Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on February 2012

David Labi

I was never in love with Japan. I just wanted to live overseas, and immigration officers in Italy were far less impressed with my blonde hair, pasty skin, and flawless execution of the present tense. Japan said yes, I signed up for one year, and ended up staying for five. The first was great, the second was good, and the next three, looking back now I have to say, I was sometimes an asshole.

Your first year overseas nothing really bothers you because you’re on an extended vacation. Then one day you realize the country you’re living in is the place you’re referring to when you say “home.” That’s when you start to notice cracks in the sidewalk. By year five I didn’t just notice cracks, I was leading expeditions in search of them. “Are you serious Japan? You’re going to let this perfect-ten walk around with that paper thin, purple pants mullet dude? Hey, Irrashaimase-man, I was actually going to buy your mushrooms, but now I need to save money to replace my eardrum. Get over it, lady. So I’m not using a fork.” And so I left Japan.

Five years later, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect. I realize I had developed a case of what I call Japan Rage, a blinding anger toward imperfections of which the local population seems to be completely unaware. It wasn’t that there was nothing to be angry about; there are things to be angry about anywhere you live. It’s just that my anger never changed things I thought were wrong, it only changed me.

So, for my old self, and those now suffering “Japan Rage,” here are a few tips that will help put things in perspective:

Get over the old lady cleaning the bathroom. Cities in the US have old people in the bathroom too, only they’re usually passed out under the urinals (or they’re wide awake and enjoying the view). You sat on a toilet, and got off with the only thing you’re supposed to—relief.

Jobs back home are not better. You’ll make less money, they’ll lay off your friends, and then they’ll tell you to do both jobs for the same pay–or as they call it, “multitasking.” You’ll get so overwhelmed you’ll soon find yourself kissing documents, and filing your boss’s ass.

You can drink safely in public. There’s something to be said about a culture with the self-restraint to allow this and not have mass pandemonium. The States doesn’t have it, because the States can’t have it. We would all be outside making out, stabbing each other, and peeing on everything–all things we already do now, but without alcohol fooling us into thinking it’s a good idea to sing “Don’t Stop Believing.”

If you’re still not content, how about dating? Japan is the West’s wingman. A sample message on Japan’s answering machine: “Dude, this is the US. Seriously, thanks for allowing Jeremy in. That guy was on his way to becoming the next Unabomber, now you got him teaching gerunds and infinitives, and making lonely housewives feel alive again. I owe you a beer, bro!”

On a side note, Western women, don’t let the lack of attention from your male counterparts make you feel ugly and turn you bitter. Sure, a relationship with you is a healthier alternative to the lifestyle those guys are living, but you can’t sell broccoli to a kid in a candy store.

Japan Rage is a waste of time. There is too much good there for you to let yourself be consumed by things you can’t change. So next time do yourself a favor, let it go. Just say thank you to the salaryman, no matter how long you’ve lived there, when he greets you with “Welcome to Japan.” Let grandma have the seat. After 80 years of bowing, she deserves to throw a few elbows. And you know what? You are pretty good with those chopsticks.

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