Whaaaat a post about bad things in Japan! I didn't think it possible and neither would anyone I talk to on a regular basis about my life here. But, like anything else in this world-- except peanut butter--, even Japan isn't perfect. I feel like 'don't like' may even be too strong of a stance to take. Perhaps 'have yet to find love for' or 'you know, it's not for me but I can see why other people like it' might be better.
But before we delve into the bad I just want to throw in a couple more good things for good measure. So my post below raved about the wonderful city of Fukuoka. Fukuoka has been featured in the news recently for having a giant sinkhole open up right outside the main train station in the city. For those in the Ottawa know, this is very reminiscent of the sinkhole that consumed part of Rideau Street right outside of the mall this past summer. The sinkhole in Ottawa caused chaos for weeks as the road remained closed, traffic was diverted, and crews worked to unsink that hole (putting the construction of the LRT even FURTHER behind schedule... but really what's a few more weeks on top of years of delay?) The Fukuoka sinkhole too caused huge delays and outages across the city. For two days. TWO. DAYS. Within a week, the hole was fixed and the street was re-opened to the public looking better than new and returning to business as usual. Sinkhole? What sinkhole? Job done.
Right, we're supposed to be talking about bad stuff here. Okay. Back on track. Boo, Japan. So without further ado, here is an albeit short list of things that I have yet to find love for in Japan.
I do not like sleeping on a futon. I don't find sleeping on the floor comfortable. Every time you watch any anime you always see people sprawled out on the floor, comfortably snoozing away on their futon. While I have definitely become more accustomed to sleeping on a futon in the 4 months since arriving, it still isn't the same as a bed. I am also a person who shamefully likes to do a lot of things beside sleeping in my bed: reading, snacking, watching TV, writing etc etc. It is much more difficult to do this when you don't have a nice wall to lean against or a table beside you to prop up your various materials and snacks. Mostly snacks. While I know this is a very personal dislike of Japan and many choose to sleep on futons outside of Japan because it's "good for your back" (I call B.S. on that one), it makes the top of my list of things in Japan that have not yet found their way into my heart. I am aware that they do sell beds here, but somehow I feel like buying a bed would be doing Japan the wrong way. It would be like coming here and not eating sushi-- it just feels wrong.
2) Garbage and recycling
Okay, maybe this should actually be at the top of my list. Or at least a tie for first place. Japan has figured out many little things to make your life infinitely easier-- things you didn't know you needed but you have actually wanted your entire life. For example, hotel mirrors that have a perfect heated spot right over the sink that doesn't fog up when you shower (brilliant!). How about hot vending machines that dispense coffee, cocoa, tea, and soup in delightfully warm cans that act as the perfect hand warmer--genius! However, there are some big gaping holes I feel they need to take a step back and address their priorities.
Namely I am referring to their garbage and recycling system. Navigating the Japanese garbage system makes putting together IKEA furniture seem like child's play. It makes Amundson's discovery of the Northwest Passage look like chump change. In some prefectures, there are more than 40 (!!) different categories to sort your garbage, recyclables and other various items. Luckily in Goto we have only about 8, but I find the majority goes into the main category: burnables. Due to their lack of landmass and large population, landfills are not a great use of their already crunched space. As such, Japan burns most of their waste. Now there are pros and cons to the incineration of garbage, and you could argue the environmental impact of both sides-- but what concerns me most in my personal garbage journey is the sheer volume that I produce. As composting green waste is not an option through the public system, all food scraps go into the trash. Another thing that is quite widely known is Japan's affinity with packaging. What I used to think was just a wonderful charming quirk of my Grandmother (gifts inside of boxes inside of bags inside of bigger bags), it turns out to be a charming quirk of the entire country-- making it wholly less quirky and charming. A trip to the grocery store produces mounds of packaging as fruits come individually wrapped and everything that has the potential to leak is placed in it's own plastic bag upon checkout. A box of cookies looks like a normal box from the outside, but upon opening reveals that each cookie is individually wrapped and placed in the tray for your convenience. My personal favourite is lady products that get put into their own little black bag so no one can see what you're buying except then you are just carrying around this black contraband-looking bag which is even more suspicious. All this to say, there is A LOT of waste produced. I try to reuse plastic bags wherever I can, but I am still faced with an overflowing drawer full at home that never seems to diminish. This is one thing that I definitely don't like about Japan.
3) Smoking inside
For a very modern country, I find it mostly surprising that smoking inside is still very common here. Smoking in general is very popular, especially among men. Of course you can buy cigarettes in vending machines! It is not out of the norm to be eating in a restaurant as the man sitting at the bar puffs away, or return home from a night out smelling vaguely like an ash tray. It's a strange juxtaposition in such a normally health-obsessed country that promotes fitness and sports at every opportunity. With the impending 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, I know major cities like Tokyo are looking in to their smoking laws to 'put their best foot forward' in classic Olympic fashion. However, I wonder how much this will affect legislation in rural areas and smaller cities.
4) Squat toilets
This is last but definitely not least. I hate squat toilets. There I said it. Using a public washroom has become a whole new experience to me. I open the door, put on the washroom slippers, cross my fingers and timidly push back a stall door only to reveal: a squat toilet. You know, I really didn't have to go THAT badly anyways. I am not ashamed to say I have googled 'How to use a squat toilet' (there is a wikiHow about it) and STILL don't really think I'm doing it right. Luckily my school has Western style toilets but I would say this is definitely not the norm. I have read several articles touting the health benefits of using a squat toilet and found this invention with the amazing name SquattyPotty (and even better tagline 'Healthy Colon: Happy Life') but I still can't see myself not constantly fearing peeing on myself every time.
5) Biking on the Sidewalk
Needs no explanation.
Okay so that is my pretty short list of things in Japan that I don't like. I'm sure I'm forgetting some things, but if they didn't immediately come to mind they can't be that bad, right? I think next I will do a list of the little things that I really love about Japan. Like onsens, Pocari Sweat, and BYOB Karaoke. Currently studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test next weekend so obviously I am using this blog post to to procrastinate. I am also getting ready to gorge myself on an American Thanksgiving feast with friends-- I could get used to this whole two Thanksgivings thing.