Simply put, I don’t LOVE Tokyo.
But sometimes I’m not even sure I LIKE Tokyo.
It’s not an opinion I like to voice, especially since I assume most of the people living here are huge Tokyo proponents. And I’m not a wet dish rag kinda gal- there’s usually no point in complaining, especially to people who probably disagree.
When people ask me what I really think of Tokyo, I feel like I’m not supposed to tell the truth. Sometimes I lie. I fear my reasoning for disliking Tokyo will come up short, that my opinions are the ignorant and ill-informed opinions of a foreigner. And if one more person tells me the only reason I don’t like it here is cause’ I’m not getting laid, I’ll vomit all over them. Because as much as I hate to admit it, it’s probably true. And bitterness is NEVER a good defense.
But now that I am contemplating returning back to America, I feel it’s as good a time as any to let it all hang out. Besides, at this point, it’s more daunting to avoid answering than it is to tell the truth. So I’m gonna go ahead and do something I don’t usually do- I’m gonna talk a whole lotta shit.
The things dislike about Tokyo can easily be categorized into two compartments:
1. Basic things I dislike about Tokyo that are fundamentally, undeniably true.
2. Personal things I dislike about Tokyo from a relative perspective.
The undeniable truffs’:
- It’s fucking crowded. In Tokyo, you are always in someones way. Rush hour train rides are a claustrophobic persons worst nightmare. You are never ALONE, and I for one, love being alone.
- Space, in all definitions of the word, is limited. There is something integrally wrong when someone can touch all four corners of their apartment while sitting in the middle of the room and still pay 900$ for rent.
- According to a 2009 BBC report, Tokyo is the most expensive city to live in for expats. I’m still bitter about the 18$ movie ticket.
- Fruits and vegetables are scarce and overpriced, which is a downer if you’re part hippie. Or from Los Angeles.
- Men in Tokyo wear BRAS! Men in Tokyo wear high-heals. Men in Tokyo carry purses. They spend more money at the salon than I do (and I get jealous when they’re prettier than I am). Men in Tokyo cannot grow facial hair. The fact that Japanese man are more effeminate than western men is true. What’s relative to me is that I miss big dirty, smelly guys with mutton chops and dirty staches’.
- To say that Tokyo is a superficial/materialistic city would be a relative opinion, but fact wise, I quote this: In Japan, “a population not even half as large as that of the United States consumes an incredible 41 percent of the entire world’s luxury goods.” Say what?! “An area only about the size of Montana, Japan is studded with 34 Bulgari stores, 37 Chanel stores, 115 Coach stores, 49 Gucci stores, 64 Salvatore Ferragamo boutiques, 50 Tiffany & Co. boutiques, and 252 stores of the LVMH Group, a conglomerate of many of the world’s leading brands including Louis Vuitton, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Berluti, Moet & Chandon, TAG Heuer and De Beers LV, a joint venture with the world’s leading diamond group.” People here spend a lot of time and money keeping up with the Joneses’.
- Males reign supreme. Sexism lives.
- In this country, feigning rape is considered a turn on. Japanese women pretend to dislike sex to please their partners. There are so many things wrong with that situation, I could write a book about it.
- People here don’t break rules. They don’t even know how, which is like, really sad.
- Oh yeah. And there is no public transportation past midnight.
But in the end, all that stuff is inconsequential. It’s a small price to pay to live in one of the great cities of the world. It’s not like London and New York are perfect, either. And if crowds and shopping and rape are your thing, well then, Tokyo is like a shopping rapists paradise come true!
But seriously, my dislikes for Tokyo are more personal, and I feel bad ragging on Tokyo cause’ I know it’s not her fault. She’s actually really pretty at all lit up at night with her symmetrical buildings and flashing signs. It’s just that there are some things I can’t seem to accept, that’s all, and I want to make clear that I am in no way arguing that my culture is better or that Japanese culture is worse. The following dislikes are based much more on personal preference than anything else.
1. I don’t like Tokyo because abstract, on the fly aesthetics are painfully contrived. This is by far my number one biggest gripe with Tokyo. I am a HUGE fan of Japanese architecture, film, and high-fashion- because the details and simplicity that go into these arts are very unique to the Japanese style. But street art of any kind is completely devoid of soul and integrity. The store designs, the graffiti, the street-fashion, the music, the people- everything is done as they think it’s supposed to be done, every step premeditated to make it look as if it were natural.
In New York, when you see graffiti on the bathroom wall of some dive bar, it’s there because some drunk, debacherous kid was restless and bored and fucked shit up in the name of rebellion. But when you see graffiti on the wall of at a Japanese dive bar, it’s there because the bar owner hired some professional to come in a tag up the walls at 10$ an hour. This, to me, is one of the saddest things I”ve ever seen and it breaks me heart every time. (It can be argued that this type of poserism is prevalent in every city. I disagree but I’m too lazy to argue my case).
2. I MISS BLACK PEOPLE. Well, I miss diversity on the whole. But black people know how to party like this. Asians do not.
3. If you like Disneyland, you’ll LOVE Tokyo. Tokyo, like Disneyland, is sterile. It’s too clean and really safe, which are admirable traits, but also unrealistic. Tokyo is like a bubble where people can live their lives in a very naive and enchanted way because real problems do no exist. Homeless and disabled people are not considered real human beings here. Like Disneyland, Tokyo is a fabricated city based on the idea that the truth should not be acknowledged, that it’s okay to pretend that the world is a place filled with only good and no bad. If you like perfection, Tokyo is inspiring. But if you happen to like imperfection, if the flaws and gaps in reality are beautiful to you, than Tokyo can very easily feel like a city without a soul.
4. Tokyo has one of the highest suicide rates of any city in the world. It’s really nice that health rate here is high, but its kinda pointless if you’ve got people offing themselves in front of trains EVERYDAY. What’s amazing to me is how the Japanese are able to go against human nature to withstand such unnatural life styles. I’ll be the first one to say that I admire them deeply for their ego-less mentality, selfless sacrificing and overall hard work. But dayem, yo…. it’s kind of depressing. People walk around all day like zombies, thousands upon thousands of men dressed identically the same. All the life been sucked out of them. People don’t smile, or talk to strangers, or even acknowledge you if you slip and fall. In fact, they rarely stop at all. There’s something completely unnatural about this way of life, even kind of creepy. All too often I hear from Japanese people that they simply are not happy.
5. I’ll just have to compact all the rest of my complaints into one last point, cause sadly, these could go on forever. Japanese people are conformists, which can be beautiful, but also very boring. They don’t usually tell you what they think or express their own unique thoughts, assuming they have any at all. They love passivity (passive voice is used A LOT in the Japanese language) so nothing is ever done head on. Things that can be done in 10 minutes take 30. They have a terrible sense of humor- everything is funny to them. They laugh and over compliment you to appease you. There is no sense of community- your neighbors will ignore you because they don’t want to get “involved.” There’s no open communication, no reaching out. There is a general sense of loneliness in the air. Or maybe, I just feel lonely. And maybe that’s what this is all about.
But in my defense, for everything one thing that drives me nuts about this place, theres another thing equally beautiful and titillating and wonderful. Note that I don’t hate Tokyo. There are in fact a plethora of things I LOVE about this city, all of which weave into my mental pattern as I consider how much longer I will stay in this city. But I guess I’ll have to get into that next time.
PS. For all ya’ll Tokyo lovers or fellow friends in Tokyo, I welcome any feedback. I look forward to hearing varying opinions.