10 Expats on the Worthy Japan Investments That Made a Difference

10 Expats on the Worthy Japan Investments That Made a Difference

What's the best time or money investment or purchase that has significantly improved your life in Japan? 

Learn what 10 Japan-life veterans had to say. 

Insights were selected from this discussion thread hosted in Jason Ball’s Business in Japan LinkedIn group. (If you aren’t a member yet, it’s free to join, and the community is 66,000+ and growing daily!) 

The question we posed: “My best investment since coming to Japan has been (fill in the blank).”

My best investment in Japan

Answers ranged from purchases to time investments to modes of transport! This selection contains hard-earned wisdom that you can adopt as a roadmap to improving your life in Japan and your experience here. 

Here are the investments that 10 veterans to Japan want you to know about. 

Note: Slight edits were made for grammar, punctuation, and clarity.  


1. On the things of real value that pay enormous dividends

Quote 1

“Investing in my personal and professional network has led to all of the opportunities and indeed entire direction of my 18 years of life here since coming to Japan.”

Jason Ball

Solutions and Digital Team at Pactera Japan, Director | Business in Japan Founder


2. On the joy of unexpected connections

Quote 2

“Heading out solo and spending countless hours in little speak-easy type bars and eateries, talking to all manner of random strangers, enjoying what happens when you get rid of all the tatemae, both mine and theirs.”

Mark Berghan 

Owner, A2ZTranslate Limited


3. On finding a freer way to get around

Quote 3

“I found that buying a car, while it's not at all necessary, reduced a lot of frustration I had about living here, feeling free, and getting around.”

Dominic Carter 

Serving up Japan Market Research & Strategy Galloping Gourmet Style, The Carter Group 


4. On the power of investing in relationships

Quote 4

“Investing my time in building real connections with people. Getting coffee or tea, learning more about their work or goals, taking the time to know people on a more personal level!

“So many of the positive opportunities I've come across in Japan have been a direct result of my connection or relationship with someone. So investing in your network here is crucial as it will impact your overall experience living or working in the country."

Asa Quesenberry

Founder at DroNext | Co-Host at KansaiKollective 


5. A simple kanji hack to ease your day

Quote 5

“Camera feature on Google Translate App, without a doubt, especially for the tuff kanji.”

Nicole Scoble-Williams 

Executive Advisor on Future of Work, Asia Pacific Leader, Deloitte 


6. On the key to a bearable Japanese summer

Quote 6

“Portable electric fan. Summer in Tokyo doesn't scare me anymore (well, a little).”

Maurizio Raffone 

Chief Financial Officer at Credify Pte. Ltd


7. A way to go and a place to go to 

Quote 7

“My bicycle and plenty of real estate properties :)”

Ziv Nakajima-Magen

Nippon Tradings International, Japan Real Estate 


8. On veering away from well-worn paths 

Quote 8

“Spending time with locals, far away from big, fancy tech cities and rushing lifestyle. What you can see here is the real Japan, the rich culture with wonderful locals. We were riding around Oshima island and suddenly a group of locals invited us to join and celebrate with them... It was an incredible and wonderful experience, drinking sake 🍶 with local fishermen, eating onigiri 🍙 and seafood, and learning more about their local traditions and enjoying such a friendly welcome. Japan is not only Tokyo my friends.”

Pablo Riveros

Senior Manager Digital Learning 5.0 & Business Transformation | Tsunagaru Edutech 


9. On the benefits you gain when working in Japan’s customer service sector

Quote 9

“Japanese lessons and constantly holding down part-time jobs in customer service. Not only could I make some more money but I also improved my Japanese by a lot (speaking & listening). I also was exposed to the customer service business sector and learned the knowledge behind the country’s customer service success.”

Ngan Ha Le

Studying Sociology, Migration Anthropology and Human Resource Management at Okayama University


10. On the necessity of cultural fluency and more

Quote 10

Over the last 27 years living, studying, and working in Japan I've found:

  • Your professional network is important to invest time into

  • Cultural fluency in business, but equally in society, is critical to success (and often gets you further than speaking perfect Japanese)

  • Building a social network

  • Taking courses on traditional Japanese culture to understand the roots of Japanese society and sociology

  • Embracing and truly understanding お持て成し(ometenashi) in both business and life. 

And the best non-sociologic/fun investment was my 炬燵 = kotatsu. It's such a traditional, cozy, functional item unique to Japan/Japanese culture.

Erin V. 

Senior Manager, Clinical Supply Operations at Blueprint Medicines


To read all the contributions to this discussion, visit this thread in the Business in Japan group on LinkedIn. Stay tuned for our next insight-gathering session and a chance to get your insights featured here!

Note: The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of TokyoMate KK.


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