For many Japan is a dream travel destination. People love the food, anime, manga, cute girls and unique culture of this beautiful country. The best thing about living in Japan isn’t on this list though. The best thing about living in Japan is…
The amazing feeling of safety
As soon as I stepped off the plane, fizzing with nervous energy, I also felt a weight off my shoulders. Everything seemed so calm and relaxed. On the way to my hostel there was a misunderstanding with where I wanted to go, instead of charging me anyway like many taxi drivers in other countries would, he just wiped the fare.
In Tokyo I spent hours walking around the city feeling perfectly safe. On the Tokyo Metro it was common to see bulging wallets in Tokyoites trousers. People left their phones on tables in restaurants whilst they went to the toilet. There just wasn’t the obsessive bag holding that’s common in other countries. Especially countries where pick pocketing is a problem.
At first I found this feeling of safety perplexing. After all I travelled solo for ten months and saw my fair share of pick pockets and thieves. Was it a lure to get me to be more lax so I don’t notice is something is stolen? After a while i settled down and started to enjoy this feeling of safety and security.
I should have guessed that Japan was safe when my employers told me to bring my start-up costs in cash. Cash? In Vietnam I barely carried $20 without worrying and if I did carry $20 it would be stuffed down the side of my bra or in my pacsafe handbag. Now I was being asked to carry thousands of dollars in cash to a new country and just hope that everything will be ok?
Well, yes Everything was alright. At first it felt like such a burden carrying that much cash around but after a while I just forgot about it.
Japan is a cash society. Despite being known for its technological advances it’s pretty far behind in many ways! Hardly any stores accept credit cards and the card for my bank can only be used to get money from ATMs, it can’t be used in stores like a debit card in the UK. Cash is king.
ATMs even charge you for getting money out here, this fee changes throughout the day! Most Japanese people withdrawn the majority of their wages on payday and keep it in their purses or at home. Can you imagine this happening back home?
Low risk of theft
Before I came to Japan one of my friends told me that she left her iphone in a club whilst on a night out in Tokyo. Once she remembered where she left it she calmly walked back to the club and her phone was where she left it, safe on the table. Before I came to Japan I found this quite hard to understand. Most countries that I’ve travelled to have had a moderate risk of theft or pickpocketing so I’ve learn’t to be careful over the years.
Since I’ve lived in Japan I’ve got used to leaving my bag at the table in the bar or restaurant when I go to the toilet and lazily leaving my bag open when I’m shopping so I don’t have to keep opening and closing it.
I would never dream of doing this in any other country! When I went to Thailand for my summer vacation I was worried that I’d forgotton how to look after my valubles. Luckily I remembered and didn’t have anything stolen (but I did have many other accidents happen…..).
Thats not to say that theft doesn’t happen here, because it does. I’ve never heard of any incidences of theft since I’ve moved here though and I think that’s unlikely to change.
I find Japanese men very different to Western men. I noticed this in my first few days in Tokyo. Japanese men don’t seem as aggressive and macho as some men can be in the West. Back home it’s common to see men fighting or arguing in the street, sometimes cat calling women. In Japan this rarely happens. Men are masculine but in a subtle, confident way and they don’t seem to feel the need for overt masculinity like some men feel in the West. This means that I can walk past a group of men and feel perfectly safe. In other countries it can sometimes be very scary.
Mens style is also a lot more feminine than Western countries. Most men have a perfectly groomed mop of hair and it’s quite normal for men to carry handbags.
Oh Japanese teenagers. So different to teenagers back home. Children here have a lot more freedom and so become sensible and independent years before many Western teenagers. Junior high school in Japan is notoriously stressful and time-consuming so you are more likely to see Junior High students wizzing past on their bikes going to their sports club or after school English club. You just don’t see teenagers hanging around on the street.
If I walk past a group of teenagers here they are more likely to smile and say hello than be abusive. They have a lot of respect for Adults and especially teachers who they call ‘Sensei’, (Person born before another).
Once I was riding to basketball club on my bike at night. I saw two teenagers in front blocking the way so I rang the bell just to inform them that I was coming. To my surprise the two teenagers (in school uniform at 8.30pm) stood to the side and bowed deeply in unison whilst saying sorry. I was deeply shocked by this but It demonstrates the deep respect that Japanese teenagers have for others. Can the same be said for many Western teenagers?
All opinions stated in this post are my own, drawn from my experiences in Japan and other countries. I’m well aware that not every Western person reacts the same but I’m just trying to compare the experiences I have over here with experiences I’ve had in other countries. Japan isn’t a perfect utopia and crime does happen, just not as frequently in other countries.