I live in Tokyo, and visit rural Chiba regularly to surf the region’s breaks. The contrast between the two, couldn’t be starker. Once out of the capital’s booming chaos and screaming neons, I feel like I’m in a different country. The country. Rural Japan; where trains stop at stations twice an hour (if there is one). Where the most common traffic on the roads are ancient grandmas or grandpas, dangerously unstable on mamachari, wobbling between rice fields. Where family restaurants and convenience stores replace nightclubs and bars as the social hub. Where young things are still dressed up in Tokyo’s cast off fashions. Where houses are walled off like fortresses. Where life without a car is tedious and impractical.
During my life in Japan, I’ve always lived in or around Tokyo. But I like to surf, breathe fresh air, feel green underfoot, and take in a sweeping view. Things not always apparent (if at all) in the capital.
Would I enjoy living in rural Japan? Well, I like the idea of it. I like the images I have of being a stone’s throw from the surf rather than an hour and a half’s drive on mad, twisted highways. I like that the country vibe might actually make me slow down, rather than being the nervous, jittering wreck that I sometimes am in the city.
In fact, I come from the countryside back home. But Tokyo has turned me city! And I’ve lost my patience. Where once, only having to wait 10 min for a train seemed remarkable, the same ten min nearly reduces me to tears now. I’m not sure I could hack rural living anymore. But I hope I’m wrong. Tokyo’s pace is unsustainable. For now though, I can’t see me living in rural Japan. Even if I wanted to, what would I do for work? Teach English, I suppose. Become a writer (he tries to suppress a chuckle).
Plus, there are many things I would miss about urban Japan. These ones the most ...
- Trains every 5 mins
- People watching
- Smoking areas
- Ease with which I can buy cake
- Access to aircon in summer (department store, malls e.t.c)
- The romance of feeling alone among so many people
- City parks
- Rooftop beer gardens in summer
- Day trips to the country (ironically)
- A fond image of living in a rural area
- Abundance of beautiful members of the opposite sex
- Not having to rely so heavily on family restaurants
- Not needing a car (I have one, but I don’t REALLY need it)
- Funny signs/imaginative names on seedy shops
- Guys with ridiculous haircuts
- Walking streets more entertaining than television
- A better connection with the rest of the world, and therefore, home
It’s the last one on this list that carries the most resonance for me. I know that a move to Japan’s countryside would seem like a move further away from home. Another connection or transfer that would need to be made before I could see family and old friends. It sounds stupid, and I know the extra distance is negligible in practice (when home is the other side of the world), but I just can’t get there mentally.
I wrote another post on City-Cost about living in rural Japan. You can see it here.
Authentic Visit Japan, looks to be a smart website introducing life in the Japanese countryside.
It’s a year old, but this article on the Japan For Sustainability website looks into the results of a survey entitled, Public Opinion Survey on the Rural Areas. OK, not a catchy title, but the article is an interesting read.
I’d really like to hear other users thoughts about rural living and urban living (in Japan). What are the things you would find difficult? What would you miss about either, the most?