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Life in Japan: What Japan Needs from Canada

Living in Japan for so long, there are a lot of things I really miss about Canada. This is what I wish Japan had.

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

Having lived in Japan for ten years, there are quite a few things from Canada I don’t have access to at all.  Occasionally, I’ll be able to eat a real hot dog in Costco, find Marmite in Union, and A&W Root Beer in Carnival, but there are some things that are impossible to find here. This week’s question comes from stomperdad.

Besides family, what do you miss about Canada that you wish Japan had?

Most of things I miss are food.  There are a lot of similar fast food restaurants here, such as McDonald’s, Subway, and Burger King, but what I really want isn’t available here.

Harvey's burger and fries. Harvey’s burger and fries.

I always loved going to Harvey’s. The ability to customise your burger is missing from fast food places in Japan.  And eating a Harvey’s hamburger was so satisfying.

I’m not a big fan of pizza, since I don’t like pizza…

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Life in Japan: Least Favourite Thing

Last week, I posted about my favourite thing about Japan. This week, the question is about my least favourite thing about living in Japan. It’s actually not a controversial topic, but annoying nevertheless.

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

Another week has passed. Time goes by too quickly. Well, it’s time for another question about living in Japan. This is kind of a part two question from the last week.  Again, it’s S. R. Carrillo asking.

What’s your least favorite part about living in Japan?

JPY_BanknotesUnlike the last question, I find this one easy to answer. There are some things I don’t like about living in Japan (cockroaches, very big spiders, drivers who run red lights), but there’s one really big thing that I don’t like.  Banks.

Japanese banks are pretty similar to those in other countries.  They have ATMs, they have bank tellers, they have many services. However, the ATMs tend to only be open during business hours or slightly longer than business hours. But that’s not the worst thing. The banking system is rather archaic.

In Canada, waiting in line to see a teller isn’t that long…

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Japan is old-fashioned

When someone is asked what they imagine Japan to be like, they probably think of electronics, cars, robots and other high tech gadgets.  But coming to Japan, they will quickly notice how many places look quite old.  The buildings are simple and old looking, many houses are old looking.  Of course, this is changing with redevelopment projects and the fact that people often demolish their houses when they move out, and someone else builds a new house.  It’s a very interesting mix, though.  New and old exist here in Japan side by side.  Let’s look at the good and the bad.

The Good

Japan has a lot of old architecture, especially shrines, temples and castles.  There are so many historical places to see.  It’s unfortunate that many were destroyed during World War II, earthquakes and fires.  However, Japan has a knack for rebuilding the old and making it look old.  Places like Kamakura, Kyoto and Kawagoe have centuries old buildings.  But when it comes to castles, most of them are modern concrete reproductions.  Usually, they’re done quite well.

Another wonderful thing about Japan is the festivals.  They can often go back centuries, and showcase a lot of vivid colours, traditional dance, traditional clothing (kimonos, yukatas), and some great food.  I really enjoy Japanese festivals.

Japan has a very colourful history.  I find it quite fascinating, so I enjoy going to museums.  Japan has so many museums, and you can find tiny ones everywhere.  It’s really very interesting.

The Bad

Unfortunately, Japan is slow to change in some key areas.  The recent Tohoku earthquake and tsunami have shown government procedures for getting aid to the people who need it to be full of red tape and bureaucracy.  This is because of part of the Japanese mentality of never rocking the boat.  Status quo is safer, and never cutting corners takes responsibility away from people.  Unfortunately, people are starving and homeless because of this.  Most aid is still stuck in procedural paperwork hell.

The banking system in Japan is very inefficient.  Although they use computers all the time now, they still use a ridiculous amount of paperwork.  Waiting times are long, and simple processes are actually complex.  The banks seem to be reluctant to completely modernise.  Yes, they’ve become more modern with technology, but the procedures have to become more streamlined, too.

Many businesses in Japan are still run like they were during the 1980s bubble economy.  That business model doesn’t work with today’s global economy, and many companies don’t want to change.  One disturbing aspect of the old style business model is how many workers tend to be “motivated” with threats by upper management.

Japan is an island country, so it often seems isolated from the rest of the world.  Attitudes here are often self-centred and many people don’t seem to see what’s going on in the world outside.  With globalization increasing, Japan needs to become more flexible and put aside some of its old ways.  It can’t be successful if it won’t adjust.



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