The colorful wolf

April 26, 2010

Japan sucks

Filed under: Spirit of Japan,Uncategorized — randy @ 19:13
Tags: ,

Whoops, the adventure feeling is completely gone today. If I had to use one word to describe today it would be MEH.

I’m in Nara-ken now. Nara prefecture looks almost exactly like Kanagawa. Today’s road was extremely flat with only one slightly hilly section. I cycled 80 kilometers today, but because I started early I was already at my destination at 14:30. Not a lot of cycling and not a lot of hills meant that I still had a lot of energy left. Unfortunately for me the area I arrived at was pretty much like Atsugi: just a typical Japanese city with nothing special anywhere in sight. The weather got cloudy too so I was very much bored and not feeling the adventure at all. Right now I’m at the youth hostel, which turned out to be a typical Japanese house next to a railway line. Every 10 minutes a train goes past and the sound of a bell disturbs the neighborhood. I’ll be glad to skip this area and get to Kyoto. This is just too normal.

After being in Japan for a while now, I’ve observed that there are not many outdoor places that are very accommodating to people. For example, today I walked along a road at the riverside, but the entire side of the road was blocked off with barriers making it impossible to get close to the river. There is no possible place to just sit down and relax! Even if you improvise it’s still impossible. If there were no barriers, or if the space between road and riverbed was only 10-20cm’s wider, then it would be possible, but no. In the entire country of Japan there will be no such thing. There will be no loitering around at random areas. Japanese people go from home to work and back again, and if they want to loiter around they will go to a dedicated loitering place and spend their time in a concrete park instead, even if they have to go 5 kilometers out of their way to find one. This just plain sucks. In Holland, no matter where you are, there will be benches or grassy areas to sit on. I used to forgive Japan for not having these kind of places because Japan is overcrowded and Japan has no space, but that’s simply not true. It has plenty of space to put a couple of benches alongside some roads, it’s just simply not the ‘Japanese way’ to do that. It’s for the same reason that there are no trash cans in this entire country: you dump your trash at your building’s garbage collection place, or at a convenience store along the way. If neither is possible, Japanese people will carry their trash with them for the whole day. Unless they dump it at the riverside, which is why so many of Japan’s natural scenes are spoiled by huge amounts of garbage. You suck, Japan.

I very much dislike these points about Japan. Japan is great if you can accept the Japanese lifestyle and don’t try to change it. Things are the way they are, and you’d better accept them, or else you’ll only get annoyed. If you can accept them, or if you are never confronted with the bad parts, then Japan is a great country. In every other case I can imagine that people won’t like it very much. It reminds me of Apple: there’s only one way to do things and it’s convenient maybe 90% of the time. The other 10% you’re screwed and you wish you were somewhere else. But, like Apple, sometimes there is just not a good enough alternative.

I like Japan because people don’t bother me. Every0ne minds their own business and leaves you alone. I like Japan (well, the Tokyo area) because of the convenience. There’s train stations everywhere, convenience stores, beautiful sights, anything within 1-2 hours travel. I like Tokyo because it’s so huge and there’s always something new to discover, and I never have to worry about getting lost because there will always be a train station nearby. I like Yokohama because it’s beautiful and peaceful and just gives me a good feeling to walk around in. I like Atsugi because it’s both near the countryside and near the big cities, and the area around it is great for cycling and exploring.

Lately I’m not looking forward any more to meeting new people on this trip. Especially the Japanese people’s reaction is always the same. First I tell them that I’m from Holland and I work in Japan, then they ask me what’s Holland and do they speak English there. Then I laugh and tell them that they speak Dutch, which is a little bit like German. Then they ask about my job and my trip and why my Japanese is so good. After that they run out of things to say and end the conversation with “Ganbatte kudasai”: well, do your best. The most interesting conversations I’ve had on this trip have been with foreigners who have been in similar situations as me, living in Japan for a while and then having to decide whether to stay here forever or go home. I was hoping to meet more of those people at youth hostels, but today there’s only one old Japanese guy from Yokohama and he’s not very talkative. I have more interesting conversations online than in real life..

Tomorrow I’ll reach Kyoto. If I start cycling early I’ll have two and a half days there, and I should be out of there just before the golden week madness begins. I’ll probably get my bicycle’s gears fixed when I get there, although they’ve been remarkably fine recently. I really wonder if they can be any better than this, because even when I first bought the bicycle the gears were a bit wonky. I’ve finally gotten used to their current state, so I wonder if fixing them will make things better or worse. Oh well. Kyoto, here I come.



  1. whether to stay here forever or go HOME.
    Hah zo voel je het dus nog wel steeds!

    Comment by Shanna — April 26, 2010 @ 22:05 | Reply

  2. Yeah Shanna, I am persuading him to come back to Europe 🙂

    Comment by Kamil — April 26, 2010 @ 23:18 | Reply

  3. Thanks for your thoughts. Just I stay in Kanto. I’m afraid of getting depressed to see that Japan is the same wherever you travel through this country. Hey, and I liked your thought about The Great Japan:”Japan is great if you can accept the Japanese lifestyle and don’t try to change it”. Anyway, living in Japan is a great experience and I’m sure your trip will also be invaluable even if it sometimes sucks. No great things without sucking things

    Comment by vincent — April 27, 2010 @ 0:14 | Reply

  4. Interesting that you are thinking about that now, after a couple of years… I had the opposite feeling, a month after I arrived, I was (seriously) pissed at Japan, for being like it is. I had, for the first time in my life this craving for _lying down in the grass_. Something _totally impossible_. Then, I don’t really know what happened, I grew to like it. To like its dirt covered parks, the concrete, the weird things.

    I must say that I still hate the highways, completely closed with walls, and that I have never experienced going cross country in a bike.

    Question: Why are you on such a tight schedule?!

    Comment by Alex — April 27, 2010 @ 4:32 | Reply

  5. Lying down in the grass sounds awesome! I’m putting my hopes in Kyushu for that one. In my mind Kyushu’s always been a little bit different. In fact, I remember drinking a beer at a riverside park in Nagasaki which was awesome.

    As for the tight schedule, I guess I’m still trying to get away from ‘the Japan I know’. There’s not a lot of surprises in this area for me and the weather is shit, so I might as well surf through it quickly. It’s also my personality disorder of always wanting to be on time 😛

    Comment by rheide — April 27, 2010 @ 14:53 | Reply

  6. I really liked your comment about not to loiter outside designated areas being part of the Japanese culture.

    About laying down in the grass I cannot help but agreeing with you guys. I have been able to do that only in a very few places, and half of them needed paid entrance.

    But I think all that is directly connected to the proverbial efficiency of the society. Although loitering and laying down in the grass does great for the mind, it seems that the LDP answer has been much more less social in that aspect, and preferred to focus on infrastructure (as in highways), education and economy, leaving art and leisure mostly to private institutions.

    But personally I was never pissed off because of that difference. Like any other different society it doesn’t mean that is wrong, it only means like you wisely pointed out that you need to adapt, leave, or be condemned to an eternal nagging state of mind.

    I can’t wait to read about your impressions of Kyushu.

    Comment by alvaro — April 28, 2010 @ 2:25 | Reply

  7. Wonder what it’d be like roaming at Japan pre-Edo period? I guess there would be a lot of greens, that would suit me very well. Much plains to hang around and more practice of spirituality by pre-Edo manner.

    Comment by IlikeExperimentalFolk — December 15, 2010 @ 8:47 | Reply

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