Living abroad in a foreign country always has it challenges, not all of them expected! Here are some surprising things about living in Japan that I have found!
I think it’s fairly safe to say that a lot of people outside Japan who have not visited think it’s some kind of futuristic, super metropolis, where robots tend to your every whim.
Having visited Japan on holiday, I kind of knew it wasn’t like that, but having spent a lot of my holiday time here in big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, I was not prepared for life in the countryside at all.
Here a few things that I was surprised to find out when I moved here:
People still use fax machines – like a lot.
When I worked in London the fax machine was kind of a joke, an outdated relic that belonged in the days before email. But in Japan, lots of businesses uses fax machines to transmit information regularly. For example I have been invited to events here that were RSVP by sending a postcard in the mail, or by fax. No email option included.
Oh the paperwork – so much bureaucracy!
In fact, this is one of the few things that drives me nuts about living here. Any kind of official process you have to go through involves mountains of red tape and paperwork. For example I recently had to switch my UK driving license to a Japanese one. The process involved one visit to the city office, two days off work to go to the driving license centre, and more paperwork and documents than I care to think about. So unnecessary and time-consuming. Japan, sort it out please!
The ATM machines close at night
Where I live in Shikoku, the ATM machines close after 7pm. That’s right, no more cash for you. Picture this, you are out for the evening with friends and realise you have spent all your money. “Oh well, I can just slap the bar/restaurant/taxi bill on my credit card instead”, you must be thinking. Wrong! Shikoku is pretty much a cash based island, hardly any businesses accept payment by card. So if you don’t have enough cash with you, you are screwed.
DVD rental stores are still big business
I remember the last remaining DVD rental stores near me in London went out of business a while back. In fact, didn’t Blockbuster rentals go bankrupt in the UK a few years ago? The amount of online streaming services and digital download providers render these kinds of stores obsolete. But in Japan, there is a popular chain of rental stores called Tsutaya, where people go regularly to rent DVDs, CDs, and comics. I go there too, and although I also have Netflix at home, there is something quite nice about being able to browse through the shelves and select films to take home.
So there you have it, Japan is not quite the hi-tech place of the future you thought it was. Other things that surprised include the giant insects, but that deserves a separate blog post with terrifying pictures all of its own.
Have you been to Japan? What surprised you the most? Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!