Dec 22, 2015
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?
I am enjoying reading all your pieces here. I live in Utsunomiya, which is a happy half-way between country and city. It is actually a huge city by my standards but one can be surrounded by rice fields in 10 minutes drive away from my place, which is near downtown. Nevertheless, I too yearn for wide open spaces and wax nostalgic about country living. If I moved out of town to a rural area, I would miss the volunteer Japanese teachers and the interesting adults I meet who pay me well to practice English. I would miss being able to ride my bicycle to the station or an assortment of restaurants, not only the family style ones. I yearn for a garden but I think I would soon find it something I "have to do" if I had one. Thank you for making me think about this some more!
@maynestacy Thanks! A garden!! I'd love one. Had a great one back home. That said, I could quickly become a hassle. Still, I like the idea of growing a few veggies! I do want to move out of the city someday, but I'd like to have one close by that I could access easily. I love Chiba's coast, but there's nothing else out there for me. Would be nice in summer and the warmer months, but I'm not sure I would want to do the winter out there.
Oh where to start!! I am a city girl, living in rural Saitama (a couple of years ago that would have read hostage or trapped or dying in rural Saitama) and I found it really hard to adjust. Before Saitama I lived in various parts of Kanto, but always in a city, always close to the station... now we don't have a station. We have a bus... that comes once an hour. HOWEVER, there is a lot of positive to be said about rural Japan, too much for a comment, maybe I can write a response to this as a post someday. :-D Your work is always lovely to read. :-)
@Saitama Thank you. A bus! Once an hour?! Sounds tough for me initially, but I suppose you just get used to these things, don't you? I can imagine there are loads of good things about living in the countryside. I think the main thing for expats to deal with might be the risk of feeling isolated. Although, I guess some people will enjoy that. Oh, and work, but that's the same for everyone all over the world I suppose. We're all heading to the cities for work.
@Tomuu @Tomuu Honestly, when we first moved here, it was really, really hard, but you're right - you adjust, you have to it. Sink or swim and all that. I sank for a while, floated for even longer, but now I am swimming lengths and breadths!! I learned to drive, I had to. We are right by a highway though, so that's a huge plus. You're also right about isolation; since forming a community things have never been better. HOWEVER, I miss trains and having things at my fingertips and the buzz of city life. I remember when one of my friends came to stay for the first time, she couldn't sleep because of the quiet!! And then she was startled by the 5am crowing of the rooster, that thankfully (for me, not him) has since been eaten!!!!!! :-p Initial comment deleted because I used the other word for rooster that was asteriked because it was seen as a bad word. LMAO!!
@Saitama Ha! Another word for a rooster. What could that be?! Nope, not going there!!! I know about the quiet thing. It freaks me out a bit when I go back home. That and how dark it is without all the city lights. Very good to be near a highway. Luckily I'm near one, too. If not, it would make getting to the beach much more of a hassle. Oooh! It's Christmas day. Merry Christmas one and all!
@Tomuu Hahahhahah! Yes, we could have lots of fun with that one, but let's not! Very true about the lights, and thanks to that we have great views of the stars. A very merry Christmas to you too. I know its well over in Japan, but where I'm from (Dublin) it is still very much Christmas and will be for another few days. And we're even luckier that we have New Year's coming to us here. I love that, still something to really look forward to after Christmas. And the kids are counting sleeps again; this time to their Otoshidama!!!