Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Great Place to Live #2

You can check out Paul's A Great Place to Live #1 here.

Paul pointed out to me that I have written two posts on why Japan is a great place to visit but none on what makes it a great place to live. This is strange since I’ve lived in Japan a lot longer than I’ve been a visitor. I think I lost my visitor status the first time I chose a Japanese squat toilet over a western toilet. I wasn’t trying to get in touch with my Japanese roots or anything, since I don’t have any, but was trying to avoid a cold toilet seat in the middle of winter. Either way, that was the day I became a man. Not really, but whatever.

Today is the day I come of age.

I’ve lived in Japan for over four years. I didn’t always live here for over four years, in fact, there was a time about four years ago that I was new. The plan was to stay in Japan for a year, travel a bit, become perfectly fluent in the language (how naive I was), and get back to America in time for supper. Of course, as all great stories go, our protagonist met a girl, who might have been his antagonist, but she was cute, and continues to be. I got married and now I’m still here. In that way Japan can be a trap, but it’s a happy trap. Like a mosquito getting trapped in sweet, sweet amber and then being used to clone dinosaurs.

"This bug is smiling at me"

Instead of sharing what is great about Japan as a whole I think I’ll use my experience of living in three prefectures as a way to show how, like any place, Japan is different depending on where you go. I’ll give away the ending and say as far as I can tell every place in Japan is A Great Place to Live.

I started my journey in Hyogo prefecture where I lived and worked for three years. Hyogo is in the Kansai region, which is an amazing place to live. I was thirty minutes to both Osaka and Kobe and fifty to Kyoto by train. Of course when any band does a Japanese tour, or whenever there is some neat event, nine times out of ten they will go to Tokyo. Well, eight times out of ten they will then go to Osaka or Kobe. So in a way, you get the convenience of living in a cultural hub city and also the variety that comes with living in a trifecta of metropoli. I'm aware that ‘metropoli’ isn't a word but it sounds much better than ‘metropolises’. Each city is also completely distinct from the others, from their histories to their people to their style of dress. A famous Japanese dialect is the “Kansai dialect” but that’s a bit of a misnomer since it varies between cities and sometimes within the cities themselves. Living in Kansai I loved the fact that in one day I could take a boat tour around Kobe harbor, go to a festival at a shrine in Kyoto, and party the night away in Osaka. I’ve never actually done that in one day, but I could have.

 I finally feel spiritually grounded. Now, to Hooters!

I loved it there but my wife’s company transferred her so I quit my job and moved south to Miyazaki Prefecture. Miyazaki’s current claim to fame is their fruit and meats, though recently they’ve had problems with foot and mouth disease. Thirty or so years ago Miyazaki was better known as a popular vacation and honeymoon spot, but when the yen became strong people started going overseas. A formerly famous place in Miyazaki was Sea Gaia. It was a huge indoor beach that would have been immensely popular had they built it near Tokyo or Dubai, but instead they built it next to the beach. Their target market was the people who want to go to the beach but hate being outside. You may have even seen pictures of this place since it made the rounds on the Internet a couple years back. Miyazaki was a great place to live, especially after all the busyness of being a near a big city. Everyone was laid back as they tend to be in warm places.

Amazing, those people look so lifelike.

I’m now on the newest leg of my journey. Last month my wife was transferred yet again, this time to Tokyo. I quit my job yet again, and followed her. At this moment I’m living it up in the world’s biggest metropolis. I’ve only been here for a week so I can’t pretend Tokyo and me are intimately familiar, but so far I like what I see. Everything I couldn’t get in Miyazaki I can get here, usually just by walking down the street. It’s a bit much sometimes. It was easy to choose a restaurant or bar in Miyazaki since the pickings were slim. Here you have the choice between that cool Thai restaurant, or that other cool Thai restaurant, or the five Indian restaurants, ten Italian and French places, or the fifteen Chinese restaurants, or the hundred Japanese Izakayas, or even an amazing Portuguese place that has quickly become my favorite. There was an event last night where you pay 3,000, go to four participating local restaurants or bars of your choosing, and get a drink and appetizer. All the places I went to were great and I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.

So yeah, Japan is A Great Place to Live. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t still be here. Of course I could go on and on about the friendly people, the world’s best customer service, clean streets, excellent public transportation, delicious and healthy food, etc., etc., but I'll have to save those for another post. That's the carrot on the stick. Hope to see you next time!

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