I'm frequently asked why I've been here so long. Most people ask out of simple curiosity but others do so feeling I have to justify being here, particularly since I'm not a raging Japanophile. In the former case, the question is rather reasonable and I will do my best to answer it in a way which makes sense though I'm not sure it's an easy thing to make clear since it requires one to abandon an existing mindset.
Let me begin by setting up a hypothetical situation. Let's say you grew up in a small rural area in someplace like Ohio. There aren't any decent jobs and there isn't much to do and there are few opportunities to stretch the range of your experience so you decide to move to someplace like Texas. You go to Texas and it's fine but there are some things there which you're not especially keen on like the weather and the red state attributes. You also find that you can't really get ahead because things keep bogging you down financially and your job, while adequate, is rather boring. Finally, you come across a situation in Seattle which really appeals to you and decide to go there.
When you get to Seattle, you find out it rains a lot but you like your job and what you can do there. You find you can be comfortable without having a two-income situation so you get to spend much more time with your spouse than when you could in Texas where you both had to work full-time. You like the people around you in general and live in a safe place in an apartment which may not be as big as you like but is actually as much as you really need and the rent is not ridiculous for your income level. You can also save quite well compared to how you'd be doing in Texas or Ohio and, while a lot of the people you know are in debt, you are able to build a decent nest egg. There's only one problem. People keep asking you why you continue to live in Seattle and have an expectation that you should move back home.
The translation key:
Ohio = Pennsylvania (an equation that is easy to accept)
Texas = California (one that is harder to accept)
Seattle = Tokyo (perhaps the hardest to accept)
The bottom line isn't "why remain in Japan so long" but "why not?" There's an underlying notion that one goes to a foreign country with a goal in mind and then the natural thing to do is achieve that goal and go home as if there is something at home which is better or loftier than what is here. This is a reasonable notion but it doesn't always apply to everyone. I'm not sure that my life would be better back home than it is here. In fact, given what I read about outsourcing in the U.S., I'm not entirely convinced it may not be worse.
Initially, I did have a plan to come for a limited duration and leave but I found a job which I really liked and stayed at for 12 years until health problems forced me to leave. To be honest, I stayed at that job far longer than I should have and started to hate being in Japan and itching to leave. Since I quit, the itch has diminished quite a lot so I'm not sure if the problem was stagnation or the problem was Japan but I'm pretty sure there was a lot of the former going on.
I think I'd feel more strongly compelled to go home if I had a support base (emotionally, physically or financially) waiting for me but I don't. I had sufficient issues with my mother that going back to my family wouldn't be good for either of us (though I love my mother, we are oil and water temperamentally). All of my friends have scattered across the United States. There's not only no or little hope of being in contact with them should I return but no real reason to feel I'd integrate well with them as their lives are now. In fact, there is every reason to believe I couldn't get along with them at all given that a lot of them have changed personality-wise (as have I). My best friend from back home now has a Christian rock group and talks about how the bible was the greatest book ever written and I'm a believer in reincarnation who essentially embraces the writings of Jane Roberts and Seth. He's also got 3 kids and I'm one of those people who really can't get on with children. How do you think we'd get on nowadays?
As for jobs, while I feel that my experience writing, laying out, and doing graphics for textbooks would qualify me for an acceptable job somewhere, I've read that the print publishing industry is dying because of the Internet and jobs in "typesetting" are being sent to India with greater frequency. The field isn't exactly clamoring for the return of one more person to come work in it.
A very long time ago, I realized that it doesn't matter where you settle yourself on the planet so long as it satisfies you in some way and allows you to continue to grow as a person (that is, psychologically). For now, this is the place. It won't be forever but it's good for now and I'm not going to pack up and go because of arbitrary notions that I have to have a "good reason" to stay.