Lately my life has been an endless list of more things I need to purchase. So, needless to say, I’ve done a lot of shopping. As much as I know you are dying to hear all about the toothbrush I bought last weekend, I’ve decided to save you from that triade. Today, I figured a topic might be appreciated. Koga is basically a suburb of Tokyo. Of course, Tokyo being the largest city in the world, the suburbs stretch wide and far. However, I was shocked at the amount of similarities between my hometown and my new town. Without further ado, here is some insight into what it’s like living in the ‘burbs of Tokyo.
In Koga, like Orlando, you need a car to do most things. A bike works pretty well for most needs, but if you plan to ever leave Koga, you are going to need a car. My house sits at the edge of Koga in what used to be a different city called Souwa. At some point in the recent past, Koga swallowed up about 5 little neighboring towns. You can’t really walk to the train station without a clear day and time to kill. It’s possible, but not advisable. It takes about 10 minutes to walk to anything of interest (and typical Japan, that’s a convenience store). So, driving is usually in order to get to the heart of the action. If you really want to show your adventurous side, you can drive 40 minutes in any direction and find some larger cities with more shopping. Orlando required having a car and it always took about 20 minutes to get anywhere. The same is true here.
Also, Koga is filled with chain restaurants and stores. For “fast” food we have a McDonald’s, Moss Burger, Sazeriya, Sukiya, Joyfun, Lotteria, and Coco’s. For shopping there is Daiso, Aeon, Uniqlo, Tsutaya, Wonder Goo, and G.U. If you are familiar with Japan, these are all quintessential to any Japanese suburban town. I dare you to drive 20 minutes anywhere without passing more than one Sukiya. So, like Orlando, Koga is made up of lots of pre-fab, inexpensive options. There is plenty to do, but it can be hard to tell one town apart from another. Orlando was a lot like that. It all looked pretty similar with Target and Publix around every corner.
The other major similarity is weather. It’s colder here than in Florida, but it’s super humid most of the year. It rains often and it gets strangely hot in the summers. Not to mention, Ibaraki prefecture is a plain, so it’s super flat. I was kind of hoping for mountains, but I’ll take it. If I drive north, there are a few to see. But yea, the weather is not unlike Florida. It can be very sticky and moist, like a sauna. Or (recently) like a cold, wet fog. I wouldn’t call it ideal.
Everything is super tiny. There is a lot more stuff crammed into a smaller area here. The roads are smaller, by a huge margin. There really isn’t much in the way of central highways and the “major” roads are two lanes. In most cases, there are mirrors posted at every intersection to see oncoming traffic. The drivers here are more polite, especially since they only use their horns to warn or thank. They don’t honk at others to yell at them (mostly). Take a moment to imagine that in America.
Another difference is the copious amount of vending machines. This might not seem unimportant, but I never forget which country I am in because around every corner is a vending machine. Even in the middle of no where. I don’t know what it is about them and vending machines. On the same topic, the convenience stores and hyaku-en (dollar) shops are strikingly different. Both are a not just a part of life here, they are a way of life. Everything you could ever need can be found at hyaku-en shop, and it’s all pretty decent quality. Unlike the American dollar stores, everyone uses these shops, regardless of how rich they may be. Hyakins are a very important part of the culture here. Most hyaku-en shops are also filled with a variety of pop-culture stuff that people actually want to own. It’s amazing and I wish that this system existed in America. Similarly, the convenience stores are everywhere and equally important. They are cheap and sell lots of great things. Most notably, their bento and snack items are amazing. For a convenience store, of course.
Lastly, at the risk of this post being super massive, the final major difference is mentality of the Japanese. It’s all about caring for one another here. This might not be tangible, but it’s a major part of everyday life. The Japanese care very much about the community they live in. This can cause a lot of pressure for them throughout their lives, but it’s also a wonderful thing. People look out for one another and take pride in caring for each other. They believe in reaping good karma and positive energy and the best way to do this is to spread it around. From everyday encounters like going to the grocery store to special occasions like going to a nice restaurant with old friends. It’s obvious how much care and hard work goes into everything around here. It’s not just about oneself, it’s about everyone else impacted, too. Here, when one says “sorry,” they aren’t necessarily admitting fault, but they are apologizing for inconveniencing others. It’s harder to adapt to then you might think, but it’s a mentality I don’t think I am ever going to return from.
Well, I hope you found this both informative and interesting! In the gallery below, please enjoy some random photos from my weekend adventures here!