The last time I wrote a list of things I don’t like about Japan, I confessed that it almost feels mean and ungrateful to complain about anything here because the people are so nice. Furthermore, Japan generally has all the amenities you would expect in a developed nation, so it also feels like this whole post should be hashtagged “#firstworldproblems.” Nevertheless, there will always be annoyances for expats living in a new country, especially one in which the native language is different from that to which they’re accustomed, so here it is. (Also see my previous posts on things I love about Japan part 1 and part 2 and things I love-hate about Japan.)
- Deodorant. It just doesn’t work. I’ve tried three different kinds, even one spray-on brand. To be fair, the third one I tried does generally work as a deodorant (though not as well as American brands), but it’s alcohol-based, so if I’ve just shaved my armpits… OUCH!!! Derek and I both finally gave in and he bought some for each of us the last time he was in the U.S. on a business trip.
- Clumpy Sugar. Most white sugar here is pretty clumpy, like brown sugar. Also like brown sugar, you have to pack it to get the desired amount. Although granulated non-clumpy white sugar does exist, it’s more expensive.
- Plumbing. I’ve already talked about certain aspects of the plumbing that I hate here, but there are more. For example, in our nice apartment, the water turns off arbitrarily. There are also hair traps after the drain. In the U.S., there are hair traps on the drain itself, which you can easily access or, to be honest, force the hair around. However, hair traps in Japan come after the drain, so you have to pull out the drain and dig down to pull out the hair trap and empty it every month or so. But because it comes after the drain, everything gets caught in it, not just the hair, so it’s a pretty grisly job. Furthermore, the drainage itself isn’t perfect, even when the hair trap is clean.
- Child-Access in Restaurants. Frequently, restaurants have nowhere to park the stroller (Japanese strollers easily fold up and stand propped up on their own so that they are less than 4 ft tall, 2 ft wide, and 6 inches deep; therefore, they take up virtually no space when folded, but there is no place for them anyway). This is a big deal because most people don’t even own cars and therefore walk everywhere, so you can’t just leave the stroller in the trunk of your car. Furthermore, there is often no handicap access (I really feel for wheelchair-bound people here) such as a ramp to the entrance, so you may have to carry the stroller up several steps or even up a flight of stairs. My biggest annoyance, though, is the lack of high chairs. Every restaurant in the U.S. with the exception of most bars and non-traditional restaurants such as certain coffee shops has high-chairs. However, most Japanese restaurants don’t. And when they do, there often aren’t any straps, so you have to hold your arm across your child to prevent him/her from slipping out.
- Restaurant Pricing and To-Go. Every restaurant in the U.S. has the capacity to give you food to-go or to give you a box for your leftovers. However, most Japanese restaurants don’t, with the exception of fast-food restaurants. Furthermore, in general, food here is generally more expensive. Part of that may be due to high tariffs on certain imports, and part of it is probably due to the fact that waiters and waitresses make minimum wage here (tipping doesn’t exist, so they can’t subsist on the sort of wages waitstaff in the U.S. get). Nevertheless, even in typically non-tipping restaurants, the cost of food is much higher than you would expect; and in typically tipping restaurants, the cost of food is higher even when you take a comparable American meal and add a 20% tip to it before comparing prices. For example, a Chipotle knock-off called Frijoles in Roppongi offers their grande burrito (which is supposed to be the same size as but in actuality is smaller than Chipotle’s burrito) for almost 1500 JPY (about $15) as compared to Chipotle’s $6.50 burrito—in other words, in a non-tipping restaurant, the food still costs more than double for smaller portions. To be fair, there are exceptions (for example, sushi is less expensive here than it is in the Dallas area of Texas) and there are places to get inexpensive food (such as McDonald’s or Japan’s national version, Mos Burger*), but most food is more expensive.
*Yes, it’s actually Mos Burger, not Mo’s Burger. But it’s pronounced モズバーガー (moz bahgah), so it sounds like it should be Mo’s, but there is very definitely no apostrophe in the romaji.