5 Things I Disliked About Living In Tokyo

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Ah, Japan. The land of giant robots, pink cherry blossom trees, and delicious sushi. For a country considered the dream destination for many including me, have you ever wondered what lies underneath its perfect facade? After living in one place for a long time, there are bound to be things that will begin bothering you. They start small, but as you notice it happen more and more often, it slowly ruins your experience of living in that country.

Don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely enjoyed my time in Tokyo. However, there were some things that could have made my experience even better. Continuing from my previous post on the 5 things I liked about living in Tokyo, in today’s blog post I would like to talk about the things I disliked living there.

1. The Two Different Faces of Japanese People

Photo by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplash

There is a phrase in Japanese, honne (本音) and tatemae (建前) which means your real self vs the behavior you adopt in public. In Japanese society, the group’s needs often take precedence over individual wants resulting in the Japanese hiding their true feelings by pretending to be someone else. A lot of people may pretend to be kind and sweet in front of you but badmouth you behind your back. I find this especially prevalent in Japanese females which has made it difficult for me to befriend them.

When I was still studying Japanese at a language school, I had a part-time job working at a second-hand luxury goods store. At first, all my coworkers were really nice to me which encouraged me to work harder. After some time, I found out that my Japanese manager who always told me things like “Aww you’re so cute today” or “Wow you’ve completed another task? That’s fast!” backstabbed me by telling the boss how slow and inefficient I am at work. If there really was a problem with my work, I would have appreciated it if she had told me face-to-face so I could fix it and improve. Instead, she pretended to be nice in front of me while dissing me to my boss.

I’m not saying that all Japanese people are like that, but in general it is difficult to understand what they are thinking on the inside.

2. Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork

For a country as technologically advanced as Japan, the last thing you’d expect is to have to fill out a bunch of forms everywhere you go. Do you want to open a bank account? Paperwork. Need a cell phone contract? Paperwork. Renewing your Japanese residency? Even more paperwork. And God forbid you to forget bringing your hanko (a stamp used in lieu of your signature) with you, or it’ll be sorry, please come again next time. I mean, didn’t you guys create a life-sized Gundam robot AND the most amazing toilet bidet known to mankind? I would have expected most of Japan’s services to be digitalized by now.

3. Non-existent Trashcans

One thing that really irked me about living in Tokyo is the lack of trashcans. Other than areas like train stations or shopping malls, there are virtually no trashcans anywhere else. For a country that prides itself on its cleanliness, wouldn’t it be easier to place a few trashcans on the streets so we could throw our trash away? Instead, I have to resort to stuffing my rubbish in my bag or holding it in my hand till I spot the next available trashcan half an hour later.

According to Bloomberg, the reason why there are no trashcans in Japan is due to the 1995 sarin gas attacks, which led to the removal of public garbage cans from Japanese cities. I understand that they were removed due to safety issues, but still, it is pretty inconvenient not to have a trashcan around, especially when I just finished my takeaway cup of coffee from Starbucks and have no way to dispose of it.

4. Grumpy Old Men

If you think that Japan is full of polite, head-bowing, smiling citizens, you are very wrong. After living in Tokyo for a period of time, you are bound to come across the infamous grumpy ojisan (old man). Try visualizing this; On a bright sunny day, you are walking down the street minding your own business when suddenly, an old man appears out of nowhere and purposely slams into you and goes “What the hell is wrong with you?!” before walking away muttering angrily to himself.

Now, I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing that can ruin my day more than encountering one of these old men. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been yelled at, shoved, or had one of their umbrellas/suitcases/shopping bags bump into me with nary an apology. In fact, there’s an entire thread on Reddit describing users’ experiences with the legendary ojisans themselves.

5. The Drinking Culture

In Japan, drinking alcohol is not only what you do on a weekend as a fun way to destress but a way of life. Walking down the streets of Tokyo at night, you can always find a drunk salaryman or two slumped against the wall or on the floor, passed out from drinking too much. Company employees are often pressured to drink with their superiors after work for fear of being ostracized or miss out on promotion opportunities. Even when you hang out with your Japanese friends, almost inevitably there will be some form of alcohol involved.

Living in a sharehouse, there is a fair share of people drinking in the lounge after work or coming home wasted. That in itself is not a problem, but the issue is after they get drunk, many of them start getting rowdy or leave a mess everywhere for other people to clean up. And so, I asked one of my sharehouse mates why Japanese people like drinking so much. He said it was a form of communication, or nomunication (nomu is the Japanese word for drink). As Japanese people usually keep their real feelings inside, the only way for them to express themselves honestly is to get drunk as a skunk. This leads to a heavy dependency on alcohol which may cause health issues later in life.


What do you think? Have you experienced any inconveniences living in your country? Are they similar to Japan’s? Let me know in the comments below!


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2 thoughts on “5 Things I Disliked About Living In Tokyo”

  1. Nice read again, I read much the same about the two faced versions of the Japanese and the grumpy men in many of Arisa’s posts on IG and her blog. As often is the case, experiencing a foreign country during a holiday is much different from when you have to live in it for an extended period of time.

    I myself have visited the US a lot of times, spending my holidays there and never had a bad experience and generally had fun times with Americans I have met. But when I am back home and see all the stuff that goes on over there I wonder if I just encountered all the smart ones. Example, their current way of handling the Corona pandemic…. nuf said.

    Can’t wait to see what you are going to write about next.

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