With summer here, I am spending lots of time home alone. Having no money and getting bored of computer games, I am reading a lot, and obviously started to blog again. The problem with too much free time is that I start to think too much and I am becoming pensive. Watching Ghost in the Shell again didn’t much help my mood. It was actually the first time I watched it in Japanese… and it was sooooo different than the dubbed version, and made more sense too. One of the reasons dubbed versions suck too. My Japanese is better too so I understood snippets here and there (As opposed to no understanding at all the first time). I also listened to the soundtrack for the first time, and have been playing it a bunch… I think if I can find this, I’ll buy it, but I have a feeling I would have to make a trip to Akihabara to get it.
The soundtrack really fits my mood lately. Slow, ambient, thoughtful, and pensive.
Anyhow, being in Japan, like anywhere, has a list of things that are great and a list of things that are aggravating.
Things that are awesome about Japan:
1) Healthcare- I pay 30% of the bill using the government system. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still expensive month to month. But what I pay is based on the previous years tax return. I have gone to the hospital and had things done that would easily cost hundreds of dollars state side, but cost roughly 10$ here. The quality and standard of care is also excellent. Now I am a pretty conservative guy, but this form of healthcare puts the US version to shame. What appeals to me the most is that the system is incredibly fair.
2) Haircuts- Of course if you are a girl, they can be horribly expensive. If you are a guy who doesn’t care to have Bon Jovi hair, it’s really quite affordable. 1000 yen (10USD). They don’t make inane chit chat, are professional and always give top notch service.
3) Customer service- The Japanese put their all in to their work. Even minimum wage McSerfs smile and are proud of the quality of service they give. I have asked for an item at one store that they didn’t have and sent the whole store into a scavenger hunt as they literally ran all over the store looking for it. Once I forgot to bag my eggs at a supermarket, and didn’t notice it. An employee chased me down 2 blocks later carrying the eggs… holy shit!
4) No tipping- This ties into #3. They actually deserve tips much more here than in the states but if I leave money on the table, they will chase me down and give it back to me.
5) Food- While the portion size can be ridiculously tiny elf sized, it is absolutely delicious. Even fast food is better quality here. I never realized how much US processed food was negatively affecting my life. Thank you Ito Yakado!
6) History- I am a history buff, and history just oozes out of stuff here in a palpable way. I once heard someone say that being an American was to sacrifice your past, ancestral identity for an identity rooted in the future, and I believe that more than ever now that I live in Japan. America is all about tomorrow, and what we can be, and this is all well and good, but it really lacks a sense of history. The US is really young too so obviously you won’t see things from, say the first century A.D.
7) Convenience- If I really wanted, and I had the money, I would never have to leave my apartment. My wife and I shop online and have our groceries delivered. In the US, that is just a recipe for getting rid of crap produce and nearly expired food. In Japan though, you get great quality stuff.
Things that suck and or are just plain creepy:
1) The stuff they put on a pizza in Japan is revolting. There is gourmet pizza (which is just an excuse to put crazy shit on it and charge more for it), but these options are just disgusting. Mayo and corn on pizza… That just makes me want to vomit. There are of course other nasties, but that one tops my list.
2) Women are often treated like children here. There is no expectation for them
to succeed. I was looking at a lot of women’s colleges on the train, and the subjects they offer are just embarrassing… Home ec. Majors, fashion, designing magazines… (Oh you went to school… how cute). Not one hard science or business class advertised. There are tons of issues here, but the girls here work just as hard as the men, and they deserve much better than they are given. The sad thing is, I think a lot of the girls want it no other way. I am a pretty conservative guy, and I think that 90% of all feminism in the US is pure BS, but here… yeah… There are real issues here that need to be addressed.
3) Voluntary censorship. The news doesn’t really report on bad stuff that happens in Japan unless it’s a massive worldwide story. There are crime papers, but those have the ambiance of tabloid news. If you read the ‘respectable papers’ you would believe that Japan is made of magic rays of sunshine.
4) Schools. Schools never made sense to me academically. There is no such thing as an AP course. You can sleep through an entire grade and still pass. Discipline within the school does not exist. I think the student population can be divided into 1/5ths. 1/5th are intrinsically motivated to learn, and are exceptional students, 1/5th actively disrupt the class with horrible behavior. The teachers have no official tools to deal with this problem and when they try they are penalized by the parents. The Board of Education does nothing to help them, and this sometimes leads teachers to become bullies themselves, which is a problem in the schools. The final 3/5th just tunes out and coast by. Even the universities are famous for being able to coast through, once you’re in. Getting in is the real trick though, and the test to get in is nothing that is learned in schools, so students go to cram schools to learn what is on the test to get into a university or good High school. The entire concept of school is different at the fundamental level too. School in Japan are designed to climb the social hierarchy, and are not content driven. The core content of primary and secondary education in primarily revolving around socialization. Socialization is something that naturally happens at schools, but it’s a byproduct where in Japan it’s the main focus. I could write a whole lot more about this, but you get the gist.
5) Housing. The amount of money and quality of living is horrid. You pay extortionist amounts for a 3rd world hovel. My entire apartment (roughly a little larger than a US family room and kitchen combined) cost about 700USD monthly (I live next to a farm and houses, not Tokyo). You have to reup every 2 years which costs about 3,000USD. There is no insulation and the walls are about 6 inches thick. When there is a strong wind, the whole place shakes. Apartments come with nothing. No fridge, no light, no curtains, no AC. You have to buy those yourself. This is standard in Japan, and I consider this a good deal for here. Just this may be a focus of a later blog.
6) Banks- I hate Japanese banks. Sure American banks are greedy as hell, but Japanese bank greed takes it to the next level. Some things are counter intuitive too. Like the ATMs here… they close! And even if it is you’re bank, you will charged different fees for different times of the day. Japan is still very much a cash society, so you really have to plan when to have money.
7) Breakfast. It is my favorite meal in America, but they just can’t seem to put a good one together. Unless fish and rotting beans are your thing…
8) Pedophilia, its ok here. Officially not, but elementary school kids are sexualized to a very creepy extent. Look at any Manga with girls, and usually you’ll find a 5th or 6th year shy Elementary school girl. Child pornography in Japan
9) Japanese millennial men’s fashion- it is at best comical and/ or androgynous at worst creepy and just glossy lipstick away from a full on drag queen. All of it is very foppish and plays heavily into the very Japanese concept of herbivore men. Seriously though… Men’s makeup looks like 19th century mortuary make up.