I LIVE IN JAPAN / John Cunningham

MARCH 2022 (VOL.173)

John Cunningham

Home country: San Jose, CA USA


What is your occupation in Japan?

I am a personal and professional development coach.  My work consists of supporting people in their quests to achieve their goals and live as the best versions of themselves.  I also work as a freelance writer.  Earlier in 2021, I published my first book, Win the Day: How to win your battles with stress, anxiety, and depression.


What is the distinctive difference between your country and Japan?

The social system in Japan is far better than in the US.  Medical care is affordable, living in a big city means that you do not need to own a car, and finally, Japan is a safer country.

What do you miss about your maternal country living in Japan?

I work with people from all over the world, so there is not much to miss.  Adjusting time zones is a minor inconvenience, but here in Tokyo, there is access to so much of what is good about the world that I don’t miss the US at all.

What do you find different about living in Japan over the term compared to when you first arrived or came as a tourist?

As a tourist, there is so much to be enamored with: the history, blending of modern and traditional cultures, and world heritage sites, just to name a few.  But something I didn’t realize until I lived here is the long-established communities from neighborhood to neighborhood.  It is difficult to gain acceptance into those as an outsider.  However, by venturing outside your comfort zone you can find communities that will accept you.  One of mine is a fantastic group of people I met teaching volunteer English lessons in Ota City.  These people welcomed me into their group a few years ago, and we have been teaching each other ever since. Since we do not have a built-in community, i.e., growing up in the same neighborhood or attending the same school, we need to take the initiative to find a group to bond with.  It’s really easy to be isolated from the outside world here, and that can lead to mental health issues.


What do you appreciate most about Japanese culture?

In Japan, it is a lot easier to live a healthy lifestyle.  The snacks are healthier, people walk, bike, or take the train rather than drive, and most Japanese foods are reasonably priced.  These are big differences compared to the US where people eat unhealthy fast food, park as close as they can to the store entrance, and spend their leisure time in front of the TV.


Which places in Japan do you recommend that foreigners see?

One of my favorite places in Japan is Yokohama.  You can get a taste of old Japan in places like Aka Renga and the area surrounding Yamashita Park.  Chinatown is always festive, and it’s just a few minutes walk from there.  Then Minatomirai has those new elements you would expect to find in places like Shibuya.  It is so compact, and there are tons of things to explore.  It reminds me of San Francisco or Vancouver.


Are there any aspects of Japanese culture or its people that you find bizarre or unique?

I would say that people’s level of obsession with their hobbies is quite unique.  I remember reading a story of this audiophile who had a power pole installed on his property to get less interference in his stereo setup.

Would you like to continue living in Japan for the rest of your life?

At this point, Japan is my home.  I have become fond of living here.  My house is near a river and forested hill, so nature is right outside my door.  If I want to experience the big city feeling, I only need to get on a train and ride for a few minutes.  How awesome is that!? As for the future, no one knows what tomorrow will bring, so I am enjoying what I have right now.