I am nomad. Hear me roar.


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Things I will never get used to in Japan

Having now been a resident of Japan for many months, I have discovered many things that I consider to be a bit different. Of these there a few which I believe that no matter how much time I spent in this wonderful country, I could never quite get used to, simply due to my own failure to adapt.

The first of the things that I have not been able to get used to in Japan is heated toilet seats. Now this concept I understand, I completely understand how, particularily in cold weather that the idea of a toasty toilet seat could be very appealing, but for me, it's just weird. It makes me feel like someone else has been sitting there, now I am under no disallusion that the toilet seats I have visited over my trip, and my life have been virgins. I realise that other people have been there before me, and that others will follow, but when you are there, when you are right there sitting on the throne, you just don't like to think about it. You don't like to think about any of the previous, possibly even hairy, occupants, and heated seats awkwardly remind me of this. Uncomfortable. Having said that though, there have been times, in Nagano, and Sapporo, in subzero temperatures, when that warmed receptical was very, very welcome.

Second on my list of my failings in Japan, is carrying cash. I'm just not good at it. In Sydney, I have multiple forms of payment at my fingertips in all but the smallest most backward of stores, so I have never had to worry about how much of funds actually happened to be physically in my wallet at the time. In Japan, the only method of payment available to me the majority of the time is cash, and I have to admit that I have been embarassingly caught out on more occasions than I would like to admit. Just simple mistakes I had made on days when I had been out shopping and thought that the note in my purse was of a higher denomination than it was.


Completely my error I will concede that, but again one of the things I don't think I would ever get used to here.

My third point is the much higher incidence here, of spitting in public, especially directly onto the pavement. In this case too, I'm not just talking about clear spittle, but opaque loogies in many shades, ranging from disturbing solid white, to sickly greens. The very thought of it now, is even enough to affect my gag reflexes. There has been many a time, when I have been peacefully walking along, glancing at the ground to ensure I won't trip, and suddenly having to banish the image of the path from my brain in order to keep from adding my own digestive pyrotechnics to the canvas that is the sidewalk. It is disgusting and something I could never get accustomed to, but really, with this one, should I ever have to?

So foul.

Lastly there is the staring. I understand that I am a foreigner, I understand that I don't look Japanese, so I can understand that people might be a little curious. There are times however, that I have been stared at in such an 'in your face' manner that I have checked myself in the mirror afterwards just to make sure there wasn't something seriously wrong.

One time, I was on a fairly full train on the way home from work, there was only standing room and I had one arm raised to hold onto the handle above my head. I was in conversation with a work colleague, when I felt the sensation of being watched, I glanced beneath my raised arm, to spot a head sprouting out from under my armpit. Needless to say the head, despite it's proximity, did not belong to me. It belonged instead to a junior high school aged boy with a very curious look on his face. The head proceeded to speak, "Hello-how-are-you-I'm-fine-thank-you-and-you?". "I'm well", I replied tentitively, not quite sure how to respond. I had been faced with the child's entire English repitoire, I didn't really know where to go from there. The head seemed happy enough however and had relinquished its position from at my pit, to go and giggle with the heads of it's classmates instead.

I wondered, at one point, if it would be possible to alter my appearance enough to eliminate the staring. Perhaps to dye my hair a darker shade, dress in a more local fashion, but I realised that I would never be able to mask my body or face shape. Even when I was wearing an inch of Geisha make-up and full kimono, I was still unmistakably me. So instead, I have reacted in reverse, my style became louder, and when I finished work I dyed my hair bright pink. It hasn't by any means stopped the staring, but at least it is on my terms now. A consolation I will have to survive with.

Until I learn the Japanese for "Do you want to take a photo? It'll last longer!" anyway.


  1. Shashin o toritai desu ka? Do you want to take a photo.
    Maybe ashita ya raishu ya nado sore o mimas. That's tomorrow and next week and so on you can see it.
    Hahah love the rant about cash. I only use cash in Sydney so I love it in Nihon.

  2. You're right, that is pretty good for a translation, but I'm not sure if it is a very natural phrase or not.