Andres Iniesta has said he and his family struggled to adapt after swapping Barcelona for Vissel Kobe but they are finally beginning to feel settled in Japan.
Iniesta, 34, left Spain for the Japanese side after last summer’s World Cup and said it has been difficult to get used to the cultural differences between the two countries.
“I have to confess that the adaption process has not been easy during my first six months in Japan, in sporting and in family terms,” he wrote in Esquire ahead of the new J-League season. “We arrived here after the World Cup, so we had hardly any time to organise ourselves.
“We have spent our time getting used to the differences between the two cultures. Japanese customs are radically different to ours [in Spain] but, finally, we feel adapted. Now it’s time to enjoy being here.”
Having spent his whole career before moving to Vissel in a high-pressure environment at Barcelona, Iniesta said he has struggled to become used to playing for a club where winning is not necessarily everything.
“After a run of six or seven defeats when I first got here, I was surprised how well the fans took the bad results,” he said. “The Japanese take losing in a very different way to how we do in Spain.
“I’ve found it hard to adapt to that philosophy. I have always been very competitive. I have never liked losing. Now, I have to learn from them and see it from another point of view. They’re competitive, but they extract other conclusions from defeats.
“But my time here has been infinitely more relaxed than my spell at Barca. I was completely empty [in Spain]. I had nothing left. The pressure at a club like Barca is huge. Coming to Kobe has released me from that tension.”
Iniesta is having Japanese lessons twice a week but said he relies on a translator — “my lifesaver” — to communicate in depth with his teammates and people at the club.
The former Spain international has been joined by ex-Barca teammate David Villa at Vissel for the new season. Villa joined the club from New York City FC in December.
Vissel kick off the new season against Cerezo Osaka later this month.