Is it even possible? With Japanese companies notoriously difficult to get into for foreigners, and the inherently slow rate of adoption of new ideas in Japan, this is a question that has intrigued me ever since I set foot on these shores over 10 years ago.

Through a combination of sheer dumb luck, coupled with a bit of determination, and sprinkled with some networking skills, I was able to meet the man (a foreigner, I might add) who is in the process of restoring Japan’s castles to their historic beauty, a Mayor who wants to transform his city from playing 3rd fiddle to becoming one of the premier destinations in Japan, a Drummer, who should have been the inspiration for the film Whiplash, a guy who makes his living drawing and writing comic books about Japan, and many others like them. The talent present in this relatively small city (by Japanese standards) is absolutely amazing, and I wanted to share some of these people’s amazing stories with the rest of the world.

success in nagoya

All of the people in this series have one thing in common: They went from being strangers in a strange land to achieve success in a completely foreign culture, by using only their own personalities, traits, and skills to make it outside of the English-teaching world.
While we can all agree that it is difficult enough to become successful in your own country, imagine the hurdles and the uphill battle you have to face to be successful in another country – especially one as decidedly different and exclusive as Japan; and then in a city notorious for resisting changes….

In this series, you will read about these ordinary people, their struggles to make it to where they are now, and partake in their extraordinary journeys.

First, let’s take a look at the meaning of Success… Seems like everyone is always talking about it, but nobody knows how to truly define it. Just what is success? If we believe the dictionary, it’s simply defined as “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals. The attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.”
Sounds simple enough, but in the back of your mind, you know there’s more to it than that. It is an elusive word to define exactly, and it is vastly different for each person. Is success….

  • Is someone who helps others but remains financially (unstable) any more or less successful than a prominent businessperson who has traded in the comfort of family and friends for long hours at the office – always thinking about the next big deal, promotion, or step on the corporate ladder in order to have “a good life”?
  • Has someone become successful after giving a concert to screaming fans, who demand an encore because they enjoyed the music so much?
  • Is a prominent and well-known restaurateur with a sizable income more successful than the aforementioned musician?
  • Could passing the notoriously difficult JLPT Level 1 be considered successful?  Many have tried, but only the most determined have achieved that level of proficiency.

All of these people have experienced success in one form or another.
Are these people any more or less successful than a Manager or even CEO at a big name company?

What is your definition of success? Let us know in the comments below. Also what was your main motivation for coming to Japan? How has teaching English (or other languages) influenced you to pursue your goals in Japan?

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