Saturday, 5 May 2012

Otaku turned normal. So what are my feelings towards Japan now?

So yes, I admit it! I was one of those strange people who didn't have much life apart from the daily 12 hour dose of manic video gaming followed by a night long anime session, but things have changed since making the effort to live in Japan, and finally settling down here.

Image thanks to Giant Bomb

I will probably go through my experiences and feelings in more depth later on, but for this post I would just like to sum up for changing feelings towards to Japan.

How I felt about Japan before living here

Yes, Japan was paradise, it was the land of cute Japanese girls, cute anime characters, cute video game characters, where everybody was nice to me, and all my dreams could come true. It was the land of perfection, all day video games, an endless supply of anime, just paradise!

Cute girls thanks to Cafe at Home

Don't forget all your favourite Japanese foods, like Pocky and Californian roll or tuna and mayo sushi!

It is probably the same for most otaku in the west. They know nothing really about the real Japan, so they only see the perfections.

How I felt about Japan when first arriving

It was still great! A land of many things I enjoyed. Video games, anime, internet cafes, 24 hour convenience stores, just about anything you want whenever you want offered by diligent Japanese workers and at a pretty good price.

Otaku paradise - Akihabara thanks to Wikipedia and Jmho

Still with no negative experiences, everything seemed possible. Every cute girl could be my girlfriend, the whole idea of foreigners being popular meant I was "the man" and actually probably in reality "the only English man in a 5km radius".

Some things didn't go smoothly, like language barriers, or the Japanese food I knew of such as Gaijin-friendly sushi, but what the heck, life is about experience and evolution, right?

How I felt about Japan half a year down the road

After a while, I finally got to know a lot of the lingo, I understood where to find jobs, food, people, whatever. Life became smoother in certain aspects, but in other aspects I experienced failure in a country where I thought only good things could happen. This is the point where I start to avoid things that seem to be difficult, and the idea that Japan is the land of perfection starts to break down.

Old men collecting rubbish, homeless people sleeping in boxes, the lack of fresh cheap fruit and veg, negative points start to become apparent, but yet to be something that feels negative. I just focus on the positive things of Japan like drinking myself silly with all you can drink or "nomihoudai" here, or by laughing at Japanese Engrish.

Not so perfect after all.
Image thanks to Janjan

How I felt about Japan after settling down

After getting married and now having to get a steady job and nearly live like a Japanese person, this is the real turning point. Now I start to notice everything in a more negative way than reality. All those things that I actually loved back home seem impossible to get here, and too far to get from here, so I start to feeling really down.

No cheap fresh fruit and veg, world produce, food without tons of salt, rubbish processed fats, refined starch, the lack of decent wholemeal bread, the necessity to eat white rice with everything, even sometimes with noodles, super sweet sweets.

Believe it or not that cup ramen has the daily allowance of salt in it!
Image thanks to Wikipedia and Brokensphere

It doesn't stop at food, convenience stores being too convenient, "irasshaimase" sounding like a pointless drone to the day, English that just makes no sense, oh the list could go on all day.

This point of realization is where things totally switch round. It was at this point that I seriously considered every possibility in my life again... but yes, I came here for more than a pursuit of an unrealistic otaku dream, so I am still here now.

How I feel about Japan now

I am back to being my realistic self.

There is a lack of cheap fresh produce but if you search it is not too bad, if you find import shops there are quite a few things from back home available, yes everything is loaded with salt but there are foreign brand food and foreign restaurants with normal sodium dose foods available, and you can always cook food yourself from scratch, more expensive foods have better quality ingredients, in reality rice isn't necessary depending on the shop.

Convenient stores do remove the feeling of everything closing at night and can feel a bit stressful but if you don't go to them you quickly forget about them, "irasshaimase" can feel like a drone, especially in those fashion stores with those dorky boys wearing some stupid Engrish as if it is cool, but honestly just don't go to those stores, places like Hankyu department store are much more welcoming.

Bowing cat thanks to Kancoro

So in reality the extremely negative things aren't so negative after all.
Japan is actually a great place, but it is our over-expectations that can threaten our enjoyment in the long run.


  1. I got positive about my country by your diary!

    1. Japan has many great things. You should be proud of your country.


  2. Not only is there tons of salt in everything, there's tons of MSG in pretty much everything. If you go to a conbini, for fun just pick up a few things and look for the アミノ酸 (MSG) in the ingredients. Once I started paying attention to it, I was almost shocked. Most people don't have noticeable reactions to the stuff, but apparently even if you don't it does damage to the brain.

    1. Yeh, I know what you mean. There are lots of things I pay attention to. Margarine, shortening, and other dodgy fats are one of my main concerns. Seriously it should be natural butter or lard, or for non-animal fats just some natural vegetable oils, not some unnatural processed grease.

      I also don't trust MSG and try to avoid it as much as possible, but in reality it is used for almost everything in Japan. I am not sure about effects on the brain, but to me it just tastes rotten, I always crave fresh salad afterwards.

      The main reason I mention salt is that the amount of salt is listed. Even so, it doesn't seem like Japanese people care. Most people would go crazy in England if they saw the amount of salt in foods in Japan.