5 Most Difficult Things About Living In Japan.


Reading time: 7 minutes 

What’s this? A ranger caught off his guard?” Maybe Arwen, maybe, because I could very well be walking blindly into a mass online impalement from all the overseas ‘weeaboo’s’/wannabe Japanese’ out there, and I do mean overseas as in not in Japan. “Then why write an article about things you don’t like in Japan?” Because firstly, there are things about living in Japan, five to be exact, that poke my heart sore and on second thought, weeaboo’s aren’t real adults, so, be not afeared, I say.  It’s important to note that this list is a mere teardrop of negativity and frustration in the gargantuan ocean of incredibleness that is Japan, meaning, I love living here but at times I think, ‘that’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands n’more!’. So without further ado, below are my five things that I don’t like about living in Japan.

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5. Recycling.


Disposing of your household waste is an easy practice and one done without much or if any thought at all, you simply dump your microwave dinner tray into a black bin bag and stop caring about it, like you would an old, unwanted dog. Japan’s approach, however, is systematic and meticulous and for most foreigners who go to Japan, it is perplexing. Generally speaking, most Japanese people put a lot of consideration and effort into following the recycling guidelines set by city authorities. These guidelines come in leaflet form and are comparable in size to a pull-out map of a zoo and commonly have around ten separate categories which household waste can be separated. 

When I first arrived in Japan, I was comforted by my idea that Japan was, “a country of O.C.D“, though, when I learnt of the strenuous method in which to dispose of household waste, that idea soon became less comfortable, and more, what I like to call, ‘uncomfortable’. Suddenly, like some unemployed hobbyist, I was tasked with having to shape my cardboard into a symmetrical nest, wash and cut bottles, peel labels and separate different varieties of plastics. I also learnt how I had to use specific plastic bags bought only from the local supermarket to put my rubbish in, which on reflection, is worse for the environment than if I could just reuse any old one. In my city, we are expected to keep all trash bags inside our homes until the once weekly trashmen make their rounds, meaning you’re left with a pungent odorous smell greeting imaginary guests.

Is all the effort worth it? Maybe not. Previously, Japan simply shipped their waste onto neighbouring China, but today, they ship it to Malaysia instead, so is it worth all the effort if you’re just pushing the problem onto someone else? Well, that would be an ecumenical matter.

Remember. If you’re heading to Japan for a trip, do take note that there are very few public bins, so few in fact that you will have to follow the standard and put your chocolate wrapper in your pocket like a good boy. In 1995, a cult called, Aum Shinrikyo committed a sarin attack against the public, whereby sadly 19 people died; after this tragic event, the Japanese people, understandably, became extremely sensitive toward unknown objects left unattended, which resulted in a dearth in public trash cans to help reduce the concealment of another potential attack.

4. Kawaii.

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Meow” “Woof” “Quack“.

Typically speaking, you might expect to hear these sounds in a park, but you almost certainly wouldn’t expect to hear them in a supermarket, would you? In Japan, yes, you probably would and it’s all to do with, ‘kawaii’ (cute). The Japanese are well known and probably too often wrongly associated with ‘everything cute’, but they are promotors of it nonetheless. In some supermarkets, the standard checkout beep is replaced with a series of animal noises, meaning your pack of pork could be met with a gloating and very twisted, “oink“!

Why don’t I like it? In areas where you’d want seriousness and maturity, there seems to be, in parts, elements of ‘cuteness’ where there really shouldn’t be any. For example, road signs cautioning drivers of construction are sometimes held by green dinosaur statues and almost everything governmental seems to have childish emojis and cartoons on. T.V advertisements are often loud, hyper and lack class and professionalism as girls jump around and scream madly whilst boys with bowl-cut hairstyles and rosy cheeks blow kisses at the camera. My annoyance towards this childishness is undoubtedly influenced by my stiff nationality of prim and proper Englishness, this is without question, but, when you have a grown man in a three-piece suit shaking your hand and calling you, “kawaii“… that’s just…no.

Meow” “Woof” “Quack” “Piss off“!

3. Customer Service.


Chotto matte kudasai” (Please wait a minute).

It could be said, that in Japan, protocol always trumps customer. It’s no secret that Japan applies a set and strict procedure to most things, but, staff generally follow it so tightly that it can and does come across as immensely unhelpful and inefficient.

Inefficient, how? In Asia, hierarchy within a workplace is more palpable and enforced than it is in the West, thus resulting in a sense of powerlessness in shop floor staff. What this means is that you’re generally left with a low confidence, no answers and totally clueless staff force who, when asked anything, seem to always, “get my manager“, which makes asking the slightest and easiest question a waiting game and incredibly frustrating. It seems as if any question that falls outside of normal procedure, is met with a complete and utter shutdown and a pop up in the eyes of staff appears that reads, “does not compute“.

To expand on that, if you were to ask a question about a products details, delivery options or something simple like, “do you have any more of these?“, staff become confused and dazed before retreating, yet again, to get a manager, as it seems shopfloor dialogue doesn’t contain the necessary words to engage in anything passed, “hello, welcome“, which, might I add, is shouted out blindly by staff continuously at no one and sounds like a fu*king farmBargaining and striking deals are generally a no-go in Japan, managers, in the most longwinded way, will always say, “no” to any request even if an item is damaged, opened or a display model (yes they expect you to still pay full price). 

There is no compromise within Japanese customer service, and they will never break protocol, even if it means securing a large sale, rules always trump customer and that can create a very real sense of unfriendliness. 

2. Government.

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No, the word conspiracy will not be thrown into the mixture of this entry, rather, this is about how you’ll possibly feel living under the government’s financial eye.

Despite its flaws, there is, albeit paradoxically, a sense of freedom under the Chinese government, as the country is so mahoosive and the people are in such an abundance, its extremely difficult for the government to keep tabs on everyone, meaning, its extremely easy for you, in some ways, to feel completely lost and off the grid; which in hindsight, is an attribute that one might want when travelling.

This then is the complete opposite in Japan, whereby if you were to move from your city to the next, you’ll need to apply for a certificate proving you’re leaving, and you’ll then need to apply for another certificate once you’ve moved to your new city. If you purchase a bicycle you’ll actually need to have it registered in your name, you’ll need to frequently update documents, frequently visit government buildings and you’ll forever be receiving bills (daily) through your ‘fu*k you’ shaped letterbox, bills for standard tax, city tax, water, gas, electricity, compulsory pension (which you can’t get back), compulsory health insurance (despite the fact you still need to pay for health care) and a painful cocktail of a great many other things.

Why is this important? If you’re looking to save up your money and enjoy the freedom of travel when you’re working abroad, Japan is probably not the place to do it. A heavy sense of governmental seriousness looms over you every step of the way and the romantic and thrilling notion of adventure and wanderlust becomes slowly depressed as it joins the system one legal document at a time.

1. Renting

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Renting has been the bain of my expatriation whilst in Japan and is honestly comparable to being shafted, but legally. I feel qualified to speak out on this considering the number of times I’ve moved whilst living in Japan, and it is one that if you’re familiar with, you’ll grip at your armchair as it all comes flooding back to you; in at number 1 is none other than, renting a property in Japan.

Renting is expensive, but so many of us, initially, overlook the additional costs to your potential monthly rent, so what might you expect to pay in Japan before you’ve moved in? Below is a rough list of what the majority of landlords and agents require you to pay:

  • Deposit – 2 months rent
  • Key money – 1 months rent which is a gift to your landlord thanking him/her for letting you move in. You don’t get that back.
  • Agents fee – 1 months rent
  • Cleaning Fee – 1 months rent
  • House and Fire Insurance – Starting from £70
  • Guarantor Company Fee – Starting from £70

If you’re looking to move to Tokyo because you’re an irritating neckbeard tourist who thinks the capital is everything, you’ll be paying on average close to 2 or 3 thousand pounds before you’ve even moved in. Surprisingly, in a country that prides itself on service, the cost is always pushed onto the customer, so don’t be surprised when you’re paying fees for things that the company are actually responsible for. I’ve known cases where the tenant has had to pay advertisement costs because, “without it, the tenant wouldn’t have found the property“.

Why have I moved so much? Landlords will always prioritise receiving due rent on time, if their tenant can keep up with the scheduled payments, it would be fair to say that they’d be a tenant worth keeping. In Japan, regardless if you pay your rent on time, if you’re wanting to renew your contract, you’ll be charged with a renewal fee which can tally, on average, around £1000. Whilst it may be cheaper to renew your contract then it would to find a new place to live, I personally, cannot see how such massive costs can be justified for simply signing a new contract and the very thought of someone taking large amounts of money from me for doing absolutely nothing in return, sickens me, so much so, I always find someplace else to live. 

It’s important to note. In Japan, there are actually peak months for moving house, with March and April being the most expensive for removal vans, this is because many people move due to company transfers, so do take this into consideration as trying to find a removal van during this time is immensely difficult and immensely expensive (I’ve actually been quoted £800 to go thirty minutes down the road).

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6 thoughts on “5 Most Difficult Things About Living In Japan.

    • L.Radix says:

      I think there’s a blanket over Japan and people just see it for what they think it is, whereas, in reality, it is an entirely different place. It’s important for those wanting to relocate to look under that blanket and decide, “is this actually for me?”…then again, complex recycle isn’t a reason not to move somewhere!


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