Since no one ever seems to write on what they “hate” about Japan, I thought I’d break the mold and do so, but found it surprisingly difficult to come up with five things. Furthermore, I found a couple things that I “hate” about Japan or, more specifically, Tokyo (where I live), are not actually things I hate so much as things I find amusing or slightly irritating. Nevertheless, I did my best to come up with a “hate” list. 🙂
1. The Sewage System. It stinks. Literally. It’s not well-sealed, and so in places where they have sewer access, such as alleyways and little-used streets, you can smell the sewage of the largest city on earth. It’s not great.
2. The Plumbing. This is one thing the Romans figured out a long time ago, but which the smartest people on the planet, God bless them, haven’t quite figured out yet. When we first arrived, our bathtub wouldn’t drain. Later, my husband opened up the plumbing system, found a hair trap and emptied it, and put it all back together. Now it drains… mostly… but even perfectly clean, there’s a part of the plumbing that doesn’t quite drain right—that is, there is always a certain amount of standing water in the plumbing under the tub drain.
3. Nanny State Signage. I guess I don’t hate it so much as I roll my eyes and laugh at it, but I thought I’d include it in the list of negatives since it can be annoying on occasion, more as an insult to my intelligence than anything else. For example, there are signs telling people to be considerate of other passengers on the train by not forcing your way in ahead of them. Well, duh. But the kind of person who is enough of a jerk to do that is not the kind of person to be halted by a sign telling them not to. There are also signs on the train warning that groping women is a crime. Well, duh. But the kind of person who would do something so completely unacceptable or break such a law is not going to be stopped by a sign telling them something is unacceptable and/or a crime (like laws making it more difficult to purchase guns when we all know the majority of criminals obtain their guns illegally anyway, so such laws only serve to disarm law-abiding citizens). The balcony on our 11th floor apartment has a sign saying, “Please don’t drop anything.” Well, duh. But the kind of person who needs to be told not to drop things off of balconies is either too young to read the sign or both old enough to know better and enough of a jerk not to care; therefore, people who might drop something off the balcony are not going to be stopped by a sign.
4. Polite Language. There are two basic forms of language: polite/formal and casual/informal. However, there are a bazillion degrees of each. Furthermore, you may have learned the casual version one verb, such as “to eat” (食べる “taberu”), but the restaurant worker will ask whether you’re dining in or taking out by using the polite form (召し上がる “meshiagaru”), which sounds nothing like the casual form! Some Japanese teachers will recommend learning the polite form first so that if you mess up, you do so by accidentally using a politer word than you needed to, rather than accidentally using a less polite form than you should have. Other Japanese teachers recommend learning the casual form first because that’s the form you’ll actually use in everyday conversation with friends. Either way, for a while, you’ll sound like you don’t know what you’re saying, which is true in every language but seems to be more true in Japanese.
5. Handicap and Children’s Access. So far, of the dozens of restaurants I’ve visited, I’ve found one that offered high chairs. One. (To be fair, the food court at the mall also had high chairs, but without any sort of restraint, so Ada kept slipping off.) Also, you’re not supposed to take a stroller on an escalator, but there are plenty of cases when there are no elevators. Some crosswalks/bridges, train stations, restaurants, stores, and even police stations have absolutely no handicap access (which also means no stroller access). (By “handicap,” I mean “wheelchair”—see my previous post regarding things I love about Japan on access for the blind.)
Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Now for the poisonous comments about how I’m such a horrible person for “hating on” such a kind and generous people…