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What were some of the things you thought about Japan that turned out to be different when you got here?

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That everything would be very modern and high-tech.

That everyone would speak at least some English.

That people would be really short.

All of that hone-tatemae/uchi-soto/yes means no cliche garbage you read in every book about doing business in Japan.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

That everything would be very modern and high-tech.

That everyone would speak at least some English.

Agree 100%. The first time I was trying to buy a Narita Express ticket at the booth their at the airport, and even though the guy in fron of me used a credit card, I had to wait while the clerk filled out a paper receipt, I knew better about "high-tech".

2 ( +7 / -5 )

That there was uncensored porn in Japan :_-(

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Skill was not needed to show art. It was more like who you know, if your family was famous or if you had a very fat wallet to rent a place yourself. Absurd.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

That the Japanese were polite, welcoming and gracious hosts.

0 ( +9 / -9 )

That it is a First World Country, instead of a Feudal Society?

4 ( +10 / -6 )

I didn't think there would be so many whiny foreigners. My first night in Japan, I went to a gaijin pub. Nothing but complaints - they had me thinking I made a mistake in coming.

3 ( +12 / -9 )

I knew almost nothing about Japan before I came, so I didn't have many expectations that could be broken. I did have an image of Japan being a lot more green, and more high-tech, but that's about it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Agree in the whiny foreigners, mostly Caucasians though( one myself).

Having lived and worked in a few countries Japan seems to take No. 1, IME & IMO.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

As others have said, the amount of "low tech" stuff here. Not too far off the beaten path, you feel you've gone back in time.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

commanteer: "I didn't think there would be so many whiny foreigners. My first night in Japan, I went to a gaijin pub. Nothing but complaints - they had me thinking I made a mistake in coming."

Sounds like a complaint to me, speaking of.

Anyway, agree on the high tech thing. When I first got here I had a really hard time finding a computer I could use to email home that wasn't ancient or dial-up. I'm still surprised by how far behind in IT many areas are, and of course households, despite Japan creating a lot of the tech to begin with.

On a similar note, I thought houses would be better built and not things that were designed to be destroyed within 30 to 40 years despite most people still paying loans at that time.

There are heaps more, but I guess the only other thing worth mentioning is that I never thought I would hear the type of question this thread asks so much. I thought the Japanese were a proud, strong nation, but never have I EVER heard anywhere else the number of people who want to know "what do you like about Japan", or something else that gives them self-affirmation. Even people on this thread will get defensive if you criticize something instead of just talking about how great things are.

5 ( +13 / -8 )

As others - the hi-tech country that was actually low-tech blew me.

Mid 1990s - 3rd day here, entered a bank and everything was done with pen & paper and filed in paper files in a filing cabinet. The only computer I recall was on a desk which was probably the managers - but it was difficult to know as the male workers were chain smoking so visibility was poor.

An eye-opener!

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Same here with the expecting more high tech and a little more English skills.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

More high tech, the amount of paper waste here is astounding, never thought I would see crossed arms (as in no English), that people were polite but found out formal and polie mean different things.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I have been here for quite a while so for me it was the terrible toilets and lack of hot water in apartments. Why does everybody seem to expect the Japanese to speak English? This is Japan so there is no need for them to do so.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I thought Japanese love order and cleanliness. And mind you, the city streets are really neat, but once you go inside the apartments, it’s a different story.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Hellokitty123 I guess when one finds out children are sent to juku and study English (among other subjects) from a young age, one expects the Japanese to speak or understand English. English lessons at juku and school makes one envision a nation with bilingual citizens. (Just my theory on why everyone else seems to expect the Japanese to speak English...)

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I also thought they must be hiding all the great technology somewhere, it doesn't seem to make it into daily life. Perhaps it's only in factories, showrooms, and labs--while the stereotype in my home country is that basically everyone's life in Japan is androids and holograms. Not by a long shot haha!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Almost all the architecture looking like the concrete side of San Francisco's Japantown, and not the wooden-building side. Was only there a couple of days to visit wife's friends and think the only old architecture we saw was around the Imperial palace's waterpark.

Weather hot'n'muggy in Tokyo. Kudzu along the highway to the airport, like Florida.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

For some reason I thought the country would be more socially progressive. I was surprised to find out that women and men still adhere to "traditional" gender roles, like most wives staying home to raise kids instead of working.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I was prepared for the Japanese. I wasn't prepared for the toxicity that ruled much of the expat community. Although all of us do it at times, the seasoned (sage in his own mind) gaijin is a piece of work when you first arrive. My Aussie roommate at the time, the worst offender in my 10 yrs. in country, without a shred of self-knowledge called it "My Japan" syndrome. Why they are almost mortally threatened by newbies excited to be here, with some objectivity about the experience, has always puzzled me. Perhaps b/c they hold up a mirror to their own one-time disappointments. I might add that if you hate Japan and its people so much, perhaps you're projecting that loathing and perhaps your self-loathing onto newcomers.

Anyway, my own naivete about the expat population had an additional component. I did my grad degree in American lit, focusing on the Lost Generation in Paris (Hemingway, Stein, Pound ...), a group of incredibly talented artists and writers who, if not always sweet to one another, went abroad for some interesting reasons, embracing the local culture, documenting the differences in their art... When I got here I found a bunch of barely out of college kids almost exclusively dedicated to chasing tail (the guys at least). IOW, frat boys abroad.

If you stay longer, integrate yourself more, learn the language, start a family, you realize that's not the only group that's here but they sure are the most prominent and obnoxious.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I thought everyone would be a judo expert. Also was surprised not everyone wore glasses. Pleasantly surprised as to how fantastically beautiful the Tokyo women were.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well for a start I thought my credit card would work at the Visa ATM which it didnt. I thought all the women would be pretty, polite, petite, dainty and overly courteous which they are not. I thought the family unit would be very strong and families would spend a lot of time visiting relatives which they do not. I thought drivers would be well mannered and stick to the speed limits which they generally dont. I thought Japan would be more influenced by tradition but at the same time be more diverse and cosmopolitan which isnt the case. I didnt except people to be so cold and isolated with such little interaction. I didnt expect so many stories about mothers abusing and killing children. Guess I thought everyone was going to like my wife and that Japan would be a magical mix of Asian traditional values combined with the convenience of most modern societies. I didnt expect it to be so safe though and I didnt expect the nature to be so beautiful and the food to be so good or the hospital system to as advanced as it is. I didnt expect the school lunches to be so good.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

If you stay longer, integrate yourself more, learn the language, start a family, you realize that's not the only group that's here but they sure are the most prominent and obnoxious.

Those who are integrated generally don't spend as much time at the gaijin bars either, unlike those who are not integrated. So for many newbies, their experiences with long-termers are limited to those who never figured out how to integrate, and are bitter as a result.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Back on topic please. This is not what the question asks.

Stranger, you're right. Plus the integrated long-termer avoids the eikaiwa career path like the plague. Newcomers are most often filtered through that inherently embittering machine, faced with old-timers who've been serving up conversation-big-macs for too many years ... as Kurtz said, the horror the horror!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What still gets me is the slum conditions of some housing in this country, that houses can be constructed as they are in the 21st Century in Japan. The push gas water heaters, the crank to light baths --that are 2 x 2 feet-- and the real lack of deep feeling for those outside your 'uchi'. That the myth of cleanliness was exposed the moment I went to Japanese person's home, Japanese, not surprisingly, are the same as everywhere else, some people are clean, some aren't. That handcuffs and 'others' are mosaiced, and that the Feudal society is still so very apparent, but it is only 70 years ago when the Japanese were led by a god, so, well. It's understandable. Fascinating place.

@Stve, Japan, if you'd read up on it before coming, you'd have known Japan is is still very much a cash society.

@JCap, if you truly live here, you don't go to non-Japanese bars after 20 or even 5 years, anymore.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think one thing that really shocks foreigners is how cold many older Japanese homes are in wintertime--mostly because they don't have insulation and rely on portable heaters to keep warm. I think that is starting to change, as many new housing projects finally have residences with real insulated walls and windows.

With the new emphasis on energy conservation, maybe one Shinzo Abe might help sponsor a bill in the Japanese Diet to offer incentives to retrofit insulation in older housing? Insulation in homes would certainly be welcome in Hokkaido, the Tohoku region of Honshu, the Japanese Alps and cities along the Sea of Japan coastline. And it would certainly provide jobs as millions of homes get insulation retrofits.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I didn't expect Japan to suck me in and keep me here for so long that's for sure!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I thought the Japanese were a proud, strong nation, but never have I EVER heard anywhere else the number of people who want to know "what do you like about Japan", or something else that gives them self-affirmation.

Bam! That's exactly what I think, too.

if you truly live here, you don't go to non-Japanese bars after 20 or even 5 years, anymore.

Um, some of us do. Not to hook up or anything, just to meet our old friends (and in some cases the old friends actually own the bar, or are the live entertainment there).

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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