Living in Japan as a western foreigner has some downsides. But I prefer thinking about the perks. These five things are my favourite upsides of being a western foreigner in Japan.
It doesn't really matter what you wear, it magically seems fancy.
Although it took me some time to be able to pride myself in having an acquired taste, I have gotten many a compliment while in Japan. Even though until even yesterday I think my taste was not yet accomplished. Nevertheless have I been complimented on various questionable outfits and I highly doubt that the same would have happened in my home country.
This may be directly related reason № 4.
You're likely to be deemed more beautiful than you would be in your own country.
Even though I would probably not be considered ugly at home, I would never have been counted amongst the beautiful, either. I'm fine with being average. But in Japan, being average is enough to have random people suggest that you start a career in modeling. Especially as a woman, you are bound to hear questionable compliments like these all the time:
Such long legs!
What a high nose!
Such a tiny face!
You look like a doll!
Your body composition is so well-balanced! You could probably fit 10 heads in your body!(?!)
There is no direct profit to gain from being deemed beautiful. But it did help with my insecurities when I was younger. Especially with my chubby nose and my skinny legs. Maybe I only outgrew these insecurities because I spent the last ten years in Japan? Who knows.
People go out of their way to help you.
I've had people drive me home when it got late, deliver groceries to my door when I was sick, was taken by my hand to solve legal problems and other minor and major stuff. All by people who I hardly knew, sometimes even strangers.
Japan has a culture that cherishes thinking of others. It is called omoiyari in Japanese and clumsily translated with "consideration, thoughtfulness, sympathy, compassion, feeling, kindness, understanding, regard, kindheartedness". But omoiyari is all of these translations in one word, directed toward another person.
And I feel like the more "other" you are, the more people are willing to include you in their omoiyari.
People are always willing to introduce their culture to you.
This may be related to № 3, but I have been introduced to so many aspects of the Japanese culture! Tea ceremony, kimono, shamisen, gottan, calligraphy, kendō, aikidō, kyūdō, various styles of pottery, sword making, temari, sashiko, cooking and various traditional ceremonies. I've also been shown around and taken to the most beautiful places imaginable. This is definitely something that I attribute to my foreign looks but also to being genuinely interested in the culture. And to being a nice person in general.
You don't have to make any tea.
This is a sloppy way of saying that you may choose to adhere to cultural rules and standards, but people will forgive you if you don't. You sort of exist outside of the Japanese standard. This is not something you can choose. Even if you become a Japanese national, you will not become a full-fledged Japanese.
I chose to behave like a normal Japanese woman would. I mimicked my female Japanese co-workers and cleaned toilets, made tea, filled male co-workers' cups during drinking-parties and was happy when people would point out that I was "more Japanese than any Japanese". All the while forgetting that fitting in to a mysogynist society is not something you should aspire to as a woman.
This is a very controversial topic and I have not fully formulated my thoughts on it yet. I love living in Japan and my positive experiences outweigh my negative ones by a thousand.
I still count it as the top perk that I can choose to not make any tea for male co-workers and never be reprimanded for it.
If I do make tea, I don't make it to fit in.