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What it's like to live in Tokyo

September 24, 2014, 8:55 pm | This story has an Influence Score of 2401

By @mariocantin

Tokyo is the capital of Japan. Ten percent of the world's Fortune 500 companies are located there.

To tell us about this wondrous city, we turn to Ayako Mie, a staff writer at the Japan Times, who has gracefully accepted to be interviewed for this story.

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Ayako was born in Tokyo, which she describes as a great place to live --- very clean, safe, and convenient. "You do not really encounter crazy things you probably would elsewhere", she explains.

"I basically grew up in Tokyo but went to high school in LA because I wanted to see something different from Japan. The American way of living and think really resonated with me. I came back to Japan for college and I worked in Tokyo for a while before my work sent me to Washington D.C. I also went to Berkeley for grad school to advance my career and came back to Tokyo after my master's degree."

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She goes on to say, "My perception of Japan has been somewhat negative because I thought it is boring and it lacks creativity. But after my recent trip to DC and New York, I realized Japan is not a bad place to live actually. It's very convenient. When I buy a train ticket I never have a problem and I can buy a 200-yen ticket with a 10,000 yen bill. In the US, you really cannot do that and the ticket machines are often out of order. Japan is very meticulous about customer service, which I took for granted. But I've come to realize that it's a rare and valuable quality.

Also, we have everything here. Lots of my American friends ask me if there are anything I want them to bring from the US but we DO have everything either it be European, American, or Asian goods. Japanese are very keen on the latest fashion or culinary trend, which is probably why we have more Michelin star restaurants in Japan. If we find something trending globally we literally bring it to Tokyo. I think it's great from a global perspective, but at the same time it could be boring as the beauty of traveling is to have or experience something we do not have in our home country. There are definitely lesser things we do not have here. But there are few exceptions; we do not have authentic bagels or great Greek yoghurt!"

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Commenting on what she has eventually discovered about Tokyo that she had not originally realized,  she explains, "The service and politeness that the Japanese demonstrate to its customers are great. But it does not mean Japanese can be friendly to anybody from the bottom of their heart with foreigners. It's basically a de-facto homogeneous nation although we do have different people such as Ainus or Okinawans or Koreans or Chinese who were brought to Japan. And there is still a sense of xenophobia in this country, although it's changing especially among the youth."

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I also inquired as to how life in Tokyo differs from living in other cities. "Tokyo is much more convenient than any other cities in the world, maybe. It's clean especially the public transportation system, which is much more reliable. Tokyo is orderly. You would not encounter anything crazy with a few exception. But at the same time it lacks creativity. You may call some pop culture in Japan is creative but I am more talking about people's mindset. They feel they have to abide by rules when a little bit of tweak might bring much more efficiency and breakthrough. ", she replied.

With regards to which aspects of Tokyo she wishes were different, Ayako rejoined, "I want 24/7 public transportation system. More public wifi and more plug-ins at cafes!


I asked what other insights she could provide about  Tokyo which would not easily be found by simply doing a Google search. Our urbanite had this advice to offer, "Thanks to the great public transportation system, Tokyo can offer variety of activities for tourists.  You can explore the traditional town of Kamakura with lots of temples and shrines, or go to Yokohama to explore its foreign influence. Tokyo is a mixture of historical and modern neighborhoods. Many people go to modern a neighborhood but I think the beauty of Japan is really found in old neighborhoods such as Yanaka, Yushima, Nihombashi, or Kanda."

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I was asking whether Tokyo offered her a career advantage. She responded,  "Not really. But because I do not have a driver's license, Tokyo's public transportation system really helps to me to go everywhere, something that's difficult in the US."

Other cities in the world that Ayako would contemplate living in are New York, DC, Hong Kong, and the Bay Area.

In parting, she summarizes her thoughts about Tokyo as follows, "Fast-paced city life with a hint of traditional beauty".

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