As many readers of Otaku Lounge may be aware, this is now my second stint living in Japan. I got my first full-time job here, lived completely alone for the first time here, and have basically come to think of it as my second home; I couldn’t possibly list every single thing I like about it. That said, no country is perfect, and there are definitely things about Japan that sometimes rub me the wrong way.
The following can be considered a series of brief open letters to Japan – letters that definitely shouldn’t be taken too seriously, since the topics I’m addressing here usually stir up a weird mixture of affectionate exasperation and amused bewilderment (as opposed to a burning rage of a thousand suns).
1. Dear Japan,
Given that you’re such a cash-based society, could you please find your way to making widespread 24/7 ATMs a thing? Yes, even way out in the boonies. It’s not that I mind paying by cash instead of card at the supermarket, or burrowing deep into my specially-bought coin purse to triumphantly find the exact change for my konbini purchase. However, when I suddenly realise (with an impending sense of doom) that I don’t in fact have quite enough cash in my wallet and it’s now 11.01pm (or 5.01pm if I’m at a non-konbini ATM), I’m bound to start harbouring feelings of resentment.
2. Dear Japan,
Is there any particular reason you feel the need to plastic-wrap every single cookie in the box? I can understand plastic-wrapping the individual omiyage to a certain extent, for I too appreciate finding non-stale snacks waiting for me at my desk in the office, courtesy of a thoughtful coworker who’s been away travelling. Individually wrapping those supermarket bananas, however, is just getting ridiculous. For such an allegedly environmentally-conscious country, you’re generating quite literally tons more waste than is necessary.
3. Dear Japan,
It’s funny that we just talked about your waste, because all that has to go somewhere. Specifically, it has to go into about 12 (I wish I were exaggerating but I assure you, I’m not) different trash bags, all especially marked for every single town, depending on the exact nature of trash. They all need to go out on different days too, again depending on the individual town. And just to rub salt in the wound, putting the trash out any earlier than the pickup day is technically illegal. So not only do I have to drive out to my community trash point before work to drop it off (yes, really – it’s far enough away that it requires either a drive or a 15-minute walk each way), but at any given time, I potentially have up to 12 differently-coloured trash bags just sitting in my apartment, some of which are waiting for their once-a-month-only trash day.
4. Dear Japan,
People here have a speeding problem. I’m not talking just one person in 10, or even 1 person in 5. I mean literally everyone. If the road ahead is clear, they only slow down to the actual speed limit when there’s a speed camera coming up. How do they know when a speed camera is coming up? Because by law, they’re all helpfully signposted, that’s how. My suggestion would be to either raise your currently normal (and admittedly very low) speed limit on the open road from 50km, or else stop constantly warning everyone where the cameras are. Then maybe the government could use the extra money from all those speeding tickets to install more 24/7 ATMs.
Question of the post: Got a short open letter you’d like to write to Japan yourself? Don’t be shy, leave one in a comment.