What shocks Japanese country folk about city life

TOKYO —

“The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse” is one of Aesop’s Fables and tells the story of country bumpkin mouse who visits his urban-dwelling cousin for a taste of the luxurious life. The country mouse is at first captivated by the fine food of the city, but is thrown into panic and forced to run and hide after someone throws open the door while he and his cousin are eating. There are numerous retellings of the story, but the moral is that it’s better to live with little in safety, than to live in abundance surrounded by danger.

This may be how many Japanese people feel after leaving their peaceful and secure life in the countryside for the city. Every year thousands of Japanese move to big cities like Tokyo and Osaka from outlying country areas, for work or for school, experiencing all kinds of culture shock as they adjust to new lives.  Even moving from one big city to another is an adjustment, as the character of the people and the way things are done differs by region.

Naver Matome has put together the voices of people from different regions of Japan who experienced what the Country Mouse experienced: that the city life isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

See what surprised these Japanese “Country Mice” about the big city below:

Big city facilities

Movie theaters - “At the movies when you buy a ticket you reserve a seat. I never heard of that”

ATM machines – “I was amazed when the ATM machine processed a new bank book when I ran out of pages, on the spot. I thought I was going to have to go back during business hours!”

Big city kids

“I once saw an elementary school kids eating cup ramen as they walked down the street!”

“The Christmas decorations at my train station (in Tokyo) included a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments made by local elementary school kids with their hopes and dreams for the future written on them. Most of the kids already had a university picked out.  ‘I’d like to go to so and so university and…’  Wow, that’s a city kid for you.”

“On a recent trip to Tokyo, I saw a kid in a stroller holding an iPhone. He took a look at my old model cell phone and I swear he was making fun of me. Tokyo kids!”

Big city adults

“I overheard the conversation of a middle-aged couple on the train. ‘Oh no, I left my wallet at the shop,’ says the husband. Wife: ‘Not again!’ Husband: ‘I had about 50,000 yen in it. The person who picks it up certainly will be happy!’ And they continued to laugh about it loudly. – This is Tokyo.”

“I saw a guy walking around barefoot when I went out the other day. I did a double take and checked to make sure I was actually in Tokyo. I also saw a guy cosplaying as Goku of Dragonball on the station platform, so I guess walking barefoot is nothing.

“I was standing around the other day and some guy wanted to talk to me, with something like ‘Hey little sister talk to me’ and I thought this could get complicated so I tried to put him off by making gorilla noises like ‘auh!’ I was shocked when he said ‘auh auh auh?’ right back. The adaptability of city guys. It made me shudder.”

“I miss the country…”

“Karaoke is so expensive in the city. Back home, on a weekday afternoon it is only 50 yen a song (used to be 10 yen a song). Of course you have to buy a drink, but otherwise, you are allowed to bring your own food and drink so that you only end up paying 500 yen for a good time.”

“If I fall asleep on the sofa here I wake up all cold. I miss the warmth of my apartment back home.”

“I rode the Oimachi Line (in Tokyo) for the first time the other day. I had a lot of luggage and people were staring at me. If I was back home in Osaka an auntie would ask me ‘What are you carrying in the box?’ Makes me homesick for Osaka.”

“I think about leaving…”

“I’ve thought a number of times about changing jobs and going back to the country. But it would feel like losing at life, so I can’t do it.”

“When people around me quit their jobs to go back ‘home’, it starts feeling lonely and I want to go home too. But right now I don’t have the courage to let go of my current environment.”

Technology. Why the Country Mouse stays:

“Back home there is no PC. Here I am on my third — no, fourth notebook PC. My life would be so inconvenient without my PCs.”

“When I imagine going home, he first thing I would have to do is set up for my computer, or else I can’t work!”

“Life in the country is too slow. Transmission is bad there so I like Osaka better. Think I’ll stay here.”

But wait. Softbank LTE is on its way.

Japanese mobile mobile carrier Softbank is starting a LTE service which will increase its transmission area by 90% in a month. Will that be enough to drive the City Mice back to the country in droves? We’ll see.

I feel like the city I live in, Shizuoka, is ”country”, at least compared to Tokyo. But here in Shizuoka, our ATMs use the fancy technology mentioned above and all cinemas have reserved seating, so I guess that makes us big city — at least to some people. But any hard-core Tokyo or Osaka-ites would agree to Shizuoka’s “country” status, so it all really depends on where your heart is.

Source: Matome.naver.jp

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  • 10

    sakurala

    I lived in Tokyo for a while and really enjoyed a lot of it. I loved being able to go to museums, different events and new restaurants every week. Now I live in the sticks and enjoy tending to my garden (when my neighbour doen't beat me to it) and going for drives in the mountains. But I am in a lucky stick lcation. 45 minutes to Kyoto and an hour to Osaka by train! I can go to the city on weekends to get my sightseeing/museum fix and during the week I can commute easily and enjoy the friendliness of the neighbourhood. I think this is the best place for the undecided mouse.

  • 6

    Speed

    The city = crowded, convenient and lonely. The sticks = uncrowded, nature and friendly.

    Take your pick.

  • 6

    cleo

    there are basically no jobs for people with career aspirations.

    Depends on what your career aspirations are.

    Stay in the country, and get paid a fraction of what you could get in a big city.

    Balanced against clean air, more laid-back style of life, better work/life balance, cheaper cost of living, friendlier people, less concrete. It isn't all about the money.

  • 5

    Betraythetrust!

    We used to live in Osaka and moved to the countryside about 11 years ago. At the time i would say i preferred the city but now i prefer the sticks. Lots of people friendly to me here and i join in with community stuff and am always made to feel welcome. I cannot speak Japanese well as i have have hearing problems since childhood which makes things hard but the people have all been understanding whereas in the city i had weird looks even from neighbours.

    I always thought the city people would be more open minded but they are not and seem less happy having to rush around all the time,.

  • 5

    Saiaku

    I dream about living in Tokyo, I love big cities. Among so many people, you are no one, you can do what you want and no one will know or remember you (not in a bad way)

  • 5

    Betraythetrust!

    @cubic

    I live a one hour express train journey from Osaka but live in a very rural area. Living her is very cheap and many locals commute daily. If you believe that jobs in the sticks pay a fraction of those in the city, then you do not know Japan so well. There are also great opportunities in the countryside for hardworking people who spot a niche in the market. There is still a lot of money around in the sticks and many wealthy retirees come to the countryside from the cities. In the next village from me a gentleman who trained as a chef in France has opened a very expensive restaurant, yet people come from a long way and the place is usually fully booked. A good business brain and hardworking ethic will do you well in the Japanese countryside and the view is great and there is hardly any pollution.

  • 4

    Amidalism

    I lived in Yokohama and Tokyo for a year each and now live out in Niigata's inaka. I have to say that I enjoy the life out here more than the big city. People are far friendlier, community is better, air is cleaner, closer to nature, etc. the list goes on. I still go in to Tokyo often, but can't stand it for more than a week. I find it far more exhausting there than in the inaka.

  • 4

    Zen student

    ‘I had about 50,000 yen in it. The person who picks it up certainly will be happy!’ And they continued to laugh about it loudly. – This is Tokyo.”

    I'm very dubious over whether this conversation actually took place or not. I just can't imagine anyone in Tokyo, in their right mind, saying this. It's possible that they did say this but this is not a broad reflection on Tokyo or ctiy dwellers. You would have to be one rich SOB not to be bothered to go back and find your 50,000 yen.

  • 4

    cubic

    Betraythetrust & cleo

    I was responding to the guy calling people "morons" and "sheep" for flocking to the city in my comment, but I do agree with you that the quality of life in the countryside is generally much higher (I've lived in the sticks and plenty of big cities in Japan myself). I'm sure you'll agree that average salary is way higher in Osaka than say Tottori, which is what I was getting at with the money thing. Obviously there are some well-paid jobs in the country, but nothing like the city.

    The problem is, unless you're prepared to work in agriculture, nursing, the civil service, retail, or set up a business like Betrythetrust said - what else is there? For your average university grad/mid-career job changer, the city is the only place offering a wide variety of opportunities. People who move back to the country are generally doing it because they were chewed up and spat out by Japan Inc, not because the country is brimming with work opportunities.

  • 4

    akumakoe

    This article is sourced elsewhere and this is probably really picky of me -- but is it possible to remove 'Machines' from 'ATM Machines', as the 'M' already stands for 'Machine'?

    Well yes, but the cost of living is also higher, and there are aspects of country living that simply aren't available for love nor money in the big city - clean air and green open spaces being top of my list.

    Amen! I enjoy visiting big cities very much but have learned that... I definitely do not want to live in one. Every time I'm in Tokyo for more than a couple of days I have asthma attacks from the pollution and it makes me incredibly grateful to live somewhere with clean air. I really took that for granted before. Also, honestly, whether or not salaries are higher depends on the job. The farmers where I live are living it up in gigantic western houses. Think the salarymen of Tokyo can say the same?

  • 3

    cubic

    kringis

    Maybe these morons should realise that flocking to the big city like sheep isn't the best way to serve their country. Staying in the country and helping to bring jobs and investment back into less populated regions is one of the ways Japan can save itself.

    Yeah, stay in the country where there are basically no jobs for people with career aspirations. Stay in the country, and get paid a fraction of what you could get in a big city. Sounds like a plan. Developing local economies is in the hands of companies and the government, not the job-seekers.

  • 3

    bicultural

    monolocco, ever hear the phrase "time is money?" I paid more money to buy my condo in Tokyo than I would have in Saitama, but I have a much shorter commute. I'm paying money to have more time to spend doing better things with my life than being crushed in a train, like playing with my daughter.

  • 2

    cleo

    cubic - I also felt my dander rise at the 'morons and sheep' comment....

    I'm sure you'll agree that average salary is way higher in Osaka than say Tottori

    Well yes, but the cost of living is also higher, and there are aspects of country living that simply aren't available for love nor money in the big city - clean air and green open spaces being top of my list.

    what else is there?

    Well, I look at the positions in translation and proofreading in the big city offered on Gaijinpot and elsewhere, and I can tell you I would not work for those paltry sums, especially if I had to commute/keep regular office hours. Working from home out here in the sticks I can make much more than they offer, for much shorter hours and with the freedom to decide my own time. Not everyone can work from home of course, but the bottom line is still that 'salaries are higher in the city' isn't the simple equation it at first seems to be. Rents are higher, living space is more cramped, food & clothing are more expensive, there's more need to spend money on recreation just to get away from all the concrete and crowds once in a while. Doing all the sums, less money goes further outside the city.

  • 2

    japan_cynic

    Cleo, can you expand on "better food"? Better restaurants I doubt very much, better grocery stores...maybe for a small range of local produce. But not for anyone who wants variety. I have had some fabulous meals in inaka onsens etc. But I can get some of the best food in the world, of whatever type I feel like, in the Tokyo area.

  • 2

    japan_cynic

    Even in my urban environment (not right in Tokyo, but hardly inaka) we have a farmers market with plenty of local produce. And a huge amount of fish is landed directly in Tokyo. Now, as for space, congestion, peace and quiet, of course the countryside wins hands down. But I find the food argument hard to swallow :-)

  • 2

    bruinfan

    Be careful. What some Japanese call "inaka" (田舎) is neither the big city (with cultural and entertainment benefits) not nature with all its beauty. Rather it is really crowded suburbia with lots of residential housing and little else...the worst of both worlds.

  • 1

    virgo

    It seems that "inaka" people are being a little snobbish here. It is what it is. You live where you like. I have live in Tokyo/Yokohama/New York City/Bangkok/and Atlanta in America's south as well as spending time in L.A./Miami/Singapore/and Hong Kong. I love the city and the opportunities and nightlife and convenience and meeting people on an international scale regularly excites me. I have never had a problem with the expenses, it is what it is. The countryside for more than a small amount of time bores me to tears but I do see why people like it. I like it for the same reasons. I just prefer the BIG BIG cities.

  • 1

    corner-of-my-eye

    insightful article into the japanese country mind. it was sweet the girl was sad that no one asked her on the tokyo train what was inside her luggage!

  • 1

    HesKun

    variety is the spice of life.

    I was raised in the choooooo inaka though, and I wouldn't want it any other way for my future children.

  • 1

    cubic

    cleo -

    Not everyone can work from home of course, but the bottom line is still that 'salaries are higher in the city' isn't the simple equation it at first seems to be.

    Yeah, you're right - if you're in a line of work where you can be flexible and work from home, then basically your living situation just comes down to where you want to be, but that only really applies to a very small % of the workforce right now. Things will be changing in the future when employers get more creative in how they cut costs, but if more companies in Japan allowed their employees to do their desk work from a desk at home remotely, maybe the inaka economy would be in a better position.

  • 1

    sikdjgugu

    As a single male in my twenties, you couldn't pay me enough to live out in the countryside. No good looking chicks! Five years from now, hopefully married by then, you couldn't pay me enough to live in the city. Hell no would I want to raise my kids around all these cold hearted city folk.

  • 1

    Yubaru

    Maybe it's just me but it makes it sound like the only two big cities in Japan are Tokyo and Osaka and everywhere else is considered the sticks.

    Personally speaking both places are nice to visit once in a while but there is no way in hell I would want to live in either for any amount of time. To each his or her own!

    There are large cities outside of those two mega-cities and they definitely are not the sticks either. Heck Naha is a city with nearly 400,000 people and the surrounding area included in it easily pushes 700K plus, not exactly inanka either if you ask me.

    But then again THIS is Japan.

  • 0

    Probie

    “I overheard the conversation of a middle-aged couple on the train. ‘Oh no, I left my wallet at the shop,’ says the husband. Wife: ‘Not again!’ Husband: ‘I had about 50,000 yen in it. The person who picks it up certainly will be happy!’ And they continued to laugh about it loudly. – This is Tokyo.”

    The wife and husband are just idiots. Nothing to do with Tokyo.

    “I was standing around the other day and some guy wanted to talk to me, with something like ‘Hey little sister talk to me’ and I thought this could get complicated so I tried to put him off by making gorilla noises like ‘auh!’ I was shocked when he said ‘auh auh auh?’ right back. The adaptability of city guys. It made me shudder.”

    The juvenile minds of some people makes me shudder too.

    “I rode the Oimachi Line (in Tokyo) for the first time the other day. I had a lot of luggage and people were staring at me. If I was back home in Osaka an auntie would ask me ‘What are you carrying in the box?’ Makes me homesick for Osaka.”

    Horribly bad translation of おばさん. Sounds stupid.

  • 0

    AKBfan

    Different strokes. Must say some of the comments in the article seemed a bit weird.

  • 0

    Probie

    I think the point regarding the ¥50,000 is that in the country it would more likely be handed in to the police, whereas in Tokyo the person keeping it would more likely keep it.

    I doubt it. I know many people who have dropped wallets and had them handed in at the koban with nothing missing. In Tokyo.

    This article was obviously written by some bumpkin who couldn't fit in, ran back to their shack in the sticks, and blames their lack of gumption on the big, scary city-folk!

  • 0

    cleo

    Ordinary, fresh veggies are fresher and cheaper.(Not even counting the stuff us bumpkins can grow ourselves on the extra land we have available to us). We get plenty of variety; even out here in the sticks, the next town down the road has an import store where we can get more or less anything we need - often at a price of course, but that's no different to Tokyo. More exotic stuff is available on line.

    Restaurants, I'll give you, we have a smaller choice; but with all the good stuff at home, there's little need to eat out that often, and for the few times you would want to, there are quite enough perfectly good places to choose from.

    The best food in the world comes out of the kitchen chez cleo. :-) You won't get that in Tokyo.

  • 0

    iceshoecream

    Movie theaters "At the movies when you buy a ticket you reserve a seat. I never heard of that."

    ATM machines - "I was amazed when the ATM machine processed a new bank book when I ran out of pages, on the spot. I thought I was going to have to go back during business hours!"

    In what country do they live, Japan? Coz I lived in Japan for 6 years all inaka (country side) and in all but one theater (Oyama station, Tochigi) that I've seen you have to reserve the seat. And most ATM's at the bank (at least MUFG, even after hours) process a new bank book at the moment.

    I miss the warmth of my apartment back home.

    You bet. I long for insulated buildings and houses.

    One thing I do miss from the country side (my house in the real country side with horses, cows, iguanas, etc. in the courtyard) is the surroundings (spacious places, nature and all that).

  • 0

    jumpultimatestars

    Not sure why they were complaining about the price of karaoke, it's cheap so long as you go to a cheap place. I live in Ikebukuro and there's places that are just as cheap if not cheaper than her country ones.

  • 0

    tideofiron

    This article is jam packed full of things that no one ever did or said but that's RocketNews24 for you. Fun read though!

  • 0

    gaijintraveller

    I have never had a new bank book from an ATM machine in Tokyo or the country. This must be something new. When did this start?

    Is Osaka country? I always think of it as a big city. It is like referring to Tokyo as country, which it is if you live in Okutama or the Izu Islands.

    Do people still stand in cinemas in Tokyo? I don't know as I haven't been to one for years.

  • 0

    JapanGal

    ATMs will not process a bank book that does not work. I find it extremely agitating. My 7th Mizuho bank book is now dead again.

    I live an 45 minutes from Shibuya, and 45 minutes from Kugenuma Kaigan for surfing. Two great worlds. And living in the middle is dirt cheap. I own the place with a huge roof garden, Only annoying thing are Atsugi jets. I am under the flight path.

  • 0

    Junbow

    I lived in Osaka for 20 years and in Tokyo for 10 years. Both cities are town. But I feel much differences.In general,people who live in Osaka are warm,kind,nosy and talkative and people who live in Tokyo are calm and chilly. Of cource,It depends on person.

  • 0

    lostrune2

    Prefer the suburbs, hahaha.

  • -1

    cleo

    Nothing would induce me to live in Tokyo or Osaka. The big city has nothing to offer. Perfectly happy being a country mouse.

    Hey, the food's better here, too.

  • -1

    Cos

    I'm very dubious over whether this conversation actually took place or not. I just can't imagine anyone in Tokyo, in their right mind, saying this.

    Heard it bars in Osaka. Typical oyaji yakuza bragging. And well, that they tell it doesn't even mean that happened. You must a white goose from Totoro's village to even want to listen.

  • -1

    cleo

    And yes of course, one can certainly expand on better food. Moderation in all things. :-D

  • -1

    Lowly

    I would love to move to the country. I hate the city. But this is where the things I do are.

  • -1

    Christopher Blackwell

    I think it depends of the person and whether they are people persons or not. I was raised on the edge of towns, lived in the city for several years and now live out in the boonies. I like the peace and quiet, I like the lack of crime, I like having lots of time for myself. I usually leave home once a week for shopping and then I head back home. My day off and shopping tire me for more than my work days in my home and shop. Everything that I need or enjoy I have at home, including interviewing people around the world. There is no way you could tempt me to live in even a small town, I need my space, and lots of it.

  • -1

    LostinNagoya

    Japan has one of the most beautiful rural areas in the world. At the same time that it's inaka, you soon will see a Lawson down the road. The mountains, small rivers, everything is beautiful. I lived for sometime in the mountains of Mie-ken, near Nara, Kyoto, 1h train from Osaka or Nagoya. Big cities do have some convenience, but reading a book by a small river under a gorgeous tree while listening only to birds and nature noise is priceless. By the way, I recently read an article saying that more and more people are looking to small cities to live, it's happening in the whole world.

  • -2

    kringis

    Maybe these morons should realise that flocking to the big city like sheep isn't the best way to serve their country. Staying in the country and helping to bring jobs and investment back into less populated regions is one of the ways Japan can save itself.

    Unfortunately, group mentality wins every time.

  • -2

    yawara

    I met a Japanese girl the other day in Auckland nz who had never been to Kyoto, poor thing !

  • -2

    monolocco

    Tokyo is way ti expensive!!! Why would anyone want to move there!?!? I live around Saitama area and it's cheap and although it's considered the country side where I live. It's not that far (about 1 hr to tokyo) via train. Still there is not really much of a need to go to Tokyo. I can find most things that are in Tokyo in Saitama area. I think people trying to come to a BIG city from the countryside should look at places not "IN" Tokyo but close to them, It would be cheaper and more convenient in the long run.

  • -5

    megosaa

    auh auh auh auh auh, auh auh auh auh....

  • -6

    Tessa

    Absolutely no desire to live in the countryside, especially as I don't drive and I can't stand those stupid yanki (Japanese rednecks). One of my friends has lived and worked as a teacher in several rural areas. She says that in some villages, all of the children in school have the same surname! And you know what that means ... ew. Oh well, I guess there isn't an awful lot else to do around there.

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