Author Topic: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?  (Read 6380 times)

Gerard

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1400
  • Location: eastern canada
downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« on: December 02, 2016, 05:33:52 AM »
Following up on a side thread on Go Curry Cracker, I had a look at home prices near Kyoto/Osaka. It looks like you can get a tiny apartment in town, or a four-room house in the "countryside", for about $50K. And searching for that led me to stories about Japanese local governments selling or renting homes at crazy low prices, because the absence of jobs in the "countryside" and limited transit etc. has led to thousands of empty places. The intriguing bit for me is that Japanese countryside and limited transit seems to mean that you have to walk all of 15 minutes to the commuter train stop. And, of course, you get the upsides of Japan (cool culture, crazily high quality everything).

Given the love here for tiny homes and car-free lives, is Japan on anyone's radar?

theadvicist

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1447
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2016, 06:18:32 AM »
I'm not considering it personally, but I've spent some time their recently, and Kyoto is now one of my favourite cities on earth. I loved it.

However, the culture, whilst right up my street generally - conformist, authoritarian, rule following - would be my sticking point. The language barrier, and culture-barrier would be too great for me (not trying to put you off, just explaining why it isn't an option for me despite loving it as a place to visit).

Housing does seem cheap if those are the prices you've come up with. But to me, everything else was on the expensive side. That might be a function of currency conversion though, I was effectively spending GBP.

What I'm saying is, you can't just look at the cost of housing, it's the cost of living that's important. Do you have any data on that?

FLBiker

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 985
  • Age: 43
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2016, 07:02:30 AM »
Thanks for sharing this!  I spent ~ 2 weeks in Japan when I was living in Taiwan.  I really like it, but I had some of the same concerns as theadvicist.  That said, those housing prices sound pretty great.

What about a visa?  When I looked into moving there (~2005) I seem to recall it being kind of tricky to get a resident visa.

Villanelle

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2946
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2016, 07:26:01 AM »
I find it to be pretty darn expensive to live here.  Some of that is getting out and doing things, riding trains, etc.  But even if you want to just kind of chill out home, produce (for example) is super spendy.  You can eat for very inexpensively at some restaurants, but it's still eating out and thus more expensive than home cooking.

It is also a place where you will never ever be accepted as a local.  That doesn't mean people won't be kind to you, but you will always, always be an outsider.  Also, in more rural areas, you are less likely to find English signs, menus, etc., and English-speaking locals. 

Semi-side note, but I make amazing great money (usually 4000 yen/hr, which is very roughly $USD40/hr) teaching conversational English classes to adults.  This might be more difficult to arrange in truly rural areas, but it's been an absolutely wonderful experience, and might be a nice side hustle if you can make it happen. 

fa

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 233
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2016, 07:53:40 AM »
Fascinating question.  I too loved Japan when visiting.  But I think there are some huge drawbacks when living there.  Japanese think of everything foreign as inferior to all things Japanese, and that includes people.  They are very polite to foreigners, but you know in their hearts they just don't think of you as an equal human being.  That would bother me as a resident.

Also, the language and cultural barrier is huge.  Japan is extremely structured and extremely rule oriented.  I suspect I would find it stifling after a while.  The benefit is a very safe society, because punishments for misconduct are harsh and cultural norms are strictly enforced.

Also remember that Japanese associate any tattoos with the mafia, so if you have any, going to an onsen may be a challenge.  I don't know if being a foreigner exempts you from that assumption.

I believe it would be wise to try a shorter term furnished rental before making any type of long term commitment.  But for a short term visit, Japan is heaven.


Daleth

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1201
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2016, 07:59:36 AM »
It's on our radar despite the seismic activity there. If I had to be in a horrendous major earthquake, I would much rather be in Japan than, say, California, because they're so incredibly organized and helpful and community-minded. By organized I mean, for instance, if a quake happens, your entire village will get an immediate text message saying "A tsunami is coming, please move in orderly fashion to higher ground," and pre-designated leaders in every neighborhood will help get people out.

I mean, after the 2011 tsunami, even the JAPANESE MAFIA (yakuza) opened their headquarters to stranded commuters, and they also smuggled around $50 million of supplies into radioactive areas that it was illegal for outsiders to enter. And then all those old people volunteered to clean up the nuclear waste!!!! I read interviews where people said, "We're too old to care about being exposed to radiation, we'll be dead in a few years anyway, so we should do this work instead of making young people do it even if doing it is literally those young people's jobs. They should stay home with their kids, we'll just go do it for free, don't mind us..." And then they actually did it. Amazing.

It's also extremely safe, thanks in part to the yakuza--they literally recruit young local troublemakers, tell them they'll have a job for life if they obey absolutely and NEVER EVER commit any kind of crime or vandalism that wasn't specifically assigned to them by their yakuza boss, and in that way they keep the streets safe for anyone who doesn't cross the yakuza...

That said, I have a major knack for learning languages, have studied I don't even know how many (a dozen?), everything from Russian to Old Norse (medieval Icelandic), and Japanese is far and away THE ABSOLUTE HARDEST language I've ever studied. The pronunciation is actually very easy, especially compared to, say, Chinese or for that matter even English, but the language itself--vocab, syntax, grammar, writing--is almost impossibly difficult. And I'm not speaking as a beginner--I got to the point where I wrote a ten-page essay in Japanese (a very simplistic essay, but still), and then backslid so much I can't even READ that essay anymore, much less write it. Buuuuuuut people do it, people do learn it, so maybe I just need to give it more time?

For those interested in learning Japanese, I would strongly suggest starting with Pimsleur CDs, which you may be able to get from your local library (directly or via interlibrary loan). It's a really good system, although you'll need something else to learn to read and write. But starting out with speaking/listening is the most effective way to learn a language and it's certainly more useful than being able to read novels but unable to talk.

I agree that in Japan any of us and our children would forever be outsiders, but in a sense that can be a benefit. Nobody expects you to understand and obey all the rules; weirdness on your part is more forgivable than weirdness on a native Japanese person's part. And if you do learn to speak Japanese pretty well, my god, they'll think you're an absolute genius and they'll really appreciate the effort. That's my experience anyway, having seen reactions to my husband's good Japanese skills.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2016, 08:02:35 AM by Daleth »

redbird

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 535
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2016, 08:47:30 AM »
I lived there for 3 years - that's actually the last place I lived pre-FIRE, so it was more recent-ish. I LOVED Japan. But I didn't want to FIRE there.

1. It's expensive to live there. It's ridiculously expensive to live in or too near any of the major cities because of the high cost of land. It's cheaper to live in the country, of course, but you won't get away from high costs for a few things. Electricity is a lot more expensive in Japan, and it doesn't help with the way Japanese houses are constructed. The walls tend to be very thin, have zero insulation, and the windows tend to be single paned. Your house will be COLD in the winter. And central air/heat doesn't really exist. Food can also be expensive, especially fruit, dairy, and any meat that isn't seafood. It's also quite expensive to drive in Japan due to taxes, gas costs, highway tolls (no highways are free in Japan), and parking (free parking is rare in Japan - you may even have to pay to rent a parking space at your home/apartment). There are a lot of public transportation options, and it's definitely less expensive than driving, but by no means is it super cheap either.

2. It's hard to get permanent residence if you're not married to a Japanese citizen. Most foreigners who live there are staying there on work visas that must be renewed once a year. You aren't going to become a not working sort of early retired if you work. And don't expect a part time job to keep you on a work visa either. The work visas cost the company money to sponsor. They tend not to bother doing so for part time jobs. You have to expect to work full time. And full time work in Japan is almost always more than 40 hours a week.

3. Earthquakes happen, literally, all the time. I felt them at least once a month. The big ones that cause damage are more rare, but still. I wanted to FIRE somewhere with less of a chance of a natural disaster. Tsunami, at least, don't have to be an issue. I lived far enough inland that it was never going to happen. But you can't get away from earthquakes anywhere in Japan.

4. It's impossible to pay for everything with credit cards in Japan. Grocery stores, restaurants, and your bills generally all have to be paid for in cash. So that makes things a little more expensive too (less rewards).

The things I liked about Japan:

- Almost crime free. It's super safe, even late at night in the middle of the major cities. If you drop your wallet, someone will either turn it in to lost and found or, if they see you drop it, come running after you to give it to you.
- The Japanese are generally super polite and helpful. People like to say the Japanese are strict about rules. While they are, if you are obviously a foreigner (meaning you don't look Asian), then they will forgive you if you break the rules if they can tell that you are TRYING to do the right thing.
- Japanese society is generally more introverted than extroverted. I liked this because it means that Japanese store clerks won't be constantly asking you if you need help, nor will they feel the need to have pointless small talk with you. But if you DO ask for their help, boy will they bend over backwards to do what it takes to help you.
- In the cities, language barrier is less of an issue. There tends to be more signs in both English and Japanese, and you're more likely to find Japanese people who know at least a little bit of English (don't rely on the latter though!). If you're out in the country - things will be harder if you know zero language. Many restaurants, at least, tend to be easier. They tend to have menus with pictures, or the fake plastic food, to show you what the food options look like. Pointing at what you want is OK. They will get it.
- High speed internet is cheaper and faster than America in the cities. We're talking 1-2 gigabit/second fiber for the equivalent of $40 or less.
- You can get virtually everywhere with public transportation, and it's all connected together, even though it's not all run by the same company. Most public transportation can be paid for with a rechargable pre-paid card that works with many different public transportation companies, so it's super easy. It's also very clean and almost always on time.
- And, of course, if you like that kind of thing - the food is delicious and the culture is fascinating. :)

Daleth

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1201
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2016, 07:29:07 AM »
Redbird, what part of Japan did you live in? One thought I had to avoid any unpleasantly cold weather was to live in the south. Maybe even Okinawa. That said, I don't know what there is in the way of culture, technological and other amenities of civilization, etc. down there. (I'm a big fan of cities, culture, civilization, modern medical care, etc.). But even the Kyoto area could work since their average temps range from 40F in January (which is pretty damn warm for January in my book) to 83F in the summer.

englishteacheralex

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1961
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Honolulu, HI
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2016, 09:53:19 AM »
This is such a cool thread! I live in Hawaii, which has a very strong Japanese influence (most of the kids at the school where I teach take Japanese language class and are Japanese-American). I've never been to Japan, but I'm surrounded by aspects of the culture here. I should know more about it! Lots of fun reading these responses.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14027
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2016, 10:15:44 AM »
The reason that houses in Japan are so cheap is that it's mostly wood construction in a natural disaster prone area with a climate that is very hard on building materials.  Houses in Japan tend to need an awful lot of maintenance and repair after 20 - 30 years.  There's that, and the general abandonment and creation of ghost towns in the rural areas that is driving the low prices.  It's all stuff that could be worked around, but important to be aware of before jumping in.

Metric Mouse

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5299
  • FU @ 22. F.I.R.E before 23
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2016, 03:48:45 AM »
Following, if only to hear all the arguments against it. Being in a multi-racial relationship can sadly limit the places one is welcome.

arebelspy

  • Administrator
  • Senior Mustachian
  • *****
  • Posts: 28008
  • Age: -999
  • Location: Seattle, WA
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2016, 08:12:11 AM »
Following, for maybe.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with two kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

Gerard

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1400
  • Location: eastern canada
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2016, 09:18:10 AM »
Thanks to everyone for the feedback and data so far, and I would be happy to see more.

Many downsides mentioned might affect me (and other mustachians) less than they would normal people. I can live with being the town weirdo, surviving on basic Japanese, using less energy, and avoiding cars and red meat. And Stv's descriptions of Japanese houses could easily be applied to my current place in Newfoundland.

The sticking point (reinforced by my desultory research) is probably the difficulty of getting permanent resident status. I can meet the "special circumstances" requirement with my published research, but I would need to work 3 to 5 years in the country first. Hmm.

On the other hand, actual property buying (without full residence) seems to be relatively easy for foreigners. Maybe I could buy a small Kyoto apartment, live in it for the maximum annual days on a visitor visa, and have an agency rent it out on airbnb the rest of the time.

TL8

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 25
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #13 on: December 04, 2016, 03:53:10 PM »
I'm a permanent resident living in Japan. Quasi-FIRE is probably another 10+ years away for me and my wife but we'll most likely do it in Japan. I'll add my perspective to some of the points raised so far.

  • Cost of living. If you like big cities, I think the cost of living in Japan is pretty attractive. My experience is that there are more options to keep costs down in/around Tokyo or Osaka than in cities like New York, London, or San Francisco. A big part of this is that building regulations in Japanese cities are much less strict than in many other world cities, so there is less of a supply/demand imbalance for modern housing. Also, because public transportation here is so excellent, you could live a 45- or even 75-minute train ride away from central Tokyo and enjoy greatly reduced housing costs while having the city remain completely accessible. On the other hand, the countryside here is probably a more expensive place to live than a truly rural area in the U.S. due to the cost of gas and food.
  • Language. This would be one of my main concerns for someone considering retirement in Japan. If you only speak English and other Germanic or romance languages, it will take a long time to learn enough Japanese to become conversational, and even longer to be able to express complicated ideas. Even for an extremely gifted language learner, we're talking about years of study. Many Japanese still struggle a great deal with English, so if you don't have Japanese language skills you're likely to find yourself socially isolated just by virtue of communication problems with most of your neighbors. Some of these neighbors might be willing to try very hard to develop a friendship in English, but communication issues will almost certainly limit the depth of your personal relationships with many people. If you live in or near a major city there will be other foreigners and a higher concentration of English-fluent Japanese, so that will alleviate the problem somewhat, but it will still likely have a big impact on your life.
  • Visa/residence. Unless you plan to work here for a number of years or have Japanese family, I'm not sure how you would go about getting a visa status that would allow you to FIRE in Japan. It may be possible, but you'd want to research it carefully.
  • Quality of life. If you like living in or near cities, I think Japan offers probably the best quality of life of any place in the world. It's extremely safe, clean, most restaurants are a lot better and also cheaper than the average place in a large U.S. city, there are a lot of quiet residential neighborhoods even near city centers, and excellent public transportation makes it very easy to enjoy nature on weekends. National health insurance is income-based and very affordable and the cost of health care is very low even without insurance.
  • Taxes. Personal income taxes are high, especially in Tokyo, and both Japanese and permanent residents will face an exit tax beginning around 2020. I consider this a worthwhile investment in the government infrastructure that I use every day, but if high taxes bother you Japan is not a great place to live.
  • Earthquakes. Overall, modern buildings in Japan are required by law to meet stringent earthquake-resistant structural standards. As far as I'm aware, not a single modern building in Sendai collapsed as a result of the massive 2011 earthquake (setting aside the damage from the tsunami). But earthquakes can be scary and if that really frightens you Japan is probably not a good place to live.

I also want to address one additional comment:

Japanese think of everything foreign as inferior to all things Japanese, and that includes people.  They are very polite to foreigners, but you know in their hearts they just don't think of you as an equal human being.  That would bother me as a resident.

This is a common stereotype that is absolutely not true. Just as you can find plenty of Americans who look down on foreigners and immigrants, of course you can find plenty of Japanese with the same views. But Japan is a country of over 100 million people and there is a great diversity of opinion and experience when it comes to foreigners (or anything else, for that matter). Much like in America, Japanese who live in cosmopolitan areas where there are more foreign businesspeople and immigrants tend to be more open-minded because they've had more firsthand experience with foreigners. But even in more suburban or rural areas, you'd be making a big mistake to assume right off the bat that the people around you think you are somehow "inferior." People are complicated here just like everywhere else.

---

I guess the bottom line of all of this is that I think it could be very isolating and psychologically difficult to live in a small town if you don't speak Japanese, but if you're interested in living near a big city at a relatively reasonable cost, Japan is a great option. I say "relatively reasonable" because I'm comparing the cost to major cities in the U.S. and Europe.

aFrugalFather

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 219
    • Life/Finance Blog
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #14 on: December 04, 2016, 04:14:10 PM »
I think everything is well covered thus far.  I'll only add that Japan is a unique place, you didn't say how familiar you are with the country and the culture.  Personally I love visiting there, but even with that it can get a bit lonely after a while, since its unlikely that you will find a common "tribe" with similar people in any place you can cheaply buy a home in.   Japan is very homogenous outside of the big cities. 

Also, something you might want to look into is the cost of homes.  I have read/seen that older homes are so cheap because Japanese don't buy old/lived in homes at rates like in other countries.  Typically they buy new and the homes are not constructed to last generations because of this.  Same with used cars, although part of that is the cost for upkeep/fees/maintenance etc. 
« Last Edit: December 04, 2016, 04:17:11 PM by aFrugalFather »


Villanelle

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2946
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #16 on: December 04, 2016, 09:02:34 PM »
Thanks to everyone for the feedback and data so far, and I would be happy to see more.

Many downsides mentioned might affect me (and other mustachians) less than they would normal people. I can live with being the town weirdo, surviving on basic Japanese, using less energy, and avoiding cars and red meat. And Stv's descriptions of Japanese houses could easily be applied to my current place in Newfoundland.

The sticking point (reinforced by my desultory research) is probably the difficulty of getting permanent resident status. I can meet the "special circumstances" requirement with my published research, but I would need to work 3 to 5 years in the country first. Hmm.

On the other hand, actual property buying (without full residence) seems to be relatively easy for foreigners. Maybe I could buy a small Kyoto apartment, live in it for the maximum annual days on a visitor visa, and have an agency rent it out on airbnb the rest of the time.

Produce us also very expensive.  One of my students brought an orange to share with the class this week.  It cost 1000 yen, or about $10 USD.  Husband once purchased a $4 strawberry.  While these are outliers, the produce here is amazingly good quality, but you pay for it.  You will get a perfect pear, and it will come individually wrapped in protective padding. There will not be a single spot or dent or imperfection.  And you'll pay for that.   

And unless you've lived a place where you not only don't speak the language, but are completely illiterate, don't underestimate how frustrating and isolating it is.  When you go to register your car and have to make a trip to the police station to have them come out to measure your parking place to make sure it is sufficient, they will ask you questions and you will stare blankly at them.  The grocery lady will say something at the end of the transaction and you'll have no clue what she's said.  You'll be lost an unable to ask for directions.  There will be food and you have no idea what it is and won't be able to ask (or at least not beyond "chicken, polite question").  You will be driving and unable to read the street signs, even just to sound them out for sounds which have no meaning to you.  Functional illiteracy sucks and is very frustrating and isolating.  Even for a person who prefers a certain amount of solitary time, you still have to register your car and buy your groceries and park in metered lots where you can't read the directions on the machine, and take trains where you don't understand the announcements (I wonder if he said there would be a short delay, or if this train is canceled indefinitely?). 

This is not to say your plan is terrible, but I'd caution you against being so dismissive of what can be incredibly challenging, and would probably be even more so in the more rural areas. 

shelivesthedream

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4788
  • Location: London, UK
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #17 on: December 05, 2016, 02:27:33 AM »
I'm becoming increasingly interested in spending some time (an extended holiday?) in Japan, but two things make me hesitate/prevaricate:
1. The expense. (Because it's a long way and we'd want to go for a while, and it would be a "once in a lifetime trip".)
2. The language.

To me, moving somewhere where you don't know the language and don't intend to learn is kind of a dick move. It is so rude to move to another country and "refuse" to learn to communicate. Sure, you don't need to be fluent before you get there, but you've got to commit to learning Japanese eventually. I'm thinking of taking classes just to go on holiday! Because who wants to be the asshole foreigner who won't make an effort?

Tetsuya Hondo

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 503
  • Location: 1960's Tokyo on the Bad Side of Town
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #18 on: December 05, 2016, 08:18:36 AM »
I'm becoming increasingly interested in spending some time (an extended holiday?) in Japan, but two things make me hesitate/prevaricate:
1. The expense. (Because it's a long way and we'd want to go for a while, and it would be a "once in a lifetime trip".)
2. The language.

To me, moving somewhere where you don't know the language and don't intend to learn is kind of a dick move. It is so rude to move to another country and "refuse" to learn to communicate. Sure, you don't need to be fluent before you get there, but you've got to commit to learning Japanese eventually. I'm thinking of taking classes just to go on holiday! Because who wants to be the asshole foreigner who won't make an effort?

Don't let the lack of language hold you back at all. I was surprised at how easy it is to get around with minimal to no Japanese. It seems that, if you don't look Japanese, then people are shocked and genuinely pleased if you know how to say anything at all. Many people are exceedingly polite and friendly. In most shops, Japanese customer service puts the rest of the planet to shame. If you look lost, there's a good chance someone will approach you to try and help.

I felt more comfortable in Japan, despite the language barrier, than anywhere else I've been in Western Europe or East Asia.

With a little homework, you can find relatively inexpensive lodging, even in places like Tokyo and Kyoto. Inexpensive dining options abound.

Go. It's awesome. [For a holiday anyway, I can't speak to living there permanently or semi-permanently.]
« Last Edit: December 05, 2016, 08:20:25 AM by Tetsuya Hondo »

aFrugalFather

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 219
    • Life/Finance Blog
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #19 on: December 05, 2016, 10:41:02 AM »
I'm becoming increasingly interested in spending some time (an extended holiday?) in Japan, but two things make me hesitate/prevaricate:
1. The expense. (Because it's a long way and we'd want to go for a while, and it would be a "once in a lifetime trip".)
2. The language.

To me, moving somewhere where you don't know the language and don't intend to learn is kind of a dick move. It is so rude to move to another country and "refuse" to learn to communicate. Sure, you don't need to be fluent before you get there, but you've got to commit to learning Japanese eventually. I'm thinking of taking classes just to go on holiday! Because who wants to be the asshole foreigner who won't make an effort?

Don't let the language hold you back.  With Japan the likely worse case scenarios for misunderstanding is that could happen is that you may get delayed going somewhere or have to eat something you don't like.  Japan is about the safest place you can go and technology makes it easier to get around (e.g., google maps) and translate signs.  Its not like you are likely to take a wrong turn and end up in a bad part of town that would get you robbed.  Also if you stick to major destinations (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto etc) you will be able to find people that have a passing understanding of English (may not be the first person, but someone nearby possibly).  But thats only the worse case, chances are you will get by just find if you do a bit of homework before hand of how things work.

As far for cost, well, just research and you can cut the expenses probably easier than even going to London or Paris.       

shelivesthedream

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4788
  • Location: London, UK
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #20 on: December 05, 2016, 12:02:23 PM »
Don't get me wrong, y'all, I'm not afraid! I just think I'll have a much nicer time if I can speak some basic Japanese. I enjoy learning languages - I'm looking forward to it! Between me and my husband, we speak at least a bit of French, Spanish, German and Italian, so holidays in Europe are easy. We're homebodies, though, rather than eager travellers, so we don't feel held back by the idea that we'll only go once in a decade or two. I wouldn't mind that much if we never went at all - though I know that might be hard for some of you to understand! :)

As for cost, we'd be willing to spend out on this, mainly so we can eat ALL THE THINGS! AirBNB and cheap flights all the way, but we would definitely be eating out a LOT.

fa

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 233
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #21 on: December 05, 2016, 12:07:43 PM »
Don't let the language hold you back.  With Japan the likely worse case scenarios for misunderstanding is that could happen is that you may get delayed going somewhere or have to eat something you don't like.  Japan is about the safest place you can go and technology makes it easier to get around (e.g., google maps) and translate signs.  Its not like you are likely to take a wrong turn and end up in a bad part of town that would get you robbed.  Also if you stick to major destinations (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto etc) you will be able to find people that have a passing understanding of English (may not be the first person, but someone nearby possibly).  But thats only the worse case, chances are you will get by just find if you do a bit of homework before hand of how things work.   

I totally agree with you.  Many Japanese know English better than they give themselves credit for.  They are intimidated by spoken English, so speaking slowly or writing down helps a lot.  The occasional misunderstanding is just part of the deal.

Tetsuya Hondo

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 503
  • Location: 1960's Tokyo on the Bad Side of Town
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #22 on: December 05, 2016, 01:04:38 PM »
As for cost, we'd be willing to spend out on this, mainly so we can eat ALL THE THINGS!

And you should! Everything in Japan is good to eat. Kaiseki meals, udon joints, back street tentacles on a stick, tofu, 7/11 and/or Lawsons and/or Family Mart convenience store packaged mystery foods, ALL the ramen, pastry shops, department store basements, ryokan food,...etc. etc. If you need a break from Japanese they do an outstanding job with Italian and French food as well.

Rubic

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1080
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #23 on: December 07, 2016, 03:28:20 PM »
As a child, I lived in Japan for two years.  It was an awesome experience,
especially as the bar for children is set so low.  We weren't expected to
conform to social conventions and could therefore make friends easily.

It's interesting to hear about others living there now.

cott0n

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
  • Location: Adelaide, Australia
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #24 on: December 07, 2016, 04:37:44 PM »
I'm becoming increasingly interested in spending some time (an extended holiday?) in Japan, but two things make me hesitate/prevaricate:
1. The expense. (Because it's a long way and we'd want to go for a while, and it would be a "once in a lifetime trip".)
2. The language.

We spent a month in Japan in Feb this year - I've always wanted to go since learning a little at school. It's an amazing place! It can be expensive, and it can be cheap - like anything. We spent a week skiing at Niseko and Rusutsu, Snow and Ice festival in Sapporo, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima. We ate ALL THE THINGS. It cost us quite a bit. Oh and while in Japan, must buy a Japanese knife.

The subway system, maps on the streets, and pretty much everything, menus in most restaurants (otherwise plastic food to point at), all signed and announced in English. With smartphone support, we found it really easy to get anywhere. However, addresses are a challenge - as there are multiple basement levels and upstairs levels, often all with different restaurants/shops in them! I knew some very basic Japanese, and it did help - they appreciate if you make an effort.

back street tentacles on a stick, ... 7/11 and/or Lawsons and/or Family Mart convenience store packaged mystery foods, ... department store basements, ryokan food ... etc. etc.

^this - got a great photo of my wife biting the head off a baby picked octopus on a stick in a market lane in Kyoto, took us 3 times to actually get plain milk and not bubblegum or other flavored yogurt, during Valentines we'd just pop into a department store to get our fill of chocolate samples - whole floors dedicated to chocolate, traditional dinner and breakfast in a ryokan was great!

I'll stop now. Japan is great!



Villanelle

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2946
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #25 on: December 07, 2016, 11:02:28 PM »
I'm becoming increasingly interested in spending some time (an extended holiday?) in Japan, but two things make me hesitate/prevaricate:
1. The expense. (Because it's a long way and we'd want to go for a while, and it would be a "once in a lifetime trip".)
2. The language.

We spent a month in Japan in Feb this year - I've always wanted to go since learning a little at school. It's an amazing place! It can be expensive, and it can be cheap - like anything. We spent a week skiing at Niseko and Rusutsu, Snow and Ice festival in Sapporo, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima. We ate ALL THE THINGS. It cost us quite a bit. Oh and while in Japan, must buy a Japanese knife.

The subway system, maps on the streets, and pretty much everything, menus in most restaurants (otherwise plastic food to point at), all signed and announced in English. With smartphone support, we found it really easy to get anywhere. However, addresses are a challenge - as there are multiple basement levels and upstairs levels, often all with different restaurants/shops in them! I knew some very basic Japanese, and it did help - they appreciate if you make an effort.

back street tentacles on a stick, ... 7/11 and/or Lawsons and/or Family Mart convenience store packaged mystery foods, ... department store basements, ryokan food ... etc. etc.

^this - got a great photo of my wife biting the head off a baby picked octopus on a stick in a market lane in Kyoto, took us 3 times to actually get plain milk and not bubblegum or other flavored yogurt, during Valentines we'd just pop into a department store to get our fill of chocolate samples - whole floors dedicated to chocolate, traditional dinner and breakfast in a ryokan was great!

I'll stop now. Japan is great!

The bolded is less and less true the further out of large cities and large tourist destinations you get.  There are plenty of train lines that have announcements and signs only in Japanese, for example. And I've been in plenty of restaurants, even around Tokyo and Yokohama, that only had Japanese menus.  In fact, those tend to be the better restaurants because they have a more relaxed local flavor and aren't geared toward getting money out of confused tourists. More English is being added in advance of the Olympics, but that will still be around the tourist and Olympic sites primarily.  The Google translate app has a great feature where you hold it over a menu or in front of a sign, take a photo and highlight the words, and it will translate from Kanji (or hiragana or katakana, I believe).  That can help, though it is far from fool proof.

It's still doable and survivable, but if the OP is considering living in a rural area, "most things are in English" is far from accurate. 

cott0n

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
  • Location: Adelaide, Australia
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #26 on: December 07, 2016, 11:13:50 PM »
The Google translate app has a great feature where you hold it over a menu or in front of a sign, take a photo and highlight the words, and it will translate from Kanji (or hiragana or katakana, I believe).  That can help, though it is far from fool proof.

and hence we were led to try multiple flavors of yogurt drink in our quest for milk!

Metric Mouse

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5299
  • FU @ 22. F.I.R.E before 23
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #27 on: December 08, 2016, 05:57:11 AM »
As a child, I lived in Japan for two years.  It was an awesome experience,
especially as the bar for children is set so low.  We weren't expected to
conform to social conventions and could therefore make friends easily.

It's interesting to hear about others living there now.

That's cool! Were the low expectations just for foreign children or for Japanese children as well?

Kwill

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1434
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #28 on: December 08, 2016, 06:58:20 AM »
This is an interesting idea, but like others, I would have some concerns about residence status.

If you don't speak any Japanese but want to try living in Japan for a month, I'd recommend trying Sakura House <http://www.sakura-house.com/en>. I've heard there are cheaper places, but still, it's considerably better than hotels and maybe a little better than air bnb.

If you can be careful about your spending and not get pulled along to fancy places with other foreigners, you can live more cheaply in Tokyo than in Boston, New York, or London. That's assuming you are mostly cycling or walking rather than taking public transportation on a regular basis. Depending on how far you have to go, public transportation in Tokyo can get expensive. But groceries are mostly reasonable. The beautiful perfect pear or orange in a special container is not a normal thing that most people would eat on a regular basis. That's probably more like a gift item.

I'm in Tokyo at the moment, and tonight I had a beef and rice bowl, a side salad, a bowl of miso soup and a cup of tea at a fast food place near Tokyo station for 510 yen including tax ($4.46 US according to Google). For lunch I had a latte, a chocolate croissant, and a toasted half sandwich with ham and cheese for 540 yen ($4.72 US). There were lots of options that were about the same or cheaper. But when I've gone out with others to nice places where people are drinking and eating nice things, the bills can be more like $35 or more per person.

Editing to add: The language barrier is real. I've studied Japanese now for 25+ years, and I'm to the point where my current frustration with the language is early modern paleography. But having the right thing to say in a given context is still hard, and I still can't write much by hand. Word-processing software makes it pretty easy to write without being fussy about characters, though. Anyway, I found this site helpful: http://kanji.koohii.com/
« Last Edit: December 08, 2016, 07:04:17 AM by Kwill »

Rubic

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1080
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #29 on: December 08, 2016, 07:22:05 AM »
As a child, I lived in Japan for two years.  It was an awesome experience,
especially as the bar for children is set so low.  We weren't expected to
conform to social conventions and could therefore make friends easily.

It's interesting to hear about others living there now.

That's cool! Were the low expectations just for foreign children or for Japanese children as well?

In the sense of crossing cultural barriers (e.g. bringing a friend into your home)
both foreign and Japanese children.

Daleth

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1201
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #30 on: December 08, 2016, 08:52:03 AM »
Don't get me wrong, y'all, I'm not afraid! I just think I'll have a much nicer time if I can speak some basic Japanese. I enjoy learning languages - I'm looking forward to it! Between me and my husband, we speak at least a bit of French, Spanish, German and Italian, so holidays in Europe are easy. We're homebodies, though, rather than eager travellers, so we don't feel held back by the idea that we'll only go once in a decade or two. I wouldn't mind that much if we never went at all - though I know that might be hard for some of you to understand! :)

Does your library carry Pimsleur CDs, or can they get them on interlibrary loan? I've studied about a dozen languages, taught two of them, and used various methods for self-study (Rosetta Stone, Berlitz CDs, Pimsleur CDs), and Pimsleur in my experience is the best. See if you can get the first level of Japanese (level 1 of 4) at your library. Or you can download it for $150/level here: http://www.pimsleur.com/learn-japanese

tpac

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 20
Re: downsizing/retiring: Is anyone considering Japan?
« Reply #31 on: December 08, 2016, 03:10:51 PM »
I've thought about Japan previously, but the affordable options tend to be further out from major transit infrastructure than I'd like. I think under ~$1000 / month for housing you run into seriously diminishing returns as far as cost vs quality goes. That is to say if you're location flexible it'd be hard to argue that paying close to $0 in a more isolating culture / geographic locale is a better deal than paying $1000 / month for rent in a friendly and affordable urban center like Taipei or Madrid.

There are tons of affordable midsize cities in europe and asia that'd be worth exploring for longer stays before considering Japan - Aarhus, Split, and Porto in europe and Chiang Mai or George Town in asia to name a few obvious choices.