Japanese people talk from the heart about Israel experiences

Kuniko Cohen of KEYZUNA interviewed three Japanese people who moved to Israel many years ago to make it their new home. How did they manage to adjust to such a different culture?

YUJI OSHIMA, Hod Hasharon

Yuji came to Israel 12 years ago from Kumamoto, Kyushu. He married his Israeli wife a few years earlier and traveled with her to Israel several times before they made their final move. He is a holistic therapist, working both in his home clinic and in his patients’ homes.

How is your life in Israel? How are the cultural differences?

I feel the cultural difference from Japan particularly in any area related to giving service. For example, in a supermarket you may have a situation where employees are filling the shelves – while at the same time getting in the way of customers. In Japan, workers are very careful not to bother customers. But here they seem to say “I don’t care. I just work because I get wages.” I think it’s the difference between Japanese organizationalism and Israeli individualism.

What do you like about Israel and what do you dislike?

First of all, the climate is good. Also the people are warm. I can deal with them at a closer distance and more directly than with Japanese people.

What I dislike is the lack of service, which also tends to be aggressive sometimes. When they first look at Asians, they ask if you’re Thai or Chinese. I say I’m Japanese – and then attitude suddenly changes for the better.

How has Israeli culture affected your life here?

In Japan, I had the idea that I had to do something every day, but here I decided to take it easy. That’s true also for education. I have two children. If they were in Japan, they would always be in competition, with rules for everything. Here in Israel, it’s nice that children are freer. In fact, it’s much easier for both children and adults. And everyone is sociable. I think this comes from confidence.

In the past, many Israelis came to Japan and did business on the streets, then left for the next country with the money that they had earned. At first I thought this attitude comes from them being Jewish. Now I understand that it comes from the national characteristic of being Israeli.

Thank you, Oshima san, for your frank thoughts. Please take good care of yourself.



Yukari is originally from Tokyo and has lived in Israel now for 11 years. She began working as a photographer in 2012 and for the last couple of years has been making soaps and candles with aroma/ kabala/crystal under the ‘Seventy Two’ brand name.

How is your life in Israel?

It suits me very well. I like it because society here has fewer rules than in Japan and is responsive. I was surprised at first because I could hear so many languages other than Hebrew everywhere – such as Russian, Arabic, English, French… Also, in Japan, there’s the ‘public face’ and ‘true feelings’. Here people talk with true feelings.

What do you like about Israel and what do you dislike?

First of all, I like the good climate here. Also, people show that they care. If someone has a problem, people are willing to help immediately. I like that.

What’s really bad is the postal service. I order an item and then it takes forever to arrive. Postal people are too confident in spite of having a lack of responsibility. I think that if you were to mix Japanese culture and Israeli culture together and then divide it into two, each side would get a good balance.

Also, I’m often asked where I’m from. There’s a lack of knowledge about Asians. When I say I’m Japanese, they change their attitude…

How has Israeli culture affected your life here?

Now I can say what I think straight away, without worrying. In Japan, I often couldn’t say what I wanted and kept it to myself. But now I can be direct. That’s the influence of the Israeli culture.

I have one daughter. Rather than wanting her to be a good and polite girl, I want her to believe in herself and follow her free choices in life. Everything in Japanese education must be equal and measured. But in Israel, the free way of life is respected. I love this point.

Yes that’s true, Akimoto san. Israel is full of independence and self-confidence. This is main core of its culture. I learned it strongly here. May it work well for you in the future.



Naomi has lived in Israel for 25 years and came here from Tokyo. She works as a freelancer, stimulating the business connection between Israel and Japan. She does interpreting, translating (such as books and anime), Japanese content localization and more.

 How is your life in Israel?

I came to Israel a long time ago on a solo trip. I fell in love with the comfort and freedom of the place. It fits me very well.

How do you assess the cultural differences?

I used to think that the Israelis lacked sensitivity – but now I think that’s okay. The fact is that everything in Japan is too sensitive.

What do you like about Israel and what do you dislike?

I like the open-mindedness, the honest talking and the sharing of true feelings. Many people love to help each other. There’s not much that I dislike. If people are blocking the road and talking loudly to their friends – this I don’t like. Also I don’t like having to wait so long for the supermarket cashier. It can often be a wait of over 30 minutes!

What about Israel’s education policy?

I think it’s good that it’s low-cost. There are some bad points, though. For example, in Israel’s education system, well-performing children are encouraged and given a chance to improve further. But poorly-performing children are left behind. Not so in Japan, where children with poor grades get help.

However in Japan there’s a stigma that getting good or bad grades at school tends to determine your later course in life. Israelis are more pragmatic. They say that life is full of surprises, and you can always ‘power through’ to becoming successful afterwards. I like that approach.

How has Israeli culture affected your life here?

I’m still changing as a result of all the influences here. I don’t agree that women should be told what they can or cannot do. I just listen to my inner voice – what I want to do, what I can do and how I meet my challenges. If I try and fail, that’s OK. I’ll think about what went wrong, try again, and again, until it works.

I mention this because Japanese woman traditionally try to stay in their shells – even if they have the potential. Well, it’s easier to stay in your shell.

I have three children, aged 16, 15 and 8. I’m teaching them to behave in a common sense. I want to show them a mother who is doing her best, and constantly trying – not a mother who only has patience and does not act herself.

Thank you, Nakajima san. That’s a really strong outlook on life. I hope you keep meeting your challenges.


Summary from Kuniko

The personal freedoms, independence and positive approach in Israel are so different from Japan. They drive the dynamism of the country. There is much that these three people say with which I agree. In parallel to their Japanese identities, each of them has found new possibilities to stimulate their lives.