Before moving to Japan, I was hell bent on never living in Tokyo. I’d heard in the grapevine that people here are rude, that it’s overpopulated and that people are racist towards foreigners. Now that I’ve spent a lot of time in Tokyo for both work and pleasure – I must say – that the rumours in the grapevine are false.
Once you’re away from the highly overrated tourist haunts – Roppongi, Shibuya and Shinjuku – life in Tokyo takes on a different character. A lot of people who work in Tokyo actually commute to the city from the surrounding areas. Known as ‘The Greater Tokyo Area’ in English, Shuto-Ken consists of: Tokyo, Yokohama, Kawasaki, Saitama, Chiba and Sagamihara and Yamanashi. With a population of 38 million, it is the most populous metropolitan area in the world.
I know very few born-and-bred Tokyo people. The Japanese I know who live in Tokyo are actually from other places in Japan: which makes Tokyo a city of outsiders. Oh yes. There’s a reason why Tokyo people have an infamous reputation. They really are different to ‘normal Japanese’ (whatever that means).
Although I wouldn’t describe Tokyo as an international city just yet – I would describe it as a foreigner-friendly place. It’s easy to get by with just English. People also don’t overreact with fake compliments when they hear you speak two words of Japanese. Now that I’ve been in Japan for close to three years – I’ve come to truly appreciate not feeling like an alien from outer space.
Tokyo people are often described as snobby or jaded – but who can blame them? Tokyo has a population of 13 million – and this excludes the 2.5 million who commute to the city everyday. And I haven’t even included the tourists and travellers. Like most major cities around the world, most people just aren’t interested in sticking their nose in other people’s business.
And I can respect that.
Yes – people in Tokyo don’t have that fake smile plastered on their face, but they have generally been friendly and hospitable to me. Compared to other places in Japan that I’ve lived in – they are also far more straightforward. It’s rare in this part of the world. Having gone through living in the inaka countryside and suburbs, I know better than to take Tokyo for granted.
Whilst every place in Japan has it’s charms, Tokyo is the only place with its own unique character. I grew to love it without even realising. Ah well – it is in the nature of life to fall in love with the most unexpected of places… and people. But I won’t get into that.