12 Ways Living in Japan for 15 Years Will Change Your American Mind

Are you an American considering a move to Japan? Brace yourself for a mind-bending experience!

In this eye-opening article, we’ll explore 12 surprising ways that living in Japan for an extended period can transform your perspective on life, work, and culture.

YouTuber Scott from “Unrested” channel shares his insights on reverse culture shock, navigating the educational landscape, and finding comfort in the familiar after his 15-year stint in Japan.

How hard did reverse culture shock hit?

Reverse culture shock can be a powerful force when returning to the United States after living in Japan for an extended period. Scott experienced this firsthand, noting that the most significant difference was the intensity of political polarization in America.

People seemed to be overly passionate about politics compared to when he left in 2007, and he found that many Americans now form their opinions based on what they read online rather than real-life experiences.

Additionally, Scott noticed that the entire American culture seemed to revolve around the internet, which was a stark contrast to Japan, where opinions are less likely to be forged solely through online interactions.

While he also had to catch up on slang terms that had evolved over the past 15 years, this was more of a language shock than a cultural one.

How different is working in America’s educational system different from being an educator in Japan?

Working in the American education system is a world apart from teaching in Japan. Scott notes that the American system is more open-minded and allows teachers to be creative in their lesson planning.

Educators can create entire lessons from scratch, using their own resources, as long as they meet the benchmark requirements for standardized tests. This flexibility is a significant advantage of the American system.

However, Japan’s educational system excels in structure and organization. Lessons are planned 3-4 months in advance, ensuring a well-organized curriculum.

Additionally, Japanese parents tend to trust and support teachers unconditionally, even apologizing for their child’s misbehavior when reported.

In contrast, American teachers sometimes face challenges with rowdy students and overly protective parents who may question their teaching methods.

After all this time does America still feel like home to you? Does it still have that comfortable homey feeling for you or has that gone away over time in favor of Japan feeling that way?

The question of whether America still feels like home after living in Japan for 15 years is a complex one. Scott admits that certain aspects of American life, such as the ease of communicating in his native language, provide a sense of comfort.

Being able to effortlessly read product labels, ask for assistance in stores, and express himself without fear of saying something awkward or rude is a welcome change from his experiences in Japan.

However, he also finds himself missing the familiarity and sense of community he enjoyed in his Japanese neighborhood. The close-knit relationships with local shopkeepers who knew his children and saved their favorite items created a feeling of belonging that he has yet to recreate in America.

Despite the convenience of American life, Scott sometimes longs for the intimate, small-town atmosphere he experienced in the big cities of Japan.

I know you mentioned a lot about Japan’s recent struggles and tension in Asia, so would you recommend people still consider moving to Japan if that’s something they are considering, or would you advise against it?

When asked whether he would recommend moving to Japan given the recent tensions in Asia, Scott refers to his previous video, “Why you should not move to Japan right now.”

He believes that while tensions between Japan, China, and North Korea are present, they are not so severe that they should deter someone from considering a move to Japan. He points out that the United States and Japan have a strong military alliance, which provides a sense of security.

However, he does advise potential expats to focus more on the economic aspects of living in Japan. The country’s economy and job market are not particularly strong, and the pay for English teachers is not as competitive as it once was.

Scott recommends that those considering a move to Japan have a substantial amount of savings or a job lined up that offers better prospects than just teaching English.

He also cautions against moving to Japan with a family unless one is of Japanese descent or has the language skills to work in an industry other than teaching.

After 15+ years living in Japan full-time are there any big life lessons that you think living there has taught you over time?

Living in Japan for over 15 years has taught Scott several valuable life lessons. One of the most significant is the importance of maintaining harmony in the workplace.

He observed how Japanese colleagues would go above and beyond in their work, paying attention to detail and striving for perfection, even for seemingly minor tasks like creating props for a school play. This experience has inspired him to put more effort and passion into his own work.

Another key lesson is the value of acknowledging and apologizing for any inconvenience caused to colleagues, even if unintentional.

Scott shares an anecdote about a coworker who was upset when her handmade decorations went missing after an event. Although it was not his responsibility, he apologized for not keeping track of her belongings, demonstrating empathy and a desire to maintain a harmonious working relationship. He believes that these small gestures can go a long way in creating a positive work environment.

Coming back to America, has your opinion of it all changed? If so, in what ways? I’m so curious how being away for this long has changed the way you view it and what your overall opinion on it is now that you’re back.

Upon returning to the United States, Scott has noticed a significant shift in his perception of American culture and society. He is struck by the intensity of the ongoing culture wars and the political polarization that seems to have taken hold of the country.

People appear to be more passionate about their political affiliations than ever before, often viewing themselves as part of a “team” rather than as individuals with nuanced opinions.

Scott questions why Americans feel the need to align themselves so strongly with political parties and engage in divisive arguments that only serve to further separate people.

He admits to feeling somewhat alienated by this new landscape, as he doesn’t identify with any particular “team” and instead believes in treating all people equally, regardless of their beliefs or backgrounds.

Having been away for 15 years, he sees the current state of American discourse as rather bizarre and counterproductive, longing for a time when people were less likely to let political differences define their relationships with others.

Now that you’re spending time in the US and can feel the differences between the US and Japan, what is one thing you wish Japan would learn from the US and what is one thing you wish the US could learn from Japan? This can be anything like technology, a belief system, whatever.

After experiencing life in both Japan and the United States, Scott has identified several areas where each country could learn from the other. He believes that the most significant lesson America could learn from Japan is the concept of “live and let live.”

In Japan, people are less likely to get involved in heated debates about politics or personal beliefs, instead focusing on their own lives and responsibilities. Even those with conservative views tend to adopt a more tolerant attitude towards lifestyles that differ from their own, embodying the Japanese saying, “Shoganai,” which means “it is what it is.”

On the other hand, Scott feels that Japan could benefit from adopting the American mindset of actively seeking to improve and fix things that are not working optimally.

He cites the example of Japan’s reluctance to update its electrical infrastructure or introduce more energy-efficient practices, such as installing insulation in homes and buildings.

By contrast, the American approach is to identify problems and work towards finding solutions. Additionally, he notes that the United States tends to be more supportive of families with children, ensuring an adequate supply of childcare facilities and schools, whereas Japan’s focus on catering to an aging population has led to a neglect of the needs of younger generations.

How do most people in Japan feel about the whole China situation? Do most people have a negative perception of China? Are they worried about the possible conflict over Taiwan or Island chains?

Scott notes that many people in Japan, and Asia in general, harbor negative sentiments towards China. He acknowledges that there is a significant amount of racism and distrust among Asian countries, with Japanese people often expressing unfavorable opinions about Chinese and South Korean people.

He admits that his own perception of China has been influenced by his time in Japan, leading him to view the Chinese government and some of its politicians as “evil.”

However, Scott is quick to point out that he doesn’t dislike Chinese people as a whole, and he believes that politicians worldwide, including those in America and Japan, can be equally untrustworthy.

He observes that the tensions between Japan and China are fueled by a cycle of accusations and counter-accusations, making it difficult to discern the truth. As an outsider to both cultures, he feels that it is not his place to make judgments and that it is best to approach the situation with a balanced perspective.

Is the current plan to stay in the US until your son finishes school, and then make a decision about going back to Japan or not? I guess my question is, is this move back to the US more of a “let’s take this year by year and see how it goes” or is this a “decision we’ve decided to make and we’re committed to it” type of thing?

Scott and his family are currently taking a flexible approach to their living situation, deciding to take things year by year. He emphasizes that he is not abandoning Japan altogether, and plans to split his time between the two countries.

In fact, he is scheduled to return to Japan for a two-month stay in the coming summer, and intends to continue this pattern of spending summers in Japan and the rest of the year in the United States.

The family’s long-term plan is to wait until their eldest son graduates from high school and enters college before making a decision about a more permanent residence.

At that point, they may choose to sell one of their properties and settle in either Japan or America, or they may continue to maintain homes in both countries if they enjoy the back-and-forth lifestyle.

Scott also mentions that his wife hopes to start a small business in the United States, focusing on the Japanese art of Kintsugi (repairing broken pottery with gold), while he plans to continue teaching art and enjoying his work.

Ultimately, their decision will depend on various factors, including job opportunities and personal preferences, but for now, they are content with embracing the flexibility that their current situation affords them.

Are there any J vloggers out there that you still keep in touch with from time to time?

While the Japanese vlogging community has evolved over the years, Scott still maintains contact with several of his fellow J-vloggers. He mentions receiving a message from Victor of “Gimmeaflakeman” upon his return to the United States, checking to confirm if he had indeed moved back.

Although many of his connections are now with people who no longer actively create YouTube content, he still values these friendships and the shared experiences they had as part of the J-vlogging community.

Scott goes on to list a few specific individuals he keeps in touch with, such as his friend Dan from the channel “Kurbstompy,” with whom he communicates regularly.

He also follows the social media updates of other J-vloggers like “HikoSaemon” and “BusanKevin,” even though he may not interact with them directly. While acknowledging that the J-vlogging scene has changed significantly since its heyday, Scott expresses a sense of nostalgia for the close-knit community they once shared and hopes to reconnect with more of his peers in the future.

How do you feel about Chris Broad of Abroad in Japan? As the Jvlog community started to slow down some, I feel like he became the next big thing in Japan.

Scott speaks highly of Chris Broad, the creator behind the popular channel “Abroad in Japan.” Having had the opportunity to meet Chris in person, Scott found him to be a genuinely nice and impressive individual.

He recalls a conversation they had at a pizza buffet in Japan, where Chris outlined his plans for his YouTube career. Even before reaching 100,000 subscribers, Chris demonstrated a keen understanding of the platform and its analytics, which left Scott convinced that he was destined for success.

Scott appreciates Chris’s balanced approach to creating content about Japan, as he discusses both the positive and negative aspects of life in the country without sugarcoating his opinions.

He also admires Chris’s take on Japanese television, which he agrees can be quite bizarre and often involves staged or exaggerated reactions. While Scott admits to feeling some envy towards Chris’s success, he recognizes that it is a result of his talent, hard work, and dedication.

He dismisses any negativity from those who might accuse Chris of “stealing” the J-vlogging spotlight, instead choosing to celebrate his achievements and the well-deserved recognition he has earned.

What’s one place in Japan that you think maybe lots of foreigners don’t know about that you really like that you’d recommend to people to visit? I ask because I may be taking another trip there.

For those planning a trip to Japan, Scott highly recommends visiting Mount Koya, a lesser-known destination that he considers a must-see. This sacred site is home to a breathtaking esoteric Buddhist graveyard, where individuals pay millions of dollars to be buried.

The area is steeped in history and spiritual significance, with a unique sect of Buddhism that was brought over from China and has since been cultivated and practiced on the mountain.

Scott highlights several fascinating aspects of Mount Koya, including the temple’s carved statues of Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, and the Baku, a mythical creature believed to devour nightmares.

The graveyard itself is a sight to behold, with an array of unique and elaborate gravestones that reflect the personalities and professions of those buried there. Some of the more humorous tombstones include a giant coffee cup for a former coffee company CEO and a stone rocket for an engineer.

Despite the somber nature of the location, Scott finds joy in the way these markers celebrate the lives of the deceased. He also mentions the beautiful Buddhist statues, the meticulously maintained ancient gardens, and the stunning Tori gates that adorn the area.

While reaching Mount Koya requires a bit of effort, involving multiple train rides and a winding bus journey, Scott assures viewers that the experience is well worth the trouble.

See Scott’s full video at Unrested Youtube channel.

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