in all, if I were to choose a country to work and live in, Japan has even a disticnt advantage over the US and even a slight advantage over Philippines, where I was born and spent 5/6ths of my life.

Next time I get to visit, I should visit some temples and definitely take a ride on the 'bullet train' (the one that 'floats' on magnets). If time permits, I'd also like to hike Mount Fuji. My friend who's done it tells me that it takes almost a whole day and you start the hike at night so that when you get to one of the summits, you can catch a magnificent view of the sun rising.

Well, that's it for now. I'll try to do a write up on the Philippines next time.


The Living Force

I just wanted to thank you for writing this post. I am a really big fan of the Japanese culture. Yes, I have to admit my love of the culture comes from all I know of it, which is the history and of course anime and movies.

Because I'm such a huge anime fan and have been for many years, one of my dreams is to visit the home of all anime, Japan. I'm struggling very much right now, to learn the language. It is hard because I have to do it all on my own, I can't find any classes where I live. I find the language to be very deep though.

One of the things I have noticed about the language (I'm only speculating here) is that, while you are talking to a person, you have to find out what they are trying to say by depicting their mood. For example if someone is saying to you
(I don't know how to spell the exact word but it sounds like this)
"dijavu?"- it could mean many things like, "are you Ok?" , "are you alright", "will you be ok?" or "I'm fine," "I'm going to be alright".

A while back, when I was in school I had 2 Japanese 'exchange' students staying with us and they were the politest kids I had ever met. They were so sincere in all they did, and said, I just wish I had not lost contact with them.:(

Anyway, thanks again for sharing.
The transportation system is much like Europe's - you don't need to drive. Tokyo goes on and on and on, but for a big city, it has surprisingly little crime. Never felt unsafe in Tokyo, but then again, maybe I didn't see the bad parts of it. For its size, it's also an extremely tidy city. The Japanese seem to have a high priority for tidiness in general.

Japanese culture is extremely hierarchal and formal. Everything is top-down driven. I would also characterize them as "autistic" - they are extreme navel gazers and don't really like to acknowledge the existence of foreigners. They get annoyed when they have to. Real good at designing and making things where they don't have to talk to a foreigner, but absolutely horrible at doing anything custom where they have to talk to foreigners during the design/build phase.

Much of the politeness is fake, I think, and has more to do with the hierarchal nature of their society. What they say and what they think are two different things. Very indirect people - you will never ever get a stright no out of them, but you will get lots of words that add up to no.

It's a nice place to visit, but I don't know if I'd want to live there.


Great post. I am also a Japanese culture fan in terms of indoor architecture, garden architecture and manga. I am also a big Akira Kurosawa fan.

BTW...Do they still have the almost 0% interest rate.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
John Chang said:
The transportation system is much like Europe's - you don't need to drive. Tokyo goes on and on and on, but for a big city, it has surprisingly little crime. Never felt unsafe in Tokyo, but then again, maybe I didn't see the bad parts of it. For its size, it's also an extremely tidy city. The Japanese seem to have a high priority for tidiness in general.

Japanese culture is extremely hierarchal and formal. Everything is top-down driven. I would also characterize them as "autistic" - they are extreme navel gazers and don't really like to acknowledge the existence of foreigners. They get annoyed when they have to. Real good at designing and making things where they don't have to talk to a foreigner, but absolutely horrible at doing anything custom where they have to talk to foreigners during the design/build phase.

Much of the politeness is fake, I think, and has more to do with the hierarchal nature of their society. What they say and what they think are two different things. Very indirect people - you will never ever get a stright no out of them, but you will get lots of words that add up to no.

It's a nice place to visit, but I don't know if I'd want to live there.
Interesting observations. I am not a big fan of any kind of generalizations but Japanese do seem to be world of their own so I will join.
Unfortunatelly I have never been to Japan but in the past I use to teach English and I had my share of Japanese students.
Firstly my impression was that Japanese (at least young ones) generally look up to anything foreign, especially western and american. They seemed anything but autistic and they showed keen interest in every aspect of our lives and culutre.
But during our discussions they did admit that for Japanese to marry a foreigner is something unheard of. Now I regret I didnt poke into this more so as to find out what is their reasoning behind this.
Secondly I never felt their politeness as fake, it always felt like its coming straight from the heart (but maybe they are so skilled in the art of pretending, after all in their culture it is very bad thing to show even a hint of emotions)

What I noticed though was that all of these young people displayed remarkable naivety when faced with widly accepted "values" of our ponerized culture such as lies, dishonesty, gossiping, and generaly talking bad about other people. It was as if these concepts were totally foreign to their psychee.

I was always under the impression Japan is patriarchal society but from my students I learned the opposite, appearently men in Japan immediately hand over all the money they earn to their wives. Then if they need to buy something for themselves or they need pocket money they have to ask. And they can easily be refused.

There are so many things I appreciate about Japanese culture , someone mentioned Kurosawa, gardens and architecture but if I had to choose I'd go for - sushi, I could eat that stuff every day, and whats sushi without sake :)


Oh yeah I forgot to mention sushi with Japanese soy sauce and lots of wasabi! :D
@Deckard: could you recommend a sake brand? The only sake available here is Gekeikan sake.
John Chang said:
I would also characterize them as "autistic" - they are extreme navel gazers and don't really like to acknowledge the existence of foreigners.
This hits the nail on the head IMO, although I've only been there for two weeks. I felt almost completely being ignored, and towards the end even provocated slightly (like walking outside in my underpants) - just to trigger some kind of response. Of course, it might be different if you know some locals. But as a tourist/observer making contact is quite difficult, if not impossible.

By the way, an essential read for those interested in (going to) Japan is The Enigma of Japanese Power - People and Politics in a Stateless Nation: "Although Van Wolferen balances his account by highlighting what he regards as positive Japanese traits, including thrift, respect for elders, industriousness, and self-control, The Enigma of Japanese Power remains a controversial text in the nation it assays to describe with discomforting accuracy."


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Dunno in the only sushi restaurant on the Forbidden Island it is served in small ceramic pot and it is served warm, sort of like a house wine


Cool reading your guys' thoughts on the good ol' land of the rising sun. I lived there for two years 2005-6 teaching English in Osaka. Luckily, I was able to learn the language...still speak it today, though I am finding my vocabulary growing smaller and smaller the more time I spend living in "English" here in Canada. Japan is one crazy place. At times the most beautiful spot on earth, at times the ugliest. I found Japan to be a culture of extremes: I met a lot of people who were extremely intelligent and well-mannered and I also met my fair share of total zombies. Given the cultural tendency for the Japanese to conform to groups, Japan is, unfortunately, the perfect country for the media and government to flex their arms of propaganda across a huge number of the population. Not too many of the people I met ever think twice about questioning the status-quo. Though, to be fair, the same can be said about North Americans.

But oh man, I could talk forever about Japan, If anyone gets the chance to go there I would take it in a heartbeat. It's a great place.


FOTCM Member
I was also in Japan in 2005, working in Nagoya. At my school they had an internship program whereby if you took a year's worth (successfuly pass level 3 Japanese) of classes, you become eligible to take part in the program. At the time I was wanting to study Chinese more (my biological father was Chinese) but I couldn't find much in the way of classes. I figured Japanese was the next closest thing so I decided to try it out. :P

After year of classes, I developed a bit of a vocabulary and became really really interested in the language and culture. The whole structure of the sentence is sorta "backwards" to what one is used to in English, with sentences usually ending with a verb rather than the noun. So it took a little getting used to, but once you've learned it, it's quite straightforward.

I ended up getting a placement at Omron in Nagoya. They tested power window switches for cars in my division. It was a very Japanese style company, with each floor divided into sections, and each department had it's "kacho" or department head. You could tell where each department started / ended by the way the work desks were setup. At the head would be kacho's desk, and in front of him would be all the employee's desks. Sorta like a classroom, but everything was tighter. On our floor I think we had about 10 Departments. At the very very front, near the exit, would be the floor manager's desk "bucho", sort of overseeing everyone. No cubicles, so you could easily see at any given time what everyone was doing.

In the morning we'd have to do radio exercises for about ten minutes. Then there would be a quick department meeting on what was done the day before and anything else we wanted to say. Everyday someone different would take a turn. When it was my turn it was pretty scary because I didn't know much and stumbled through a simple, "Hi, I'm so and so and I like watching movies like the matrix"... Learning Japanese in school and then being immersed into it are still really seperate things, and you don't really appreciate the complexities and nuances until all you hear is Japanese. It was almost like I was studying a different language!!

After a few weeks though, the stuff I learned in class slowly started to pay off. Constantly hearing it being spoken, you start to pick up and recognize all those sentence patterns and bits of grammer that you learned in class. That's when things really started to get interesting, because I was slowly getting over my fears and building enough confidence to actually communicate ~ It was really exciting!

During the weekend, I would go and visit some friends that I had met in Canada but went back to Japan. Another classmate of mine was also taking part in the internship, so I would go and stay at his place in Osaka. I had another friend in Tokyo and had an opportunity to vist there as well. The 2 cities are similar yet the crowds are so different. Osaka being really really friendly and fun while Tokyo was just really 'busy' - and sorta rushed. Not to say it wasn't fun either, but you could 'feel' the difference in character between the 2 cities. Nagoya was interesting because it had a mix of the 2, which sorta makes sense as it's located about halfway between the 2 cities.

Anyhow, there's so much more I could write for days, but suffice to say, it's quite an amazing place to visit. As for myself, I hope to return there and continue studying the language and live there for a bit. Might not be the best place in such a volatile world, but then again, neither is anywhere else.


Jedi Master
I have nothing new to add from a personal perspective but I did encounter this post from another website about one (non-Japanese) person's experience of Japan from 1989 to 2009:


The personal account is more of a perspective of the cost of living in Japan since 1989 up to the present (2009) but there are also other points about life in Japan worth noting.
I've copied the post in quotes below in case the link doesn't work in the future and it would be a shame to lose this info.
(Not sure if this is valid "fair use" since I haven't added anything of my own with regards to the quoted post.)

Some on-the-ground observations, Japan 1989 to 2009
By Patrick on Sunday, October 4th, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Posted for reader Joel

Some on-the-ground observations, Japan 1989 to 2009.
(100 yen is currently approximately $1)

In the inflation/deflation debate, I think what most people mean is “their own personal cost of living”, in view of income, rather than a macroeconomic concept.

Pay, job availability, and expense accounts were nuts 1990 to 1995. Everyone was partying… all week long… Wednesdays were as busy as Fridays and Saturdays. Fun while it lasted, but was everyone actually better off at the time? I guess just more hungover and with more handbags.

Prices were often exaggerated in the media because, well, normal prices have no entertainment value. Of course you can find $200 a pound Kobe beef in high end stores like Isetan downtown, but who actually buys that? Even during the bubble, almost no one. Beef in a normal supermarket was and is about $5 a pound, very high quality, and might be half off at closing time.
Change 0%.

At the local greengrocer, vegetables, like a bag of three carrots, a head of cabbage, or broccoli, was 100 yen 20 years ago, and is 100 yen now. I would say on the whole, in yen terms, that overall food prices have not changed. A nice large whole mackerel, cleaned and salted and ready for the grill, enough for two people, is 100 yen. Tofu is 50 yen a block, 150 yen for premium kinds. A pot of premium Japanese rice is 100 yen, enough for six servings.
Change 0%.
One of the things I notice when I go to the US is that there is almost always only high fructose corn syrup colored water to drink. In Japan, there is almost none of that. 90% of what is on the shelf, even in a convenience store, is 100% fruit and vegetable juice for about 100 yen a carton/bottle… in other words, the same price as a coke. I think at least some of the health problems in the US are due to simple things like that.

Long distance calls went from about 100 yen a minute to 3 yen per minute via internet telephony using, for example, Yahoo Japan broadband. From around a decade ago, you could just pick up a Yahoo broadband modem while walking through a train station, take it home, plug it into the telephone jack, plug your phone into the modem, and suddenly all your calls were 3 yen a minute all day every day to most countries. I did not know at first about the telephony as I was only interested in the broadband. One day, I realized that I had not gotten a long distance bill in quite some time. I made many calls around the holidays, so was bracing for a $500 bill. Instead, there was a $15 charge on my credit card. A decade ago, the modem was free, the broadband was 6M, and it was $20 dollars a month with the first 3 months free. Currently, the minimum is 8M for about $20 dollars a month. Skype has unlimited worldwide calling for a flat $10 a month. I think this has saved me about $20,000 over the last decade. NTT is very unhappy. New apartments now often include free broadband via optical fiber or cable at 100M.
Change (for me) -90%.

Transportation prices have not changed much in 20 years. As was the case from 50 years ago, your employer will pay for your bus/train pass to go to work up to $800 per month, and you can use the pass to get off at any station in between. Even if you bought the pass yourself, to commute say 10 miles, the pass would be about $150 per month. AAA says to own and operate a new car in the US costs about $800 a month, $9,000 per year, and even if you drive your car until it dies, I think it still costs about $5,000 per year. Most people do not need a car, or have at most one for outings on the weekend.
Savings from free pass, no need for car, $5,000+ per year.
Trains are much safer than cars, and if the Japanese drove as much as Americans, there would be about 10,000 more fatalities per year. Over the last 20 years, there are 200,000 Japanese wandering around unaware that had they been driving like Americans, they would be dead. And many many more injured. If you want to be an actuary about it, assuming as in the US that a death in a law suit is roughly worth one million dollars, that is a benefit of 200 billion dollars, and untold billions less in hospital care, injury, disability, and misery.
Change 0%
A functioning train system means people actually walk 5 or 10 minutes to go to the station. Exercise automatically included, and another simple thing that could improve health in the US. (Every major city in the US used to have rail systems until General Motors and the oil companies and the tire companies bought them and ripped them out so everyone would be forced to buy cars and municipalities would be forced to buy busses. Rigging the system is far from new.)

Another reason you do not need a car here is that the home delivery system is terrific. You can send a box or suitcase anywhere in Japan within two days for less than $20. They will pick it up at your house, or you can send it from any convenience store, and you can specify the day and hour of delivery. Costco has solved the problem of customers needing a car to shop. Delivery of a box, up to 60 pounds, anywhere in Japan, is $6 (That is not a typo. You could send a 60 pound box from Costco in Hokkaido to Nagasaki in Kyushu, a distance of 1,000 miles, for 6 dollars). I shop for me and my friends, divide up the goods into boxes, and just send the boxes to them.
Costco did not have stores here 20 years ago, so hard to say, but I guess:
Change -60%.

WalMart has come to Japan by partnering with Seiyu. This and the proliferation of 100 yen shops (dollar stores) drove prices way down. Goods might be in some cases of lesser quality, but since the price can be 90% off, fine with me. A hammer to pound in a few nails is 100 yen, whereas before it would have been 2,000 yen for one of unnecessarily high quality. Even things like brand name high end shampoos at drug stores have come down by half or more.

On the whole, I would say the cost of dry goods has come way down.
Change -50 to -90%.

National health care is about $3,000 per person per year. No preexisting conditions are ever excluded. You can go to any doctor you wish. There is usually no waiting, so for routine things, people do not even make appointments.
Change 0%.

Energy efficiency has become a mania. From years ago, when Koizumi said “global warming”, what he meant was “The cheap oil is running out! Get the energy efficiency up… now!”
Japan Railways cut energy use in new trains by half.
Compact fluorescents were great, but expensive ($10), from a decade ago, but are about to be superseded by LEDs.
LEDs are marketed showing that although they cost $40, they last for 40,000 hours, and you would have to buy 40 incandescents for that period of time, so at 99 cents per bulb, the price is actually the same. The LEDs use 1/10th the electricity. 2 yen per hour; in the US 1 cent per hour. Over 40,000 hours, an incandescent would use $4,000 in electricity, an LED $400. They clearly make economic sense now, and the transition is starting. They are a little dim, but fine for lights you leave on all the time like on the porch. Performance should improve and price of an LED light bulb should drop to about $10 in a few years.
New air conditioners use as little as 6 yen per hour (electricity is 20 yen per kilowatt-hour), so in the US, at an average of 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, that would be 3 cents per hour to run the air conditioner (they are all reversible heat pumps, so also warm in winter), so about $20 per month. Typical cooling August and September with older units like mine is $50 per month, heating December to March about $50 per month.
Change -50 to -90%.

Water is about $20 per month.
Change 0%.

Rent is $700 and up for 600 square feet, depending mostly on distance from downtown, type of building (wooden or concrete) and distance to the train station.
Change -20%.

Per capital floor space in Tokyo has doubled, mostly due to improved construction techniques that allow tall buildings to be built on deep soil, where it would have been previously cost prohibitive, by simply driving the pilings deeper into the soil. This in turn was made possible by Japanese steel manufacturers figuring out how to make superstrong structural steel for the same price as regular steel simply by minimizing the energy it takes to process the steel. As in Manhattan, skyscrapers were concentrated where there were granite outcrops. Not any more. You can build tall buildings anywhere for a reasonable cost, and the Ginza 10 story limit is about to go. This should continue to put a lot of downward pressure on real estate prices and rents.
Change 0% to -50%.

Many of the above prices are in yen, as would be experienced by someone working and living in Japan. From 1989 to the present, very roughly, the yen went from 150 to the dollar to 100 to the dollar, with a lot of ups and downs. Although the yen appreciated, there was generally no inflation, and no increase in pay per hour (although the amount of work went down), so if you have a job, things just seem to be mostly unchanged over the last two decades. Although much reference is made to Japan’s “lost decades”, had you actually lived here and not read the newspaper or watched TV, you would have had no idea that anything bad was happening. There are still almost no vacant stores. Visitors said “Recession? What recession?” It is not at all like New York in the 70s.

What is confusing if you are looking at Japan from the outside is that while prices in yen have basically not changed for 20 years, because the yen increased by 30 to 50% against most currencies, the nominal price as viewed in dollars, pounds, etc., has gone up. However, there has been inflation outside Japan, so that is confusing. When I see salaries in the US, etc., now, I think, “Huh? They pay that much?” But of course, the prices of goods in those countries have gone up.

Using money as a proxy for goods and services is very confusing. The real question is, assuming one has a reasonable amount of work at reasonable pay per hour, what goods and services and of what quality can you get? On the whole, I would say that that has improved, some of the improvement being inherent in improved technology, building construction, etc., some of the improvement from better distribution and competition among retailers, some from the stronger yen, some from energy efficiency and improvements in public transportation. What we want is food, a place to live, electricity, water, telecommunication, education, and health care. If you have those things, you don’t really need much money.

In summary, you could expect to live reasonably, within 20 minutes of downtown Tokyo by train on the following annual budget.
Rent $10,000 (60 square meters, 600 square feet)
Health insurance $3,000
Food $3,000 (if you cook yourself most of the time)
Electricity (heating and cooling included) $1,000
Water $300
Gas $300
Telephone and broadband $700
Transportation $1,000 (free $1,000 employer provided train pass + $1,000 incidental travel by train, taxi, bus; $8 buys pass for unlimited travel for one day on most subways throughout Tokyo)
(Car unnecessary -$5,000 to -$9,000)
National income tax + local income tax = US federal tax rate.
Consumption tax is 5% on all purchases and most restaurant meals.
Average salary is about $50,000.

The discussion in the comments is also gets interesting. Especially the following post:

http://patrick.net/forum/?p=16931#comment-655326 said:
Oops - forgot to mention: Since I am not under a Japanese insurance program, I had to pay upfront (well, actually AFTER they did everything, but you know what I mean) for my care. Since medicine isn’t a “gouge ‘em while they’re down” industry in Japan…my ambulance ride, interview and care cost…


“Oh my god! How will I eat this month???”

(Just the AMBULANCE in the states was billed to my Socialist medical coverage at $500!)

So, to wrap up:
1. No health care program, private, or government, will be perfect. The goal is to get BETTER…not get things perfect - and not keep things the same.
2. Having said that, since the last time we had a big health debate (Hillary Clinton?), how have things gone? Did the health care insurers improve their standards? Did HMOs bring down costs and improve services? No? What makes you think they will THIS time?

Just my .02c, I hope it helps.


Padawan Learner
Hey everyone (or those who are still participating), I know I am late to the party but I thought to share my experiences of the great island(s) Japan.

I have always been exposed to and surrounded by the culture and products of Japan growing up, from the Playstation to the extensive and brilliant range of anime/manga series and movies. However, my passion that initialised resulted from the Japanese cars and subsequently the modified car culture out there.

I have visited Japan twice now, first time was in summer of 2016, then in 2017.

Fortunately my father's childhood friend actually lives out there and has been for 30-40+years, so from being a village boy in Punjab, to then being an integrated (that term is used VERY loosely :lol:) Japanese citizen he has crossed into a very contrasting country and society.
Me and my parents stayed with him, his Japanese wife and their animals (dogs, chickens, a parakeet - you know, the usual stable of pets :-P), at a house he designed in Chiba, about 20 miles out from Narita International Airport. We did the typical touristy stuff, Tokyo - Akihabara "Electric City" (I am not a big animehead, I am quite particular and I lean towards those anime that touch on esoteric subjects or scifi thriller-esque e.g. Ghost in the Shell, Akira. This meant that I couldn't really get enthusiastic about that part of Akihabara but nonetheless it was a cool experience). Also visited Asakusa in Tokyo, went to the Senso-ji buddhist temple that had some obvious significance as could be highlighted by the number of tourists crowding the place in abundance, but this was more of a gapfill visit, but all the same I can appreciate the architecture and preservation of historical landmarks, which is a practice exhibited all throughout Japan. We then set foot in to the Skytree Tower which is a very tall 2080-foot freestanding structure (only to be beaten by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai), used as an observation tower/restaurant/general tourist hotspot. We took the lift to the floor beneath the top of the tower and even though the slight dullness of the vast concrete jungle awaited us, luckily we were able to spot Mount Fuji in the far distance thanks to the clear sky. The highlight of the first trip was driving a Mazda RX7 (the greatest car to ever be created) on the mountain roads of Hakone which is one of the towns that sit beside Mount Fuji. That was an experience I will never forget. Now, onto my direct experience of the Japanese people. This is of course not going to be a generalisation of ALL the native people in Japan, but this will paint a picture of some sort...

Every year in a Tokyo service station (or 'parking area' as the Japanese call them), on the 7th day of the 7th month, July 7th is the only numerically suitable day for those who worship the sportscar Mazda produced from the late 70's all the way through to the early 00's - as you have already read, it is no surprise, the RX7's Day, better known as just '7's Day', is an event I could never pass chance on attending. This is a RX7-dedicated gathering, which is totally informal and is literally a meet up between friends and acquaintances and strangers who share the passion for this car. The magnitude of this spectacle can be seen here in case you were wondering - 7's Day Tokyo: Ode To The Wankel - Speedhunters. Anyway, due to my ignorant lack of planning, the journey did not go as smoothly as I hoped, and the only way to get to the parking area was via car, surprise surprise, not via bus. Looking back at that now makes me realise how naive I was but that was my lesson and I have learned. So here we are, stuck on a small port island outside Yokohama, with no idea as to how to get into the parking area on foot, it started to get dark, and with all hope lost and feeling down because my efforts were wasted (however short those efforts were) we had to call it a day and make our way back to our accommodation. But, before we get back to the bus stop, we spot a kei car sat at the side of the road with a man in his 30's maybe. He was on the phone, we did not mean to sneak up on him but we seemed to startle him. He wound the window down and I explained the whole fiasco, and then without saying a word he opened the back door to his car, relocated his child seats to the boot and courteously gestured us to hop in. He not only took us via the long and only route into the parking area where I snapped as many photos as I could of all the amazing machines, but then offered to take us back to Yokohama train station so we could get home. Now this guy just finished work from what I gathered, and was about to head home. He even phoned his wife to tell her he would be late because us foreigners were potentially stranded on the port island (okay I am paraphrasing, as I did not exactly hear him say "gaijin") and he was kindly letting us hitch a ride. We tried to offer him money for his troubles but he would not have it, and I knew tipping in Japan is a no-no, but I still felt I had to show some gratitude.

I also noticed people keep themselves to themselves in Japan, and they play their part in society with more diligence in comparison to western cultures, which of course has its pros and its cons. Organisation is held with high importance, as is showing respect and contentment.

Though I have experienced some rude and aggressive people when in Japan, specifically on my visit last year, where upon arrival at the airport, the luggage inspector raised his voice and I sensed some impoliteness. I did not do anything but present my suitcase to him after going through border control, and I was tired and jetlagged so I was not completely with it. Also his English was not brilliant so I did not want to incorrectly interpret what he said so I asked him to confirm what bag he wanted me to open, which he must have seen as me stalling the procedure; just speculating.

The country is great, I would like to live there in the near future, but I need to do my research and of course get up to speed with the complex language.

Hopefully my recollection of my time in Japan did not bore, who else has been to or lived/lives in Japan? I would love to hear others' experience, especially on the Cassiopaea platform!

Thank you


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Hopefully my recollection of my time in Japan did not bore, who else has been to or lived/lives in Japan? I would love to hear others' experience, especially on the Cassiopaea platform!

Hi, reading your post about Japan takes me back. I studied the language for many years growing up and have been there twice. The last time was in 97' so it's been over 20 years since my last visit. Both visits were part of a school exchange program.

I've been trying to remember the temples I visited and the two that stand out to me right now are Todai-ji, the temple complex in Nara and Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto. At the main hall at Todai-ji I remember visiting Daibutsu (The Great Buddha).

Other highlights from the first trip in the early 90's is taking the bullet train. Also, staying for a short while with a host family in Tokyo and celebrating Hinamatsuri or Girls' Day with them. I went to school with my host sister for a few days, and from what I remember everyone was really friendly and welcoming. On the last day of our visit to her school, my friend and I received a collection of origami cranes that were held together by strings (I believe each student of the class folded one crane each). It makes me think of Senbazuru or One Thousand Origami Cranes.

My family also hosted several Japanese exchange students, mostly through a sister city program. I've lost contact with many of them over the years except for one friend who lives in Tokyo. It's also been more than 10 years since I've really used the language. Sometimes I think about taking a Japanese language class at the community college for review so that I don't forget the language all together! I can still read the alphabets Hiragana and Katakana but I've forgotten a lot of Kanji.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience! Writing all this has been a sort of trip down memory lane for me.


Padawan Learner
Cleo, thanks for taking the time to read my post.

I have always read or heard of school student exchange programs as like the gateway introduction to Japan, but this is rarely (if ever) heard of in the UK. I have noticed that it is usually schools in USA or Canada that organize such exchanges. The fact that you were exposed to the Japanese language in education is great, I am jealous! The language intrigues me as it is written in non-English script, the each character, whether it be hiragana, katakana, or kanji, they all have an aesthetic to them which is almost beautiful! Perhaps this is why a lot of western society adopt the character and font styles when they get tattoos haha.

When we went last year, upon arriving in Kyoto, our airbnb host warned us of an incoming typhoon, albeit a minor and fast-passing one. I did not listen as I was too excited, so we got on bikes and headed towards Kinkaku-ji, as the temple itself is quite an attraction and does not look like all the others located throughout Japan so I thought it would be a good idea to tick that spot off first. It started alright, until approx 5 mins away from the temple site, the clouds threw down buckets of rain, my sister was unimpressed, so we retreated to the airbnb, looking like we just jumped in the river. I regret missing seeing that but there's always next time!

The highlight in Kyoto was definitely the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. It was like being in the scene of a movie, but again, alot of tourists at the time we went which kinda offsets the peacefulness of the place, but it was a great experience nonetheless.
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