I recently wrote a reply to a person who posted a comment to this blog, Advise on teaching as a profession in Japan. I received a reply from him, I did not publish his email as it contained information that he may not want to be made public. In it he asked me about why I stay in Japan. A very good question since I was so negative in my response to him. He suggested that there must be something good about the place. This is my reply:
The big question you asked is why am I in Japan. What are the good points? Originally I came for language, and stayed on as my life changed. Now I stay because I have a family, I have a job in a profession that I like, and I have a fulfilling personal life. My wife's family is, so my children have granny and grandpa close by. That is important to me, and it suits their fancy too, it seems. Japan is a great place to raise children up until about the age of high school. The country is safe. There is crime, but nothing on an American scale. Individual crimes are brutal and sensational, but on the whole, children can go anywhere and do anything without a problem.
Education is universally available, cheap, and the teachers are, for the most part, conscientious. They are overworked, underpaid, and treated terribly, but they forge on. I admire them greatly.
Universal health care. Need I say more? From one month before the baby is born, until the time the child is 3, the parent needs to pay not one yen for medical treatment. That is civilized. (One funky glitch is that the delivery of the child costs money. The delivery is not considered to be an illness, and the family pays. Fortunately the $3,000 bill is eventually paid back through another system. The original outlay is substantial, though.) Medical care is universal for everyone covered under the health insurance scheme, as you would be if you were hired by a responsible employer. In fact I went to the doc today for a throat infection, and payed $10 for examination, treatment and medication. I won't launch a tirade against the US right now for their treatment of the young, the poor and elderly, but I am sorely tempted. Like twice the rate of infant mortality, and three fewer years on you life expectancy. And you know who dies more often and earlier, don't you?
Public transportation is a great option, and Japan should be the envy of the world. I can go nearly anywhere in the country by walking out my door, buying a ticket at the train station, and riding. I don't use public transportation to come to work, because there is no economical route to my school, so I drive or bike, but I didn't own a car for the first 10 years of life in Japan. Public transportation is not cheap, but it is half price for children and the elderly. It is also much cheaper if you by a commuter ticket.
My personal life is satisfying. I don't have much time for one these days, but I am now a farmer. I've never written that, but can with confidence, because today I got the paperwork. I decided that there were several things that I could learn about Japan, the language, a martial art, tea, kimono, all of which I have done in the past, but I thought, what makes Japan what it is? The answer is agriculture, and I can't grow anything but a meager garden. Through some contacts, I met a farmer who grows rice organically, so from this year, I am renting some land from him, and learning how to grow my own rice. Hopefully I can use this in my situation as an educator, but even if I can't, my family and I will be ensured of having home grown rice.
Those are but a few of the attractive aspects of life where I am. I and the people of this archipelago are truly blessed.