Trying to Maintain Balance in Japan

When I initially wrote this in 2019, I was back home visiting my family and friends so I took time to just sit back and reflect on my life in Japan so far. I forgot that I had this in my drafts for almost a year and given the current COVID situation that we currently live in, I thought I’d revisit and finish this post.

Regardless, It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that the Japanese lifestyle is completely different to the life I once had back home, but over time I managed to settle in to my new environment. However, even for someone familiar with Japanese society, it can eventually become quite taxing to the mind and body.

Japan’s work culture is well-known for being long and arduous. It’s no surprise, then, to find people sleeping on public transport and eating out late at night. Whatever your views and opinions are on Japan’s work culture, as far as I’ve seen it’s not going to change anytime soon. However, based on my experiences, I believe that this sort of culture has influenced other aspects of Japanese life too, such as social life and studies.

To give you a sense of what I mean, let me put it to you this way: how would you describe the passing of time in your home country? Would you say that time goes by slowly, or would you say that it goes by fast? For me, time goes by quite quickly in Japan and this was something that I immediately noticed once I returned home. Because you’re always working or keeping yourself occupied with something, the moment you blink you can look at the clock and it’s already 18:00! Add to the fact that you still need time to buy groceries and take the train back home and you have maybe 2 hours to do your own thing before it’s time to go to sleep and repeat the process all over again. This fast-paced routine can quickly become taxing to someone not used to this sort of lifestyle (I’ve seen this happen to quite a few of my foreign friends already). It even makes it difficult to maintain some sort of social life (to a degree), especially if either a) your friends are very busy with their own things and b) someone wants nothing to do with you, even though you felt like you were getting along with them nicely.

Miyachi’s Mainichi (Japanese for “Everyday”) perfectly depicts the daily life of a Japanese business person

For me, I think it is important to have a balance between your work and social life otherwise you’re either gonna burn out from stress or get stressed due to procrastination (I’m currently suffering from the latter). Due to the current COVID situation, my priorities have become completely unbalanced. Though I have more time to focus on my own work, I am too overwhelmed by the fact that I can’t see my friends as much as before as well as being uncertain about my future. For those of you who have still managed to maintain a good work and social life balance during this time, I truly commend you.

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