Pass “The Five-Year Wall”!

closeup photo of brown brick wall

There is a word called “The Five-Year Wall” for foreigners living in Japan. It means that almost all Westerners return to their country from Japan within 5 years, they cannot be here anymore. If you try living in Japan, I want you to understand Japanese culture very well and be able to pass this wall. That is why today I want to share a way that I investigated from foreigners who live for many years in Japan.

Why is it five years?

To begin with, there is a typical characteristic of people who cannot pass the wall, so I prepared an example from the life of such a person. It is like that.

The life of a person who could not pass the wall

First Year: You have fun with all new things of Japan, there is Kanji sign and all the people crossing are Asians. A year goes by very fast.

Second Year: You are going to start part-time work, you get some Japanese friends or you can have a boyfriend / girlfriend. You feel like you are going to climb the scales of Japanese society.

Third year: One day you notice that you spent two years in Japan and you think “What am I doing here now?” You imagine your homeland and your family. Little by little you will feel out of place.

Fourth year: You understand very well a bad part of the Japanese. When you see that the employees work a lot, you feel like «It doesn’t happen like this in my country. Here is terrible! ». Lately you talk how Japanese are bad at the bar with your foreign friends. But you cannot feel that you live in Japan but you feel that you are traveling a long time in Japan.

Fifth year: You are already tired, and you want to return to your country because you notice that the Japanese are totally different from you. You feel a little sad but it is time to leave the country. Your very long journey is over. Goodbye Japan.

Can you understand the characteristic of people who cannot pass the wall? It is the people who think that Japan is country to feel different culture or stimulation. If you cannot feel that life in Japan is your normal life, you cannot live longly in Japan.

nature sky bird animals
Photo by Adrianna Calvo on

A Japanese emigrant to Brazil told people that they cannot emigrate well “The bird of passage that cannot find the nest.” It is a very true expression, in fact many birds came to Japan and returned to their country. Now I can easily notice that a foreigner is the bird or one who has “the Japanese smell.”

Foreigners who have the Japanese smell

“Foreigners who have the Japanese smell” is an expression to indicate foreigners who have the aura like the Japanese from their gesture or act. We call the sense that we cannot explain very well as “Smell.” And those who do not have a smell tend to live in the immigrant society or understand logically Japan. But sadly, the Japanese do not feel calm or talk to foreigners of this type.

Well, I give you a phrase from a monk when I studied in a Buddhist temple. This phrase is useful for adapting in Japan. It is like that;

Don’t think, feel

To begin with, you shouldn’t understand Japanese culture with your head because you try to think from your culture. If you want to learn another culture, you have to feel it like a child that you are born now. You imitate the acts of Japanese without thinking, with feeling, then one day you may notice that the Japanese culture melts with your culture. You are reborn by «Japoñol» or «Japonglish».

There are people who are naturally good at blending cultures. First of all, people with parents from other countries are used to have the dilemma of having two cultures by nature. And they can adapt relatively easily to living in another country.

It is also good that people in areas sandwiched between multiple powerful cultures. The Basques would be the case.

Second is what you should be young. When I was 19 I went to Europe alone, but my parents lived in Spain for 8 years, and they taught me the European idea, so I could adapt relatively easily there. But many Japanese who came there from when they were over 30, had a lot of stress and they complained and said “I want to go back to Japan, oh no …” every day. The limited time that you can be an intercultural person is shorter than we imagine.

When you will have overcome the wall, you will no longer be like before

If you will overcome the 5 year wall, you may notice that you have changed, and your family and friends tell you “You have changed.” It is a sign that you can survive in Japan.

The reason you feel hard to live in Japan is that you cannot be like yourself in this country. You have to switch to more Japanese to adapt to Japan and it hurts you. Then there is no freedom that you can live as yourself like Canada or other multicultural countries. But it is the fate of immigrants.

If you are a person who has overcome the wall of 5 years, I want to say “Congratulations and welcome to Japan.” I know you worked really hard to adapt in Japan, and I respect you very much. It is an honor for me to be able to live with you in this country, and I would like to meet you and go to the bar and have a glass of beer one day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *