The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse is one of Aesop’s Fables and tells the story of country bumpkin mouse who visits his urban-dwelling cousin for a taste of the luxurious life. The country mouse is at first captivated by the fine food of the city, but is thrown into panic and forced to run and hide after someone throws open the door while he and his cousin are eating. There are numerous retellings of the story, but the moral is that it’s better to live with little in safety, than to live in abundance surrounded by danger.
This may be how many Japanese people feel after leaving their peaceful and secure life in the countryside for the city. Every year thousands of Japanese move to big cities like Tokyo and Osaka from outlying country areas, for work or for school, experiencing all kinds of culture shock as they adjust to new lives. Even moving from one big city to another is an adjustment, as the character of the people and the way things are done differs by region.
Naver Matome has put together the voices of people from different regions of Japan who experienced what the Country Mouse experienced: that the city life isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
See what surprised these Japanese “Country Mice” about the big city below:
Big city facilities:
- Movie theaters - “At the movies when you buy a ticket you reserve a seat. I never heard of that”
- ATM machines – “I was amazed when the ATM machine processed a new bank book when I ran out of pages, on the spot! I thought I was going to have to go back during business hours!”
Big city kids:
- “I once saw an elementary school kids eating cup ramen as they walked down the street!”
- “The Christmas decorations at my train station (in Tokyo) included a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments made by local elementary school kids with their hopes and dreams for the future written on them. Most of the kids already had a university picked out! ‘I’d like to go to so and so university and…’ Wow, that’s a city kid for you!”
- “On a recent trip to Tokyo, I saw a kid in a stroller holding an iPhone. He took a look at my old model cell phone and I swear he was making fun of me! Tokyo kids!”
Big city adults(?):
- “I overheard the conversation of a middle-aged couple on the train. ‘Oh no I left my wallet at the shop,’ says the husband. Wife: ’Not again!’ Husband: ‘I had about 50,000 yen (about $625 US) in it! The person who picks it up certainly will be happy!’ And they continued to laugh about it loudly! – This is Tokyo…”
- “I saw a guy walking around barefoot when I went out the other day! I did a double take and checked to make sure I was actually in Tokyo! I also saw a guy cosplaying as Goku of Dragonball on the station platform, so I guess walking barefoot is nothing!
- “I was standing around the other day and some guy wanted to talk to me, with something like ‘Hey little sister talk to me’ and I thought this could get complicated so I tried to put him off by making gorilla noises like ‘auh!’ I was shocked when he said ‘auh auh auh?’ right back! The adaptability of city guys! It made me shudder!”
“I miss the country…”:
- “Karaoke is so expensive in the city! Back home, on a weekday afternoon it is only 50 yen (about 62 cents) a song (used to be 10 yen a song!) Of course you have to buy a drink, but otherwise, you are allowed to bring your own food and drink so that you only end up paying 500 yen ($6.25 US) for a good time!”
- “If I fall asleep on the sofa here I wake up all cold. I miss the warmth of my apartment back home.”
- “I rode the Oimachi Line (in Tokyo) for the first time the other day. I had a lot of luggage and people were staring at me. If I was back home in Osaka an auntie would ask me ‘What are you carrying in the box?’ Makes me homesick for Osaka.”
“I think about leaving…”
- ‘I’ve thought a number of times about changing jobs and going back to the country. But it would feel like losing at life, so I can’t do it.”
- “When people around me quit their jobs to go back ‘home’, it starts feeling lonely and I want to go home too. But right now I don’t have the courage to let go of my current environment.”
Technology. Why the Country Mouse stays:
- “Back home there is no PC. Here I am on my third— no, fourth notebook PC. My life would be so inconvenient without my PCs!”
- “When I imagine going home, he first thing I would have to do is set up for my computer, or else I can’t work!”
“Life in the country is too slow. Transmission is bad there so I like Osaka better. Think I’ll stay here.”
But wait! Softbank LTE is on its way!
Japanese mobile mobile carrier Softbank is starting a LTE service which will increase its transmission area by 90% in a month. Will that be enough to drive the City Mice back to the country in droves? We’ll see!
I feel like the city I live in, Shizuoka, is ”country”, at least compared to Tokyo! But here in Shizuoka, our ATMs use the fancy technology mentioned above and all cinemas have reserved seating, so I guess that makes us big city— at least to some people. But any hard-core Tokyo or Osaka-ites would agree to Shizuoka’s “country” status, so it all really depends on where your heart is!