May 1, 2017

City slicker, Country bumpkin or both?

It is time to talk about the differences between living in the city and living in the countryside. There are merits and demerits to both places and it takes a certain mindset to live in each one.

I have had the pleasure of living in both the countryside and the city and somewhere in between as well, so I have plenty of conflicting opinions that some might agree with and some might think are completely out of this world.

Now, I am not one to talk negatively about anything for too long. Everything has a balance of plusses and minuses, so while we complain about everything, let us at least find a silver lining and try to think positively for a while.

The Countryside

1. You need a car

Let’s face it. If you live in the countryside proper, you most likely need a car to survive. The distances between places is just too great and the only thing in between your apartment and the nearest mall is rows and rows of rice paddies. There is barely even a Lawson in walking distance.

Driving in Japan can be really ‘mendokusai’ for us foreigners, especially because many of us need to take a driving exam to be eligible to drive here. EVEN if you already have a license in your home country. And it is pretty strict too! Although if your home country is part of the list of exempt countries, you may skip 90% of the exam. I was extremely lucky to be from one of the countries on the list. I can honestly say I have no idea why, but I am very grateful.

HOWEVER, the positive spin to all this madness is right around the corner. For example, when you need to transport something big and heavy, there is always a car available. I remember being able to transport my 40 inch TV in my small kei-car from the AEON mall located in the city next to mine. I also made a 6 hour trip to the neighboring prefecture to get a washing machine someone was getting rid of for 100 yen. The gasoline cost was about 3000 yen, so it worked out pretty well.

2. Lack of support

Get sick? Need to go to the clinic? How are you going to do that when the nearest doctor is tens of kilometers away?

City slicker, Country bumpkin or both? photo

3. The bugs!

If Japan is famous for anything, it is the bugs! The summer heat brings all the bugs to the yard! My first apartment was built across the street to a farm. Beautiful in a way, albeit extremely dusty. Come summer, apparently no one bothered to tell the ladybugs that a house had been built on top of their homes. So they clung to the walls of the apartment building like the scarab beetles from The Mummy. Wonderful.

The City

1. The bridge of death and other noises

The city has a lot of sights and sounds. Mostly sounds though. And not all of them pleasant to be perfectly honest. Hearing the crunching sounds of rubber tires on paved roads bec1.omes as normal as cicadas in the summer. Some of the sounds you hear every day you can kind of tune out. People talking, the ding-dong of the train announcements and even the ‘ikakadesuka’ from tellers becomes white noise after a while. However, there are sounds that are almost impossible to ignore. For example trains going over a bridge you have to walk under. It truly is the sound of the deepest parts of hell and a topic for a whole other article.

2. All the people!

Oh yes. One of the densest countries in the world has a lot of people. Big surprise.

City slicker, Country bumpkin or both? photo

Good thing about living in the city includes convenience. And what better way to display that convenience than by doing Amazon Prime Now. I think most of us have ordered a DVD or book from the internet sometime in our lives, so I will spare the details. Depending on where you live, the delivery can take anywhere from a few days to a few months. Where I grew up, deliveries always took forever to arrive, if they arrived at all. Some countries just don’t qualify for receiving the Back to the Future Box Set until someone invents instant teleportation. And even then, my country will probably be the last on the list to get the technology. Sigh.

Anyway, this new service from amazon, called Prime Now is very simple. You can order a number of products, from food, alcohol, electronics and many other and get it delivered to your house in a few hours. Yes, a few HOURS. You can even see the delivery person’s location on the app via GPS and some magic.

Since the warehouses need to be in a certain close proximity from you, the area that qualifies for these Now deliveries are mostly in the larger cities. And the pure glee I get from ordering the stuff and getting it a few hours later never gets old. This alone almost makes living in the city bearable.

Another good thing about the city is the variety of places you can go. This is nowhere near as obvious as when you need to find a doctor. Let’s say you live in the countryside. You go to the local doctor and he is completely unacceptable for some reason or another (there are plenty of reasons to reject a doctor by the way), so where else can you go? If you want someone else to see you, you need to search for a long time to find one suitable and probably they live in another prefecture or something.

City slicker, Country bumpkin or both? photo

In the city, however, chances are that another doctor shows up the next day. There are clinics for every possible illness around every corner in the big cities and if you find someone you don’t like, you can just go next door (a bit of an exaggeration, but sometimes this is the truth).

This applies to almost any service in Japan by the way. Not just doctors. Massage place, yoga place, gym, coffee shop, you name it. There are at least twenty other places in walking distance to where you are sitting right now.

That is the main good thing about being a city person. The convenience in the number of people. Of course it will get a little overwhelming. Especially if you are in a hurry or something happens. During that time, all those people who make your life convenient suddenly seem to have the sole mission to get in your way and make you late.

Whether you prefer the city or the countryside or whatever gray area exists in between, be assured that Japan has plenty of it. You may have to sacrifice some comfort to get your dream home, but it should be worth it in the end.

What do you think? Are you a city person or a country lover?



European living the Japanese dream in Kansai