View Full Version : I was so surprised? Is this true?
2002-01-07, 09:56 AM
Is it true that there is little or no Central Air or AC/Heating system is most apartments, houses etc? I can not understand this? I have a friend there who complains about this so much! Is this really the truth. Do you really freeze in the winter and sweat in the summer? As she tells it, she is living a 3LDK, and explained or complained that you have to buy an independent AC or heater for each room, or freeze in the winter and sweat in the summer! Also that most Bathrooms are seperated from the shower, sink area. I know it must be cold there now being winter. I was accepted into the JET program, but if this is true, (I may not accept the offer)! It seems to be very uncomfortable as most Western countries are used to cental air? Can someone give me some advice as to living conditions there in Japan? Japan seems to be so advanced in many ways, but are there many wide gaps? Information would be helpful.
Thanks in advance for your advice!
2002-01-07, 11:26 AM
Welcome to the grand illusion!
Hi-tech computers that no-one uses, ticket vending machines that are so difficult to use they employ people to stand next to them and help passengers, banks with ATMs that shut down early, globally ignorant families that don't have a book in their house, high income households with low quality of life, the concrete vista, ahhh, the list goes on....
Problem is most of the material in the popular press written about Japan is from coffee table book writers who stay 4 nights in a posh Ginza hotel and think they know the place, foreign business persons who wax grandly as they are scared stiff of losing a contract, culture vultures who cannot see beyond the tatami mats and silk kimonos, and of course the whining postings of people who are not happy here, it is hard to find objective reporting.
But, in summer open the windows, the houses are cool with a fan on, and listen to nature! In winter gather around the heated table, and rediscover what family life and social gathering means. You'll maybe start realising how much unnecessary baggage we from the West carry around with us, and how much energy we throw away with our environment. A/C central air are all wasted as we heat whole houses and yet spend time in one or two rooms. Only a few of the Western countries have those facilities, such as the US or Scandinavia, most Brits still shiver in cold damp houses.
But if you are so unadaptable and unadventurous, better stay home in your AC house or apartment and surf the internet. And tell your friend to shut up or go home; there are more than enough foreign whiners here as it is.
2002-01-07, 04:25 PM
Thanks, I did have an illusion of Japan. Do you think many foreigners complain because they are so used to the simple things, not having to worry about heat or ac, atms etc. (What Westrners think is simple). I amJapanese American, and I guess considered used to the Western way of life. I guess if your used to just walking in your home or apt and hitting a button only that controls the temp, It would seem unbearable to Westerners I guess. I think so many foreigners complain because they do have this Illusion of Japan, I did. Many friends that only did the Hotel thing, etc, said Japan is just like the states, but that was visits to Tokyo, again the Illusion. So the answer is Japanese really only use one or two rooms, and are used to this. So finding an apt there with central and Western ammenities are difficult , I gather? My girlfriend did not realize the conditions and had that illusion, and she is coming back home, she said it seemed like indoor, outdoor camping , whatever that means. I guess I should really appreciate what I have here, and I took those simple things for granted and Americans and Western countries should appreciate what they have (living conditions I mean). I have heard so many complaints , but it is easy to say go home but, she did not realize the conditions, and I really think most dont. I really think most have this illusion of Japan, that Japan is like the US or Scandinavia, etc.
Thank you for your advice and your imput.
2002-01-07, 06:07 PM
You can find "Western-style" apartments with heating, but they are quite expensive, and usually aimed at the corporate expat type market, where their company pays, and prices can be from 200,000-500,000 per month. Without heating would be 100,00 plus.
Why do foreigners complain? Lots of reasons I suppose. They are not happy here, they never bothered finding much out about the place before they came, they're intolerant, their job is not what they expected, they have difficulty finding friends, they are inflexible, they have no wish to integrate and adapt, they yearn for back home, they are frustrated in their business/ social dealings with the locals, they can't stand the food, all sorts of reasons - take your pick!
I live an older wooden house with my family, have one gas fire and one oil fire, plus some small ceramic heaters, but no A/ C and just move them around the house as we move rooms. 14 years and still OK. In summer, we open the windows, which have mosquito screens, or use coils, or go out into the garden.
Funnily the Japanese camping sites are so organised, with cooking ranges, showers, bed areas, that there are very few who go camping and hiking the real way, carrying your tent, food, water, supplies, stove etc, as we do. Back to the wilds is like Canadians in their huge Winnebagos with portable TVs and electric ovens.
Again the illusion. Is Japan an advanced country or not? Economically, GDP-wise, transport-wise it is advanced, but business-wise, living-wise, it is the same as the other Asian countries, probably worse, as they are not living an illusion, and acknowledge their state. Is Japan part of Asia? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
I personally do not miss these energy-squandering Western appliances and rooms, and have adapted to what is here, but having lived and worked in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, I learned what poor and underdeveloped really means.
As a Japanese-American you will find it even stranger, as you probably look more Japanese than American, and will be expected to know the way things work here, and people will be even more surprised when you do not. A South American-Japanese friend of mine who is here as engineer related his experiences, and his troubles being accepted. I look foreign, so I am not expected to know the system, the things "only Japanese know", so I arouse pleasant surprise when they realise I read and write kanji, can use chopsticks, do my own company administration at the local offices.
Sentences starting, "Back home...." are an invariable turn off, as you are not back home, you are here, and must deal with the local situation. It is a challenge, and living anywhere outside of your own country can be uncomfortable at times, but it can also provide greater challenge and stimulation than you would ever have had than if you had stayed at home. I've been away from my mother country over 22 years, living around the world, and although I have less material possessions than most of my contemporaries (though I wholly own my company and its assets), I have probably/ certainly had more experiences and a greater variety of friends than they will have ever had.
When you take your last breath, the last thing you should be thinking is not, "I wish......!"
It is up to you
Trip Hop Ms.
2002-01-07, 11:04 PM
Nice post TripHop!
I'm not quite as experienced as TripHop, but I did spend one year studying abroad, living with a Japanese Host Family in Japan 1.5 years ago. I got to experiecne summer and winter in a Japaense home.
I am living in America, so the lack of central heating certainly surprised me, but it was something that I got used to.
In the winter, the huge thick Japanese blankets (mofu I guess) that people use while sleeping in futons work to keep one warm while sleeping. Slippers to be worn in the house keep your toes warm on the hard wooden floors. Hot 'ocya' and rice tastes that much better for breakfast when the house is freezing. The cold temperatures also make the bath that much more desireable!
In the summer, yeah, It's freaking hot. I was in Nagoya, about two hours from Tokyo by shinkansen. Wow. Those were some humid summers. It was very hot inside the house as well. I was really surprised to find that few people wore shorts... I adapted, and found myself wearing my long jeans or khaki's throughout the whole summer, despite the temperatures. People carry small towels around with them to wipe their sweat and stay fresh. Since it was so freaking hot inside the house, and cooling was so freaking expensive, my friends and I spent a lot of time hanging out in bookstores, or other public, cooled, places.
It's certainly different, but nothing you shouldn't be able to handle. I highly recommend that you take the pludge, you'll survive, and come out a much tougher person because of it!
You know what's funny? I usually use 'Old Spice' deoderant, but it was so hot in the summer, like, so hot everywhere, that I would sweat like a maniac depsite using my deoderant. Also, I couldn't find that stuff in Japan anyway. Throughout the summer, I stopped using deoderant at all! Since I was sweating so much though, and the food was healthy and not so oily, I didn't stink as much as I would have in the states... also, a lot of my Japanese friends said they didn't use that deoderant stuff either! Maybe I'm just weird... but that's one more 'posh' thing you may learn to live without!
2002-01-08, 03:04 AM
what kind of business do you have in Japan? Could you comment some on what it's like to set up a business in Japan? Thanks.
2002-01-08, 09:38 AM
Curious - a rather large topic, but I'll try and summarise it with some help from a friend.
I work in a specialist communications field, with consultancies, but have a network of business partners in Japan and abroad, and we refer a lot of work to each other (Keeps advertising and marketing costs down) Network developed over 10 years or around Asia, but extends to North America and Europe.
JETRO - Toranomon - publish an excellent resource called Setting up Enterprises in Japan - now in 5th Edition 5000Yen or so from their office. Also a Guide to Investment in Japan 2000Yen. Both are bilingual resources, with good insights in to procedures.
Some Embassies and Chambers of Commerce may help, but they are more interested in large corporations and technology transfer, not SOHO types or small businesses - but nevertheless may be worth contacting for resources, esp. ACCJ.
But most important is a good lawyer/ accountant to guide you through the procedure. For setting up a KK, you'll need 10M Yen, a YK 3MYen, and figure on about 500+Kyen for fees. Jetro guide explains the differences, and legal implications. It is money well spent, as it also has copies of all the Japanese paperwork with English equivalent.
That money is your capital, and needs to be verified by a major bank, with a proper statement from a branch. Once you have that, you can then use it to support your company's set-up (and pay back the person who lent it to you if necessary!) Don't expect to be able to borrow money here, even if you are a permanent resident, as I am. As a foreigner, you'll need to be self sufficient, and have lines of credit from home banks or family available.
They'll help you with drafting teiken - articles of incorporation - which is your operating parameters - goals and obectives - business area; obtain approval of your business name at the local office, register at legal office, obtain tax registration and approval, and devise a financial recording system for you.
I use my own spread sheet (Excel) for comprehensive financial reporting, and then submit it with all my invoices and receipts for them to enter into a Japanese software programme which generates my statements, and automatic tax information. Costs me about 40kYen for 3 months of business, cheaper than a staff member, and I figure on 2-3 hours, twice a month for financial administration. Can vary with the type of business and your amount of transactions. I use Excel for generating invoices and estimates, and a custom FileMaker Pro database for project management, customer database, inventory etc.
They prepare me for twice yearly visits to pay personal taxes, and once yearly corporate taxes, and also give advice on my business performance, and how to minimise taxes, as well as maximising asset deductions. That costs around 150KYen.
If you have more than 5-6 staff, you'll need to belong to a social health insurance scheme, and need to consider all the paperwork and expenses that go with it. There is a Japanese Assocation for Small and Medium sized businesses that has seminars locally, but I find it of limited usefulness.
Business practice - mostly common sense, but I would suggest - build up cash flow as much as you can, at least 3 months, and preferably 6. Try to have some work lined up when you start. Be prepared to wear out your feet searching for work. Make lots of business cards, and make sure your logo is everywhere on all your documentation, as your try to establish your brand/ identity.
Never trash your previous employers, no matter how badly they treated you. My first project was with the company who "restructured" me, and today one of my regular clients is a former employee from 8 years ago. Attend local networking meetings, and use all the contacts that you have.
Keep your customer list up to date, have a good scheduling system, ( e.g. Palm Pilot), and if you use IT to support you, make back-ups of ALL your data, one on-site, one off-site, fireproof safe. I like MO discs - very stable, and stronger than CD-R.
Prepare for disappointments, and review failed bids, keep up to date with technology and your speciality. Meet regularly with a friend/ adviser to review your performance, esp if SOHO, to keep you in touch with reality. It is easy to get isolated.
Develop your own resources, use the NTT Townpage Directory for English language resources, make a simple web page, pamphlet and price list to start with. Use local companies to work with as much as you can, as you never know when you'll need help in a hurry, and they are more likely to do it than a city-based big international company - after all - you both need the business.
My first accountant (International Type!) was highly recommended, through an embassy connection, and made a total mess of setting everything up, which unfortunately appeared at tax-paying time. Luckily a friend recommended a small Japanese firm to me, who cleared everything up in 3 days and kept me street legal. They saved me, and I use them for everything now. Their English is minimal to non-existent, but I am doing business here, so it is up to me to improve my Japanese. (BTW - never paid first guy, he did not fulfil my request)
There is more to it than this simple post, which is why you need a good acountant, but it should give you an idea of what is involved. I am afraid that I have time for no more, and am unable to answer specific questions.
PS Gaijin Pot Admin have requested my friend to write on SOHO and business in Japan for their newspaper, so more detail - believe it is under consideration.
2002-01-09, 03:09 AM
Thanks for the info, TripHop. Would you mind commenting on the tax structure in Japan, albeit briefly? If you don't have the time, that's OK. You've already helped me.
2002-01-13, 12:46 AM
To anyone out there with advice on how to stay warm at home,
This is my third winter in Sendai, and the third time I have had to deal with a freezing apartment. As a native of San Diego, CA (arguably the most comfortable weather in the world) I am the last person who would know about heating or cooling systems. Being that I live alone in a 1K, I donft give a damn about central heating; I just want my one little room heated, but apparently, even that is too much to ask.
Yes, I have a kotatsu, but that really only keeps your legs warm. My hands are ice if I want to do any work or studying on the table. Yes, while sleeping I use the big heavy blankets/quilts someone mentioned, but keeping my head positioned just right (so that it doesnft get cold and start to ache) without suffocating can be difficult. I use my heater (that thing on the wall, in the corner of the room) to heat my room, turn it off after about an hour when the room is pretty warm, and then all the heat bleeds out in a matter of minutes. (Quite frankly, I think the notion of energy conservation goes out the window when I leave the damn thing on all the time.)
I am wondering if anyone has any knowledge about the construction of housing in Japan. To put it bluntly, why does it seem that there is no such thing as insulation? On a windy day, even the doors *inside* my room rattle. Itfs insane that a country so economically advanced (with heated toilet seats, for godfs sake!) canft build apartments that keep the air outside *outside*. Just how exactly is it possible that houses in Hokkaido stay so warm? (as many friends have told me)
Any ideas on what I should do? One friend suggested that I buy a kerosene heater. Then another friend warned me that I wouldnft want to be breathing in those fumes everyday, so I havenft bought one. Any recommendations would be appreciated.
Cold in Sendai
2002-01-13, 03:26 PM
Land is expensive - house is cheap - no second hand housing market, so knock down building when leave and build new one when buy. Also lighter contsruction sways and flexes in earthquake, as opposed to more solid one.
Kerosene heaters - now are well made. Have used for 10 years with no ill effects. Keep a window ajar to avoid oxygen deficit, and a bowl of water on it to humidify the air.
Is it true?
Are foreigners used to treating luxury items as essentials?
Setting up a business?
Depends on the business, but get your wallet out. Expensive by almost
any country's standards.
2002-01-18, 04:29 AM
How does one define a "luxury item?" If ithe item in question is something that you've had all your life (or most of it), it's only naturally to think of it as a basic necessity. Is that bad? Wrong? So maybe a dryer is a basic necessity to me and a luxury item to you. Who is to say who is "correct?"
When I visited my family in China, there was no running water for miles. No supermarkets. No phones. Are these essentials - to you?
On the other end of the spectrum, I don't know a single Japanese person who doesn't have a mobile phone. Is this an essential?
Foreigners in Japan are not the only ones who take their lifestyles for granted. Ultimately, we all try to live as well as we can with what is available.