Japan: It’s Not Funny Anymore

A looooooooooong post in Kotaku from someone who is no longer happy living in Japan.

I had to skim most of it (the author is all over the place) but I’ll post it here because I always find it interesting hearing about somebody’s experience in a foreign land. Good or bad.

Comments

13 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. I live in Japan for almost 10 years, and while I can relate to some of his Japan-only ranting, he’s got 90% of the rest of the bitching that applies to the USA and pretty much everywhere else on the planet.

    Personally, I’d rather live in Japan than in the US…unfortunately, the only thing he has dead right is the overly obsessed work ethic. Thank god I worked for an American company and not a Japanese one…but that all boils down to work ethic – in Japan, that happens to be normal to dedicate yourself to the company. Just because Americans lack honor and dedication doesn’t make the Japanese wrong – it just makes him a lazy American who dislikes having to abide by Japanese values.

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  2. Inti,

    I’ve read about 1/4-1/3 of the article… just the work rituals turn me off big.

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  3. vegastar7,

    the article certainly was all over the place. I agree with his statement on anime. About ten years ago, they started creating anime, that by the looks of it (cute little girls, pink everywhere, the word “princess” in the title) you’d think were for children, but then upon actually watching it you realize is actually for 20 year old men. Needless to say, it’s creepy.

    As for his food complaints, well I think the majority of countries in the world are not “vegetarian-friendly”. I knew somebody who had similar problems with food while visiting Italy. If not eating any meat is important to him, then he should cook for himself and never eat at a restaurant.

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  4. Dan (the Real one),

    F*%^ you Dolphin, F*%^ you Whale.

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  5. hoff,

    Well as a carnivore and from living in a country that sure beats Japan in smoke-friendliness, a good part of the initial wave of the rant wouldn’t affect me. But the (over-)work “ethic” stuff sure creeps me out.

    On the other hand, I think it has its place. Japan and the US are pretty much on opposites of a spectrum but both successful at what they’re doing. That’s what I find interesting. So if that kind of discipline is necessary to carry Japanese culture, I think it is justified. I don’t believe in the concept of a “perfect society”.

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  6. Nanet,

    Oh man. Thanks for posting this Chris! This really takes me back to the feelings I was experiencing when I was there. I really do agree on a lot of this. However, I think he felt that “everywhere” was as saturated as he described because he was in Tokyo. I have been in a number of Japanese cities and they are pretty much all the same, but not as dense with all the annoying things. If you really need to break away say, in Osaka, you can. I don’t know if it’s an American’s view on Japan, but, it really is just soooo hard to cope and let go of all that we have in the United States. And I mean that in everything! You just don’t realize what we have here- I had no idea how irritated I would get at not having free re-fills on drinks. It was just, beyond me that EVERYWHERE in Japan charges you for a second fill of drink- and they give you like, a SMALL cup, always! Little stupid things like that made me second guess who I was. I started to ask, am I just an overly-consumed American who’s always hungry? Or are they just crazy here? I ultimately started to think I was just crazy and I felt like I was losing identity and ..blah blah… depression. Yeah, it was just hard. To visit, it’s great. To live…it just isn’t practical if you’re an American. ;)

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    • I wonder where Justin is. I’d love to hear his feelings on this article.

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      • Nanet,

        Yeah! I feel terrible because when he finally got back to me, I told him I had left already. Then he never wrote back. :-/ He probably was turned off at how I could quit on Japan so quickly.

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      • Justin,

        Hey guys! Sorry for not getting back to you Nanet. I’m shitty with the emails. Hope the US is treating you well!

        I read the article last night and thought it was a mix of legitimate gripes and overreactions. He seemed to be pissed off by a lot of semantic points (like word origins and literal translations), but that’s only noticeable if you study as a second language. I mean, when I say the English word “OK”, I’m not referencing the Martin Van Buren campaign, but I might have been had I said it in 1840. In the same way I’m sure Japanese people don’t feel like they’re subordinate slaves to the man when they welcome people into a shop with a customary phrase. It’s just something people say. It’s phatic. I think his gripe is more him and less them.

        The work ethic/rituals are hard to wrap your mind around, but the answer is cultural upbringing. If a French businessman were to move to the US, he might have a hard time getting behind a local company that doesn’t routinely close shop for a month for a vacation to Italy. He’d probably think Americans are nuts and they work their asses off. And when that’s moved over a degree, Americans have a hard time fathoming the dedication of Japanese workers pulling overtime 20 hours a week.

        That being said, I agree with most of what he wrote, I just try to recognize that I’m looking at the culture through American-colored glasses, which I think he acknowledged a bit as well. Some of what they do is entirely ridiculous to me, but then again they can’t believe we walk around with guns. So who’s more nuts? I don’t know.

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    • @ Nanet,

      re: culture shock.

      It’s a funny thing – it works both ways. I experienced it for the first time in 1993 when I moved to America – having to sit in a car for hours just to visit a shop nearly reduced me to a nervous wreck.

      “I came all this way, and all I’ve done is sit in a fucking car”, was my quote.

      After a first painful year adjusting to car-topia in the US, I worked in China (Shenzhen) for a month, in 1994. I became so homesick there that a tourist brochure with photos of Cologne, Germany, made me homesick.

      I’ve never even been to Germany.

      Then, back to the US. I’ve never been happier to see LA airport. 3 months later, back to Ireland for the first time since I left – and then the REAL culture shock hit. Seeing your homeland through the eyes of a resident of California/China/California was intensely freaky. For the first time, I saw how utterly bizarre my country and town was.

      I can well imagine what this guy is describing; however, you are in an alien culture – and you just have to accept that it is the way it is for historical reasons. Most of us would probably go bonkers there – though in my case, I’m not allergic to alcohol (thank Brigid) and could have great fun playing the part of GAIGIN – with added bonus points for IRISH GAIGIN.

      I’d go in a fucking heartbeat.

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      • Nanet,

        dermotmoconnor- yes, i would suggest visiting Japan for sure! It is a party. Especially if you are very comfortable with yourself, and very patient. I think if you get stuck over analyzing everything and just letting your intense personality dictate every little different thing (me), then it will be a trying experience. But yeah, I would say for you, one of those Karaoke rooms where you can drink and sing all night long (they lock you in in some places) with your friends, it would be exactly the thing to do! ;)

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      • Really good story Dermot. Especially returning to your hometown and viewing it through “foreign” eyes….

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      • Suilven,

        I went back to Scotland with a girlfriend a few years ago and I felt like a tourist – all those old buildings and castles all over the place, strange little shops and parochial political affairs.

        Yet some things had changed in my absence – pubs with more than a couple of types of beer, more than 4 TV channels, Starbucks on every corner. Things that I’m used to seeing here. Kids probably carve pumpkins instead of turnips now.

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