You’ve been in Japan too long when…

… you stop noticing all the little (odd) details of Japanese life. One day, though, it hits you that the oddest thing is you yourself, and how much Japan has changed you- partly turning Japanese, partly sinking in the stereotype of the foreigner in Japan and partly finding your own ways to adapt and live with your own life. And so starts the obsession with the signs of whether you’ve been in Japan too long, hence the huge number of such lists on the net. Funnily enough, making such lists is a sure sign that you’ve been here too long! So long that you should go home, or too long to be able to go home? That’s the big question…


Well, here goes with my list, whatever it may mean. Some of them are inevitably insider jokes that you need to have been here for too long to understand, and some probably only I can understand, so to keep the rest of you happy I’ve started with some good old English toilet humour…


“You’ve been in Japan too long when…

… you can’t piss without the sound of waterfalls or bird song, but having a woman mopping around your feet doesn’t put you off at all.

… you make your own rushing water ‘shhh’ and birdsong whistles when you go to toilet in your own home.

… you clean your own bathroom while your partner’s still using the toilet.

… you spend more on your new toilet seat than your sofa.




… you chisel out your toilet bowl to leave a nice convenient hole in the floor.

… you are making peace signs in all your wedding photos.

.… your three major food groups are ‘raw’, ‘slippery’ and ‘things with suckers’.

… your back muscles have developed so much from bowing you could head butt your way through a brick.

… you have developed hard patches of skin on both your knees from kneeling on tatami.

… you are never ever excited by flashing lights in the distance because you know it’s always pachinko

… you’ve paid more than 5 pounds (8 dollars) for a single piece of fruit.

… you wonder what’s wrong if no one stares at you.

… some idiot nearly gets hit by a car by following a jaywalking gaijin across the street without looking first, and that idiot is you.

… using a white handled clear plastic umbrella, having cartoon characters painted on your car, having hair removal at the beauty salon and riding a grandmother’s mama chari bike with baskets all seem non-gender-specific.

… you fix a basket to your mountain bike.

… you go out on your mama chari pushbike for an adrenalin fix.

… you laugh at how the Chinese use kanji.

… you are surprised when CNN doesn’t tell you how many Japanese were injured in each worldwide tragedy.

… you can read standing up in a bookshop for 90minutes without undue discomfort.

… you comment when a non-smoking section is free from smoke.

…the first thing you think and/ or say about any house you see on TV is ‘how spacious!’

… you realize you know more about sumo than Japanese grandfathers and more about manga than the teenagers

… you check your understanding of strong Scottish and Irish accents in films by reading the Japanese subtitles.

… the agency tells you you don’t need to pay 4 months unrefundable deposit reikin ‘thank you money’ just for the privilege of renting a house and you say ‘Are you sure?’

… you can’t remember the English for European and other world place names.

… new countries have appeared on the map, and you’ve never heard their English names.

…you always look round first to see if everyone else is doing it too.

… there’s nothing you can think of that can’t be cured by a dip in an onsen.

… you can instantly say who your favourite TV ‘talent’ is.

… going to an ‘Oriental bar’ in Japan no longer seems strange.

… eating food for stamina has a perfectly innocent meaning for you.

… you see somewhere green, old and ‘quaint’ on TV and half-decide to go there for a holiday, until you suddenly realise that it’s the place you are from.

… half an hour seems too long for lunch.

… you’ve bought the little fake grass things to put in your homemade bento box.

… you’ve spent so much time bending over to bring your height down that your back looks like a 70 year old rice farmer’s.

… you buy Pocari Sweat, Watering Kiss Mints, Calpis, Collon chocolate etc. just for the taste.
…you feel naked reading a book with no book cover and the title displayed for all to see.

… every product in the local konbini triggers the associated CM songu in your head.

… you precisely control your body temperature by having seven hot pads and two cold pads on various parts of your body.

… you identify financial institutions by their cartoon characters rather than their names or reputations.

… you think a list of 20 rules is okay as long as it is accompanied by a cute cartoon animal.

… the cute characters hanging off your phone weigh more than the phone.

…you try a new hot cocktail and wonder when they’ll start to sell it in hot cans.
… being woken up by the rubbish truck playing a new loud tune outside your window, you get excited about the new tune rather than annoyed by being woken.

… your dreams, sexual fantasies and/ or computer games involve trains.

… the only time you see your kids is when you’re driving them to juku.

…the adrenalin in your body naturally increases 20 minutes before the last train on your line.

…you no longer understand the distinction between savoury and sweet.

… you can’t remember what your favourite Hollywood film is called in English.

… you have a new favourite movie star and wonder how you can/ are supposed to shorten their name in conversation.


…not one single thing in the 7-11 konbini was in stock when you first arrived in Japan.

…standing in the “Japanese only” queue at airport immigration, you briefly believe it could be true.


…there nothing with red beans or green tea flavouring that you won’t eat.

Please note that I wrote all the above myself (for better or worse), although the idea for such a list is as old as the hills and I’ve no doubt been ‘inspired’ by others ones I’ve seen.


  1. May 13, 2008 at 7:13 am

    ahah, that’s a cool post.. oh God, I think I have a lot of these symptoms…

  2. Mi said,

    October 6, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Hey, I’ve never been to Japan but this sounds like Japan! Thanks for posting, really long and funny!

  3. Nihonjin yori comento said,

    December 18, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    I’ve been England too long so everything sounds bizarre to me. Thanks god I can do things without looking round first, and there’s no need to use “otohime” every time I go to the toilet.

  4. XxOngakuxX said,

    May 4, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Is it sad that most of this applies…..and I’ve never once been to Japan…I’ve lived in America my whole life…..

  5. Hayley said,

    April 8, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Hahahaha, what a funny post! I’ve only been here for less than three months, and I already think so many of these things are normal! Most of these were totally spot on! For instance, the one about cartoon character bags, clear umbreallas, hair salons and baskets on bikes being non-gender specific, my first reaction was “in other countries, they’re not?!” And then I remembered my entire life in America before this and realized that was completely true.

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