Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Will Miss #51 - shoe removal culture

Contrary to popular belief, many Americans do take their shoes off upon entering their homes. However, it is not an ingrained part of the culture so much as a personal choice. Because of this, you sometimes get people arguing or complaining when you ask them to remove their shoes upon entering your home. In Japan, everyone takes their shoes off at the door as a matter of course, so it's never something which your guests will feel inconvenienced by.

I'll miss my visitors taking their shoes off without argument or even needing to be asked.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Won't Miss #51 - necessity of following the weather news

Back home, I never had to concern myself with the weather. The walk between the front door and the car wasn't even long enough to justify an umbrella, and looking out the window at the drifts of snow was enough to tell me how to dress in winter. In Tokyo, I not only need to worry about carrying a brolly, but I also have to structure shopping, shoe choices, and laundry around the weather (including shopping at night to avoid getting heat stroke in the scorching sun in summer).

I won't miss having to check the weather all of the time and to alter my day's activities to reflect it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Will Miss #50 - school uniforms

I like the concept of school uniforms and the way in which they simplify and unify the appearance of all of the kids at a particular school. I know that a lot of Western folks feel that forcing kids to wear them strips away their individuality, but the truth is that most Japanese people have fond memories of their uniforms. Most of them liked the fact that they didn't have to shop for expensive clothes for school or have to think about what to wear.

I'll miss seeing school uniforms and knowing that they're eliminating the class and fashion consciousness that you encounter in schools back home.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Won't Miss #50 - anime-style advertising

I've never been a big fan of anime style artwork and I have more than had my fill of giant-eyed, absurdly-proportioned art from living in Japan. Personally, I find the style a bit creepy because it seems to be depicting people in an infantile fashion (big eyes, big heads) while also sexualizing them.

I won't miss seeing this style in advertising on a daily basis.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Will Miss #49 - people doing their own thing

Sometimes, you'll see someone in Tokyo who just does his or her own thing. They'll just dance in a public place as if they were in the privacy of their own living room or sing out loud to the music on their headphones (or both). I always enjoy this sort of bold display in a country where sticking out is frowned upon.

I'll miss seeing people who don't mind marching to the beat of a different drummer in front of the whole world.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Won't Miss #49 - frozen construction

For a country that can put up a skyscraper in under a year, Japan sure has some issues finishing construction in well-trafficked, isolated spots. One of the platforms at Shinjuku station has been covered with taped down temporary rubber flooring for more than a year. There's a swing set in a backstreet near our home which took a month to finish because the workers left the "wet paint" signs up for weeks.

I won't miss this tendency to leave things in a half-assed state for no discernible reason.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Will Miss #48 - sleep anywhere

Some of the best pictures of life in Japan show people sleeping in strange ways and in strange places. Seeing the well-dressed, sophisticated people in Tokyo sleeping anywhere and everywhere is a quirk of life that always amuses me a bit.

I'll miss seeing people bunk down wherever they feel like it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Won't Miss #48 - instant dust

Tokyo may not have as much smog as a big city in China, but it still has a lot of pollution. Despite living in an area surrounded by concrete with nary a dirt plot in sight, the surfaces in my apartment are visibly covered with dust within 4-8 hours of my dusting them off.

I won't miss the instant and constant re-dusting of my apartment.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Will Miss #47 - tiny watermelons

Though I'm not happy about the price of fruit in Japan, I am happy with the fact that you can buy relatively small watermelons. My husband doesn't like them and we have no one to parcel the fruit out to. Small melons take me 4-6 days to eat by myself, so I'm pretty happy to get one.

I'll miss being able to buy watermelon for one.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Won't Miss #47 - air conditioners set for reptilian biology

Both my husband and I have worked for Japanese companies for quite some time and there is always a big problem because of the air conditioner settings. While the average foreign person prefers it colder than the average Japanese person, even Japanese men find the settings preferred by the office ladies to be too hot. Some of them seem to be cold-blooded creatures based on their need to remain in an environment which is 82 degrees or hotter at any given time.

I won't miss working in rooms hot enough to wear swimwear comfortably year round.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Will Miss #46 - Hachiko

I don't go to Shibuya very often, but there's something about the statue of Hachiko that always warms the heart. The story of the dog that waited for his master's return at the station for years after his death brings to mind the best aspects of man's best friend and how animals almost certainly do have feelings similar to those of humans.

I'll miss Hachiko, and the story the statue brings to mind.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Won't Miss #46 - washing in cold water

Japanese washing machines, by default, do not have hot or warm water settings. The only way you can choose to wash clothes in hot water is to buy a special washing machine which costs a great deal more than a regular machine. While I'm happy 80% of the time to use cold water for laundry, it would be nice to at least occasionally choose hot water washing for whites or other items that would benefit from it.

I won't miss only being able to wash clothes in cold water.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Will Miss #45 - New Year's Trinkets

Every year, we visit the local shrine and pick up some little souvenir or another as a memento of the Chinese year's representative animal. Sometimes it's a little ceramic bell shaped like an animal. Sometimes it's one of the wooden plaques that New Year's wishes are written on. Occasionally, it's one of the good luck charms.

I'm going to miss this rare, small frivolous expenditure on a New Year's trinket.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Won't Miss #45 - pitiful economies of scale

It's quite rare in Japan to find any sort of meaningful discount when you purchase a larger quantity of some item. For instance, if one cheesecake bar is 299 yen, 5 of them are 1495 yen. There's usually no bargain or a very tiny and inconsequential one if you buy a lot.

I won't miss this lack of appreciable economies of scale.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Will Miss #44 - Akiyoshi yakitori-ya

a "tori-ju" and 5 sticks of sasami from Akiyoshi

There's a chain of yakitori restaurants in Japan called Akiyoshi that my husband and I have been fans of since shortly after we arrived here. Their grilling method is just right and they have excellent sauce. In our first few years here, we found it hard to resist going there once a week with coworkers after days that ended at 9:00 pm.

Though we go there relatively rarely these days, we're going to miss Akiyoshi when the option to go occasionally no longer exists.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Won't Miss #44 - filing 2 tax returns

If you're American and reside in Japan, you have to file income tax forms in both countries. Every year, we have to slog through filling out two sets of annoying forms. Unless you make a pile of money, you don't have to pay taxes in both countries, but filing is still a pain in the backside.

I won't miss doubling my tax fun every year.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Will Miss #43 - liberal ideas about birth control

While America has its highly ineffective abstinence movement, Japan has condoms available everywhere. There's a condom vending machine about 2 minutes from our apartment in case anyone has an urgent need and is too shy to ask at a drug store. In fact, I don't even know if condoms are sold in drug stores in Japan since they're so easy to get in other places.

I'll miss the liberal and pragmatic attitudes toward birth control.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Won't Miss #43 - girly mags everywhere

Pornography and psuedo-pornography (e.g., rape and nudity in comic books) is all over the place in Tokyo. It's sold in boxes on the streets and you see men reading variations on it on the trains everyday. While I have absolutely no problem with people spending their time at home looking at whatever floats their boat, I don't like watching people ogle porn while I'm crammed in next to them on a crowded train. It may make me a prude, but I think some activities should be private.

I won't miss seeing men looking at porn in public spaces.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Will Miss #42 - fine bean cakes

I've never been a tremendous fan of the coarse red bean cakes that are commonly sold in markets and bakeries in Japan. I don't dislike them, but they're not the sorts of things I'd actively seek out. On the other hand, the bean cakes full of more finely processed and delicate beans that are often sold in department stores or as souvenirs are a favorite of mine. In particular, the white and yellow beans are wonderful.

I'll miss these fine bean cakes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Won't Miss #42 - Disney obsession

I know that a lot of people all over the world enjoy Disney-themed parks and products. In Japan, however, there seems to be a higher level of Disney obsession and it seems to cross age barriers. It's not unusual to see adult women in particular carrying around Disney character trinkets, bags, and supplies. Seeing these themes all over the place in Japan always fills me with a sense that the whole country has been duped by a major corporation's consumerist world domination plan.

I won't miss seeing Disneyana everywhere.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Will Miss #41 - no tipping

At the end of a meal in Japan, you don't have to leave anything on the table except your empty dishes. The Japanese don't practice the custom of tipping except in specific instances, and never in restaurants that I know of. While I don't have a problem with the practice of tipping in theory, in practice, it often feels like you're bribing your server to do a good job.

I will miss not having to worry about tipping too much or too little.

Won't Miss #41 - willy nilly food serving

When you go to a restaurant in Tokyo with one or more other people in your party, there is a good chance that you will be sitting together, but you won't be eating together for the duration of the meal. In most American restaurants, each course of food is served to everyone in the party at the same time. For example, everyone gets their entree at the same time. This allows everyone to roughly start and finish at the same time and prevents any awkwardness over starting to eat before others, or finishing long after them. In Japan, most restaurants serve each person as their food is prepared. In most (non-high class) places, no effort is made to time the preparation and delivery of food so that everyone is eating at the same time.

I won't miss the willy nilly timing of food service in restaurants in Japan.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Will Miss #40 - dressing up for the girls

When one of my female students shows up dressed to the nines, I know that she's going to meet her friends after the lesson. Japanese women are much more likely to put on make-up and nice clothes for female friends when they get together than they are for anyone else including coworkers and even boyfriends or husbands. I love how they do this, though I personally couldn't be bothered.

I'll miss noting this tendency to dress up for the girls.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Won't Miss #40 - small refrigerator

When we first moved to Japan, we had one of those really tiny refrigerators like many single people in small apartments do. It was the sort that allowed you to store enough food for 2 days worth of meals and a few drinks, tops. We eventually upgraded to a "big" fridge which is about half the size of your average American one. Because I cook nearly every meal at home, this has been a major hassle during the length of our stay, but our place is simply too small for a bigger one (and it'd cost a fortune).

I won't miss the small refrigerator we've had to put up with.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Will Miss #39 - walking to shops, the pleasure

Having to walk to do my regular shopping is nice while walking down the local backstreets when it's peaceful and quiet, and the weather is nice. It also allows me to get exercise without going to a gym. It can be a zen experience when you're in the mood to take it in and the universe hands you optimal conditions.

I'll miss the peaceful walks to the local markets and the exercise that comes along with it.

Won't Miss #39 - walking to shops, the pain

Having to walk (or ride a bicycle) to shop forces you to carry a lot of stuff with you on the way home. If you buy a lot of heavy things like soda, certain heavy vegetables, milk, etc., you can easily be weighed down with an extra 20 pounds. If you want to buy something really big, you have to awkwardly balance it on your bike to struggle to haul it along as you walk with difficulty if you can't wait for delivery or if the store doesn't offer it.

I won't miss being a packhorse when I shop.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Will Miss #38 - free Krispy Kreme donuts in line

Krispy Kreme branches in Tokyo which have long lines have a staff member come out and give away free, fresh, warm glazed donuts to those standing in line. Some people who only wanted to pop in and eat one donut will eat the freebie and just go home without ever having to bother to go into the shop. Others can simply enjoy a sugary treat to sustain them during the long wait.

I'll miss this free service and the courtesy it shows.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Won't Miss #38 - icing down salad greens

From the middle to the end of the long Tokyo summer, the water starts to come out of the tap quite warm. It's so warm that I have to put ice into the water when I wash salad greens to stop the warmth from wilting the lettuce.

I won't miss having to waste the ice or hassle with adding steps to an already tedious domestic task.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Will Miss #37 - Japanese peaches

Back in the U.S., I wasn't a fan of peaches. There was something about the flavor that just didn't do it for me, but I love Japanese peaches. The skins pull off easily and their flavor is mellow. They're a bit expensive, but I buy them as often as possible when they're priced relatively reasonably.

I'll miss these yummy peaches.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Won't Miss #37 - massively crowded festivals

Every year, there are a couple of big festivals in my neighborhood. The street becomes so densely packed that my students, who travel this street to reach my apartment, are late for lessons. While I'm not troubled by this, it's no fun at all for them. Navigating the street when the festivals are on is difficult and frustrating. It's also noisy and hot.

I won't miss this tendency to cram about a bazillion people into a narrow space for the sake of festival money-making.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Will Miss #36 - people with crooked teeth

One of the things I noticed early on in my stay in Japan is that, compared to the U.S., a lot of people never had their crooked teeth fixed. Unless one plans to be a model, television personality, etc., it's relatively rare for Japanese people to bother to get braces. They simply aren't that hung up on having perfectly straight teeth and are okay with the way they look naturally.

I love the way people just allow their crooked teeth to look the way they were born to look rather than torture their mouths and wallets to straighten them out, and I'll miss that.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Won't Miss #36 - peace symbol pictures

I've seen oceans of pictures of Japanese people and vast seas of them are little more than people holding up the peace symbol. Picture after picture is the same pose. When you ask people why they do that, they just say "peace", as if that says it all.

I won't miss the repetition of the same pose in picture after picture.