70 Things I Learned After Living in Tokyo for 7 Years

Before moving to Tokyo seven years ago a colleague sent a glib article about 100 things you learn after living in Japan. I remember one thing – you only know how to order fish by using the Japanese names.

I still can’t do that. I randomly point at menus and hope I ordered fried chicken. I couldn’t come up with 100 things I have learned after living in Tokyo without getting vulgar, so this list only has 70.

• First thing I learned is where the Starbucks is at Shinjuku South Terrace.

• That the blue basket is for recycling cans and the yellow basket is for bottles (or is it vice versa?).

Convenience store corn dogs are called American doggu.

Ice cream servings are smaller than my urine sample.

• You can drink alcohol in public.

• Don’t miss the last train.

• Don’t fall asleep on the last train or else you’ll wake up in Yamanashi.

Karaoke bars stay open until the first train.

• The sweltering summers create a stench on the rush hour train akin to toe jam and rancid potatoes.

• Whether you take the local, semi-express, express or super-duper blowjob express, none of the trains will stop at your station.

• When obtaining your residence card at the ward office the ladies working behind the counter will laugh audibly when you tell them your wife is the head of household.

• The immigration office is the only place in Tokyo that is not within walking distance of a train station, or a bar.

• Yen bills are not Monopoly money and you can’t spend them as such.

• If you take your tax form to the ward office the guy will complete the paperwork for you without saying a single word.

• Ward office hours, like bank and post office hours, are only convenient to Japanese housewives.

• If you can’t make it to the ward office, you can do taxes yourself and mail them in the night before the deadline.

• If you accidentally give yourself an extraneous ¥20,000 refund, you have to go to the ward office to explain yourself.

• The guy at the ward office will apologize profusely, even though you are the idiot, and then further deduct health insurance and transportation costs.

• If a bar looks intriguing from the outside, it is most likely a hostess, or host, club.

• Hosts aren’t as friendly as you would expect.

• You can navigate any Japanese conversation by using three words: sugoi, oishii and honto?

• And people will tell you your Japanese is so good.

• Spending half-an-hour in a Tokyo department store trying on pants is a great weight-loss motivator.

• My wife’s bottle of eye solution looks suspiciously like mouth wash.

• Nobody understands your movie references no matter how clever.

• Wearing a Tokyo Giants ball cap will spark off fireworks of emotions.

• The walk from the train station to your home is the exact same time it takes to drink a Chu-hai Strong Zero.

• You will never develop a taste for natto.

• You will never get used to eating mackerel on pizza (but corn is ok).

• You will never grow tired of gyoza.

You never get comfortable being the middle spoon in the salaryman silverware drawer.

• You never get comfortable being the middle spoon in the salaryman silverware drawer that is the rush hour train.

• You learn how to use your ass to budge your way onto a crowded train.

• You can spread out a bit when there is an empty seat next to you as rest assured no one will sit beside you.

• It still confuses the hell out of your neighbors when you greet them with a warm hello.

Akihabara is disappointingly nothing like Blade Runner.

• Don’t go to the Skytree or Tokyo Tower unless you have a boner for telecommunications towers.

• Climbing Mount Fuji is as fun as walking up a stairwell for seven hours.

• The Shibuya Scramble never gets old.

• If a conversation with a fellow expat begins, “do you play video games?” – just walk away.

• You still can’t understand a word the Aussies are saying but it’s a good bet they are talking about surfing.

• You never feel relaxed at a Japanese barbecue, which completely defeats the purpose.

• The only fireworks festivals worth going to are the ones choreographed to Star Wars.

Cherry blossom season still makes me tingle with anticipation.

• Just don’t bother to get in the rowboat unless you are desperate to get laid.

• You want to set ablaze every cedar tree surrounding Tokyo to eradicate all traces of pollen.

Drug-on Tacos are not what you think they are.

• Drug-on Tacos are not what you think they are.

• Unlimited raw cabbage at the izakaya is sometimes your best friend.

• You snobbishly tell people you only eat takoyaki in Osaka.

• You snobbishly tell people Hiroshima okonomiyaki is better than Osaka’s.

• If the government gives you a document, no matter how innocuous, for god’s sake hold on to it. You will be laying in your coffin and they will refuse to lower you into the ground unless you can provide two copies of your 2013 health insurance receipt.

• Can anyone explain the My Number card?

• No matter how many sit-ups you do the night before, the results of your health check report will still say “grossly obese.”

• When you turn 40 the Japanese government rewards you with a ¥200 dental health check.

• Now if only they would call the dentist and make the appointment.

• Even though you have maintained a healthy bank account for five years (mainly because you forgot the password to your online account) you still can’t get a credit card.

• The number of bank accounts you have equals the number of jobs you’ve had.

• You still can’t stamp your hanko seal without smudging red ink all over.

• The last Friday of the month is Premium Friday, where everyone is supposed to leave work at 3pm and start making babies. Nobody leaves work. Nobody is making more babies.

They will ply you with beer and wine but refuse to let you dance it off.

• At Japanese weddings they will ply you with beer and wine but refuse to let you dance it off.

• The dry cleaner charges extra to clean puke off a suit jacket. (That might not be just a Tokyo thing. I haven’t done the proper market research.)

• Like a true Tokyoite you refuse to yield your train seat to seniors. Let’s be honest, their health check report is glowing compared to yours.

• You take pleasure in making Japanese people jump when you sneeze on the train.

• After seven years you still haven’t mastered the Japanese art of staying dry in the rain.

• If you move to Chofu you will never see your friends in Chiba again.

• You have a favorite convenience store that you will defend vehemently if their honor is besmirched.

• You can’t wear a yukata without looking like a gussied up pineapple.

• You’ve learned how to decipher project reports written in Excel.

• You’ve finally learned how to properly load paper into a fax machine.

• When ordering ramen, you finally know if you prefer shoyu, tonkatsu or miso ramen (shoyu).

• The coffee at the mom and pop curry shop is way better than Starbucks.

Images: Shutterstock

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