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- Location: Tokyo, JAPAN
Everdred wrote:Thanks for the input so far guys, but I'm hoping this thread doesn't devolve into another one of the hundreds of "are [insert country here] girls easy?" kind of threads that are so prevalent around here. I'm gonna get this thread back on track by posting a photo essay of what it's like to walk (and drive) through my city, Kamisu...
It is fine to report about Japan as it really is in daily life.
I am now with my wife in Yamaguchi area for one week coming from Nara and Okayama.
We were planning to visit some relatives in Oita, not so far from Kumamoto, but we had to change our route because of the earthquake in Kyushu.
Well, we are now in places we both have never visited before - in so-called 'cities' of Hagi and Nagato and Mine wasting our money - compared to what I see here in this remote Japan Sea region, your city of Kamisu sounds to me like an overpopulated international melting point with large shopping and dining facilities. Wow, so many cars, so many people, so many shops open even in evening.... LOL
I will write more after being back to Tokyo from Fukuoka next week. Best regards, Yohan.
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This trip report appeared first on my website, NessTheNomad.com.
My ten months in Japan up to this point have been mostly full of lows with very few highs worth mentioning. In retrospect, surely I over-hyped Japan in my mind prior to coming here, but that’s not hard to do when Japan is often portrayed as a cultural mecca and a semi-fantasy world in the media and through misguided word-of-mouth. Part of me has always wondered if my lackluster time in Japan has been due to my location in mostly rural Ibaraki prefecture, but Tokyo has also strongly failed to impress me, so maybe it’s not just a rural thing. Well, I got out of far eastern Japan for the first time since moving here and flew to Kyoto in central-western Japan for the week-long “Golden Week” holiday.
Finally I’ve experienced a completely different part of Japan than what I’m used to, and I can now judge the country just that much more accurately, as my Japan horizon has expanded. But what was Kyoto like on the ground? Did it give me new hope for a country that I had prior been losing hope for at a very rapid pace, or did it seal the nail in Japan’s coffin for good? Or perhaps somewhere in between? And did Kyoto live up to its hype as an ancient and traditional city filled with vibrant culture and beautiful temples? Was the food anything to write home about? Were the ladies much to look at? Was it absurdly expensive just like Tokyo tends to be? I’ll be addressing the answers to these very questions in this here trip report, so read on to learn more about Kyoto, Japan’s former capital and the epicenter of Japanese culture and history.
My trip began at Narita Airport, which is located between Tokyo and my home in Ibaraki. Back in February I managed to snatch up a couple of round-trip tickets flying with Peach Aviation (a budget airline) from Narita to Kansai Airport near Osaka – each plane ticket was only 16,210 yen, which is actually cheaper than taking the Shinkansen, Japan’s high speed bullet train. The flight was only a short hour and a half, and when I finally reached Kansai Airport, I had to take a “limousine bus” from there to central Kyoto, which is almost 60 miles north. A one-way bus ticket was 2,550 yen. So once you do the math, that’s 10,655 yen per person per way (21,310 yen round-trip) to get from Narita Airport to central Kyoto – not too bad for Japan.
Once I was on the ground in Kyoto, I could immediately tell I was in a very different part of Japan. The natural landscape was mountainous and pleasing to the eye, which is in strong contrast to Ibaraki’s flat and dull landscape. There was also far more traditional Japanese architecture all around me, something that’s sorely lacking in Ibaraki and Tokyo. There was also a very different social vibe in the air in Kyoto – in Tokyo the vibe feels very business-oriented, pretentious, uptight, and “hurry, hurry, hurry!” In Ibaraki the vibe also feels uptight, yet it’s also depressing and very “mind your own business”.
That said, I noticed right off the bat that the vibe in Kyoto just felt far more slow-paced and relaxed (by Japanese standards). The people actually seemed mostly like humans and not like the zombies and robots that I’m so used to seeing elsewhere in Japan. Kyoto is certainly no Phnom Penh or Vientiane when it comes to laid-back vibes, but it’s without a doubt far more laid-back than Tokyo or Ibaraki. I find it a particularly odd how unlaid-back Ibaraki can be – you would assume rural areas would be far more chilled out and “go with the flow” than urban areas, but I haven’t found this to be the case in eastern Japan.
The women in Kyoto were far more pleasantly dressed than their Tokyo sisters. It seemed like their fashion style revolved around looking feminine, simple, and presentable, but also giving off cutesy vibes. I also noticed a lot of girls wearing bright red lipstick in Kyoto, which I’m a sucker for. On the other hand, I can’t help but feel that Tokyo female fashion is way too “try-hard” and bitchy. Some Tokyo girls will be wearing like 20 different articles of clothing and accessories all at one time, and that just looks so ridiculous and vain to me. Sure, lots of women look good in Tokyo, but you see far less humble-faced “good-girl” types there than you generally would in Kyoto. This comes as no surprise to me, considering Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world and one of the epicenters of Asian fashion trends. We all know huge cities tend to change women for the worse. Nonetheless, I really liked the way women presented themselves in Kyoto, and there was absolutely no shortage of beauties.
On the downside, Kyoto girls are just like their Ibaraki sisters when it comes to body language – they strongly avoid eye contact as they walk, and they always look down or to one side. If you glance at their eyes, they’ll quickly look somewhere else. I didn’t get any of the eye-f***ing that I sometimes get in other Asian cities like Manila, Ulaanbaatar, Beijing, Bangkok, nor even the subtle glances I get in cities like Tokyo or Taipei. I was completely invisible.
I also noticed countless girls wearing earphones as they walked, rode along on their bikes, or rode on the subway, which is a habit I find to be extremely anti-social. The rate of smartphone zombies among women was also very high in Kyoto, a common trend all across Japan, especially in urban areas. Seeing any female in her teens all the way up to her fifties looking down and swiping on her phone endlessly was a very common sight in Kyoto, and it’s just as common in Tokyo as well. I gotta give some praise to Mongolian and Laotian women, as both of these nationalities of women have yet to fall victim to the smartphone epidemic plaguing so much of the rest of Asia… at least for now.
As I mentioned earlier, the average person in Kyoto seemed relatively normal and far less robotic and uptight than the average person all the way over here in eastern Japan. I could actually sense people’s individual personalities in Kyoto, which is something I rarely experience anywhere else in Japan, as so many Japanese people tend to be robotic, zombie-like, and herdish in everyday public situations. I could also sense that the people in Kyoto were far more used to dealing with foreigners than over here. People at stores and restaurants would often say things to me in Japanese first and then followed by English, even when it wasn’t clear to them yet that I didn’t speak Japanese. They also didn’t “freeze up” when I said a single English word to them like they tend to do in Ibaraki and Tokyo. But it should also be made clear that I didn’t meet any good English speakers in Kyoto, rather I just met lots of people who knew enough English to handle everyday business situations.
The food in Kyoto was very similar to the food I’ve seen all around Ibaraki and Tokyo – millions of noodle and stirred rice restaurants, famiresus (franchise family restaurants), as well as the occasional restaurant serving something unique like okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes). Sure, I had a few snacks and meals that were supposedly signature Kyoto dishes, but nothing really stood out to me all that much, and most of the food seemed more or less the same as what I’ve had in Ibaraki and Tokyo a million times already. And in typical Japanese fashion, food and snacks in Kyoto were expensive and small-portioned. Bite-sized snacks usually started at 100 yen, and then they went all the way up to 800 yen, with 500 yen or so being the average. It would be very easy to spend 3,000 yen or more per day on food when traveling in Kyoto, and chances are you won’t even realize you spent that much until you sit down and count your money.
As for dining out in Kyoto, unless I was eating at a franchise or famiresu (the same franchises available pretty much anywhere in Japan), most meals in Kyoto cost me around 1,500 yen or so, whereas a meal at a franchise restaurant was usually around 800 to 1,200 yen. Looking back, none of the food in Kyoto really stood out to me, nor did I have any spectacular or cheap meals. A big thumbs down for the food in Kyoto. What can I say? Other than the sweets, the Japanese food scene just really fails to impress me. Too many mediocre or subpar franchises, small portions, bland tastes, high prices, and not enough variety or worthwhile foreign cuisine options. I’ve seen too many better food scenes in Asia, hence why it’s so hard for me to like Japan’s. Give me Thailand, China, Korea, Malaysia, or even Mongolia’s food scene over Japan’s any day. Others may disagree with me, and that’s just fine. Food is extremely subjective after all, and I for one have yet to be blown away by any great-tasting food or value when dining out in Japan.
Getting around Kyoto was reasonable – there are many bus stops all over the city, and there’s also a subway system that runs through a good chunk of town, though it’s not as extensive as I would have initially expected. Bus rides are quite expensive on an Asia-wide scale – a single ride is 230 yen, regardless of your destination. That’s roughly double what you’d pay in Singapore, and about seven times what you’d pay in Bangkok or any major Chinese city. However, there’s a one-day pass that entitles the user to unlimited travel on the bus system in a single day for only 500 yen. Still not that cheap in my book, but a little more reasonable. Nevertheless, the rides on the buses were mostly comfortable and straightforward, so I’ll give them that. I definitely cannot say the same about most Thai and Chinese buses. Thai city buses are anything but straightforward, and Chinese buses are anything but comfortable.
Walking through the streets of Kyoto was quite a pleasant experience. As is to be expected in Japan, the sidewalks were clean, walkable, and free of random shit taking up all the walking space – none of the broken down and cluttered sidewalks that plague countries like Thailand and the Philippines. Kyoto is also very bicycle friendly, which is immediately obvious when seeing just how many people get around by bike in the city. If I were to ever live in Kyoto, I’d immediately invest in a bike, as it seems to be the best and cheapest way to get around the city. There were also countless places to park bikes. This totally reminds me of Taipei, and is pretty much the opposite of Bangkok, one of the least bicycle-friendly cities I’ve ever seen. And just like in Taiwan, most of Japanese people are solid middle-class folk, so there’s no stigma attached to riding a bicycle in the country, which is in strong contrast to most developing Asian countries, where people associate bicycle riders with the lower class. I myself mostly just walked from place to place during my trip, while occasionally taking the bus or subway. I was envious of all the bike riders all around me.
As I walked through Kyoto, all around me was classic style Japanese architecture, foliage, and signage. If Beijing perfectly embodies the Western image of China, then I’d say Kyoto perfectly embodies the Western image of Japan. Kyoto is basically what I expected Japan to look like prior to coming here, whereas Ibaraki is not. I also saw countless bakeries, sweets shops, cafes, and mini supermarkets during my walks. On the other hand, when I walked the streets of Tokyo, many of the streets and alleys were dead as a doornail, faceless, and lacking any sense of community, yet when I walked the streets of Kyoto, they felt lively, full of community spirit, and oh-so-Japanese. It’s hard to explain, but I was getting very Chengdu-ish vibes in Kyoto – slower paced, more laid-back locals, a sense of culture, lots of little shops selling coffee, tea, or snacks, etc.
And though I wasn’t a fan of the restaurant scene in Kyoto, I’ll happily admit that I loved all the sweets shops. Just like Thai sweets, I’m a sucker for Japanese sweets, so seeing so many shops selling all kinds of traditional Japanese sweets filled me with joy like a kid in a candy store. My personal favorite was the shops selling yakidango, sweet rice flours balls put on a skewer, grilled, and then served with sweet bean paste. Matcha (green tea) ice cream was also available anywhere and everywhere, as it’s a specialty of Kyoto. However, I should note that I didn’t really stumble across that many sweets that I hadn’t already seen a million times in Ibaraki and Tokyo. Regardless, it was nice to have the opportunity to buy so many sweet finger foods around seemingly every corner. If you have an insatiable sweet tooth like me, then you’ll love Kyoto. A big thumbs up for Kyoto’s sweets scene.
Naturally, I also found Kyoto to be quite photogenic compared to other parts of Japan. This is particularly true if you’re into architectural photography. Kyoto is filled with hundreds of old-style temples and buildings, so there’s plenty to see and take a picture of. However, if you’re going to any of the most popular tourist sites, be prepared to fight the crowds to get a picture in. As I was in Kyoto during Golden Week, every single temple I went to was packed to the brim with tourists, particularly mainland Chinese and Taiwanese tourists. Though I enjoyed viewing the temples, the experience would have been infinitely better had there only been one tenth as many people. I’m curious as to how many tourists are in Kyoto during off-peak travel seasons.
My personal favorite hotspots were Kinkaku-ji, a golden-colored temple, and Fushimi Inari Taisha, a shrine located on top of a mountain that requires you to walk through hundreds of traditional orange gates to reach it. I also visited the Kyoto Imperial Palace, which was not much to look at, though the surrounding park was a nice place to chill out for a few hours. The nearby Nijo Castle was also decent, though it didn’t really leave a lasting impression on me. On the other hand, there were plenty of much smaller and not-so-famous temples and shrines peppered throughout the city that were almost completely free of other people. It was nice to go for an afternoon stroll, grab some snacks at a local shop, and then sidetrack past a small, quiet temple along my way. That said, the environment in Kyoto was great.
The only major environmental negative I can think of is that Kyoto is filled with many noisy cars and motorcycles that never let up, even in the wee hours of the night. I found this somewhat strange, as generally the streets in Japan are very quiet, even in Tokyo, but not so in Kyoto, which is the reverse of what I would’ve expected. My sleep quality was quite poor throughout the trip, as my guesthouse was located right smack dab on a busy road, and I kept getting woken up all throughout the night by excessively loud cars and motorcycles.
And that leads me to the next topic – accommodation. Finding any reasonable accommodation during Golden Week in Japan is difficult, and Kyoto was no exception. I searched all through Agoda, Expedia, and Airbnb months ahead of time. Ultimately, I settled on said guesthouse I just mentioned, which is located in northern Kyoto and is only a five-minute walk from Kinkaku-ji, the famous golden-colored temple. I booked it through Airbnb for 3,400 yen per night, which is quite reasonable by Japanese standards. Other than the street noise, the location was excellent. The surrounding neighborhood was pleasant and mostly residential, which is just the kind of neighborhood I want to stay in when I travel.
On the downside, the guesthouse was kind of a dump – I certainly got what I paid for. It was in a run-down building that resembled an old student dormitory, and it was poorly up kept. The building manager was nowhere to be seen, and it showed. Perhaps due to the cheap price, the other guests were mostly cliquish, standoffish, loud, and uncourteous. While the room was worth the price I paid, I don’t think I’d stay there again if I was ever back in Kyoto. But considering how little accommodation was available in Kyoto, even when I was searching months in advance, I didn’t really have a whole lot of other choice, unless I wanted to pay over 10,000 yen per night for a super basic and super small hotel room, which is over my budget. A big thumbs down for accommodation in Kyoto, at least during Golden Week. Japan is really lacking when it comes to decent and affordable accommodation for tight budget and average budget (like myself) travelers.
Except for the very first day, which was quite cold, the weather during the trip was great. Warm weather accompanied by clear blue skies was the norm, with quite a bit of intense sunshine around midday. It did rain on a couple of afternoons/evenings for several hours, though luckily I was already indoors each time it happened, except once.
Side story: I got caught in the rain one night when I was out taking photographs, and I was a good two kilometer walk from my guesthouse. Two cute women holding umbrellas, whom I presume was a mother and her twenty-something daughter, kept giggling in front of me as I walked in the rain. Every few seconds they would kind of half turn around and do a side glace. I could sense they were noticing me for whatever reason, though I wasn’t 100% sure, and I really had no real reason to speak to them. It was pouring down rain after all. I eventually passed them and stood under a roof on the side of the sidewalk.
Totally unsurprisingly, the two women stopped once caught back up with me, and the daughter showed me a translated message on her phone that said something like: “We have two umbrellas. One is for you.” She then handed me her umbrella, and they both walked away as they kept giggling. I felt like I was in high school all over again. That was without a doubt the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me in almost one year in Japan. I wanted to have a conversation with them, as it was pretty obvious they were totally into me, but it was quite clear that we wouldn’t be able to communicate. So I guess there are some nice women in Kyoto, but it’s just too bad so many of them have anti-social body language. My hunch is telling me that “slow and steady” probably best describes Kyoto’s dating scene. There are dating and romantic opportunities there, but you probably won’t find many as a temporary traveler in the city.
But all in all, Kyoto’s weather was good, and it lifted my spirits, especially when considering how many dreary overcast and rainy days I see here in Ibaraki. I can’t say what the weather is normally like in Kyoto, but at least the weather was mostly nice while I was there during the first week of May.
One upside to traveling in Kyoto and Japan in general is that entry into most historic sites is either free or very reasonably priced. When I had to pay an entrance fee to get into any temple or shrine, it was usually somewhere between 500 and 1,000 yen, though usually it was free. This is very different than China, where most famous historical tourist sites, such as the Forbidden City or the Badaling Great Wall, are quite expensive when considering the average local salary. 100 to 300 RMB per adult ticket (about 1,600 to 5,000 yen) is totally normal when traveling in China. And thank God Japan doesn’t take part in the nonsense that can be found all over Thailand – that is charging foreigners five to ten times the price that locals pay to get into tourist sites. Rather, all nationalities pay the same price in Japan. However, when going to modern tourist attractions in Japan, such as Tokyo Skytree or Tokyo Disneyland, be prepared to drop a lot of money. Nevertheless, while I was paying a lot for food and transportation in Kyoto, I was paying very little for entry tickets to tourist sites, so the overall cost of traveling kinda balanced out.
Another thing I liked about Kyoto is its size. I’m a medium to medium-large city kind of guy, and Kyoto felt like a solid medium-sized city. It was certainly no mega-city like Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, or Bangkok, where you feel overwhelmed the first time you go and have no idea where to get started. Rather, Kyoto was small enough to not be so pretentious and hectic, yet large enough to stay interesting and entertaining for several days. Seeing lots of Kyoto by foot was also very doable for me, so that’s a big plus.
My advice to anyone wanting to travel to Kyoto is to look very far in advance at accommodation – all the way up to a year in advance, especially if you’re traveling during peak seasons such as Golden Week in May. If you’re wanting to do some sightseeing, which Kyoto is quite good for, I recommend staying in the northern or central districts, as that’s a more pleasant part of town with lots of nice stuff to see as you walk around. I would also recommend budgeting anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 yen a day, depending on what you want to do and what kind of traveler you are (those prices are after accommodation has already been paid for). I was usually spending around 4,000 yen or so a day, and I’d say the vast majority of that was spent on food. I did have to be somewhat mindful to keep to that daily budget, but I didn’t necessarily have to deprive myself of anything either.
On a day-by-day basis, I recommend hitting up a few temples around morning or midday, then have lunch at a local restaurant (not a franchise), then go back out and just walk around and soak up the vibes. Possibly go to a public bath in the afternoon (they’re famous in Kyoto), then follow that up by having some tea, coffee, or bread at one the many cafes or bakeries. Kyoto has very little night life to speak of, so once the sun goes down you can consider having dinner at a local izakaya, and then have a drink or two at the same izakaya once you’re done eating. Kyoto is far more of a place to just stroll around and soak up the vibes, rather than trying to party it up and/or have flings/one night stands with the local ladies. Simply put, you travel to Kyoto for the culture and vibes, not for hedonistic fun and easy women. All that said, if you’ve never been to Japan, Kyoto would be a great place to start.
I enjoyed my time in Kyoto, and yes, it did restore some well-needed faith in Japan in me. I wouldn’t say Kyoto made me do a 180 in how I look at Japan, but it did help make it even more clear to me that Tokyo and the surrounding Kanto region are totally not to my tastes. I don’t think I’d even rank Kyoto in my top ten list of Asian cities, though I would say it was by far my favorite Japanese city up to this point. If I were to ever do Japan all over again at some point, Kyoto would probably be at the top of my list as a potential place to live. But in all fairness, once I leave Japan in 2017, I don’t think I’d ever want to live here again, but only time will tell.
I enjoyed looking at all the nice architecture all around me in Kyoto. The temples were pleasant and photogenic, albeit quite crowded considering I was there during Golden Week. I enjoyed the clear blue skies and mostly nice weather. I appreciated that getting into tourist sites was very affordable. I appreciated that the locals were more used to dealing with foreigners. I appreciated how getting around the city was straightforward and with a very low learning curve. I loved eating all the Japanese sweets that were so readily available all around the city. I enjoyed seeing a place that represented Japan in a more positive, cliché kind of way. I was happy to know that not all Japanese are completely robotic and uptight like they tend to be in eastern Japan. I enjoyed looking at all the pleasantly-dressed women who had a more simple and feminine sense of style in comparison to their Tokyo sisters.
But I didn’t enjoy the way all the women in Kyoto seemed so “in their own world” – they totally avoid eye contact, they’re constantly looking down at their smartphones, and they’re often wearing earphones, which makes them just that much more unapproachable and anti-social. I didn’t really enjoy most of the meals I had at restaurants in Kyoto, and I didn’t like how costly food was in the city, though food tends to be quite expensive everywhere in Japan. I didn’t like how costly public transportation was in the city, which is several times more expensive than that of other Asian countries. I didn’t like how every single place of interest was loaded to the brim with tourists. I didn’t like that there was seemingly so little to do at night in the city.
But from a traveler’s perspective, I’d say the pros of Kyoto outweigh its cons. It actually seems like a pretty comfortable place to live, too. It’s also right next door to Osaka and Kobe, so you could do a traveling trifecta and see all those cities on a single trip. If you’ve never been to Japan, and you’re not sure where to start, I think you can’t go wrong with Kyoto and the surrounding Kansai region. And like I always say: don’t take my word for it, rather go to Kyoto yourself and find out on your own if you like it or not. Everybody’s different and has different tastes, as we’ve all lived life on our own individual paths and have experienced different things. On an Asia scale, I’d give Kyoto 3.5 out of 5 stars. On a Japan scale, I’d give it 4.25 out of 5 stars. Not a bad city at all! I’m sure I’ll be back some day.
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I plan to go to Japan soon. Where do you recommend I visit and see? Any must sees? I would try to stop by and see your town too of course. I like quiet fishing villages too.
Are there signs in English in cities at least? How do I find those cheap accommodations where you sleep inside a capsule? I heard those are cheap. What about hostels? They are cheap too but I hate sleeping in dorms with other strangers.
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Hey, when are you planning to come to Japan? Any idea how long you will stay? Of course we can meet up if you're coming to my area. I'm in a small city/town called Kamisu, located roughly 75 miles east of Tokyo in Ibaraki prefecture. It's a 90-minute, 1,830-yen bus ride away from Tokyo. You're welcome to come out here and stay for a bit. Fishing is popular here, but I'm not sure I'd call this place a fishing village. I assume you haven't locked down any cities in Japan for your trip yet, but if you have enough time, I recommend you see Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, and Sapporo. These cities cover a large geographical range of Japan, and you'd have seen a diverse amount of the country by the end of your trip. If time permits, I'd also throw Mount Fuji into the mix. We could even drive there in my car if we have the time. Tokyo is surely my least favorite of all these places, but if you haven't seen Tokyo, it'd be a shame not to see it at least once. It is a gigantic city after all, and one of the epicenters of Asian trends.
Signs are kind of a mixed bag - some are exclusively in Japanese, while others are also in English. Having dual language signs is kind of "trendy" here, just as it seems to be in so many other Asian countries. I can understand most of the kanji (Chinese) characters I see on signs, which is a big plus in understanding the sign's meaning, but if you couldn't read any Japanese at all, there will surely be the occasional moment of confusion sooner or later. English is pretty pitiful overall in Japan, though it's surely better in Tokyo than it is where I live. You should be able to get by though. I certainly have for the last year, and my Japanese skills are minimal. Still workin' on my Mandarin to this day, though.
I know pretty much nothing about the sleeping capsules, though they are apparently pretty common in cities like Tokyo. I have seen them listed on hotel websites like Expedia
, and they're usually going for a around 2,500 - 3,000 yen per night every time I check. They don't strike me as a very good value, but I don't consider the entire country of Japan to be a very good value on an Asia-wide scale. I guess you can say they're a good value for solo travelers in Japan, though I've never stayed at one.
A few random updates about my life here in Japan: I got my first traffic ticket last month in June. I committed the heinous crime of using GPS navigation on my phone while driving. I was driving to the immigration office in Mito (Ibaraki's capital city), and I was using Google Maps to guide me there. I was steering with one hand, while holding my phone in the other. Out of nowhere, two cops on motorcycles appeared right next to my driver's side window and forced me to pull my car over. One cop kept lecturing me in Japanese about how it's illegal to drive with my phone in my hand, even if I'm just using the navigation. I never knew such a thing, but I'm really not all that surprised. I had been using the navigation on my phone for a year prior without any problems. From the moment I got pulled over to the moment I go back in my car, traffic ticket in hand, must've literally been 25 minutes. Anything official is slow as molasses in this country, even slower than in both China and Thailand. The fine was luckily only 6,000 yen, which isn't that expensive. However, I got a "strike" against my brand new Japanese driver's license that I just got back in May. Getting that license was a gargantuan ordeal, though that's a story for another time.
My always reliable high-speed internet at my apartment here in Kamisu experienced its first major hiccup. One day in early June, the wind was blowing very hard, and the electricity went off for what felt like 30 seconds and then came right back on. Unfortunately, the internet didn't come back on with it. Even after frequent phone calls for someone to come out and fix the problem, it took a whooping five days for anything to get done. Yes, that's right, my internet was off for five days in "tech-savvy" Japan. And not only my internet connection was off, rather the entire building's was. I couldn't believe it took them that long to fix such a simple problem. My wife makes her income entirely online, so the whole situation was not cool. Like I said, anything official takes forever in this country.
My older brother also came to visit me here in Japan during June, and he stayed for three weeks. It was his very first time to Asia, and it was the second time over seven years that I've ever had a family member visit me here in Asia. He has traveled outside America before, most notably to Mexico and the Dominican Republic, but he doesn't travel abroad very frequently. It was a blast having him here as he was very open-minded to try anything and everything, but I kinda felt bad that we were stuck out here in Ibaraki most of the time. We went to Mount Fuji and the surrounding area for two days and two nights, and we also went to Tokyo for five days and four nights. If only he could have came to visit me while I was living in Bangkok or Dalian. Those places are so much more fun. Anyways, more about my brother's visit to come in the future.
So I've been in Japan exactly one year on July 12th. I can say with complete confidence that this country just isn't for me, though I appreciate everything I've got to do and have learned during my time here. It was interesting living in a rural part of Asia for a change, though I can say for sure that it's not an experience I want to repeat anytime soon. Maybe when I'm an old and withered man. I still have six months left in the country, and my exit date is January 23rd, 2017. At that time, I'll go to China and travel all around Northeast China for 1.5 months. After that in March, I'll go to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos for a two-month period. Then I'm going back to America for a couple of months, and I plan to travel around the Southwest for a bit. Then I'm going back to China in July just in time for Dalian's International Beer Festival. I'll stay in the city for a month or so, then I'm off to Malaysia to live and work around August/September 2017. Oh yeah, I'll be in South Korea for two weeks this August (Seoul and Busan). And I might
go to North Korea this December. I'll naturally write trip reports of these trips for my website and our forum. I still plan to make the most of my six months remaining in Japan, but I can't wait until 2017. It looks like it's gonna be a good year for sure!
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What's the cost of mobile data in Japan? I always try to get a big mobile allowance if it's cheap, even when wifi is widely available. Normally, I end up using very little of the mobile data, maybe 1%. But it's nice to know I have it in case something like what happened to you happens.
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Thanks for the stunning photos. They look like they just popped out of a dream. These are definitely stock-quality photos. Keep up the great work.
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I loved Japan. It's a place everyone should visit at least once in their life.
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This article appeared first on my website, NessTheNomad.com.
Interview with My Brother - A Newbie in Japan
I’ve been living in Asia for seven years now, and only twice have I ever had a family member from back in the States come to visit me here. The first was an epic disaster, but this last time was a totally different story. My older brother, who’s from Arkansas but has been living in the Chicago suburbs for the last half decade, came to stay with me here in Japan’s Ibaraki prefecture for three weeks during June and July. Though it was not his first time to leave the US, it was his first time to ever leave the Western hemisphere. So what did he think of Japan, his first Asian country to visit, after seeing rural Ibaraki prefecture, scenic Mount Fuji, and the megatropilis of Tokyo?
Sometimes us long-term expats start to acclimatize so much to our surroundings that we often forget about the little things that are different about our new adopted homelands. Without a frequent change of scenery, we can’t help but take some of these things for granted. So what things did a “fresh off the boat” (or rather plane) newbie notice when he touched down in Asia? Read my interview with my older brother below to find out which aspects of Japan were fascinating, which were disappointing, which were surprising, and every little detail in between. (Ness/Everdred in bold font
and my brother in regular font):
So you left Japan one week ago, and now you’re probably adjusted to be being back home in America. You’ve had time to contemplate and think over your three-week trip here in Japan. Let’s start this interview by talking about the ladies. How would you rate the overall level of attraction of Japanese women, particularly in comparison to the women you see in the United States?
Surprisingly, I thought they were very attractive. They have a very good sense of style, especially when compared with American women. I’m actually starting to think that American women have the absolute worst sense of style. You could even say the same for American men. I saw lots of short skirts and long, slender legs in Japan. Most girls were very fit, too.
I assumed that the whole pale skin thing would be a turn off, but I actually found it attractive in person. I wouldn’t say there were that many attractive girls out where you live in Ibaraki, but in Tokyo it felt like almost every girl I saw was hot.
Regarding the American sense of style, I always notice how badly people are dressed every time I go back home, especially the people in Arkansas. Lots of people wearing gym shorts and yoga pants, guys wearing shirts three sizes too large, and people just dressed overly casually in almost every situation, even when they probably shouldn’t be.
Americans tend to dress real dorky and don’t seem to be very self-aware. But if you’re an American who actually cares about his style, that puts you ahead of 95% of the crowd.
And when it comes to women’s skin color, I’m also not really that picky. But I think the truth is that Asian women tend to look better with lighter skin tones. Skin color usually goes hand-in-hand with their social class as well. The entire continent of Asia seems to agree with me.
I definitely found Japanese girls’ super light-colored skin to be attractive. I never noticed this prior to going to Japan.
You set out to meet Japanese women during your three weeks here. Your main avenue for finding them was through Tinder, the online dating app. What kind of vibes were you getting from the women? How do you feel you were treated as an American guy in their country?
Surprisingly, they were pretty indifferent to the fact that I’m American. No one was impressed that I’m American, nor did being American win me any bonus points. You hear that Asian women tend to be into foreigners, especially white guys, but that wasn’t the case for me in Japan, which kind of sucked. Maybe that’s just my ego, but that’s what you often hear.
I didn’t get many matches on Tinder out in Ibaraki, but once I got to Tokyo, I had a ton. Over the five-day period I was in Tokyo, I’d say I had 30+ matches. But the girls I was matching with were not responsive at all. I couldn’t tell if that was due to a language barrier or what. But using Tinder in Japan was definitely better than using it in America. I don’t think it can get any worse than using it in America. It’s dead and worthless here now. There are so many people on it now that you just can’t get through.
That said, using Tinder in Japan still wasn’t all that great. It was hard to get with any girl above a 6 or a 7. Some girls would talk on the app, but then flake very quickly or just completely disappear. I did manage to meet with one girl in Tokyo, though.
Beyond all the online crap, what was your impression of Japanese women’s character, particularly face-to-face?
I liked them. They all had kinda bubbly, friendly personalities. I never really got that sense of bitchiness that I get from American women. I don’t know if it was just because I was a tourist in their country, but all of the Japanese girls I met were overly nice to me. They were fun to talk to, interesting, friendly, and cute.
What percentage of the women that you saw in Japan would you describe as “doable”? Of course only taking into account the ones in the appropriate age range.
Out there in Ibaraki, I would say the percentage is roughly the same as over here in the Chicago suburbs. I saw a lot of 6s there, and maybe a few 7s. I don’t remember seeing any 10s at all. But I was seeing 8s, 9s, and 10s everywhere in Tokyo.
I felt like I saw way more young people in Tokyo, too. Out there in Ibaraki, I saw lots of old people, but it seemed like everyone in Tokyo was in their twenties or thirties. 75% or more of the women in Tokyo were doable in my eyes.
I would sit and people watch for hours in Tokyo, because there were so many hot girls, and I never got tired of looking at them. It was also fun observing all the unusual habits of Japanese people.
What kind of vibes were you getting from the locals? Not just women, but all Japanese people?
The general stranger seemed kinda “fake-friendly.” They were so overly nice and polite that they just came off as completely fake and like they had no intentions to make themselves believable. People just seemed like they were locked into their own world and into their own head. They didn’t really seem that interested in other people. Yet when I would meet and talk to people on a personal level, they usually seemed genuinely nice and friendly.
How would you rate the average level of English among the Japanese?
Incredibly poor. Shocking. I’d say 95% of people were untalkable. You just could not communicate with them. This of course made everything difficult. If it wasn’t for the language barrier, I would’ve tried hitting on more women and talking to more locals.
The people who actually did speak English spoke it very poorly for the most part. Two of the girls I met spoke the best English among all of the people I met in Japan (both had previously lived in the US), and yet we still had lots of moments where we couldn’t understand one another.
I’d imagine the level of English in Japan has to be among the worst in the world. It was very bad.
You’re right. Japan probably has the overall worst level of English of any Asian country I’ve been to.
Back when you were still here, you made a comment about how Ibaraki, the prefecture where I live, looks like it’s still stuck in the 1980s. Can you elaborate more about that?
As soon as I got back home in the States, a friend asked me: “so Japan is like the technological center of the world, huh?” And I had to give him a firm no as a reply. That really surprised me. You always imagine Japan as a technologically advanced country, and maybe it was back in the 80s and 90s, but it doesn’t seem that way anymore.
For example, the ATMs had green text and giant number keys. You would have to go somewhere out in the American boondocks to find an ATM like that because they just don’t exist anymore for the most part. All the public technology I saw in Japan seemed like it was from the 1980s, and that just really surprised me. You said to me that Japan had their “big boom” in the 80s and 90s, and that they’ve never moved on since then. I agree.
All I can say is that so many of the other Asian cities I’ve been to and have lived in seem far more progressive than the cities in Japan.
But isn’t that shocking? Why do you think that is?
Japan is an aging country with an ever-growing class of senior citizens. Many of whom are stubborn and very stuck in their old ways. Nor is the country very open to foreign ideas and concepts. And Japan’s economy now is nothing compared to what it used to be. I also think that many Japanese have a deep-rooted superiority complex, though they’re very subtle about it. On a personal level, people don’t really act arrogant, especially in a direct way, but on a societal level, Japan is very arrogant. They believe in their hearts that they’re the best, and that the Japanese way of doing something is the only correct way, but they’ll almost never say it out loud. Anyways, I could go on forever about this topic.
But basically you thought that the technology in Japan was a step backwards compared to what you’re used to, correct?
Absolutely! No doubt about it. You could come from a little hick town in the US and then go to Japan and wonder why the technology is so backwards. It’s very obvious.
However, if there’s one technology they have that’s superior, it’s their automatic toilets. Those are awesome! I already miss those.
Haha, you’re right! It’ll be hard to go without one the day I leave Japan for good. What about the 4G cellular service in Japan? How did it compare?
I had two SIM cards. The first one (IIJmio – NTT DoCoMo) worked just fine. I don’t really have any complaints. The second one (a SIM card for tourists) was pretty useless, though.
Any other memorable technology in Japan?
I like the idea of vending machines everywhere. It’s a bit silly, but the idea that you can just walk out your door and get a drink is pretty convenient.
Next topic. What’s your overall impression of Japanese food? Good? Not good? Somewhere in between?
While I was there in Japan, we had a running joke that my favorite foods were always the ones from non-Japanese restaurants – Indian, Chinese, etc. But I don’t think Japanese food was bad, rather it was just kinda mediocre. Every meal was about a seven out of ten – good, solid, but never blew my mind. The food did get pretty old, too. A lot of ramen.
We ate at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, several ramen restaurants, a grill-it-yourself BBQ restaurant, several “famiresus,” a few foreign restaurants, as well as some others.
I’ve never really been a sushi fan. I felt like the sushi I had in Japan tastes the same as the sushi I’ve had here in America. I wasn’t too impressed with the BBQ restaurant either. Japanese cuisine is considered a delicacy, but after going to Japan, I’m not really too sure why. It’s just too mediocre to me.
They also don’t use too many things to add flavor. They don’t use many spices. The portions are small. Everything is a bit too plain to be great. I’d eat Japanese food again, but I think I’d get tired of it if I lived there.
I also think Japanese cuisine is very plain. Nothing is really bad, but nothing ever blows you away either. And I fully agree with you about portions being too small. It’s the same in Thailand, but food is like one half to one fifth the price there. How did you feel about the value of Japanese food? Do you think the price you paid was reasonable considering what you got?
I think it was comparable to the US, perhaps a bit higher. Sometimes I’d go into a restaurant very hungry, and I’d have to buy three entrées in order to fill myself up. And each entrée was like 600 or 700 yen apiece. But most meals I spent about 1,000 yen.
Dining out did feel expensive in Japan. I don’t think it’s something I could regularly do if I lived there. But it didn’t feel astronomically expensive either.
What were your favorite Japanese foods?
Though it got old, the ramen was very good. I couldn’t eat ramen every day. But I never see ramen places like the ones in Japan around here in the US, so I think I’ll miss those places eventually.
Were there any Japanese foods you hated that you would never eat again?
You made me try kimchi, which is actually Korean, and it was very off-putting. I also don’t recommend people go to Denny’s in Japan. The breakfast they served there was probably the worst breakfast I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t want one egg, a tiny sausage, and a big ass salad for breakfast. Now that I think about it, I guess there weren’t any actual Japanese foods I hated.
What was your favorite restaurant that you ate at in Japan, either Japanese or foreign?
Probably an Indian restaurant there in Ibaraki, though the Indian and Chinese restaurants were neck and neck. The single best meal I had was mapo tofu served at a Chinese restaurant in Tokyo. That meal blew my mind!
Mapo tofu is a favorite Chinese dish among the Japanese. It’s served at almost every Chinese restaurant here.
That was one of the dishes I had there that I can’t quite understand why it’s not more popular here in the US. I probably ate it eight or nine times while I was there. I’m gonna learn how to make it myself. It was extremely good!
Sounds like you’d probably love Sichuanese Chinese food then.
While you were here, you were commenting a lot on the meats available at the supermarket. Can you comment more about them?
The meat is immaculate there for some reason! In American supermarkets, I can spend five to ten minutes looking for a perfect cut of meat – one with the correct amount of fat, one that’s the right size, etc. Sometimes I’ll go and never find a perfect cut, and I have to just leave with the best I can find. Yet in Japan every single cut of meat was beautiful. I would just stare in awe at the meat for several minutes. Every cut of meat in Japan was better than the best cuts I see here in the US.
People say that American farm animals are pumped full of hormones and steroids, and now I think that’s got to be true. American meats have so little fat and seem oversized, whereas the ones in Japan seemed perfectly proportioned and with just the right amount of fat. And every meat I bought at the supermarket turned out to be so delicious. I’m jealous that you have that available to you there.
Quality is a big deal here, especially when it comes to meats and seafood. Beyond the meats, what was your impression of Japanese supermarkets?
I’d say I didn’t recognize 75% of the items that I saw available for sale. Shopping was very mysterious. I never even knew what to buy. There was an awesome beer selection, though.
Now let’s talk about the weather. How was the weather during your three weeks here in June?
I didn’t think it was as bad as you made it out to be. About half the days it was cloudy, some days it was rainy, and then others it was sunny. Almost tropical in a way. Like what you’d expect on a beach. The worst thing was probably the humidity – it was very humid the whole time I was there.
You were here during June, which I think is one of the best months to be here weather-wise, though it is very humid.
For the next topic – you were commenting a lot about the cars here. How would you describe the Japanese taste in cars?
I think they 100% concentrate on practicality and economic value. Fuel economy was probably the biggest deciding factor. They didn’t seem to care too much about style. Every vehicle was basically white and a big box. No excess. No flash. Just enough to get the job done, and that’s it. A motorized box that gets you from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible.
But I’m definitely not bashing them for it. Everyone in America is obsessed with their car and buying a car that everyone likes. Cars represent your status. I wish Americans would be more like the Japanese in this sense. Now I think Americans are a bit silly with their car obsession.
I’m sure you also noticed how small cars tend to be here in Japan, especially when compared to the giant SUVs and trucks so many Americans drive. Cars can also be quite dorky out here in Ibaraki and the rest of rural Japan, though there are certainly more flashy cars in big cities like Tokyo.
I’d say I saw more expensive cars beyond Ibaraki, though I’m not sure I’d call them flashy. Even the expensive cars like BMWs were usually just plain and white. I remember seeing a Nissan Skyline somewhere near Mount Fuji, but even it was just plain white. It’s an awesome car otherwise.
What did you think of the shopping available to you here in Japan? Any absolute bargains or absolute rip-offs?
I honestly didn’t go to Japan to shop, so I didn’t pay that much attention to most stores. But if you like electronics, and you don’t mind buying used products, then the secondhand stores are a must-visit. It’s mind-blowing how many amazing deals you can find in them. In Tokyo the shopping seemed limitless. You could probably find anything you want as long as you put your heart to finding it. Endless amount of stores.
You spent five days in Tokyo. What did you think of Tokyo as a city, particularly in comparison to other cities you’ve traveled to?
I’ve only been to five countries (the US, Ireland, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Japan), but I would say Tokyo is undeniably the best city I’ve ever been to. It was somewhat similar to New York City – the energy, the crazy amount of people everywhere, etc. Though Tokyo seemed like it had even more stuff to do than in NYC.
If you’re a person like me who enjoys nightlife and just going out at night, it seems like you’d never run out of options in Tokyo. I could spend years there and probably not get bored.
What was your favorite place in Tokyo?
Shinjuku. It was such a fascinating place, and it was fun to people watch there. I asked a Tinder date to take me to the more local places that tourists wouldn’t normally go to, and she took me to some bars in the middle of Shinjuku. I was just blown away at how cool some of the bars were there. They were stylish and different than any bars I had previously been to. And there were just so many options. If I were to go back to Japan someday, I’d definitely wanna go back to Shinjuku.
Shinjuku is definitely a flashy and vibrant place, especially after the sun goes down. Is there any advice you would give to newbies traveling to Tokyo?
Going back to what we said earlier – don’t expect anybody to speak English. It’s kind of a pain in the ass. I should’ve learned a few basic words and sentences in Japanese before I went there. That’s my biggest regret from the trip.
You also saw Mount Fuji. What was your impression of it?
Mount Fuji is Mount Fuji. It’s a worldwide icon. I knew it was going to be awesome before I got there, and it definitely was awesome once I finally saw it. It was very scenic and pretty. Mount Fuji delivered.
I was more surprised by the surrounding area (Yamanashi prefecture) – how green it was, the hills, the little towns tucked away between everything. Everything was awesome to look at and very scenic, especially compared to Kamisu, the town you’re living in.
I was personally very impressed by Lake Yamanaka and Lake Kawaguchi, the lakes surrounding Mount Fuji.
Yeah, those lakes were super blue-green, very clean, big, and cold.
Yeah, you swam in Lake Kawaguchi, but I didn’t. Seemed way too cold for a swim.
How would you rate the cost of traveling in Japan? How much would you recommend travelers budget for each day?
If you’ve been to the US, the cost of traveling in Japan is comparable to New York City. You know it’s gonna be high, and it is high. But it honestly wasn’t as expensive as I had expected it to be. I haven’t been to any other Asian countries, where I’ve heard you get a much better value than in Japan, but compared to where I’ve been, I felt the value in Japan was fair.
Excluding accommodation costs, I’d recommend travelers budget about 7,500 yen per day. That amount would grant you quite a bit of freedom in what you could do.
Any final thoughts or anything else you’d like to say about Japan?
I definitely liked it, and I could see myself living there. I had a great trip, and I’d love to go back someday. If you’re someone that’s interested in Japan or Japanese culture, it’s extremely fun. I found everything to be interesting, even where you live in Ibaraki prefecture. Every little detail was always at least a little different than what I’m used to, so that made everything all the more interesting.
The people were a bit awkward, but the ones I got to know I liked a lot. They were friendly. I’m still messaging some of the people I met there while I’m over here in the US. I had a good trip.
Well I’m glad you enjoyed Japan and your first trip to Asia. It’s a rare opportunity to have a family member visit me here, and I also had a blast. As you know, both you and I have big plans for Asia in 2017. Lots of exciting things to look forward to. Anyways, thanks for the interview.
(This interview took place on July 14th, 2016.)
Last edited by Everdred
on July 28th, 2016, 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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I think those days where just being American gets you brownie points are long gone. That was true back in the 90's and maybe early 2000's. Nowadays the novelty wore off just being white but if your a GOODLOOKING white guys is different matter. I kind of get sick western expat thinking that they be Chad Thundercocks. Not saying that there aren't western expat living it up but for ever one there are probably equally number or more guys that are just regular.
I think places like Seoul and Tokyo has lots of pretty girls because it's high concentration of young people that hang out there. The girls there compete against each other so keep up to date with fashion and style. Here in NYC if you go to Manhattan and usually near the College towns like NYU, or New School you see cute in shape girls of all race but just in those areas. Go to different area totally different story.
Great interview by the way. Kind of curious if you can interview a non-white expat if you can.
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Feel like i should put in my 2 cents here. The first thing i really want to address is your constant comparing Japan with other parts of Asia, especially in regards to price. To be perfectly honest, comparing Japan to other parts of Asia makes about as much sense as comparing the US to Mexico or the US to Peru Or the US to Chile or Argentina. Or NYC and Moscow or NYC and Istanbul?
For so many years, there was Japan and maybe HK/Singapore and the "the rest of Asia.
Secondly, i do understand that you are on a tight budget, but the prices you quote are really not all that different than prices in the US. I realize it has been 8 years since you left, but i was just in Vegas, and ate out at a Mexican restaurant (a somewhat cheaper one) and the bill still turned out to be $40. The bill was actually $33, but with tip, close to $40.
$30 for a hostel is relatively cheap, hostels in NYC can run $40-$50. Chipotle can run about $8.25 with tax.
Another thing is that Japan is really lopsided in its population, lending to the common saying "innaka-kusai" where only a bunch of old people live. It woud be the equivalent of settling in a mill town in the middle of nowhere or a meat packing town in Nebraska. Now compare that to someone's experience in Austin, San Diego, Vegas or New Orleans and the viewpoints can vary widely.
I think that the language barrier and you not visiting Tokyo very often keep you isolated and from experiencing Japan. A much better choice would have been a smaller city, but still cosmopolitan city like Fukuoka.
Your comments sound eerily similar to Winston and i feel like Winston that somehow your experience has been lopsided and perhaps full of misunderstanding.
Japan indeed is a different kind of place. It IS expensive, but you'd say the same thing if you were in Switzerland or Norway.
The cities will seem sanitized compared to Bangkok, because that's how it is in 1st world countries. Ever been to downtown Rochester, NY or even downtown Dallas? Sterile, lifeless and boring. And what about your typical German city like Stuttgart or Frankfurt?
Feel free to ask some questions, but i think the whole Japanese experience is to live in the Kanto or kansai region and to immerse yourself in the wacky youth culture and the fast pace. Even your brother seemed to have a significantly different view.
I'm really surprised you haven't spent time in Shibuya or Shinjuku, much less places like Shimokitazawa or Kichijoji where it is more local but still active. Even one can complain how sanitized Manhattan is now, as much of the action has actually moved to Brooklyn.
Tokyo is a vast city, and as you brother stated has even more going on than NYC.
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I am happy, that Everdred has a blog about Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and writes about how he sees the daily life by his point of view.
I really like to read what he writes and take a look at his pictures - of course I do not agree with some of his observations.
Different people have a different opinion, this is normal.
i really want to address is your constant comparing Japan with other parts of Asia, especially in regards to price.
i do understand that you are on a tight budget, but the prices you quote are really not all that different than prices in the US. I realize it has been 8 years since you left, but i was just in Vegas, and ate out at a Mexican restaurant (a somewhat cheaper one) and the bill still turned out to be $40. The bill was actually $33, but with tip, close to $40. $30 for a hostel is relatively cheap, hostels in NYC can run $40-$50.
Another thing is that Japan is really lopsided in its population, lending to the common saying "innaka-kusai" where only a bunch of old people live. It would be the equivalent of settling in a mill town in the middle of nowhere or a meat packing town in Nebraska.
the language barrier and you not visiting Tokyo very often keep you isolated and from experiencing Japan. A much better choice would have been a smaller city...
somehow your experience has been lopsided and perhaps full of misunderstanding.
Japan indeed is a different kind of place. It IS expensive, but you'd say the same thing if you were in Switzerland or Norway.
Thank you for this comment, Celery2010, yes, true, Japan is an expensive place to visit, but it is not the fault of the ordinary Japanese people that exchange rates of Euro and USD are terribly low. USD 1,- was over yen 365,- when I arrived in Japan almost 40 years ago, and it was a poor country, it went down and down, finally even no interests anymore and nowadays exchange rate is about USD 1,- for yen 100,-, the Euro made it up to yen 170,- when it was created, and now it is Euro 1,- for yen 113,-.
This bad economic situation of USA and EU made Japan expensive for tourists, nevertheless millions of people are visiting Japan, more than ever before.
About general pricing in Japan however many visitors are telling me that they do not see so much difference to advanced Western countries, for example compared to UK, USA, Australia for housing, hotels, restaurants, entrance fees, transport etc.
Many visitors I had to welcome for business in Tokyo are surprised about streets free of graffiti and garbage, clean public toilets, drinking water from the tap, a society without tips, low-crime, lost and found again, good connection by trains und subways, convenient long opening time of department stores, quick medical help etc.
Living in a rural area/fishing port outside of Tokyo beyond Narita airport however is indeed a boring experience, with people not very communicative to foreigners, sitting in front of a TV-set, going out for pachinko game, no people walking in the few streets, these are low educated Japanese people who live only for themselves. Their only social life is within their company and for children within their school.
The typical low-paid job of 'English Teacher' (out of which qualification?) in remote areas is not very helpful to enjoy Japan, as you always have to consider to live on a low budget in a boring environment.
Most 'English teachers' are either able to upgrade their qualifications and find another job within 1 or 2 years or are packing and prepare for leaving Japan.
What is really so expensive in Japan is the housing in the few major cities, in the inner districts, regardless if you rent or if you able to buy. However I hear the same complaints about London/UK, Paris/France etc. Another horrible financial experience are with your children when entering higher education, universities are clearly charging parents the same as in USA. But otherwise?
About language,in Japan 96 percent are native Japanese speakers, and maybe 3 percent are Koreans, Chinese, Brazil-Japanese, American Asians and they all are able to communicate in Japanese, often almost like a native. - The question is who cannot speak Japanese?
However how is this different to other Asian countries? You cannot expect ordinary people worldwide who are not accustomed to international tourism and business to respond to you in fluent English.
About myself, I am living in Tokyo since almost 40 years, and almost all of us who stay in Japan as Western foreigners over decades have Japanese family and also a regular job within an international company or international school etc, therefore our salaries are fairly good and we have no financial problems about our daily needs.
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Everdred with a great trip report as usual. ...
I have a different take on Japan: my sense is that it's a great place to grow up with a family, but not if you're a single guy. Overall, I loved Japan (sacrilege, considering I'm Korean, lol), and I met Yohan and Everdred as well when I visited the country last year with my sister.
I am planning to visit Japan with my friend next year. Anyway, Everdred and his brother's observations are correct; so it's not a place for everyone.
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