The Actual Pros and Cons of Living in Tokyo

Dave Gutteridge
From the Gutt
Published in
20 min readOct 11, 2021

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A busy Tokyo street at night.

Every now and again I’ll see a list on some travel site about the good and bad things about living in Japan. It’s usually pretty obvious that was written by someone who’s only been here a year or two, and who was assigned to write it by some content editor, only because lists are a format that gets shared a lot on social media.

Some of the things they include on lists like that are just mundane stereotypes, like how Japan is such a safe country. Other observations are the kind of thing the Japan Tourism Bureau would like you to know, like how quirky Harajuku is. Sometimes they include things that were clearly added to pad out the list, like how there are people outside train stations who hand out little tissue packets with advertisements on them. That can be convenient or not, I suppose, depending on if you happen to need a tissue. And maybe they don’t do that in other countries. But, is it really something meaningful enough to hang your impression of a country on?

Rarely do these lists reflect anything like what it really means to live here. And I don’t know if they ever could. Does anyone choose to live in a country because of exotic quirks or broad stereotypes?

I’ve lived in Tokyo for over half my life, and I like it just fine, but I’m neither delusional about it’s merits nor cynical about it’s difficulties. Of course I sometimes question whether or not Tokyo is the right place to be for me. Especially when I have to go through the hassle of renewing my visa and I wonder if the choices I make to be eligible for renewal are worth it.

So I’ve given some thought to the pros and cons, and I’ve listed some of those here.

Pro: People leave you alone

It’s the kind of thing that’s going to work for some people, and not for others. I went to New York a couple times, and I found the level of constant interaction with people both fun and exhausting. I wouldn’t want to live there, but I get why some people would feed off that energy.

Some people might find Tokyo isolating, in that the people around you generally don’t default to interacting with you in any way. They don’t smile at you as you walk by, like they did when I was in San Francisco. But they aren’t committed to looking…

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Dave Gutteridge
From the Gutt

I don't post often because I think about what I write. Topics include ethics, relationships, and philosophy.