☆ food (*^-^*),  ☆ i heart japan,  ☆ life

What I miss about living in Japan

All caught up on emails.. I think! And comment replies. If I  missed you, poke me again!

What’s the thing you [will] miss most about Japan when you leave (either on vacation, or move away)?

What do I miss about Japan? This has been on my mind a lot, to be honest. As most of you know (but not everyone. It’s buried back there in blog entries from a month or more ago), I finally left Japan. I thought that I’d never leave Japan. Ever.

Well, I mean, when I first came to Japan, I thought that I’d only stay the one year that I’d agreed to, and then I’d magically know what I wanted to do with my life. Like an adult should. Japan was fun, though, and I had unprecedented access to anime and manga THINGS I could also go to insanely cheesy things like Tenimyu shows. After one year had turned into two, and then into three, I found that I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I knew that I didn’t want to be an English teacher. A lot of my friends liked it. The kids that I taught loved me. But it wasn’t fulfilling. It wasn’t my calling, and I was actually so miserable doing it that I began to get violently sick pretty much every weekday. The last month that I worked in elementary schools, I threw up repeatedly between classes because I felt so dizzy. I even started blacking out. I can only guess that it was from stress and misery.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that it’s not for me at all. Even if kids are great. I actually plan to look for ways to help kids (teaching free art classes, for example) after I get settled in Hawaii. I have a feeling that I’ll love those classes.

So, yeah. But being a mangaka was barely on my radar. At first, it just had never occurred to me. I never thought to think that someone who wasn’t Japanese could write comics in Japan. A student who was a mangaka’s assistant tried to convince me that I would make a great mangaka, but I still wasn’t convinced. It wasn’t until my American friend Eda started making douijinshi, and I started to get pushed by other friends to apply for manga contests that maybe, yeah, it was something that I could do. Moreover, maybe I’d be good at it! It was soon after that that I applied and got the job with Konomi-sensei.

Maybe you guys would be interested to hear more about my past? I’m happy to talk about it, but first let’s see.. What I wanted to talk about today was what I miss about Japan. Let’s see.. let’s make a list, in fact! 😉

What I miss about Japan:

☆ Tax being included in the price. I keep getting shocked now in the US when I’m charged more than I thought that I would be. This is because in Japan, the price displayed already includes the tax. You know exactly what you are going to have to pay. Why don’t they do that in the US? I don’t get it.

☆ Not tipping. It’s not that I don’t think that my waiter/waitress deserves it. Far from it! But the servers in Japan are paid a fair(ish) wage. A normal wage, in any case. None of this “live off of tips that might or might not come” nonsense. I can’t say whether this is a better system or not, but as a customer, it really is! I come in, pay for my meal exactly the price that was on the menu, and it’s that simple.

☆ ANIME/MANGA stuff and events. This is an obvious one if you know me. I love anime and manga. In fact, the fact that I can’t now pop down the street to the bookstore and choose between hundreds of manga books/pick up one of 30-something new manga magazines, is killing me. I feel stifled, lonely, and I’m not sure at all what to do. Sure, I save money, but I’m not sure that the tradeoff is worth it. GIMME MY MANGA.

☆ Cuteness overload. In Japan, it is socially acceptable for a man to have a hello kitty phone strap, wear pink, and dress in slim jeans and a flowery shirt. Some girls took cuteness to extremes, but I’d take even that over the drab gray and lack of trying that I see in the US, at least in my mother’s small town. It may be better in the big cities like New York, and there’s certainly cuteness available on the internet, but I still find that the “West” is sorely lacking in Cute. I’d like to see more men embrace cute thing (unironically) and more girls understand that it’s okay to dress adorably.

☆ The trains. Oh, I used to hate them, and I still don’t like how they feel like a germy sardine can, reducing you to  nothing but a body that means nothing to nobody, as long as you get where you are going. But the convenience was great. What I would give for a train network all over the US that was like that. Everyone able to go everywhere that they wanted, quickly and easily, and maybe even cheaply? The Shinkansen is a ripoff, being more expensive than a plane flight half the time, but if it was cheap… think about how much richer the lives of a lot of people would be in the US (for example) if there was a cheap cross-country train network! It would increase tourism like nothing else.

☆ Sakura-flavored everything. Heck, let’s just put seasonal, regional, and wacky flavors in general in with this. Every region in Japan had some famous taste to taste, and every season brought new weird flavors of coke, muffins, dumplings. Not that they were all good, but they existed, and that’s the point.

☆ Summer fireworks and festivals. I know that they’re a bit cliche, but I loved summer fireworks festivals. I didn’t love the smoking that plagued them and often gave me massive headaches, but when I was lucky enough  not to be surrounded by smokers, it was lovely. So, so lovely. Fireworks yay!

☆ Simple, government-run healthcare. It was easy to enroll in, everywhere accepted it. It wasn’t particularly cheap imo but at least the cost was based on your income. I liked that I could use it anywhere and it covered 70% of almost everything.

☆ Karaoke booths. No, not singing in a bar in front of people. I don’t like bars and the thought of singing in front of strangers that are drunk makes me want to hide forever. Singing in a room full of my friends, though? Heck yeah!

☆ Purikura. I took less and less of them as time went on, but now I just want to take a million of those tiny photo stickers!

☆ Japanese fashion and makeup. Sometimes I liked the latest trend, sometimes I thought that it looked absolutely ridiculous (super-pointed witchy shoes anyone?). But I loved that so many people tried to look good. I especially loved how Japanese girls had this kind of eye makeup that made eyes look bigger and brighter. Ahhh. <3

☆ Food. I don’t miss a lot of Japanese food, especially since as a vegan I can’t eat it anymore. Japan also loves fried food and I never have. BUT I do miss kappamaki, mochi (mmmm!), and Japanese curry. I even miss toaster ovens! The only time I’ve ever had one is in Japan, so although I know they aren’t Japanese per se, they are Japanese to me. 🙂 OH, AND GREEN TEA. Not hot, but cold, refreshing green tea sold in bottles. I WANT/NEED IT. GIMME. Also, bentos. 🙂

☆ Feeling like I was completely safe walking home in the dark at 3 am. It varied based on where I was, but I don’t think that I’d feel safe walking alone anywhere in the US at 3 am. Not even on the beach in Hawaii. It’s too bad, because biking at night was my favorite way to get in shape.

☆ The feeling of independence, and hanging out with my friends. The feeling of wonder and adventure. How my environment was constantly challenging me.  I don’t think that this is something that I can only get in Tokyo, but I miss it (and my friends!!!!) all the same.

GEEZ! I didn’t think that there would be so many! Gehhhhhhhh! And here I was ready to type up a list of things that I hate about Japan (SMOKING!). I guess that will have to come at a later date!


What do you guys like about Japan, whether you’ve been there or not?


(206 geeks have read this)

Hi! This is Jamie Lynn Lano! I am a Washington State (USA) native who: ☆ Holds a Bachelors of the Arts in Media Arts & Animation from AiPx. ☆ Worked as an assistant mangaka in Japan for Konomi Takeshi on The Prince of Tennis. ☆ Was an essay columnist for Asahi Weekly from 2008-2013. ☆ Was the star of Asahi Pop'n Press on Asahi TV (Japan) from 2009-2013 ☆ Was a write for Metropolis magazine in 2010. ☆ Has kept a blog foreeeeeeeeever! First and Current blogs.


  • Hei

    I really like how they never judge people based on their clothing. You can be a different characters everyday and they won’t ask “What the hell happened to you?” and they really take care of appearances and put effort into the small details and aesthetics of…every thing! Like food, those little desserts that have hand painted monalisas in each inch. Every things usually very clean and tidy and organized too.

    I also like how precise and strict they are with keeping appointments and meet ups. I also like their daiso and tokyu hands that sell almost anything and things so useful but people never even thought about before haha.

    You also almost never run out of things to do or see. Just get out of the house and for sure somethings gonna catch your attention and keep you occupied.

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      I agree with you there! I looooove the attention to detail! Especially in clothing and sweets like you mentioned!

      One thing that annoyed me at first was the lack of trash cans all over. But after a while, it switched to admiration that even without trash cans everywhere, people would still keep areas clean and take their trash with them! (I always chucked it in the first convenience store bin that I found, though. Like hell I’m taking that home!)

      Have you been to Loft? Oh man, I love that store!!

  • Aoi

    -been lurking here for awhile-

    I think if you miss some of those simple pleasures about Japan we have hints of it over in SF! We have a whole shop dedicated to PuriKura, Cherry Blossom Festival/Obon/ect. (tho definitely not as crazy as Japan’s I’m sure), reeeeally good food, BART trains for your transportation needs, cosplayers and events-fashion boutiques for gyaru and lolita (there’s lot of those girls now 🙂 ) and stores that cater to that type of big eye make-up look; hell even Nijiya Grocery sells Dollywink lashes~ 🙂 Oh and we have karaoke rooms too tho not as updated I’m sure.

    If San Francisco wasn’t so crazy expensive I think you’d have the best of both worlds over here if you visited!

      • Jamie Lynn Lano

        For first-time comments, I have to manually approve them. Otherwise my blog would be totally littered with spam. Every day I pick through the spam to find legitimate comments and approve them. Once it’s been approved, though, as long as you use the same login information, your comments should automatically show up. 🙂

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      Hehee, like I said to your other comment, if only SanFran had a better climate, I would SO move there. I loooooved SanFran when I visited. It was always in the summer, though. I don’t think that I’d like it in the winter so much. I just wish that there was a city like it where it never gets cold. ;o;

  • Aoi

    We have PuriKura over in SF!! -has been lurking on your blog for awhile- Your entries are always so interesting. I’m shocked you left Japan since it’s a lot of people’s goal to head there. I think a lot of people don’t realize though the pros and cons to living there though!

    I know you mentioned living in Hawaii but I feel like if San Francisco wasn’t so crazy expensive that you’d probably adore it. Train systems (the bart ect), Japan Town has grown quite huge and there’s tons of a fashion boutiques with lolita and gyaru everywhere and cosplayers now along with really good food and events.. I feel so blessed to live near the Bay where I can get bits and pieces of the simple pleasures of what you’ve described even on here. Of course our Cherry Blossom Festival is small and our Karaoke places are a little less updated I’m sure but they’ve came a longggg way from a long time ago. I think you’d really enjoy visiting because there’s bits and pieces of what you mentioned even in here!

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      That’s actually funny, because for my first few years in Japan, I was telling myself that when I moved back it would be to live in San Francisco!! I can’t even consider it now, though, as my friends who live there tell me that it’s quite cold (below 70) for most of the year. I want to live in a place where I never need long sleeves (hence Hawaii). 😀

      If only SanFran had a better climate, it would be my #1 choice! And after living in shoebox apartments in Japan, I doubt that I’d feel put out at all living in a tiny one in SanFran for the same price. 😀 I’ve visited a number of times, though, and will definitely be back! In fact, I’d like to go to Yaoicon this year, as long as I’m able!

      • Aoi

        hahah I hate the cold over there so much! >.< I'm like you I love warm weather but I think I've adapted a little to the fog and cold. I partially blame the photoshoots I do in crazy gyaru fashions (we're talking short skirts an thigh highs here) in foggy weather. Eventually I just got immune. xD But yeah SF is so great! I hopefully can attend YaoiCon myself for the first time since it's on my birthday (funny how that worked out) but I have to get though Fanime, Anime Expo, and J-Pop Summit OTL I've heard it's a great con though!

        On the subject of Japan I seriously think I'd go broke over there. I don't know how you didn't! All the anime stuff sure but I'm sure it's all reasonable and there's tons of fan items but the CLOTHING PRICES over there. maybe it's because I'm looking at 109 brands but I don't know how girls over there do it! I'd go broke in a day! LOL

        • Jamie Lynn Lano

          I think that LOT of fashionable girls either have jobs and live at home (meaning they can spend it all on fun), or they live off of daddy’s credit card. It’s a lot like really fashionable girls here. Although, while places like 109 are pretty expensive, in Harajuku you can get a lot of fashions (even loli) for a lot cheaper. It’s definitely THE place to go for most of the young people. 🙂

          If you and I both make it to Yaoicon, let me know! 😀

    • Jessika

      Ah I love SF. I grew up about 30 mins from there in the bay area. My mom grew up there, my grandfather was a firefighter there for a while, and as far as I know his house and the Japanese garden he designed and constructed for it still exists somewhere in the city. I remember the bart system, Fisherman’s Warf and the piers. My uncle had a beautiful victorian house there. In many ways SF seems pretty similar to Seattle (for example fisherman’s warf and pike’s place). I also love the artistic vibes, strong Japanese culture, and colorful history of SF. Although like you Jamie I love warm weather more than anything and am also extremely curious about life in Hawaii, SF is another place I would consider living.

      • Jamie Lynn Lano

        Ooh, awesome! I visited San Francisco a number of times growing up, and now that I think of it, it was ALWAYS in the summer. Until recently I didn’t realize that it was so cold. When I first came to Japan and only thought that I would stay a year, I imagined myself moving to San Francisco when it was done. If it had a climate more like Hawaii, it wouldn’t even be a contest! 😀

        If you make it out to Hawaii, we can be sisters! 😀 Since we are so alike.

  • zoomingjapan

    It’s funny how the beginning of your entry pretty much sounds like my most recent entry. *g*

    Do you regret that you left Japan?

    I can agree to a lot of things you’ve mentioned, especially the trains! 🙂

    And I’m so glad I could try Starbucks’ great Sakura Latte this year again. It’s so great! (*___*)b

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      Not at all! I think that my time there was over. I’ve been sad to miss some things, but if I had enough money, I could have easily traveled back for them. To stay, I would probably had to have taken a teaching job, at least temporarily, and that wasn’t worth it to me. I couldn’t have survived, and also been stuck in the country without enough money to move. Without a gaijin house being an option (cat), then I just couldn’t have moved at all and it would have torn me slowly apart.

      Money is the real solution to everything. I’m glad that when I have lots of money, I’ll be able to fly back and forth every time that I want to go to Comicket or another event. I’ll mainly experience the good parts of Japan and not have to deal with a lot of the bad ones.

      • zoomingjapan

        I’m glad to hear that you don’t regret your decision, but it already sounded like you where done with Japan when we met, so I understand. ^^

        Hope you get what you’re looking for!! :333

        • Jamie Lynn Lano


          I have a goal that I’m shooting for, but as long as it’s interesting, I don’t mind if life takes me on a few detours. The TV show was one of those that worked out really well for me. I did so many things that I never would have otherwise. So glad that I took the chance, even though it terrified me!

  • Johan Markwalder

    Well, let s see, I miss karaoke. For some reason i ve always been keen on singing even here in my switzerland. Except here you would be in ab ar with perfect strangers singing with everyone around.. kinda hard.
    – I miss The beautiful parks
    – I miss the book off shops with hundreds of manga for 3.- or some..
    – I miss the crazy people drunk not managing alcohol. although this is pretty immature in my eyes I can feel it s cute as well like 40 years old teenager getting drunk after work and falling in the trash along the streets.
    – I don t miss: not being able to withdraw money from atm with my foreign credit card having 1000 y for 3 months to com left in my pocket.
    – I don t miss having to ride the tube for an hour and half just to get anywhere.

    Well always pos and cons but ill go again next summer to improve on my japanese 🙂
    You can check my art there guy http://www.walderworld.com

    Love Walder

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      Ahaha, the 40 year old drunks! I don’t miss those at all, lol! Same with the long train rides, though with enough money that could have been solved by living in the city. I am not sure that I would have ever left Japan if I’d had enough money to live the way that I wanted to.

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