9 Things Hated about living in Tokyo

Tokyo is a wonderful, magical city that can make you cynical and miserable (if you're not careful)

red light district kabukicho district

I love Tokyo. Most of this blog is a diary to how much I loved living in this wonderful city. It was an adventure. But now I’m turning the page on that chapter of my life.

Three weeks ago, my husband and I moved out to the Japanese countryside. And honestly, I feel so much more “at home” in rice fields and bike paths than I ever felt in Tokyo.

Weird, right?

I lived in Tokyo for almost three years, most of it with my husband Ryosuke.

Tokyo should have been everything we ever wanted – a big city with awesome, driven people. Unique boutiques, interesting start-ups, diversity, convenience, safety, and plenty of other people just like me. The realization that I didn’t like living in Tokyo came swiftly, one afternoon while Ryosuke and I were out in Ibaraki visiting his family. And once I realized it, I couldn’t go back to “life in the box.”

I also had a startling realization that I’ve never actually lived in a large city before. Which in itself is a bit odd. In Texas, we always lived in smaller cities – only an hour (or so) away from Austin. Then we moved go Ghana. Ghana, of course, has large cities, but nothing like Tokyo. I did college in a small town outside of Philadelphia. I’ve always been near large cities, but never actually lived in one. Tokyo was my first time.

Last train in Japan foreigner crowded

Back when I first came to Tokyo

This post is a bit of a “Debbie Downer,” but I still wanted to write it. It’s not fair to just pretend my life is a magical, happy movie. I have so many fond memories of living in Tokyo… but also quite a few not-so-fond memories.

These are the things I hated about living in Tokyo.

1. The city never sleeps

It doesn’t. Trains may stop at midnight, but Tokyo never sleeps. There is always stuff going on.

To some, this may seem like a huge “plus,” but I need plenty of “Grace time.”

2. Overworking is normal – and stress is just another part of daily life

I’m a bit of a workaholic. People tell me that with love. But oh man, Tokyo puts me to shame.

Kind of like job hunting

My husband was working 14 hour work days – and he was still one of the first people to leave the office every single day. Every once in a while, I would take a train downtown for a meeting at 10pm – with a group of people who were just getting out of work. As I rode the train out of main part of Tokyo (back home) at 11:30pm, the car would be packed (literally packed) with salarymen, in their black suits and falling asleep as they stood.

On Friday evenings, it wasn’t uncommon to see people passed out in the subway station, too drunk (from the mandatory drinking parties) or too tired (from long working hours) to stand – falling asleep on benches and next to walls.

3. The air is more polluted (than you might think)

Don’t get me wrong – by large city standards, Tokyo’s air is incredibly clean. But we lived off a major road… which just made the air worse. Twice a month I would clean our outside windows, tinted grey with exhaust fumes.

I started noticing a real change when I went jogging. When we were out in the countryside, I could easily run 5-10k in the afternoon, as a break. But in Tokyo, after about 3k, I was wheezing and coughing. I have very sensitive lungs – I always have. They don’t agree with city air.

4. The everyday noises never stop

One of the other downsides of living next to a major road (which really, was our mistake) was the constant noise. Motorcycles with no mufflers and cars designed to make more noise (someone please tell me why this is cool?) drove by at all hours of the night. Ambulances drove by, lights flashing, at least once an hour. Often more.

Downtown was even worse. People are talking, trains are rumbling, shopkeepers are calling… it’s just noisy. Really noisy. You can’t hear yourself think.

5. Of course it’s expensive

Our two bedroom apartment in Tokyo came to a grand total of $1450 a month (excluding utilities). Our current place is about the same size (it’s a bit smaller), comes with a garden, and is still less than half that price. And our old place in Tokyo was only that “cheap” because it was sitting next to a major road (ie, noise pollution). A similar listing two complexes behind us in Tokyo ran at $1800 a month.

Everything about Tokyo was expensive. The drinking parties. The busy lifestyle. The food (especially fresh vegetables). The parking. Can you sense a theme here?

6. Elbowing your way through crowds every day isn’t fun

We’ve all heard stories about the men with white gloves who shove people onto trains. They’re not just urban legends, though, they really exist. Like, all over Tokyo.

Why? Because trains in the mornings and evenings look like this:

This is what I expected to see when I heard "In Tokyo"

A couple months ago, I had to meet someone downtown at like 8:30am, landing me in the morning rush.

This is what that looks like, in case you are wondering (on either side of the crowd are two trains, with people trying to shove themselves on).

japan crowded train packed trains

Now imagine dealing with these kinds of crowds everywhere you go. Breathing in the same air everyone is breathing out – filled with stale breath, sweat, and body odor.

7. Death and suicide

About a month and a half ago, I saw someone die. My work table was next to our giant window (you know, the one overlooking a major road). I heard a crash and looked outside. A motorcycle smashed into a car turning into our building (someone who lived just upstairs, actually). The motorcyclist was thrown about ten meters. There was a lot of blood. His legs were bent funny. His body was directly under my window, no more than ten meters, and his face was pointed at my window. The driver got out of the car and started crying.

Ryosuke got off of work two hours later. If circumstances were different, that could have been him.

Accidents happen, I know, but seeing it like that gave me nightmares. Police officers and ambulances were on scene immediately, but they didn’t take the body away for another 57 minutes (I counted). Then they scrubbed the blood off the road. By the time Ryosuke got home, two hours later, any evidence that an accident would happen was completely gone – save the for car parked three spaces next to ours, with a giant dent in the back.

This wasn’t the first (or the last) time I’ve seen an accident. Two weeks later, we saw a bicyclist run a red light and smash into a delivery bike that jumped the green light (like a motorcycle with a box on the back – delivering pizza). Both people hit the road. Hard. Ryosuke and I helped the delivery man pick up his bike. As far as we could tell, he was ok. Still… it was scary.

I can’t count the number of trains I’ve been on that have been delayed because of suicides – and that in itself is a bit disturbing. Let me repeat that: It’s happened so often, I’ve stopped counting.

Japanese Yamanote line train in Tokyo Japan

I used to live off the Chuo line – famous for the number of train suicides (nicknamed “Chuo-cides”).

And what’s worse – the first reaction of most people when there’s been an announcement of a suicide is calling their boss/work/friend/loved one and sighing into the phone “I’m going to be late, there was a suicide. Again. Ugh.”

Texan in Tokyo comics living in Japan gaijin mangaka cartoon suicide on the train

As soon as I started doing that too, I knew I had to leave Tokyo.

Ryosuke and I were supposed to meet a friend downtown – and our line said “25 minute delay because of a ‘human accident’.” I called my friend and asked to move back our meeting time, because of said ‘human accident.’ I even sighed.

As soon as I hung up the phone, a wave of guilt washed over me. I don’t want to be the kind of person who views someone else taking their life as an annoyance.

8. Things are cramped together (and tiny!)

My first apartment had this other house nearby. Every time I passed it, I marveled the fact that someone could actually live in there. Or, like, fit in there.

Japanese Japan apartment tiny small house

I like having elbow room. I like being able to turn around in a store without worrying about knocking something over with my long limbs/butt.

9. Money, sex, greed, power

You know those movies where the underdog “makes it” and then there’s a string of money, sex, and power?

Living in Tokyo is a lot like that. Or maybe it’s just a lot of people looking for the “next big thing.” I don’t know.

Ryosuke and I aren’t into clubbing. Or nightlife. Or bars. We like hiking, long distance biking, farming, and skipping stones on bodies of water. We’re not nighttime people. We live and thrive in the daylight.

We climbed Mt. Fuji to watch the sunrise a while back

We climbed Mt. Fuji to watch the sunrise a while back

I’m glad we lived in Tokyo for as long as we did. Honestly, we both learned so much about ourselves by living in the largest city in Japan – it was a thrilling and wonderful experience.

But it’s time to move on.

Or, in this case, move out. Neither of us wants to leave Japan – we really do enjoy living here. But we’ve also come to realize that we’re not “city people.” And, as much as I want to stay a “Texan in Tokyo” – it’s really just not working out.

We’ve been living in the countryside for almost three weeks now, and we’ve already noticed a huge boost in happiness and self esteem.

Akita rice field river Japan

 ————————————————————————–

There are plenty of things I loved about living in Tokyo. One day I’m going to write a long post about this city I deeply loved, but for now, here’s just a small list.

  1. It’s convenient
  2. It’s easy to meet people who share your interests
  3. You can get anywhere in the city via (very clean) public transportation
  4. All sorts of awesome food (even foreign food)
  5. Easy to get anywhere in Japan via nightbus, plane, or train
  6. It’s not as expensive as people might think
  7. It’s an interesting mix of temple nestled between skyscrapers
  8. The shopping is fabulous (especially thrift stores)
  9. There a thousands of things to do – you will NEVER get bored
  10. Themed cafes and restaurants (with live animals, prison-themed, etc)
  11. Vending machines (and convenience stores) are on every corner
  12. Friends/family/people are always stopping in Tokyo for a visit
  13. There are so many random, fun finds.

I loved living in Tokyo. But I also kind of hated it. Life is complicated.

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

50 Comments on 9 Things Hated about living in Tokyo

  1. David Arth // 31 March, 2016 at 9:31 am //

    We just might be moving to Tokyo, So I look to see if we should or not? I have been most other places: London, Paris, Mexico, Nigeria, Beijing (family there!) and sure I want to add Japan to my score. A five year stint though? Sitting on our rain forest ranch in VA seem perfectly fine too… But I do wanna live and feel brand new, worldly and young again.
    So yea can do. The wish bone has determined that we go

  2. I found very interesting of what you wrote,well I am in Tokyo 45 years now yes 45 and well I was 20 when I came 1970 ,it was different and not so crowded at that time ,there were few foreigners mostly working as artist models translators and when we walk and see a foreigner walking toward your direction we kind of salute each other ,saying a modest Hi !! I was living in Harajuku that of course was not like today ,I could take my dogs to walk and not see many people on the street ,takeshita dori was just a normal street with no shops oh well they had a beauty salon and so after 10 years move to Azabu from there to setagaya and now I live in Tachikawa and it’s not as noise as the center of Tokyo.I guess I was lucky I come on a good time not that I don’t like it now well I also come from a Big city not as big as Tokyo São Paulo Brasil and I consider myself a city girl :) Any way I love Tokyo because here you can meet people from many countries and it’s safe ,ok you can say is not as safe as it used to be but still better than many countries I think
    so I love Tokyo :)

  3. Just wait for the future…your future articles about what is expected from you from him. Ee gads. Clear for me to see…

  4. I see your work all the time in Metropolis but never knew you blogged. What a great find! This article hits home for me in a way because my family just moved here after 6 years in “rural” Japan (Okinawa and then Kumamoto). And as much as I love Tokyo and was looking forward to coming back (we started our life in Japan here), it was a HUGE adjustment that I never expected, for many of the reasons you listed. I actually find myself really missing the laid-back life of Kyushu, the saner work hours, the clean air and the ease of escaping to the mountains. I love so many things about being in Tokyo, but my mental health is so much better for going back to visit Kyushu (or elsewhere) whenever I can.

  5. Anonymous // 23 January, 2016 at 3:48 pm //

    I really enjoyed your article :) Thank you for writing!

  6. Anonymous // 22 January, 2016 at 3:22 am //

    Yea. I can see the scenarios in Tokyo is much better than Beijing far away! Trust me, lots people like Tokyo as just same as U

  7. I wish you both the best! I think you made the right choice. I can see the appeal of big city living for many young people though. If someone gets bored in Tokyo, that’s their own fault. But, on the other hand, burned out, and disillusioned is sadly the destination of staying in a place like that too long. Yes, you made the right choice. But then, I’m not one who would be happy in a big city either.

  8. I couldn’t agree more! I never liked Tokyo and whenever I went “down” there, I was exhausted after just a day. I’m totally a countryside person and enjoy nature. ^^

    Just commuting to work in Tokyo would exhaust me so much even BEFORE my working day starts, I wouldn’t be able to do it.
    I liked my work in the Japanese countryside where I either could walk, go by bicycle or by car – no trains invovled, no crowds, no stress! :D

  9. I always read you, but it’s been so long since I last commented, I enjoyed your post! very interesting, and I wish you happiness in this new phase of your life, greetings from Venezuela!

  10. So, let me say first that I def think you should still stay “Texan in Tokyo” because alliteration. But just think of the alternatives! “The Texan who formerly lived in Tokyo” “Texan in the Japanese Countryside”
    ….
    Yeah, just stay with the same name ;)

  11. Good luck! I love living in the Japanese countryside. I also just love your blog! Keep up the good work!

  12. Kaycee // 4 May, 2015 at 8:55 pm //

    I’ve been watching your videos on YouTube, but I just started reading your blog.

    I’ve been living in Tokyo for about 3 years now. I have a love/hate relationship with Tokyo.

    The big pro is that lots of events are going on all the time. I’m a nerd, so I’m speaking of things like video game orchestras, J-pop concerts, Tokyo Game Show, etc.

    However, I’m glad I’m leaving in approximately 4 months:

    Cons:
    – The noise. It’s not trains. The closest train station is actually about a 15 minute walk from my house. I have a busy street behind my house that ambulances and revving motorcycles drive on at all hours of the day. I live near an Air Force base and planes fly over all day. I live (I kid you not) across from a construction business that operates Monday-Saturday. I can’t even sleep in on Saturdays, because I am woken up early by construction truck beeping. Oh, and I’m a light sleeper. I haven’t slept well since coming to Japan due to this.

    – The crowds. I’m an introvert. I always have been. The crowds in Tokyo are making me agoraphobic, a problem I never had before in Japan, even in other crowded situations (such as US anime conventions). I have literally broken down into tears *because of crowds* due to the stress it causes me at times. Again, this has only happened here in Tokyo. The stress is worst when I’m in situations that are so crowded that people are physically leaning on me (crowded trains, standing-only concerts).

    – The feeling of a lack of privacy and freedom. I’m unusual in that I actually live in a real, single family house in Tokyo (west Tokyo, not downtown), not connected to anyone else’s house. It’s expensive but work pays for it. The problem is the paper thin walls, the fact that there’s only a few feet between my house and my neighbors’ homes, and my house is only a few feet from the street. I feel like I can’t do certain things for fear of bothering my neighbors. I have a drum kit I haven’t been able to use the entire time since being in Japan because, well, I know my neighbors will hear it. I feel like I can’t turn up my TV too loud. I find myself constantly worried about volume of things I’m doing. It’s frustrating.

    – The lack of green. Tokyo is too gray. I have zero yard. Yes, a single family house with zero green. Not even a blade of grass. The whole house has concrete around it. This isn’t just my house. Most of the houses in my neighborhood are the same. Many of my neighbors have potted plants to cope. I know I am lazy and won’t water them enough, so they will die. Not worth it. But it still drives me crazy. I told my husband that when we go back to the US and buy a house, we’re getting /at least/ half an acre of land so we can have green. I don’t care if he hates mowing the lawn. I’ll do it! I need green!

    I work on the Air Force base the stupid planes are from, so I only have to work 8 hours per day, 5 days a week. I don’t have the overwork issues. But I still really, really hate my job. Work plus those 4 cons have put me in a pretty bad depression that I’ve been dealing with for quite some time. I love the Japanese culture, pop culture, food, etc. But I can’t stand Tokyo anymore. Rural Japan isn’t an option, because I don’t have any sort of visa. I’m able to stay with the US/Japan Status of Forces Agreement. When my job here ends in 4 months, so does my ability to stay. But that’s OK. I think I’m ready to go back to the US.

  13. Train lines do have a lot of suicides but so do Japanese hospitals (patients often jump off the roof or out of windows) and any semi-tall building. And if those aren’t available there are other ways. In my pastoral neighborhood one man drank a herbicide and died. Another set himself on fire down by the river (I could hear the cries). One man hanged himself in the garage. There were two other suicides, both in my building, but I never heard what the means of death were. One unlucky man got drunk and seemingly drowned himself in that same river. What a place!

  14. Almost 20 years in the Japanese hinterlands … it has its own problems: boredom, narrow-mindedness, alcoholism.

  15. Bookspread // 16 March, 2015 at 8:12 pm //

    Holy globalization,Tokyo is exactly like Paris, up to the human accidents and the crazy working hours.

    We deal with it by living on the suburbs and trying to avoid rush hour (which translates to waking up at five in the morning if we want to fit a morning run!), but your solution is much better.

    You shouldn’t be afraid – both of you are young, energetic, resourceful and creative. You have proved it with your books and your blog and your million odd jobs, and Ryousuke with his amazing language skills, his curiosity and his poop hat. It might be scary to quit after a year, but by doing this he is going to acquire a set of skills that will make him thrive in any corner of the globe.

    Go read or watch Fear and Trembling, by Amelie Nothomb, if he starts to feel guilty about quitting his salaryman job in Tokyo – she did the exact same thibg and now she is THE best-selling French speaking author every September.

    Kudos to you two!

  16. It is great news you could move to the countryside finally. I just get really cranky when I visit big cities, they stress me out so much. I only visited Tokyo once and was not that impressed, it was too crowded for me. The store selections are great in Tokyo, but that is about it. I prefer visiting Gifu mountain area and any other mountain area in Japan, also Lake Biwa is another one of my favorite places.

  17. Where I live (Halifax, Canada) would not be considered a “big city” by most people’s standards, but it’s too big for me, and I already live a good 15 minutes outside the downtown core.

    I completely understand all your points on city living versus country living. I’m a total country girl. My husband and I are saving up to buy a small farm in rural Nova Scotia, and I will be so happy for the peace and quiet. Halifax was a big step in the right direction from where we lived before (on a very loud, busy main street in Ottawa), but still, in our apartment we constantly have to deal with neighbors blasting music at all hours and having shouting matches in the hallways. For a smaller city, it still has a high crime rate (for Canada anyways), and I’ve been harassed and chased more times than anyone should be. A year ago a 26 year old pregnant woman was murdered in the apartment right above mine. They later revealed that the sick creeps who killed her carried her body out in a hockey bag at two in the afternoon. Just walked right out the front door. I can never get it out of mind, it’s just too horrible.

    I know bad things can happen in the country too, but I just feel safer and happier and healthier living in the “boonies”.

  18. Dogs who haven’t been off leash and don’t know how to play with other dogs. Three hour restaruant lines. Everything covered in “Warning” and “Not allowed” signs. People to drunk to walk, throwing up everywhere, every single night. Two out of three people you see have a posture problem. I don’t miss Tokyo, not really.

  19. Anonymous // 13 March, 2015 at 10:50 am //

    Lol I know that house too!

    • Bren Shuler // 13 March, 2015 at 11:11 am //

      It’s on the Chuo Line, right? Do you know where? I thought it looked familiar but couldn’t place the location.

  20. Anonymous // 13 March, 2015 at 8:34 am //

    This sounds like many big/international/cosmopolitan cities. I’ve lived in three and they have all these things in common except the train suicides. Overtime varies, but working for a huge company, I find working OT is more common, but not for a long time (a month or two a year, and it’s usually 12 hours, not including commute).

    Also, I live in Los Angeles. I’ve been to Japan, and let me tell you Tokyo’s pollution is nothing compared to LA’s. But I must admit, I never liked Tokyo. I prefer Osaka.

    I prefer mid-size cities, and not megalopolises like Tokyo, Los Angeles, Toronto, etc. I also don’t like small cities–they actually frighten me.

    I have to admit I like the country where I’m from (Canada), because some cities are a good size and they have enough city-to-nature balance.

    Living right outside the city or right outside downtown also helps in big cities, which is where I live in LA (LA isn’t really one huge city, but many, many, manyyyy small ‘towns’ making up LA).

    I can’t imagine living in LA for long or, God forbid, its suburbs, which are scary. I’m thinking of moving to somewhere like Portland.

    Looks like a new adventure for you, regardless, which is always fun. Happy for the both of you!

  21. ” I don’t want to be the kind of person who views someone else taking their life as an annoyance.”
    You’re a good egg, Grace.

  22. Lol I laugh at your rent complaint because I”m from NYC. Our apartment in Queens is like 1600 per month for a 1br and we’ve lived in tiny studios in Manhattan that cost 2100. Average 1 BR in Manhattan is around $2600 – 3000 per month! So Tokyo may be expensive but it’s cheaper based on my NYC standards lol.

    Most of your complaints are like “oh this is what I live with in NYC every day”. I used to live in the boonies of New Jersey where I had to drive to the grocery store and the only thing to do on the weekends was go to the same mall or see a movie. Now in NYC I take the subway to everything, I sold my car (so no more dealing with car insurance/inspections/oil changes) but for example we had a massive subway shit show yesterday because of “broken rail”.

    In NYC if someone suicides, or there’s a crazy homeless person they never tell us. It’s always “Broken rail” or “Sick Customer”. Sick customer ranges from woman about to give birth/crazy homeless guy/someone getting stabbed/suicide jumper. I think if they told us what it really was everyone would just shit bricks. The Japanese in Tokyo handle the suicide thing a lot better but I guess as you said it happens so often they’ve just become jaded to it. Also I don’t know why car accidents are so common in Japan as if Japan is just full of horrible drivers. You’d think with them producing so many cars they’d have decent driving schools! Then again, you’d think with so may English learning institutions there you’d have more people knowing more than “This is a pencil” lol

    • Anonymous // 13 May, 2016 at 5:06 pm //

      That was my first thought. “Only $1,450 for a two bedroom? I thought Tokyo was expensive!” In SF these days you’re looking at around $3,000 for a one bedroom. I have friends paying something in the $5,000 range for a two bedroom and while it’s close to downtown and transit it’s also located in a filthy side-street. $1,500 is closer to what you’d pay for a rent-controlled place that you got a really good deal on about ten years ago.

  23. I’m a Texan girl living in Osaka (for one year now) and I agree about the “human accident” thing. I hate when me friends send a group text bitching about the “human accident” that just happened. That was someone’s life! They felt so alone that they thought there was no other option. We don’t know their situation or their reasoning, so I try my hardest not to get annoyed. Overall, empathy seems to be lacking. Like others have said, it’s a social problem that needs to be talked about.

    I’m not a huge fan of Tokyo either. I like Osaka because it’s big, but not too big. I get to live near downtown in a small apartment for reasonable rent.

    I’m glad y’all are enjoying the countryside. :)

  24. Stayed 4 days in Tokyo after travelling for 2 weeks around Japan… real bad decision. I thought London was bad… Tokyo is a city you have to visit with a lot of energy, ’cause it just sucks it out of you. As Grace said, it never sleeps. I would never choose to live, willingly, in Tokyo. Any other city (Kyoto above all) or the countryside is better (I love the Japanese countryside, really quite and beautiful)

  25. I enjoy this article as I am a small town girl in Tokyo. Still my life is different than yours as We own a house 10 minutes away from my husband job and they have new limitations on overtime :) I wish we could have buy a house in the countryside Ingo playground very early as I suffer social anxiety and Tokyo IS crowded. I am glad you guys enjoy countryside :)

  26. zoomingjapan // 12 March, 2015 at 7:02 pm //

    I personally don’t like Tokyo.
    It’s nice to visit every now and then, meet old friends, do some shopping.
    But every time I’m there I wanna leave after only a few hours. I agree with many things you’ve listed.
    I’ve lived in the Japanese countryside for 7 years and I’m not a city girl.

    Tokyo is dirty, stinks, crowded, loud and just makes you tired immediately. ;)
    I could never live there.

  27. Bren Shuler // 12 March, 2015 at 4:46 pm //

    Wow, so much I can relate to. Other than 6 months of living in a suburb of Phoenix, I never lived in a large city (other than brief visits to such cities like Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, DC, Atlanta, Denver, and LA) until I moved to the greater Tokyo area. I grew up in a small college town in Maine, moved to Colorado for college in a large town that was an hour north of Denver, and then through being in the military was posted to small towns in Illinois, northeastern New York, and northern Honshu. I’ve always enjoyed the small-town environment as the club atmosphere or the city night life wasn’t my cup of ocha.

    And I loved Tohoku! The access to the ocean, long bike rides in the country and along the shore line, the many onsens, several great ski areas within a 2-hour’s drive, the clean air (except when the farmers were burning their rice stalks), and the prevalent fresh and relatively inexpensive seafood and produce there. Plus the change of seasons was more pronounced there and the area sort of had a New England feel to me (colorful autumns especially).

    But my last military posting brought me to the Tokyo area. By then I was already married to my Japanese wife with a Japanese step-son and our own son in tow. A year later I exited the military but remained in the area and was able to secure employment at my previous military posting.

    Other than items 7 (the train jumpers) & 9 (the Tokyo hustle) on your list, I can still very much sympathize with your complaints. However, by living in Nishitama (western Tokyo-to) I’ve been spared the worst of these. I live close to where I work so my commute is a fairly easy 10-mintue drive or 15-minute bike ride; while still crazy crowded by my American living standard, it’s not as built up or dense or full of traffic like central Tokyo is; which makes the everyday noise and “hectic-ness” of a big city more relaxed (it’s actually pretty quiet at night!); don’t have a 12- to 14-hour work day or the expectation to go drinking/entertaining with colleagues and clients; and the air quality is a little better than in the heart of the city. While we have lived in small apartments (“only” $900) we now live in our own house that has some separation from its neighbors and even a little bit of a back yard/garden. And I can enjoy long bike rides through many parks and green spaces along the Tama River (my second back yard).

    That said, there have been some other very definite positives to being in the greater Tokyo area that I would add to your list:

    1. More and better school opportunities for my children (public schools initially but later private high schools)
    2. More college opportunities for my children
    3. More job opportunities for both my children and me (especially one with warui Japanese language ability)
    4. As an American needing to visit the U.S. once in a while, easier getting out of the country from where I live than if I lived farther away from this area.

    Sorry for the long post but this one really resonated with me. I really am rooting for you and Ryosuke to make it work in your rural neck of Japan. Ganbatte masu!

  28. I think everywhere in this world there are pros and cons..I am not into clubbing either, but I am a very curious person, I like little cafes and shopping and little boutiques. I like watching people, trying new and amazing things … …..
    I like quietness, but not for long time….when it is too quiet I think too much and not all the thoughts are happy thoughts because I think no one can be all the time happy !
    I was born and lived in the capital city of my country ( that is not Japan) so I like seeing people and not be recognized on the street as it happens in the small towns !

    About japanese people working so much, my explanation is very simple: they NEVER would have gone so far if they would not work so hard ! Their country is the way it is, as developed as it is, BECAUSE they worked so much ! I don’t think people can have both….

    I am coming from a poor country where working hours are not so long, BUT my people can’t enjoy their life either because they don’t have the resources of doing that !

    I think we have to pick a side, WE CAN’T HAVE THEM ALL !

    LIFE is complicated, BUT beautiful if we can find who we are and what we really want and makes are happy !

  29. I always would take countryside before city life. I just like the relaxed lifestyle in the green. In Finland our apartment block was surrounded by Forrest and a lake….before that I lived in Helsinki city center in a tiny 20sqm apartment. The rent was horrendous (over 600euros a month) and the air was bad as there was just one windows and I needed it open the entire time which lead to all kind of dust and particles inside the apartment even within the hour after cleaning /(

  30. Wow I feel you.

    I echo many comments that express love for Kansai. Tokyo always felt like a bigger, smellier, more crowded and fast-paced Osaka. With less cheap food. :P

    Unfortunately, even here in Kyoto the work situation is the same…poor hubby does 12-16 hour days, every day>< luckily the commute is not crowded but still…maybe that's less a "Tokyo" problem and more a "Japan" thing?

  31. I think the suburbs are for me rather than the countryside, but it would be completely different with someone special at my side.

  32. I so agree with you on “Money, sex, greed, power”. My pain is that, as a foreigner, Japanese people always see you as this kind of person at first. And it’s very hard to make them believe that you are actually just like them.

  33. Many of those reasons why i don’t like living in Tokyo, or Kansai for that matter. I love the quiet of a small city, and would give anything to have a small veg/fruit garden with one field of rice :D

  34. I feel like I could have written this post, but a little bit further in the future. Like you, I love Tokyo, but there are a lot of aspects about it I don’t like. Though it’s a great city, it’s not where YJ and I see ourselves living forever.
    The other day, I had a fun time chatting with a hairdresser’s assistant (Osakan girl) for about an hour about how much we both love Osaka, and how Tokyo works, but isn’t quite the same. It was good to have a bit of a whinge with someone who understands, haha!! XD

    Glad you made the changes you needed to! Will hopefully be doingthe same in the next couple of years. ^^

  35. Though I live in one of the City (not Ward) in Tokyo, I 100% agree with all the list! What kills me is 14 hours working. Thanks God I am still a student (grad school student actually^_^)

    Cramped things are sometimes fun though I want more space in my own apartment…

  36. I love Tokyo, but I can relate to everything you said here. It also irks me that many people get so annoyed when people commit suicide by jumping in front of trains, and I’ve too caught myself sighing a little too from time to time just because you know you’re going to be stuck in that train for quite a while. I don’t want to be that person either! I really hate it when people say things like, “Why don’t you just kill yourself at home!” Suicide is a HUGE social problem in Tokyo/Japan and it’s not going to get any better with this everyone for themselves attitude. We should really be worried by the fact that so many people feel the need to do this in the first place and what we are doing to prevent it.

    So glad to hear that you and Ryosuke are feeling more at home in the countryside. Happiness is so important. All the best!

  37. That last photo says it all. Calm and idyllic.

  38. These are all very good points. My husband and I moved from China’s 4th largest city to his hometown, which still has a population of about 1.5 mil. In China, this almost counts as countryside. We’re still trying to figure out which city will allow for a nice combination of the conveniences of the city (including surroundings that will be beneficial for raising our son) + enough space and nature. I’m looking forward to reading more posts from your life in the countryside. I feel like I miss the big city when I’m in a small town, and the small town when I’m in the big city. Maybe we just can’t have it all.

  39. I was only in Tokyo for a week (no, wait, 3 days), and I travel exclusively on the Yamanote Line, and I already experienced 2 train delays caused by human accident! It might be normal for Japanese, but it really freaked me out!

  40. It was nice to hear about the other side of the story! I think people forget that living in Tokyo has both upsides and downsides. I’m actually planning to move to Tokyo next year to live with my boyfriend. I’m excited for the ‘city life’ as it’ll be a nice change pace and a new experience. But I’m sad at the prospect of leaving my wonderful, inaka prefecture that’s been my home for 4 years. I’m also worried about the things you’ve mentioned here, ESPECIALLY the rush hour trains. I hate them with a fiery passion! (>~<;) I found myself on one of the morning trains. It was so crowded I could barely breathe! I remember wanting to turn around to the person behind me and say 'I'm so sorry my butt is squashed up against your butt', but alas my language skills were not good enough lol

  41. Wow, what an eye opener! What lies beneath the surface, right? I’m glad you’re finding happiness elsewhere, I don’t think I could cope living in a city so big either, I just lived vicariously through all your interesting posts ^_^ Best of luck on your life together, can’t wait to see what’s next for you guys! :)

  42. I love visiting Tokyo, but I feel my stress level go up minutes after Shinkansen starts to pull into the Tokyo Station. I live in the outskirt of Kobe, one of the major cities, but 1/10 the scale of Tokyo. I don’t even like to spend too many hours in the central area of Kobe.

    I’ve always dreamed of living in the countryside, but many Japanese people who did that actually complain about it. The worst part, according to them, is that there is a lot of subtle pressure for fitting in. When you resist it, some people start to alienate you.

    I guess, people rely on each other when the area is unpopulated. I hope you have friends or family members in the area that can help you understand how the neighborhood is. There are areas that are more accepting of outsiders, I hear.

    Good luck on your new adventure, and I look forward to your next comic book on country living.

    • I experience almost the reverse when I go “back” to Osaka from Tokyo. I lived there first when I moved to Japan, and when I go there to visit friends I feel almost immediately relaxed as soon as I get off the train or bus. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I definitely feel differentーeven though Osaka is still big.

  43. I’m not a big fan of Tokyo either. It was great when I was 10 years younger, but now it’s just something I would rather stay away from… Especially Shinjuku station. I went hiking up Ooyama once and it was so quiet, it didn’t feel like I was in Japan anymore. Anyhow, best luck wherever you are. PS… I was doing a Google search unrelated to you at all under “kinds of people on the train” and you on the train popped up first…. Congrats I guess.

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