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Hello Newsletter Readers. Let me open with an update on where we are:

We are close to thirty years since came in to being as an information site for life and human rights in Japan. It will continue to exist for as long as I live and breathe, if not beyond. That said, I’m finding myself more and more distant from Japan these days both in the physical and professional senses. I now have lived outside of Japan for several years teaching Political Science at the university level. Consequently I am finding Japan these days, as it fades into a relative backwater geopolitically, increasingly a minor example in my research interests, which revolve around the state of democracy vs. authoritarianism worldwide.

But I do have some articles to share, and I wanted to ground them in this context above before I get to the TOC:

Table of Contents:
1) My SNA Visible Minorities 46: “Visible Minorities: Departing Japan at Middle Age” (May 15, 2023), where I make the case for deciding whether you’re a “lifer” in Japan by age 40.

2) My SNA Visible Minorities column 47: “The Reverse Culture Shock of Leaving Japan”, with some pointers of how to resettle and reassimilate overseas despite all the things you might miss about Japan

3) BLOG BIZ: Thoughts about the future of What’s next?

By Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (,, Twitter (for as long as that exists too) @arudoudebito) Newsletter are as always freely forwardable


1) My SNA Visible Minorities 46: “Visible Minorities: Departing Japan at Middle Age” (May 15, 2023), where I make the case for deciding whether you’re a “lifer” in Japan by age 40.

Excerpt: This column offers a frank assessment of living your life out in Japan as an immigrant. It of course can be done, but most of you will find that even after decades swimming against the current in terms of legal status and social acceptance, you will get no commensurate reward after all your efforts. In fact, I found that life opportunities dwindle as you age in Japan, and you get locked into a dreary, impoverished lifestyle like most other elderly here. If you think you can avoid this situation, power to you, but I suggest you make your decision to stay permanently or not by age 40. Good luck.

I lived in Japan for 24 years, married and had kids, became tenured faculty at a university, bought land, built a house, and learned the language and culture well enough to write books in Japanese and take out Japanese citizenship. In terms of trying to assimilate into Japan, I don’t think there’s a lot more I could have done. I was an ideal immigrant. But then, like Editor Michael Penn at the Shingetsu News Agency, I too left Japan.

That’s both a pity and, in my case, an inevitability. Japan should be trying harder to keep people like us. It really doesn’t. The longer you’re in Japan, the more your opportunities dwindle. Let’s first talk about the natural obstacles to people staying on, starting with how difficult it is to keep a visa…

Full article with comments archived at


2) My SNA Visible Minorities column 47: “The Reverse Culture Shock of Leaving Japan” (July 25, 2023), with some pointers of how to resettle and reassimilate overseas despite all the things you might miss about Japan

Excerpt: SNA Editor Michael Penn is now doing SNA from the United States. Inspired by his big move, my previous column was about my leaving Japan in middle age, where I suggested readers decide whether or not to be a lifer in Japan by age 40. Accordingly, this column will talk about establishing a new life outside Japan…

The biggest culture shock I felt after Japan was right after I arrived overseas. In the United States, for example, many big airport hubs are dirty, run-down, and relatively unpredictable compared to their Japanese counterparts. The waiting areas in particular feel like bus stations. Facilities are sometimes ill-maintained, instructions to your connecting flights or ground transit often monolingual and poorly signposted, ground staff often inattentive and inaccessible, and the food… well, it’s “airport food,” enough said. I quickly missed Japan’s clean, efficient, and plentiful public transportation that follows a schedule, and the restaurant fare that actually looks like the picture on the menu…

This initial culture shock starts fading once you’ve had a good night sleep and enjoy a few familiar things: Larger hotel rooms. Comfort foods like a thick steak with A1 Sauce or a spiral-cut ham hock. An apple pie that actually has more than one apple in it. Supermarkets full of cereals, dozens of flavors of canned soups, bulk goods, and cheap rice and vegetables. News media that is an absorbing read not just because it’s in your native language, but because the topics are interesting! Procuring a car so you can merge into society like everyone else.

But things will still grate for awhile: Being forced to tip. Dirty public restrooms that seem to be the norm, not the exception. Bureaucrats who seem to have little personal dedication to a job well done. Political discourse more concerned with riling you up than with solving problems. The din of people on cellphones or kids having public meltdowns that you can’t shut out because they’re speaking in your native tongue. And the biggest worry: Getting sick or injured and having to deal with American healthcare! It’s worse with family in tow, listening to their grumbles about future uncertainties and cultural differences and feeling helpless to offer quick fixes. During this purgatory period of constant irritability, the grass will always seem greener elsewhere.

It takes months, but resettlement will happen. Things that you miss about Japan eventually get overwritten by routines you establish as things feel more like home…

Link to the full article on SNA at

Anchor site for commentary at


3) BLOG BIZ: Thoughts about the future of What’s next?

Hi Blog. I want to tell you a bit about what’s on my mind. I’ve been researching and commenting on for nearly thirty years. I’m not tired of writing, but my writing here has become monthly because, in terms of the urgency of commenting about Japan, I’m not really feeling it right now.

The issues I read about within Japan are usually insular, petty, and repetitive. And they are generally on topics I have commented on before. I’ve done the doctorate, written and updated my books multiple times, and said basically all I need to say about the state of discrimination and how to make a better life as an immigrant in Japan. My current job does not involve Japan at all, and my Japan skills are only personally useful when I’m actually in Japan. My interests have generally moved on to the geopolitical and on the state of democracy itself worldwide. That’s what I read about and teach about in my classes on a daily basis. Now I want to devote those energies to something more productive, such as my students and my retirement savings. In terms of profession I am, after all, a university instructor of Political Science first and an essayist/activist second. It’s time to focus on the professional side as I approach age 60 and my career enters my twilight years.

Not to worry, as a blog and a searchable website resource on life and human rights in Japan, will stay up in perpetuity. I will continue to write monthly columns for the Shingetsu News Agency, and I will post excerpts on And I will of course continue to approve comments here on a regular basis. But would you be interested in my blogged thoughts even if they’re not about Japan?

More of my thoughts about where I am as a researcher and a commentator at


A final word: This is not the final Newsletter. Of course not. At last count this Newsletter has 7658 subscribers, and that’s a valuable resource built up over decades that deserves to be maintained. So, again, if you are interested in my writings that are NOT specifically Japan-related, please let me know at, and I will start putting them in these Newsletters as well.

Thank you for reading for all these years. Sincerely, Debito


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