Living in Tokyo for the past 4 years, I was able to experience many aspects of Japan, both good and bad. Japan is touted as a dream country for many, with claims of its advanced technological capabilities, extremely clean streets, and polite citizens. But is that really true? Here are 5 things I liked about living in one of the busiest cities in the world:
1. The Efficiency Of Public Transportation
Owning a car in Japan is extremely expensive, especially when you live in the metropolis that is Tokyo. Renting a parking spot can cost up to tens of thousands of yen per month and their hourly parking fees are no joke. For a middle-class consumer like me, public transportation is the most cost-effective way of getting around and I took the bus or train wherever I went. Compared to Malaysia where trains are often late, Japanese trains are so efficient that they arrive at the exact minute displayed on the station monitors. This makes it very convenient for me to plan my travel routes especially when I have to travel to work on weekdays.
The difference between the train arriving at 9:20 am and 9:25 am makes a huge difference in the number of extra minutes I get to spend in bed (lol). On the rare occasion a train’s arrival is delayed to due accidents or malfunctions, the station’s attendants will apologize profusely for the delays and issue “late slips” that can be shown to our school or places of work to absolve us from blame for our tardiness. Buses, however, are not as punctual but they usually arrive within 5 minutes of the stipulated arrival time which is still considered impressive.
2. World-class Customer Service
It’s no secret that the Japanese are known for their hospitality. Free water served during meals in every restaurant? Check. Shop staff saying “irashaimase (welcome)” the moment you enter the store? Check. Elevator girls pressing the buttons for you at high-class department stores? Check. Wrapping your shopping bags with rain covers when it’s raining so your items do not get wet? Check. For consumers, Japan is one of the best examples where the word “customer is king” applies.
I love it when I purchase something at the store and the shop staff escort me to the exit with my items and politely bow at me as I leave. It makes me feel like a queen. I love it even more when they exclaim “Kawaii desu ne!” as I step out of the dressing room and tell me how cute I look ten different times. It makes me want to purchase everything in the store. Oh wait, was that their marketing strategy? The point is, Japanese people have mastered the art of hospitality and in a service-centric country like Japan, it pays well to have satisfied customers in order to retain brand loyalty and stay ahead of the competition.
3. Best Toilets Ever
It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’m in love with Japanese toilets. Specifically, the wondrous invention that is the Japanese bidet. I love the bidet so much that when I was at the airport catching my flight home, I took a photo of a bidet and proclaimed how much I would miss it on my Instagram story. Lame, I know. But with the bidets squirting water that hit all the right spots and warm seats that keep your bottom nice and toasty during winter, what is there not to love about it? The more advanced ones even play a little jingle every time you tinkle (see how I made it rhyme?) or spray perfume to get rid of unwanted smells. It’s kind of funny how Japanese people are afraid of others hearing them pee, but I’ve grown to enjoy the bidet jingle.
Growing up in Malaysia, safety was always a concern for me, especially as a female. I’ve lost count of the number of times I was stalked and harassed on the streets, or the time I almost got kidnapped. My house was also broken into multiple times. That’s why when I moved to Tokyo, I felt like I was free. I could roam my neighborhood streets at night without repercussion and walk to the convenience store at 4 am in the morning when I’m craving for snacks. Of course, Tokyo is not a hundred percent safe, especially for a woman, but it is generally safer than me living in Malaysia.
I’ve had friends who passed out drunk on the streets with their wallet missing, only to have them go to the police station the next day with the wallet already turned in by a kind stranger and all the cash intact. I once accidentally left my phone in a restaurant, and the waiter came running out to chase me down and handed it back to me. Despite that, there are still occasional cases of theft and sexual crimes happening to people I know so it is best to keep vigilant at all times, even in a “safe” country like Japan.
5. 24-Hour Convenience Stores
Lovingly dubbed “konbini” aka an abbreviation of the English word convenience store, konbinis can be found everywhere in Japan, especially in Tokyo. In one of the big cities, you can find at least 3 different convenience stores on the same street, all containing wondrous items that are guaranteed to suck your wallet dry. From limited seasonal Haagen-dazs ice-cream flavours to an assortment of mind-blowing drinks (transparent cola, anyone?), Japanese convenience stores have got you covered.
My personal recommendations are;
- Lawson for their selection of drinks (I love their Uchi Cafe collection especially their GABA Cocoa and green smoothies)
- 7-11 for their bentos (boxed lunches)
- Family Mart for their famichiki (fried chicken) and desserts (Their cheesecake is the bomb)
The only problem is that with their convenience stores open 24/7 and with two different stores located a stone’s throw away from my share house, it was extremely easy for me to drop by multiple times a day to purchase items that I did not really need. RIP my wallet and waistline. A lot of people say they lost weight after moving to Japan because of all the healthy food they were eating, but I gained 5 kilos my first two years in Tokyo thanks to all the konbini desserts I was consuming…… </3
Have you lived in Japan before? Do you agree with my experience? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂
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