It's a perennially interesting question, "how hard is life in a country where you're not an element of the culture, can't speak the language, and haven't a clue how to read those little squiggles known as kanji?". Strangely the first part of the question rarely arises. Without knowing how different the culture of Japan is from the baseline of a home country born and raised, it is actually quite hard to realise this is a valid vertex of the triangle. And yet it is.
The answer is "no, it's not hard, but it's not quite exactly what you'd expect". And the internet has made a world of difference. The pre-digital age search system was to ask a friend. Or trawl through something like the Kansai Flea Market, the free rags available around every corner, keeping the wheels of the non-native community turning with fun facts and information. But it's not quite the same as Google.
So yes, twenty five years ago it was a bit tricky and you had to accept the gaijin abyss as part of daily life; though the phone boxes used to have ISDN ports (remember those?), but I've yet to meet anyone who had ever used one. But the world is a simpler place these days with instant communication and Amazon-on-Demand. Hard work in an unknown language, yes; hard life? No. A well kept secret though. Oh, and earthquakes and typhoons. But you can't have everything.
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