The latest article:Foreigners in Japan, The Struggle and Integration Efforts.

I have posted a new article on Business Insider, which you can read here. This article has already exceeded 26,161 PV (August 14). The theme of the article is the difficulty of moving to Japan.

Recovery and Perspective: Foreign Views on Living in Japan

As COVID-19 subsides, the number of foreign visitors to Japan in April 2023 has recovered to about 70% of pre-pandemic levels. Many see Japan as a country with a low cost of living and friendly people. However, the perspective changes when asked about moving to Japan permanently.

While studying in Belgium, I noticed that Belgium has a welcoming attitude toward immigrants, creating a diverse and integrated society. This perspective made me wonder: How do foreigners feel about living in Japan?

Talking to friends living in Japan revealed challenges. One notable figure, Asif from Pakistan, who has lived in Japan since 2006, shared his experiences. Despite being a successful businessman in the IT and used car industries and speaking five languages, including Japanese, Asif still struggles with complex visa renewal procedures every three years. A small delay can result in a “downgrade” of his visa. Asif recently received a U.S. startup visa, which suggests he may leave Japan, especially since Japan does not grant citizenship based on birth within its borders.

Another perspective comes from an American friend, “K,” who has gone to great lengths to assimilate into Japanese society, observing and mimicking the nuances of Japanese gestures and behaviors, even avoiding direct eye contact.
Despite a modest salary and student loans, he finds the Japanese national character more like his own. K has been in Japan for nearly a decade and is considering applying for a permanent visa after marrying a Japanese citizen.

A Tale of Two Cultures: Comparing Integration in Belgium and Japan

My experience in Belgium contrasts sharply with K’s in Japan. In Belgium, when I moved to a new home, the local police provided an English guide to help me without suspicion or discrimination.

Belgium, home to many immigrants, operates with three official languages. The prevailing spirit seems to be that “everyone is different, and that’s normal,” suggesting a culture more inclusive and adaptable than Japan’s.

Belgium has proven to be a comfortable place to live, and as I got to know its charms, I began to consider settling here. For example, the cost of education is surprisingly affordable. As I mentioned in a previous article about my life-saving measures in Belgium after leaving a large corporation and studying abroad during a period of weak yen, even my graduate school fees are about 4,000 euros per year, which is roughly equivalent to 600,000 yen. What’s more, if you’re an EU citizen or from certain developing countries in Africa, you only have to pay 800 euros (about 120,000 yen). There are no selection or admission fees. By comparison, the tuition for graduate school at the University of Tokyo, including the admission fee, is 817,800 yen.

Embracing Differences: The Need for Cultural Understanding and Inclusivity

Of course, these benefits are subsidized by the taxes of the Belgian people. Their income tax averages 40-45%, which may seem high, but it’s reflected in affordable education and health care. I’ve noticed that young Belgians are not as worried about their future as their counterparts in Japan. Even though I’ve only paid consumption tax as a foreigner, I’ve grown to want to contribute to the development of this country, which offers such an excellent and affordable education compared to my home country, Japan.

Despite Japan’s declining population, the country remains popular among foreigners. Japan has advantages in anime and its unique culture, and many are fond of Japan, even in Belgium. It’s common to see people wearing Japanese anime clothing, and events showcasing Japanese culture are always packed. I often hear praise about Japan, such as its organized cities and polite citizens. However, there seems to be a diminishing value due to a lack of understanding of other cultures. This is really unfortunate.

My stable life in Belgium is possible because of the understanding and support of the Belgian people. I can’t help but wish for the same understanding and support from my homeland, Japan.

  • URLをコピーしました!