Do I hate living in Japan? No, because I could be somewhere much much worse. However, no country is all rainbows and magical sunshine. Sometimes there are just things that annoy you and there’s nothing you can do about it. These are the top 10 things that sometimes make me hate living in Japan. So scandalous!
10. Gift giving
It’s all about gifts in Japan. One part of gift giving in particular is お土産 (おみやげ) or omiyage, which is supposed to mean souvenir, but I feel that’s not an accurate way to describe it. At every place you could travel to there are hundreds of selections of usually edible gifts to choose from.
Japanese people are encouraged to buy omiyage for their friends/family/co-workers any time they go on a trip somewhere. This can add up fast if you work with a lot of people. I can’t tell you how much time has been wasted from people trying to figure out the best way to buy omiyage and cover everyone. People will spend 30 minutes to an hour just going around stores trying to decide what to get. The idea a long time ago may have been nice, but it has become a modern nuisance and burden when people go somewhere. Just enjoy your trip! The omiyage industry is too big and powerful to be stopped, so I don’t think this will ever go away. To be honest, this doesn’t bother me so much and in no way makes me hate living in Japan. It’s just frustrating when you’re supposed to be enjoying a trip.
9. Work culture
A “good” employee is expected to work late and even do unpaid overtime. Even if there is nothing to be done, you are not a “hard worker” unless you are simply at work, even if it means doing nothing. It doesn’t matter what it says in your work contract. If it says you can leave at 5 PM, then you better stay until 7 PM or later. Of course, not everyone has to deal with this, but my heart goes out to the hard working folks that rarely get to spend time with their families.
8. Entertainment media is expensive
Movies, games, and music are generally more expensive than they are in the U.S. I wish Japanese consumers would not stand for this and buy less because I think companies price things high knowing people will just buy it. No, I don’t think $18 is a “special price” for old artists’ CDs. Nice try, Japanese media companies!
7. Lack of Wifi
With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics coming up, the tourism industry is constantly trying to figure out how to make the experience of visiting Japan better for tourists. One big complaint is there is no wifi in many stores and places. Things have improved slightly, but getting wifi still requires jumping through registration hoops for small periods of wifi access.
I feel like providing free wifi to customers is something that many hotels and cafes have yet to figure out. I stayed in a hotel that had a pretty good ranking and I was so embarrassed for the place when I asked if they had wifi. They said they didn’t, but I could ask for a device to take to my room if I wanted it. That’s better than nothing, but the fact that I have to ask for a device just to get wifi is putting the burden on the customer.
Most restaurants and cafes do not have wifi, but they allow Japanese cell phone companies to host their own wireless routers that are only available to paying customers. That’s right, you can pay for the privilege of using wifi at a restaurant/cafe IF you pay your Japanese cell phone provider for the extra feature AND only if the particular store you visit is participating in this system. *sigh*
This is a big complaint for tourists that visit Japan because they depend on Wifi to stay connected or get information. In my case, I want to use Wifi when I am at a cafe or restaurant so I don’t have to use data from my limited data plan. Why can’t places just provide free wifi and allow the customers to use it freely? Of course I understand limits for people that abuse this, but generally I don’t think people would.
6. No insulation in housing or central air conditioning
In the U.S., when you heat or cool your house, the temperature will usually stay that way for a good while. Not so in a Japanese building. There is no insulation, so a room will get hot or cold really quickly after you turn off an air conditioner. Winters are not pleasant. Going to the bathroom in the middle of a cold winter night sometimes makes me hate living in Japan, but I quickly forget as soon as I slip back into my warm bed! Seriously, though. Build insulation into homes!
5. Point cards
Companies in Japan have loyalty or point cards. This in itself is fine, I don’t mind. However, EVERY single store or company ends up having some sort of card and asking you about it because the clerks are forced to ask you about them. I can understand some places, but do I really need a loyalty card when I go get a hair cut? These cards are a waste of wallet space.
4. Japanese website designs
A lot of websites in Japan are either super basic with lots of text and a minimum of pictures. Or they go full throttle and throw as much text and images as possible onto a page. If you compare Amazon Japan to the Rakuten marketplace, you’ll see what I mean. Amazon has a clean design that is easy on the eyes for customers. Rakuten, on the otherhand, wants to put AS MUCH CONTENT AS POSSIBLE on a page.
This reminds me of people in high school and university that liked to paste as much text as possible in their Power Point presentations. Another thing that drives me crazy is the small image sizes used on sites. I can barely see the product or whatever it is I’m looking at because someone thought sizing a picture at 150 x 150 pixels was good enough.
3. Cash based society
It’s not really common place for people to use credit cards for everything. Japan is still a cash-based society. That means carrying around a lot of cash and coins everywhere you go. If you live outside of a major city like Tokyo, Nagoya, or Osaka, the chances are high that the place you go to will not accept credit cards. (Assuming that it is not a big national chain)
I’m sure this will improve with time, but I feel the blame is on store merchants that are stuck in their ways and don’t want to look into accepting alternative forms of payment that are not cash.
2. Banks (actually do make me hate living in Japan)
Where to begin with banks in Japan..hmm. Well, let’s start with the normal business times. The local banks in my area open at ９AM and close at 3 PM. If you need to talk to a person or get something done, you’re going to have to come in during a week day or if you have a decent lunch break. This wouldn’t be too bad if the ATMs were 24 hours, right? Well, local banks close their ATMs pretty early. Until 2015, my bank closed its ATM at 7 PM on the weekends. Even if I go to a convenience store that is open 24/7 and use an ATM there, my account access is closed because the bank is closed. That’s really frustrating coming from a land where you can have access to your money at all times.
I’ve since learned to seek out Japanese Internet banks with services that are 24 hours so I don’t have to worry about being somewhere without being able to withdraw money.
1. Everything is really analog
There are documents and documents of things that must be done for any process. No, you can’t email it or tell someone over the phone. It MUST be written on a piece of paper and go through the right channels. If you make one tiny mistake on a document, it will be sent back to you and a polite message asking you to rewrite it. I cannot begin to describe the frustration this has caused when I needed to have things done. If you’re used to being able to send forms or register lots of things online, get ready to become a lot more patient.
As I said earlier, no country is perfect. However, these points do not mean I actually hate living in Japan. I’m quite happy and enjoy it! Check out my other post, Top 10 things that make me love living in Japan for a positive spin on it.
How about you? Is there something that sometimes makes you hate living in Japan? (or whatever country you live in) Is there something bothering you or something tiny that drives you crazy? Let me know!