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Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Post your trip reports, travel experiences, and updates abroad. Or your expat story if you already live overseas. Note: To post photos and images, insert the image URL between the tags [img]and[/img] after uploading them to a third party site.

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Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby Everdred » Wed Mar 16, 2016 2:20 pm

Hello everyone, Everdred here again. This time I'm reporting to you from Japan, which is where I've been living for the past eight months. More specifically, I live in a "small" town called Kamisu (Japanese: 神栖), which has a population of around 95,000 people and is located in Ibaraki prefecture about 110 kilometers (70 miles) east of Tokyo. For those who don't know me, I previously lived in Dalian, China for two and a half years, and also in Bangkok, Thailand for three years, so I've been living in Asia roughly six and half years now. I've traveled all around Asia during this time, and I've written several trip reports for those trips on our forum here (Laos, Malaysia, China, Singapore, Taiwan, and Mongolia). I now run my own website, NessTheNomad.com, which I'm hoping will lead to meaningful and profitable endeavors in the future. Definitely check it out if you like my posts on our forum.

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Anyways, this "living report" is all about my life here working in small town Japan. I plan to cover topics like the cost of living, mini trip reports to others parts of Japan, the women, the food, the locals, the language, the weather, things to do, etc. I also want readers out there to submit any questions they might have on Japan, and hopefully I can shed some light on what it's really like once you're actually living and working here. It'd be great if other Happier Abroad members who've lived in Japan can chime in from time to time with their input (specifically Yohan and ladislav). I'm gonna foreshadow things to come by saying that so far Japan really isn't my cup of tea, but I'm trying to make the best of my current situation. I'm gonna get this thread started by introducing you to my locale, Kamisu, so let's get the ball rolling, shall we?

Kamisu 神栖

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As I said earlier, Kamisu is a pretty small place by Japanese standards, but it's not like I'm living out on a farm somewhere. It's a mostly industrial town, as there are many factories here, some of which are foreign-owned. Surprisingly, there are quite a number of Asian foreigners living in Kamisu, and many of them work at said factories, but they're income levels vary dramatically. It seems like most of these Asians work as factory workers, but some also work on nearby farms, and some are in upper management at these factories and farms. So some of them are relatively poor, whereas others are quite wealthy. Ironically enough, I've met countless Chinese people here who are from Dalian. Why they're seemingly always from Dalian, I don't quite know. On the other hand, seeing obvious Western foreigners in Kamisu is quite rare. In my eight months of living here, I've maybe seen a total of five. That said, it can be quite isolating here.

Square kilometer-wise, Kamisu is actually a decent size (Wikipedia says 147 square kilometers (57 square miles)), but the city proper is concentrated in a very small part of the city. Once you leave the city center, there's pretty much nothing but fields and homes. There's also really not much to see or do in Kamisu. The only thing notable out here is Kashima Shrine, which is one of Japan's oldest and most famous Kanto shrines, but it's located in neighboring Kashima, not Kamisu. Kamisu feels like a young city lacking in culture and history. Apparently the city was established in 2005, so the city is barely over ten years-old. So if it's ancient and rich history you're after, you're not going to find much of that in Kamisu. The city is mostly filled with shops and restaurants that belong to national and international franchises. Small, privately-owned shops and restaurants are not very common.

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Other than seeing the shrine in neighboring Kashima, there's really not a lot to do here in Kamisu. I usually just bargain-hunt at some of the second-hand shops, such as Hard-Off and WonderREX, but that's not a very fulfilling pursuit. I occasionally go to some of the locals parks, if the weather permits. There's an observational tower where you can go to the top and get a scenic view of the city, and that's worth doing at least once. There are also a few arcades, karaoke bars, batting cages, and driving ranges around the city. Those can be fun every now and then. And there are countless pachinko parlors/casinos around here, but that's definitely not my thing. And oh yeah, there's also an OK beach here, as Kamisu is located on Japan's far eastern coast. However, the beach is filled with litter, and you can only swim there a few months out of the year. Having a beach around is always nice though.

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The population of Kamisu is very out-of-whack. There are very few young people living in the city, and as a result, my social life here is dreadful. Most of the people you see in Kamisu are the elderly, unemployed housewives, and/or families. Seeing people in the 18 to 40 age range who are not married is not common. As a result of this, the city just feels aging and dull. It's pretty much the polar opposite of "cool." The locals also seemingly don't give a flying shit about foreigners either. As a white guy, I feel totally invisible here, which is literally the exact opposite of how I feel when I'm in China, especially small town China. Maybe once a month or so, someone might say a word or two to me, usually a kid, but it's rare. I don't expect special treatment being a foreigner or anything, but it's a nice bonus when the locals in a country want to get to know you and your background because you're different. But that's simply not the case here in Kamisu.

And I think needless to say, English is pretty much non-existent here. Of all the countries I've been to, the English is no doubt the worst here in Japan, and that includes Tokyo. If you plan on coming to non-big city Japan and not learning the language, be prepared to live in complete isolation. Honestly, even if I could speak Japanese well, I think I'd still live in complete isolation here in Kamisu. It seems like the Japanese, or at least the ones here in Ibaraki, don't take anyone serious who can't speak their language at a high conversational level. If I'm gonna put in countless hours to learn a language that can only be spoken with a specific race/ethnicity/nationality of people (basically a language that doesn't cross country borders), the prerequisite is I have to at least feel like the locals respect me as a foreigner. And since I don't feel an ounce of respect here, I'm very unmotivated to learn the language. I was quite interested in learning Japanese prior to my arrival here, but once I actually started living here, that all changed. And before you call me a hypocrite or a "language imperialist" or some other nonsense, bear in mind that I have learned to read, speak, and write Chinese all the way up to a medium-high intermediate level. So it's not that I'm adverse to or too arrogant to learn foreign languages. Take that for what it's worth.

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The vibe here in Kamisu and in so many other parts of Japan is one of monotony, depression, sterilization, and petty social rules. As developed and industrialized as Japan is, it's pretty obvious that so many people here hate their lives, at least on a subconscious level. There are just so many robotic and sad-looking people in this country. But it's easy to be fooled into thinking otherwise, as the Japanese are the kings of faking emotions. You go to stores and restaurants, and the people seem so polite and courteous, but it's all just an elaborate act. Looking past the superficialities, so many of the people here seem stand-offish and unfriendly. I hope we can all agree that politeness and friendliness aren't the same thing. Sometimes I wonder if the people here feel genuine emotions, as so many of the people seem like robots faking emotions. But don't twist or mangle my words - I'm not saying every single person in Japan is this way or that all Japanese people are bad, but there are certainly enough people here who are the way I'm describing that it's a noticeable pattern.

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So if Kamisu seems this bad, then why am I here? Prior to coming to Japan, I, perhaps incorrectly, assumed Japan would be a great place to live. After all, it's one of the only industrialized nations in all of Asia, and Japan is one of the world's largest exporters of high-quality goods, particularly electronics. Japanese comics, cartoons, and video games are also popular around the world, so it's somewhat easy to mistakenly fantasize Japan as a fun and wacky place to live. But regardless of all this, I knew I wanted to go somewhere complete new for a year or two where I could live in a pleasant and peaceful environment, while at the same time saving up a nest egg. I had just lived in Bangkok for three years, so I was wanting a break from bustling metropolises (i.e. Tokyo). I guess I got what I wished for, as Kamisu is pretty quiet and peaceful, and I do save quite a bit of money here. I guess I just wasn't expecting daily life in small town Japan to be so dull and depressing. I gave the country way more credit than it really deserved. Bear in mind I was born and raised in Arkansas, so it's not like I'm not used to rural environments or something. Nonetheless, the plan is to live here in Japan until January 2017, which is when my work contract expires. I'll have lived in Japan a total of 18 months at that point, which quite frankly is more than enough for me. I'm confident I'll be leaving the country for good once my contract is up. I've got my cross-hairs set to Taiwan or Mexico, but only time will tell.

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I'm working here in Kamisu as an English teacher at a local "eikaiwa (英会話)," which is the Japanese word for English conversation school. The work kind of sucks - it's got nothing on my cushy high school English teaching job back in Bangkok. But on the positive side, it pays relatively well. I make 250,000 yen a month (about US$2,200), and I manage to save about a third of my salary each month (more on the cost of living here in Kamisu later). My school provides me with a car, so it's the first time I've ever had a car in Asia, and I've driven the car to every nook and cranny of Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures. The English teaching itself is mostly draining and unrewarding, and I pretty much feel like a fancy babysitter teaching a bunch of ungrateful brats. But I'm willing to put up with the job and the locale for now, as it's all going to lead to a much brighter future (I have big big travel plans for 2017). Living and working here in Japan is also teaching me first hand about the country, and I am learning many valuable lessons, so I don't regret my decision to move here. I can't expect a great experience with every single country I live in after all. I'm trying to travel as much as I can in the country before coming to too many conclusions on the country, but I haven't been too impressed with anything I've seen in this country so far. I'll post some mini-trip reports down the road, including both Tokyo and Kyoto.

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Well, that's it for part one of this thread. I'll be writing so much more here in the weeks and months to come, so stay tuned. Ask me any questions you'd like, as I'd be happy to answer them - pretty much anything goes. And like I always say, don't take one person's word on a country - just because I'm not too fond of Japan doesn't mean you won't be either. You might come here and think it's one of the best places you've ever been. Who knows? I've certainly met a number of people who seem to like it here, but unfortunately I'm not one of them so far. Anyways, that's all for now. See you next time.

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Re: Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby Falcon » Thu Mar 17, 2016 1:47 am

Thanks for this awesome eye-opening trip report Everdred! What you described seems awfully a lot like Taiwan. Many pro's and con's. Overall a great country but can be somewhat isolating and depressing.

What nationalities live in the area besides Chinese from the Dalian area?
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Re: Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby Ghost » Thu Mar 17, 2016 3:02 am

It sounds just as isolating and depressing as the U.S. No wonder it is aging rapidly and the herbivore men are increasing in number every year. Sounds like the culture is dying, but that their way is to succumb peacefully, without chaos and violence, unlike America.
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Re: Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby Falcon » Thu Mar 17, 2016 3:11 am

Actually, it would be awesome if you did a Thailand vs. China vs. Japan 3-way comparison. I would love to see your perspectives on the pro's and con's of all 3 countries.
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Re: Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby E Irizarry R&B Singer » Thu Mar 17, 2016 4:19 am

This is a nice change to see of a thread. Very nice, Everdred.
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Re: Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby zboy1 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 7:28 am

Great trip report, Everdred. It was great to meet you in Japan.

I guess I would be one of those who likes Japan. But I can see your point in that Japanese tend to be very introverted and difficult to make friends with, even though they're incredibly polite and kind; whereas Chinese people are rude, crude and loud, but can be easy to get to know and make friends with. Lol. Chinese and Japanese people are polar opposites, that's for sure!

If you're married to a Japanese woman, and have a family, Japan is a good option in my opinion. I've met a guy who is a Taiwanese American married to a Japanese woman.

But, again, if you're like Everdred, maybe Japan is not for him. I think that's what I like about Asia so much: every country is unique in some way. Just like how I like the Philippines for it's openness and great woman, I liked Japan for it's politeness and calm, and it's family oriented culture.

China is chaotic, racist and interesting all at the same time.
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Re: Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby The_Adventurer » Thu Mar 17, 2016 12:45 pm

How is the internet in that small town? Japan is supposed to be the second fastest in the world, but their overall average speed is actually quite low. I assumed that maybe really slow speeds in small towns and rural areas brought the average down. While this place may not be for you, the things you describe sound like just what the doctor ordered for me. I used to be fluent in Japanese, and though I forgot a ton, I suspect I would pick it back up very fast if I was there. I think my level of comprehension is still better than my Chinese.

Are you posting this stuff on your own site too? I quit this board, and it has only gotten worse since I left, so if you are posting this on your site, I would rather follow and post comments there. (As for how I even found this, Winston is constantly sending out emails and I thought his Thailand trip report was worth coming back to check out, and then I found this thread)

After six years in China, I feel like I've had enough. I feel like I had forgotten that my goal, when I left the USA in 2008, was always to eventually get to Japan. Reading this report brought some of that feeling back. The calm, quiet and even isolating aspect sounds fine to me, especially if the internet speed is rocket fast. I would, of course, sprinkle that with regular trips to China, Philippines or Korea for fun though.
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Re: Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby ssjparris » Thu Mar 17, 2016 3:01 pm

whoa. alot of guys have problems with girls in japan. first winston now ALOT of other guys. well i will say this. japan was awesome for me as i got dates really easily. and the girls all spoke english to me. One of my favorite countries to be in. yeah sure though the guys will not speak english to me. but honestly why should i care. i know of one asian guy tall really that got numbers pretty easily there. and keep in mind i was in tokyo. they ALL know english. they pretend not to speak it depending on the foreigner. but if your black then you will love japan.

hell i even hung out with many japanese two girl groups in L.A. at one time. out of 10 girl groups i was able to hang out with 7 out of 10. yes it was THAT high. awesome friendly and really alot of fun to be with. i miss japan and i plan on living there by eventually starting my own business down there.
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Re: Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby Everdred » Fri Mar 18, 2016 4:54 am

Falcon wrote:What nationalities live in the area besides Chinese from the Dalian area?


The Chinese (usually from Liaoning and Heilongjiang) and the Thais are the dominant groups, but other than them, there are also quite a bit of Filipinos (there are at least five Filipina hostess bars in my small city alone). I've also spotted a few Vietnamese. It seems like almost all of these Asian groups work in manual labor here. I often see them bargain hunting at the second hand shops, and I can tell where they're from based on their appearance and the language they're speaking. I also know one Taiwanese guy here (zboy1 mentioned him earlier), and he lived in California for quite a while. He's married to a local Japanese woman, and they have two kids together. He's also a small business owner. He seems mostly OK with living here, but he splits most of time among here, the Philippines, and Taiwan for his business. That said, I think living here is much more palatable if you're not living and working here month after month after month.

And yes Falcon, there will be plenty of Thailand vs. China vs. Japan cultural comparisons to come. Stay tuned for more of that in the future.

The_Adventurer wrote:How is the internet in that small town?


Of the four countries I've lived in (the USA, China, Thailand, and Japan), my internet is by far the best here in Japan. China was probably the absolute worst. My internet is actually provided for free by my apartment building, so I pay nothing for it. I can do normal browsing, watch HD YouTube videos, upload giant photos to Flickr, do video and voice calls, and there's almost no lag at all. I even do video calls with my family back in Arkansas, and the call quality is good with no delay at all. I've also never had an internet black out here. Simply put, I just do everything I need to do, and I never have to worry about lag or loss of connection, etc. Everything just works. I absolutely can not say the same about my internet connections back in China and Thailand, and I lived in multiple apartments, yet the internet connections in all of them were pretty crappy. So that's one big plus for Japan, at least for where I'm living. Free fast and reliable internet - you can't beat that! Here's a screenshot of my internet speed below:

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I know those numbers don't really seem all that impressive at first glance, but all I can say is my internet connection here is great. That's a pretty decent upload speed and ping, too.

The_Adventurer wrote:Are you posting this stuff on your own site too?


Yes, some of this information is already on my site, but not all of it... yet. For example, I have an in-depth cost of living report on my website already. Just bear in mind that at this time my site has pretty much no traffic, so while you can read a lot of this there, there won't be much interaction going on in the comments section or anything. I'm trying to offer most of this information both here and on my website, though. I guess I want this thread and my website's Japan articles to complement each other. And my website is based around Asia as a whole, not just Japan.

If you've been living in gritty China for six years straight, moving to semi-rural Japan may indeed be just what the doctor ordered for you. The two countries contrast significantly, and I bet you're probably pretty sick of China by this point, so maybe you'd quite enjoy it here. Who knows? I also thought it was exactly what I needed at this point in my life, and I guess it is. Just too bad it's also so boring, uninteresting, and depressing. There are very very few distractions though, so I'm getting a lot done in this year and a half, such as building up a nest egg, building up my website, building an online social media presence to supplement my website, light bodybuilding and getting into the best shape I've ever been, continuing to study Mandarin Chinese (I can hand-write now!), collecting some very nice camera equipment from all the second hand shops around here, and learning some valuable lessons about Japan and Asia as a whole. So it's not like this year and a half is a total waste, but it's isolating to say the least. There's no way in hell I'd want to stay here once my contract is up.

Also guys, please never forget that traveling to Japan and living and working in Japan are two totally different beasts, though this is true for every country. Hell, even I'd enjoy traveling in Japan, especially if I was coming from a contrasting country like China. But once you live and work with the locals, and go through the intense grind every day, things aren't quite as rosy. As we all know, Japan is a very work-oriented country, and entertainment and a comfortable lifestyle both take a hard backseat to productivity. And once you're traveling here, you're somewhat given a pass to not follow the seemingly hundreds of petty social rules here that permeate every step of life, no matter how obscure. The Japanese are very uptight about these rules being followed, especially for anyone living here. As a result, there's a pervasive "walking on eggshells" feeling when living here, because it seems like you're always breaking some rule you didn't even know existed, and the Japanese are not shy to correct your "mistake" right to your face. Tourists also rarely have a social circle in the place they are traveling to, so they don't have a reputation to look after. If they do something cringe-worthy, who cares, as they can just hop on a plane and be gone next week.

ssjparris wrote:whoa. alot of guys have problems with girls in japan. first winston now ALOT of other guys.


Huh? Are you talking about me? There are pretty much no girls to even be had where I'm living, so there's not really even any opportunities to have problems with them. Unless you want to go after married housewives with kids in tow or the elderly, there's really nothing for a single guy here, especially a single foreign guy. There are plenty of MILFs here, but they're pretty much off limits. The women of Tokyo are of course an entirely different ballgame. Absolutely no comparison. But I'm living here in Japan with my Chinese wife, so I'm not exactly playing the field these days, but I do still pick up on female attention/attraction.

While I feel completely invisible here in Kamisu, I do notice way more people taking a hard glance at me, particularly young women, when I'm in Tokyo. You'd think it would be the other way around, but it's not. I'm confident if I were a single guy living in Tokyo, I wouldn't have much lady troubles. And while I do find many Japanese women to be physically beautiful, so far I'm not really attracted to their personalities at all. I also don't feel like my personality naturally vibes well Japanese women, though it does with so many Chinese women. Just like with Thai women, I feel like I have to put on more of a show when I'm dealing with Japanese women, whereas with Chinese women I can mostly just be natural and we still hit it off really well. Nonetheless, Japanese women are probably still worth pursuing, especially when compared with American women. Anyways, more on Japanese women later.

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Re: Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby Yohan » Sat Mar 19, 2016 5:11 pm

The_Adventurer wrote:How is the internet in that small town? Japan is supposed to be the second fastest in the world, but their overall average speed is actually quite low


I cannot comment about small cities but here in Tokyo, in my home the download speed for nearby located servers is approx 85 to 95 Mbps, the upload speed approx. 55 to 70 Mbps when using LAN-cable and not Wireless connection to the router.

In Southern Tokyo where I am living almost all internet connections in private homes are now on optical fiber, 100M connection - the connection also includes some TV channels and the phone line.

The international internet connections are also good, because in Japan there is no censorship, no filtering of the internet. This is the major reason for slow connection in China, Thailand and some other Asian countries.

I think, internet connection on optical fiber is still not everywhere available outside of the large cities in Japan. Maybe Everdred who is living in a small city is still using ADSL or ISDN, his connection is really very slow compared to Metropolitan Tokyo, but for sure it is stable.
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Re: Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby Yohan » Sat Mar 19, 2016 5:43 pm

Everdred wrote:
.....I live in a "small" town called Kamisu (Japanese: 神栖), which has a population of around 95,000 people and is located in Ibaraki prefecture about 110 kilometers (70 miles) east of Tokyo

...hopefully I can shed some light on what it's really like once you're actually living and working here. It'd be great if other Happier Abroad members who've lived in Japan can chime in from time to time with their input (specifically Yohan and ladislav). I'm gonna foreshadow things to come by saying that so far Japan really isn't my cup of tea, but I'm trying to make the best of my current situation.

...Surprisingly, there are quite a number of Asian foreigners living in Kamisu, and many of them work at said factories, but they're income levels vary dramatically.

..... you leave the city center, there's pretty much nothing but fields and homes.

..... there's really not a lot to do here in Kamisu

... The population of Kamisu is very out-of-whack. There are very few young people living in the city, and as a result, my social life here is dreadful. Most of the people you see in Kamisu are the elderly, unemployed housewives, and/or families.

...As a white guy, I feel totally invisible here

...needless to say, English is pretty much non-existent here

...even if I could speak Japanese well, I think I'd still live in complete isolation here in Kamisu

I just wasn't expecting daily life in small town Japan to be so dull and depressing. I gave the country way more credit than it really deserved.

...My school provides me with a car, so it's the first time I've ever had a car in Asia, and I've driven the car to every nook and cranny of Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures.


Living in Japan, Tokyo since over 30 years, (white man from Europe, with Japanese wife) there is hardly anything else what I can add to your report from a smaller city in Japan, all what you write here is the reality.

Life in a rural place can be pretty boring in Japan, very few young people around, a lack of young women especially, nobody out of the house past 8:00 PM, villages totally dark during night, a car absolutely necessary, English language not existing, some Asian foreigners doing some farming (Japanese Brazilians?), some other Asian foreigners in factories (Chinese with some connection to Japan?), some locals are alcoholics, some are gambling addicts...

Kamisu is a place where I was merely driving through a few times for Choshi with some visitors, I never stopped there, just driving down the main road 124 after end of the highway. We can say life-style is getting seriously more and more primitive beyond Narita City/Narita Airport.

The good things here in Japan is the fact that criminality against foreigners like us is almost zero, I don't know any dangerous place and you can go out day and night. Japan offers a fairly good national health insurance to everybody living legally in Japan - you can use this insurance also for dental works and even in case of medical emergency while outside of Japan, people are quite honest and will rarely cheat you and Japan is not a tipping society, something which was bothering me so much while in USA - however Japan was never really a place suitable for Western immigrants.

In rural areas income is rather low, and locals are often known as ignorant and introverted, not only against foreigners like yourself, but also against unknown Japanese people who are not living permanently in such areas. There are also complaints from Japanese who are owning a second house in a rural area that locals don't want to have anything to do with them.
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Re: Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby Everdred » Tue Mar 22, 2016 1:05 pm

Yohan wrote:Life in a rural place can be pretty boring in Japan, very few young people around, a lack of young women especially, nobody out of the house past 8:00 PM, villages totally dark during night, a car absolutely necessary, English language not existing, some Asian foreigners doing some farming (Japanese Brazilians?), some other Asian foreigners in factories (Chinese with some connection to Japan?), some locals are alcoholics, some are gambling addicts...


You pretty much just summed up Kamisu. And yes, I have noticed that at least out here in rural Japan, the local men are slaves to their vices - smoking, drinking, gambling, prostitutes, bingeing on video games, etc. In theory, I don't have anything against these things, but they should be done in extreme moderation. That said, it seems like the men here have trouble controlling their hedonistic impulses. This definitely hit me by surprise, as this is not quite how I had imagined Japanese men to be. And even though Kamisu is a relatively small town/city, there are countless casinos/pachinko parlors all over the place out here. And they're filled to the brim with customers 24/7. Asian men in general seem to be some of the world's biggest gamblers, but I believe Japanese men deserve the crown. It's absolutely absurd how many places there are to gamble in Japan. Consider that gambling is illegal in both Thailand and China, so places to gamble (at least out in the open) are few and far between in those two countries, but here in Japan the sky's the limit.

Mini Trip Report: Mount Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture (筑波山)

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This last Sunday I went with an American guy I met in Tokyo to Mount Tsukuba, which is out here in Ibaraki prefecture. It's the prefecture's largest mountain, but it's dwarfed by the much more famous Mount Fuji (2,877 feet tall versus Fuji's 12,389 feet). Nonetheless, it's still quite a nice-looking mountain, and it's well-worth at least one visit if you're in the area. People living in or traveling in Tokyo can take the Tsukuba Express, located at Tokyo's famous Akihabara Station, to reach Tsukuba city in roughly an hour. From my apartment in Kamisu to Mount Tsukuba, the drive is about 50 miles west. But since the highways in Japan are prohibitively expensive, that 50 mile drive takes over two hours to complete, as I had to stick to the back country roads to save money. And there's pretty much nothing to see along the way, as Ibaraki consists of mostly drab-colored and muddy fields. It's a boring ass drive to say the least.

Once we arrived at the mountain, we saw that you can drive a car almost to the very top, so we drove about 75% of the way, and then parked the car, as we wanted to actually walk up at least part of the mountain. There's also a cable car that can take people up and down the mountain, which is apparently what 95% of the people visiting the mountain use. We saw barely anyone as we were walking up to the top, but once we reached the very top, there were throngs of people everywhere. I noticed there were quite a few large Taiwanese tour groups as well.

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I've always noticed that the Taiwanese seem to blindly love Japan (just as the Thais do, too), but that's in stark contrast to how many Chinese mainlanders feel towards Japan. Bringing up the topic of Japan in mainland China is an almost surefire way to stir up emotions and controversy. But the ironic thing about this is how many mainlanders I've seen living and working here in Japan for the "better life." Just another one of the many great hypocrisies of modern mainland China! On the other hand, it seems like many Chinese integrate very well in Japan, and they actually make quite an effort to follow the rules and learn the language, though this absolutely doesn't apply to mainland Chinese tourists. This is interesting to me, as so many of the mainlanders you come across in the West make very little effort to learn English (or whatever the local language is) to fluency, they tend to hang on to so many of their less savory habits from back home, and they only hang around their own kind (i.e. other Chinese). But this is not the case in Japan, particularly with the middle and upper-middle class mainlanders (not the lower class factory workers), as they often blend in entirely with the local Japanese population, making them largely indistinguishable from everybody else. But in the West and many other Asian countries, I can usually spot a mainlander from a mile away, as they rarely do much to integrate in those countries (of course there are some exceptions to this).

Anyways, got a little sidetracked there. Even though there were hordes of people at the top of Mount Tsukuba, the view was quite nice. It was a pretty rural view, as Ibaraki prefecture is mostly industrial and agricultural, so there weren't many buildings or city lights to see. Regardless, the view was nice and photo-worthy. After we went back down the mountain to my car, we drove to a nearby onsen (a thermal pool/spa heated by a nearby hot spring). The entrance fee was 1,100 yen per person, which is a bit steep by my standards, as that's roughly two to three times what I pay to go to bathhouses in northeast China. We both had to strip down completely nude, as that's the standard protocol at onsens and Asian bathhouses in general. We washed up and relaxed in the comfortably hot pool for an hour or so, and then we moved on. The onsen was very comfortable and relaxing, but it gets boring real quick, so 30 minutes to an hour is plenty.

We finally ended the day by going to El Torito (Japanese: エルトリート つくば学園店), an American-style Mexican restaurant in Tsukuba city. I'm always anxious to try Mexican food in Asia, as Mexican cuisine is my favorite food in the world, but more often than not, I leave the restaurants disappointed. At the restaurant, I ordered a combination plate, and and the food was decent, albeit a bit too bland and overpriced (two common themes of food prepared in Japan). The plate pictured below cost me 1,000 yen plus tax, and bear in mind that it was roughly the equivalent to an American child size. Just like in Thailand, it seems like portions sizes here in Japan are ridiculously small. The glaring difference here in Japan though, is that the food is usually two to three times more expensive. So you get about the same amount of food as you often do in Thailand (which is very little), but you pay way more for it. It's times like these where I really respect China and Mongolia for serving reasonably-priced large portion sizes. This is especially true in Mongolia, where almost every dish is overloaded with meat, whereas in China it's usually overloaded with simple carbs, like white rice or noodles. Anyways, I'll talk more about Japanese food in a later post.

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I hope you enjoyed this mini trip report. I'll be going to Tokyo for the third time this upcoming weekend, and I'll post another mini trip report about it here on this thread once I'm back in Kamisu. Please keep the questions coming, as I enjoy answering them.
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Everdred
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Re: Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby Traveler » Sun Mar 27, 2016 6:59 pm

I've noticed that people who have experienced living in Korea first generally have good things to say about Japan. I guess Korea makes Japan look good in contrast. At least Japanese people leave you alone.

"Is it any better in Japan? Or is moving to Japan just jumping from one hassle to a slightly different set of hassles? By 'is Japan better', I mean is Japan less rude, less hostile to outsiders, less cynical, less pushy and 'in your face' crude as daily life is here in Korea -- I have been teaching in Korea at the university level for about ten years, and am now finding that the pushy brashness is really getting to me. I shrugged it off and treated it lightly for years, but now it just makes me feel drained. The constant confrontation here is getting to me -- years ago, I believed that with time, I'd get to know more Koreans, see more depth in the society, and feel more at ease ; but no, the longer I am here, I realize that from the Korean perspective, it's all about power and head to head clashes, facing 'the weaker one' down, win and lose, crush and vanquish in relations here in Korea, and not at all about easing into life and society the more you know the country....

"However, the things you mentioned, 'less rude, less hostile to outsiders, less cynical, less pushy and "in your face" crude as daily life is here in Korea'. - That will be COMPLETELY NON-EXISTENT in Japan. It is the exact opposite there. Japanese people and staff are extremely polite, very considerate, very 'out of your face'. You won't have any of those issues whatsoever."
http://forums.eslcafe.com/korea/viewtopic.php?p=2979652
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Re: Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby chanta76 » Mon Mar 28, 2016 1:06 am

Traveler,

We get it . You had bad experience in Korea. What happened? Some Korean dude beat you up? Some Korean girl cheated on you? There still a growing expat population in South korea. You want to be fair about racism..how about the Russian skin heads who kill immigrants and international students in Russia. Oh Yeah..that's right it's OK for the white people to be racist but if white person experience racism from Asians that is a big NO.
What you expect Asians to white worship you PUNK!
Apology to the original thread I don't want to hijack this thread.
chanta76
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Re: Everdred's "All About Japan" Living Report

Postby Jester » Mon Mar 28, 2016 4:27 am

Everdred, thanks for a truly great trip report.
I learned a lot.
"Pick a point and go to it."
-- Dr John Hunsucker, speaking about canoeing on Georgia's Lake Lanier, with its irregular shape, and 1000 miles of meandering shoreline
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