This post is not going to be anywhere as nice as yesterday’s. Obviously, there are a lot of reasons to love Japan, but everyone has something they don’t like about whatever country they call (or called) home, and for me, Japan is no exception at all. I loved it, but I also hated it.
☹ WHAT I DON’T MISS ABOUT LIVING IN JAPAN ☹
☹ SMOKING. This is the biggest one for me. Japan is the prince of smoking (China is the King, ugh). I’m not saying that it’s not in anyone’s right to smoke. Just that it’s my right to go anywhere and not have to breathe in smoke. But most restaurants, all bars, and even office buildings allow smoking. Not to mention the annoyance of trying to enjoy hanami (picnics beneath the sakura trees) without smoke being blown in my face. Sadface. I just want clean lungs.
I was THIS excited to see a non-smoking sign in Japan. They’re rare. And by the way, a guy was smoking right behind this. Argh.
☹ Packed trains. Trains are great. Trains are awesome, even, But trains packed so full that you can’t breathe? Trains where you actually get lifted off your feet but don’t fall down because you’re held up by the sheer pressure of people pushing against your body? I am over 6 feet tall and this has happened to me. At least my head is out above the crowd. 🙁 (I’ll also add in trains that smell like B.O. which happens a lot during the summer, and trains that are so humid that the windows steam up, or frigid cold in the summer).
☹ Rude old ladies that go through your trash. I guess that because this is illegal in some parts of the world, including the one that I lived in for 24 years before coming to Japan, I found it really invasive that random old ladies will go through your trash and even go so far as to put it on your doorstep if they think you haven’t separated your plastics properly. No. None of your business.
☹ Absolutely NO freaking insulation (in most houses in Tokyo). Tokyo gets really, really REALLY REALLY REALLY cold in the winter. Some of my Canadian friends said that it’s nothing (it rarely dips below -5 C), but for me, anything below around 20C/70F is too cold. I am a desert baby. Anyways. When it’s -5 outside, inside is also -5 or even colder, because there is no protection from the elements. Most houses/apartments are made of wood and made specifically to allow drafts to go through (for the summer). SO, COLD. The kotatsu is really popular in the winter. Basically, it’s a table with a blanket attached and heaters underneath. The kotatsu feels like heaven, but heaven forbid that you don’t want to sit under the table all day. And what about the top half of your body? Screw cold. Oh, and hey, in the summer all of the cool air from your A/C unit on the wall goes right out the cracks. Yay.
☹ The humidity. In the summer it nears 100% humidity, and the sun is very strong. This makes it feel like you’re swimming rather than walking, and literally breathing in water. It’s like being in a sauna. While I’ll take that over Tokyo winters anytime, it’s not comfy at all. It’s sticky and muggy and full of bugs.
☹ Gaman spirit. Many Japanese people see this as a good thing, and indeed many foreigners do, too. I don’t. Nope. Sorry. “Gaman” is a “put up with hardship” kind of attitude. And, yeah, sometimes you do have to grin and bear it. Sometimes it’s the better choice to put up with a temporarily bad situation. I did it for months while I worked with Konomi-sensei, even though it was driving me crazy. And that’s the point right there. By not speaking up for myself, I was miserable. It doesn’t always work out. When I spoke up, as you’ve read, I was almost fired. So, I tried to gaman again, and it made me miserable again. My old coworkers still complain all of the time, while I? I don’t have to deal with it anymore. I believe in speaking up for yourself (most of the time).
☹ Treating GLBT issues/people like a joke. From the proliferation of yaoi manga, you might think that being gay is acceptable in Japan. Not really. I have not heard many people speak openly against it, but I have heard people whisper disapprovingly about yaoi manga. There is next to no serious discussion about gay rights in Japan. If you are a foreigner legally married to your same-sex spouse, then you can be granted a spousal visa, which is great! But gays cannot marry within Japan. Gay marriage isn’t even a talking point. You might have heard about the lesbian couple that got (fake) married at Tokyo Disneyland. That’s the most serious media coverage that this topic has had, probably ever. One of the brides said, “Mostly, we just want people to know that gay people exist for real.” That says it right there, doesn’t it?
☹ The staring. I get it. I stand out. But I can do without blatant staring. Many people don’t even try to hide it. There’s a really funny book cover that one guy made when he got sick of the stares, and you can read about it here: http://www.japanprobe.com/… It’s actually quite brilliant!
☹ Xenophobia. I met a lot of nice, wonderful people in Japan. But I also experienced a lot of “go back home, white girl!” Mostly from old men and punkish young boys. So, I don’t look like anyone else? Why does this mean that I can’t be Japanese? There are white people born in Japan, too. They must feel even more out of place.
☹ Nanpa. Blatantly hitting on girls, treating them like a piece of meat. It’s a problem all over the world, but oh man was it awful in Tokyo. I never felt particularly in danger like I might in the US, or I did this one time in London, but it was annoying and ubiquitous. It was almost a given that someone would call out to me, even if I was in no makeup and jeans. The culprits were usually “stylish” young boys, but one old man even went straight for my chest, palms up. I mean, come on.
☹ Legal discrimination while apartment hunting. You’ve heard me make a whole post about this one.
☹ SMOKING. Oh wait, I already mentioned this one. It deserves a second mention.
☹ The lack of health-food options. Sure, you can get cuisines from all over the world. But most supermarkets don’t carry a variety. You want packaged dried beans? Nope. You want almond milk? Okay, but only has that appeared in the last month or so. My favorite, nooch? I don’t know anyone who has seen that in Japan. I was never able to find it. A vegetarian friend who used to visit Tokyo used to get upset because she was told that ramen was vegetarian… although the broth was made out of fish/pork. It is getting better, but I feel like Tokyo is behind the times. I always wanted to eat healthy, but when white rice and fried food is the most popular cuisine….
☹ 出る釘は打たれる。Deru kugi wa utareru. The nail that sticks out gets hammered down. In other words, don’t you dare be different! F*** that. Stand out, you guys! Go for your dreams, and don’t let ANYONE tell you not to! Be yourself, and don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t. Of course you can.
☹ Squat toilets. (I miss the nice, seat-warming ones!) I don’t think anyone misses the squat toilets.
☹ Thin walls. There are apartments with thin walls in every city, but Tokyo has some of the thinnest walls I’ve ever encountered, and my first apartment as a teenager was a studio in public housing. I never once heard my neighbors there. I don’t like hearing my neighbor’s baby whining and crying all night long. Nobody wants to hear that. Or the neighbor’s TV. I also don’t want to smell the smoke wafting up somehow through the floor. This is my smoke-free apartment. Keep it in your own.
☹ Women’s rights. What rights? Girls are still taught that it’s best to aim for being a housewife and quit your job when you get married. While I don’t think that getting married or raising kids, or even taking time off for them is bad in any way, I think that it should be encouraged to aim for more. Aim for a career, a life of your own that doesn’t revolve around your husband and kids. Better yet, become a successful businesswoman in your own right before you get married. As a woman, to see women still expected to hold that traditional place at a man’s side just makes me sad.
There are other things, like lack of places to buy English books, but somehow I don’t really think that’s fair to complain about that. It is Japan after all, and there are a few bookstores that sell English books. Plus, there’s always Amazon.jp. So I’m just going to leave this one out.
I wanted photos for the rest, but I’m not sure what I should have chosen! Oooops. >.>;
What is is that you don’t miss (or don’t like) about living/visiting/looking at Japan?
It might sound like I was being harsh here. I was. I invite discussion about the bad points of any country just as much as I invite discussion of positive aspects. No place is perfect, and there is nothing wrong with being honest about what you don’t like.